Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. As a result, drivers are required to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. After a car accident in Fort Walton Beach, you need to seek medical treatment within 14 days to file a claim with your PIP provider.
Even though Florida is a no-fault insurance state, it does not mean you can never pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. If you sustain serious injuries, you can file a claim for damages with the other driver’s insurance provider. Most car accident cases are settled through settlement negotiations with the insurance company.
Once you reach an agreement, the car insurance provider requires you to sign a car accident settlement agreement before you receive your money. However, before you sign a car accident settlement agreement, there are some things you should know.
The Insurance Company Might Not Be Compensating You for All Damages
The car accident settlement offer might not be for the total value of your damages. Insurance companies routinely undervalue car accident claims and are concerned with protecting their profits instead of compensating accident victims.
Many people are surprised to learn that their car accident claim is worth more than the insurance company offers. They are unaware of the types of damages they can receive for a car accident.
- Pain and suffering damages
- Lost wages and benefits
- Emotional distress
- Past and future medical bills
- Diminished earning capacity
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental anguish and trauma
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Loss of enjoyment of life and quality of life
- Property damage
- Rehabilitative therapy
- Personal care and household services
- Skilled nursing care
The insurance company will not tell you if you accept a settlement amount lower than the value of your personal injury claim. The company will not tell you if your case could justify punitive damages if you filed a lawsuit. In some cases, an insurance adjuster might try to use contributory fault to convince you that you are not entitled to a higher settlement offer.
You can protect yourself by calling our Fort Walton Beach personal injury law firm before you accept a car accident settlement offer.
Car Accident Settlement Agreements Release All Parties From Liability
The language in a car accident settlement agreement releases all parties from all future liability for damages. In other words, you give up your right to file a lawsuit against the driver who caused the car accident. It is a final settlement of all claims related to the car accident.
You also give up your right to pursue a claim or lawsuit against other parties. Even if you are unaware of claims, you release your right to pursue them. Likewise, if you discover additional injuries or damages after you sign the agreement, you give up your right to demand compensation for those injuries and damages when you sign a settlement agreement.
Protect yourself by seeking legal advice from a skilled Fort Walton Beach car accident attorney before you enter into any settlement agreement for a car accident or other personal injury claim.
The Settlement Might Include a Structured Payment Schedule
Most car accident settlements are made in a lump-sum payment when you sign the settlement agreement. However, some insurance companies prefer to make structured settlements. A structured settlement is paid in periodic payments instead of one payment.
How can you protect yourself?
You need to read all sections of the car accident settlement agreement. The terms and conditions can be confusing. The insurance company prepares the agreement that way on purpose. You should also have legal representation during the settlement negotiations and when signing a settlement agreement.
You Have the Right To Negotiate a Settlement Amount
Most initial settlement offers are very low. The car insurance company might infer the settlement amount is a final offer. However, you do not have to accept the settlement offer.
You can decline the settlement offer and negotiate for a higher settlement amount. When you make a counteroffer, it should be for an amount on the higher side of the value of your damages so you can leave room to negotiate. The insurance company could accept your counteroffer, but it will likely make another settlement offer for an amount between the initial offer and your counteroffer.
Back-and-forth negotiations could take weeks or months. Strong evidence and documentation of your damages increase the chance you receive a fair amount for your car accident case.
If the insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement amount, you can proceed with a personal injury lawsuit. It should be noted that Florida recently changed the statute of limitations for most car accident claims. The state decreased the time to file a lawsuit from four years to two years for car accidents occurring after March 24, 2023.
Car Accident Settlement Agreements Are Legally Binding Contracts
The court can enforce car accident settlement agreements. If you discover you made a mistake accepting the settlement offer, you cannot simply change your mind and back out of the agreement. Once you sign a settlement agreement, you are bound to the terms of the agreement.
You can protect yourself by having a Fort Walton Beach car accident lawyer review the settlement agreement before you sign it. It is in your best interest to have a personal injury lawyer review all documents before you sign them. The attorney explains the meaning of the document and how signing the document impacts your car accident case.
One Final Note About Car Accident Settlements in Fort Walton Beach, FL
Insurance companies do not always play fair. They have teams of insurance adjusters, investigators, claims representatives, and lawyers protecting their best interests. An insurance company has unlimited resources to fight your claim.
If you represent yourself, you are responsible for investigating the accident, gathering evidence proving fault, documenting damages, and calculating how much your case is worth. You are responsible for understanding the law and protecting your rights.
However, when you hire a Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer, you, in effect, take away some of the insurance company’s power. You even the playing field because now you have the resources to fight for the money you deserve.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation With a Fort Walton Beach Personal Injury Lawyer
Dealing with an insurance company after a car accident can be overwhelming. Knowing if the car accident settlement offer is fair can be difficult. Call Brannon & Brannon Personal Injury Attorneys to schedule a free case evaluation with our experienced Fort Walton Beach car accident attorneys to learn how we can help you receive a fair settlement.