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Imagine you’re involved in a wreck on a Chicago interstate when some other driver slammed into you from behind while traffic was slowed or stalled ahead. There’s some damage to your car, but nothing major. You’re shaken up, but you don’t think you’re seriously hurt. A few days later, your back and neck start to hurt, but you think maybe the pain will pass.
You report the accident and submit a claim to the other driver’s insurance company. An adjuster talks to you and looks at your car. A little while later, you get a check in the mail for $500. You wonder whether you should cash the check. You could use the $500 to cover some of your bills, but you’re still in pain and $500 doesn’t seem like much.
What many people don’t realize is that if you go ahead and cash a settlement check from an insurance company that you’re agreeing not to pursue any further claims from your accident. In other words, that $500 is all you’re going to get. The clue is if there’s language on the check or in an accompanying letter that says the check is a full or final settlement. When that language is present, you’re barred from seeking additional compensation for your injuries even if you end up incurring more medical expenses.
I had a client experience a very similar scenario recently, but rather than cash the check he decided to call a lawyer. He came to Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. for a consultation, and our Chicago personal injury attorneys advised him not to accept the offer. We also told him that he should seek immediate medical attention for his lingering back and neck pain. As it turned out, he was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck that was attributed to his auto collision. He needed surgery that would have cost well more than the $500 the insurance company offered.
With a diagnosis in hand and the prospect of expensive treatment, we were able to negotiate with the insurance company to get him the maximum amount of coverage available under the at-fault driver’s insurance policy — a settlement 100 times greater than the insurance company initially offered. If he had cashed that check, his medical expenses would have come out of his own pocket.
The case is a good illustration why it’s always a good idea to at least consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer before accepting a settlement offer or cashing a check from an insurance company or another party in an accident. An insurance company is going to want to settle your claim for as little as is possible, but a lowball settlement offer very well may leave you with expenses related to the accident that remain uncovered. A lawyer can look at the facts and evidence in your case and give you an opinion whether you might be able to get a better settlement than the one being offered, and negotiate with the insurance company to get you fair compensation.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, the Chicago personal injury attorneys at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. can help. Call us today at (312) 236-2900 for a free consultation.