I’ll start by looking at the time right after the collision. You are at home, in the hospital or maybe even still at the scene. Out of the blue, an insurance adjuster shows up. They want you to sign papers. In some cases are even trying to hand you a check.
For the insurance company, it’s a way to get out of liability and to close the file. They know that there is a percentage of people who really need money, so they will prey on that group. In these economic times, it probably is happening even more often.
There are a number of points to consider:
– For a minor, there is no way that they can settle the case without a judge’s approval. I’ve seen companies try to get around this, but it’s the law.
– When the settlement discussions are going on, how does the adjuster not reach the point of practicing law? Do they cover :
- Do you need a lawyer?
- What is the value of the case?
- What the law says about who is at fault?
All of these get very close to giving out legal advice. I do it and I need to follow up with information on the statute of limitations. The non lawyer does it and they are breaking the law. They are also leading you down a path that is most helpful to them.
– Most car collisions involve the tort thresholds in Minnesota. Basically, you need to have $4000 in medical expenses, a permanent injury or 60 days loss of enjoyment of life. You meet one of those and you have a claim for pain and suffering. You don’t and you have no claim other than the bills, wage and your property damage. I look at the $500.00 offer this way. If you meet a threshold and have a permanent injury, is there any way that is worth $500.00? If you don’t , well what did you really lose by waiting and making sure?
– Most of these settlements are quick. They take place within days or weeks of the collision. While some cases can be evaluated at that time, usually it takes time to get a full view of your injuries. It can be helpful to get through a complete year.
- Is there something that you do in the winter or summer that will cause you problems?
- It’s worth waiting to make sure you can play softball or snowmobile without problems.
My advice is don’t sign anything until you talk to a lawyer that works in this area of the law. Someone that can answer your questions and has been through this many times before. Someone that will be able to tell you if you have a case, if the offer is fair and most importantly, can legally give you the advice.
A founding partner with Bradshaw & Bryant, Mike Bryant has always fought to find justice for his clients—knowing that legal troubles, both personal injury and criminal, can be devastating for a family. Voted a Top 40 Personal Injury "Super Lawyer" multiple years, Mr. Bryant has also been voted one of the Top 100 Minnesota "Super Lawyers" four times.