Being injured in a car accident can change your life. In the short-term, you might struggle to cope with the plethora of emotions your feeling, all while you deal with physical pain and suffering that might leave you with physical limitations. Long-term, your injuries might prevent you from leading the life you want to live, and the medical costs and rehabilitative treatment expenses might leave you financially devastated. If you’ve been injured in a car wreck, then this grim reality might leave you overwhelmed and stressed about your future. This is a common feeling.
Yet, you shouldn’t let your fear compel you to seek quick resolution at the expense of your best interests. All too often, car accident victims who were injured by the actions or inactions of a negligent driver rush to settle their cases so that they can obtain a quick sense of accountability and a speedy recovery of compensation. But insurance companies and negligent drivers are looking out for their own interests, which means that quickly accepting their initial offer, while allowing you to avoid conflict, will likely leave you shortchanged.
So, before accepting a settlement offer, you need to consider a number of things. We hope the list below will help you better assess your case so that you can take steps that protect your interests and best position you for a successful future.
- Know the strengths and weaknesses of your case: Sounds like common sense, right? Although people intuitively look at how strongly the evidence supports a showing of negligence and causation on the defendant’s part, they often overlook any fault attributable to them. This is a big mistake considering that South Dakota recognizes contributory negligence, meaning that your recovery may be diminished if you’re partially at fault for the accident in question. If a court finds that your contributory negligence is more than slight, which at one point was recognized by the court as 30% or more at fault, then your claim may be completely barred. Therefore, while you certainly need to assess the strengths of your case, you also need to identify any weaknesses as far as proving negligence and defending yourself against accusations of contributory negligence.
- Know the likelihood of success at trial: There are a number of things to consider here in addition to the strengths and weaknesses of your case. You’ll also want to consider how judges and juries have handled similar cases, as well as assess any technical challenges you might face when litigating your case, such as witness availability and other evidentiary issues.
- Know what your case is worth: Sometimes a settlement offer is so close to what your claim is actually worth that it just doesn’t make sense to spend the time, money, and energy taking the matter to trial. By knowing the full extent of your damages, you can also more quickly identify when it’s time to walk away from negotiations. In order to do so, though, you need to have a complete understanding of your injuries, the treatment involved, the extent of your lost wages and lost earnings capacity, and how a jury will handle noneconomic damages like pain and suffering. You also might need to take into account the defendant’s financial resources, especially if your claim is going to blow past his or her insurance policy limits.
- Know how badly you simply want to move on with your life: A trial might be in your financial interests, but you still have to ask yourself if you want to be embroiled in litigation that lasts for months or years. Trying a case can be emotionally tiring, and its prolongation can leave you strapped for the resources that you need.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of things to take into account before agreeing to a car accident settlement. Getting a firm grasp on these concepts can be challenging, though, especially if you don’t have any legal experience. Fortunately, you might be able to better understand the ins and outs of your case, as well as what strategy best protects your interests, by working closely with a legal advocate who is well-versed in this area of the law.