Navigating the aftermath of a car accident can be challenging, especially when it comes to understanding and negotiating a settlement agreement. The details of these agreements can have profound implications for you and your post-accident compensation. If you have a settlement offer, you must understand certain concepts to ensure your personal injury claim is resolved fairly.
Settlement agreements are common. Approximately 95% of civil cases, like car accidents, end with a settlement before trial. With over 110 years of combined experience, George Salinas Injury Lawyers has helped countless victims negotiate car accident settlement agreements. Here are five things to know about car accident settlement agreements in San Antonio:
1. Settlement Agreements Are Legally Binding in San Antonio, TX
A settlement agreement is a legally binding document. It will typically be signed by you and other parties involved in the accident or their insurers. A settlement agreement outlines how you will be compensated for accident-related losses.
By signing, you typically agree to take compensation in exchange for waiving all past, present, or future claims related to the accident. This effectively releases the other parties from all liability. You should expect to forfeit the right to seek additional compensation if you take a settlement.
Settlement agreements take into account many post-accident losses. For example, economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages, are often included. This can compensate you for treatment of injuries, including surgeries, medications, and physical therapy, or lost wages from missed work. Non-economic damages for your pain and suffering are also generally included.
A settlement agreement may also account for property damage, ensuring you are reimbursed for repairs or replacing your vehicle and property damaged in the accident.
Settlement agreements are often littered with legalese. You must fully understand the terms and conditions of any settlement so your rights can be protected. A car accident lawyer can help review the terms of a settlement agreement to ensure it is fair and just.
2. Settlements Take Into Account Your Own Fault
When it comes to car accident settlements, Texas law plays a role in their value. A key concept is the “modified comparative fault” rule. Under this rule, the amount of your damages may be reduced based on the degree to which your own negligence contributed to the accident.
This has a direct impact on the amount of compensation you can recover. Insurers proposing settlement agreements will take it into account. For example, if you are deemed 30 percent responsible for an accident, your total settlement offer would likely be reduced by 30 percent.
However, there is a “51%” threshold under Texas law. If you are deemed more than 50 percent at fault, you may be barred from collecting compensation from the other at-fault parties. Insurers are unlikely to propose settlements when the evidence establishes you were pronominally responsible for the accident.
This significantly alters the dynamics of settlement negotiations. A car accident lawyer can help you negotiate your settlement agreement and refute allegations that your own negligence played a role in the accident. Lawyers do this strategically with the facts, damages, and law applicable to your case.
3. Settlement Agreements Can Be Negotiated
Settlement agreements should not be take-it-or-leave-it offers. Instead, settlement agreements often center around negotiations with insurance companies. These negotiations are traditionally handled by insurance adjusters, or professionals employed by the insurance company to evaluate and settle claims. They also have to protect the company’s bottom line.
For this reason, it is common for adjusters to offer quick, low-value settlements. While quick settlement offers may seem attractive, they are often insufficient to cover all your damages fully. This is especially true for unknown or long-term injuries.
Be sure you understand that an initial settlement offer is not the final word on what you may be entitled to receive. A first offer is just that. It should be the beginning of the negotiation process. You can negotiate effectively by understanding the value of your claim and assessing your physical injuries, emotional trauma, financial losses, and personal circumstances.
A seasoned San Antonio car accident lawyer brings immense value to these negotiations. Your lawyer will know how to counter tactics insurance adjusters use to minimize payment. They will also know how to leverage their own experience and present a well-substantiated claim with medical evidence, expert testimony, or accident reconstruction. This will help you secure all the compensation you are entitled to.
4. Calculate Your Damages Before Taking a Settlement in San Antonio, TX
You need to fully understand the scope of your damages before engaging in the settlement process. Without determining all your damages, how will you know what a fair settlement is? Be sure to track current costs and anticipate your future needs. For example, you may need surgery or physical therapy in the future. Be sure to pay special attention to the following so they are accounted for:
- Medical bills for doctor appointments, procedures, and medication,
- Physical therapy,
- Medical devices or home modifications,
- Lost wages,
- Vehicle repair or replacement,
- Pain and suffering,
- And more
A car accident attorney can help you comprehensively value and present your damages compellingly.
5. Remember: Settlement Agreements Are Irrevocable
Signing a settlement agreement marks the end of your car accident claim. You should understand that once you sign, the agreement is irrevocable. You will be stuck with whatever terms and conditions are specified in the agreement.
This generally means that in exchange for compensation, you waive the right to claim future damages, regardless of whether your accident causes additional complications or requires unforeseen medical treatment. If you accept a settlement prematurely, this could leave you without recourse down the road.
This is why being patient throughout the claims process is important. Do not rush into a settlement before the true scope of your injuries and their impact on your life are known. Take time to receive a comprehensive medical evaluation. Ask medical professionals questions about your immediate and potential long-term complications and the need for physical therapy.
An experienced lawyer can also be beneficial. Your lawyer will ensure you understand all the terms and conditions of your settlement agreement before you accept and sign on the bottom line.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer in San Antonio, TX
A settlement agreement is a critical step in recovering from your car accident in San Antonio, Texas. Be sure you assess your damages and fully understand the terms and conditions of your settlement agreement. Consulting with a San Antonio personal injury lawyer can give you confidence that your rights are protected during this process so you can receive the compensation you deserve.
George Salinas Injury Lawyers has helped car accident victims negotiate countless settlement agreements. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, schedule a free initial consultation today at (210) 225-0909.