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Should I accept a check from the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company?

Posted by Steven A. Bagen

Nov 5, 2013 10:28:00 AM

What should you do if you have an auto accident that is the fault of the other driver and you are offered a check from either the driver or their insurance company for personal injury or damage to your vehicle?

The simple answer is that you should not immediately accept the check. The main reason you should not accept a check right away is that you may be getting a small fraction of the amount to which you are entitled. By accepting the check, you will not be able to renegotiate. Legally, you have agreed to a settlement. So if you want to get full compensation for the injury or property damage to which you’re entitled, you should consult an attorney first. In cases, where the accident is clearly the fault of the other driver, either the driver or their insurance company may send you a check to settle the case.

3 Reasons to Avoid Immediate Gratification

However tempting a check in hand may be, there are a three things you have to consider.

  1. This is not a one-time offer. Avoid a scarcity, “get what I can” mentality. It is only an initial offer.
  2. Insurance companies are not in the business of caring. Some people get the impression that they do care because of all the heavy advertising in the media about how much they care, but that is just a way to get people to insure. It has nothing to do with expressing a set of values. The insurance company is not responding rapidly because they feel eager to right the damage. That is not how insurance companies think.
  3. The insurance company is trying to save money by not paying you what you are entitled to receive. The reason they respond quickly is actually to pay you as little as they can.

3 Things to Do Instead

So what are the right steps to get the money that you deserve to receive? Here is a quick checklist of how you should handle the situation:

Consult an attorney

Consult an attorney who specializes in auto accidents. This attorney will help you through the rest of the process of asking for what you deserve to compensate you for your losses. He or she will tell you what you should not do as well as help you to review settlement offers.

Get medical attention

If you are injured, you need full documentation of your injury. It is important that you seek medical attention to get proof of your injury. If the doctor recommends a course of treatment or rehabilitation, you should follow it, complete it, and get released from care by the doctor. Do not accept a settlement until you have a very good idea of the full cost of treatment, even if this means that you have to collect the money after you have completed treatment. Otherwise, you will be paying for treatment out of your own pocket. Naturally, every situation is different, depending on the type of injury sustained and your ability to recuperate, so at times, you may be able to get an accurate assessment of the cost of treatment before you begin. Your attorney will help you make the best decision on how much to accept and when to accept it.

Get an estimate of the cost of repairs or the value of your car

Similarly, you need documentation on how much your vehicle was damaged. For this, you will have to go to a certified auto service company to get an accurate estimate on the cost of repairs. If your car was totaled, then you can consult NADA or Kelly Blue Book to determine its value.

Analyzing the 3 Steps

Looking at these three steps, you can see now why you should not simply accept a check. First of all, you have not negotiated properly; and for this you need an auto accident attorney in Ocala or Gainesville to help you analyze your situation from the legal perspective. Secondly, you don’t know how much it would cost to heal from your injuries until you get medical attention. Thirdly, you don’t know how much it would cost to repair your car or buy another one of the same value. So if you don’t know the costs, how can you expect the other driver or insurance company to know?

The Release Document

As an auto accident attorney in Ocala and GainesvilleFl, we've noticed that another danger of accepting money right away is that people are sometimes under the mistaken impression that they are receiving a partial payment for immediate expenses. However, you will be asked to sign a release document, which means that once you accept the payment, you waive the right to ask for more money or even the right to sue. However, the fine print in the release document will make it very clear that you are waiving your rights. Auto insurance companies have a lot of experience in working with all kinds of people and they understand the temptation of receiving what looks like a handsome settlement. However, should you accept this money; you will find that you will be paying out of your own pocket. You will incur a loss. What may initially look like a lot of money will look quite different when you measure the amount you received against the cost of medical treatment, car repair, or buying another car.

Legal Help in Florida

If you are looking for an experienced auto accident attorney in Ocala or Gainesville Fl, Steven A. Bagen and Associates can help you with your case. Without a seasoned attorney on your side, you might make costly mistakes when working on a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company. Remember insurance companies are experienced at negotiating settlements while it may be unfamiliar to you. As an auto accident attorney in Ocala and GainesvilleFl, Steven A. Bagen& Associates represents accident victims in Gainesville, Ocala and surrounding areas in Florida.

Topics: Car Accidents