Signs you should watch out for to avoid getting stuck with a lowball settlement offer
Georgia workers file an average of 30,000 to 40,000 workers’ compensation claims each year. While some will receive compensation with no trouble, many others will get denied or mistakenly accept “lowball” workers’ compensation settlements.
It’s understandable why injured workers are tempted to accept a settlement offer, even when they know it is less than they deserve. Medical bills may be piling up and you might be unable to work, putting your family’s financial future in jeopardy. This stress and uncertainty can weigh on you and make any offer seem appealing.
But it’s important to understand how the workers’ compensation system works in Georgia so that you don’t lose out on full compensation for your work-related injury. By accepting a lowball settlement offer, you are likely voiding any and all rights you have, both now and in the future, to seek additional compensation.
So how can you know when an insurance adjuster is trying to lowball you?
Here are some signs to look for:
#1: You receive an offer very quickly
The first workers’ compensation settlement offer typically doesn’t come for several weeks or months following an accident. When insurers send offers quickly, it is normally in the hopes that you will not take into consideration any future costs. Not only that, but initial offers are usually just a starting point for negotiations, and therefore tend to be lower anyway.
What sounds great on the surface may not actually be such a good deal after all. This is why you should always have any settlement offers reviewed by an experienced attorney.
While it is fairly straightforward to add up past medical bills, it’s the unknown future costs that lead to problems. Accepting your settlement early can be costly in the long run.
#2: The offer doesn’t include everything
A fair workers’ compensation settlement offer should fully account for your past and future medical bills, lost wages and other expenses. An insurance company is supposed to act in good faith and take into account any and all losses you may have suffered.
Of course, following these rules means that the insurer will wind up paying a bigger settlement, so they often choose to “ignore” certain categories of damage. In doing so, they are hoping that you will not realize you are being shortchanged. If you are unsure as to what your claim should cover, speak with an attorney who can better advise you.
#3: They seem to dismiss or lose your evidence
Make no mistake, insurance companies have 1 goal: to settle your claim for as little money as possible. One way they accomplish this is by failing to recognize certain damages. Accordingly, they may dismiss some evidence such as doctors’ statements or medical bills as not being valid. You may also repeatedly send documents, only to have the insurance company tell you they have not been received.
In many cases, insurance companies look more favorably on evidence that an attorney has submitted on your behalf. After hiring a lawyer, you may find that missing documents suddenly appear as well.
#4: Your injuries are being disputed
In some cases, insurance companies will review your evidence and still claim that it does not prove damages. Other times, they will question if your injury occurred at work or whether it was the result of a pre-existing condition.
When an insurance adjuster is trying to lowball, you might have to jump through extra hoops in order to prove you were actually injured. It may also seem as though no amount of evidence will convince the insurance company of your plight. This is something no accident victim should have to deal with alone. Rather than haggling with the insurance company, allow an experienced lawyer to do battle for you.
#5: The claim is reduced without explanation
Has your claim suddenly been reduced, but the insurance company won’t give an explanation why?
If so, the reason is probably because they don’t intend to pay for certain damages. They would rather not state this in writing, which is why an adjuster will likely not elaborate. If you attempt to ask questions by phone or email, you will probably be ignored.
An attorney can often receive answers when victims cannot. If you are being given the runaround, don’t wait until you receive a lowball insurance settlement offer. Contact a trained professional as soon as possible.
#6. You are facing intense pressure
When trying to reduce an insurance settlement offer, claims adjusters are normally anxious to get things over with and close your case. The longer your case drags on, the more costs the insurance company incurs in managing your claim. As such, you may face intense pressure from the insurance company to settle right now. Sometimes, it can even take the form of threats or scare tactics.
For example, an adjuster may say that this is the only offer you will receive, so you should “take it or leave it.” Others might tell you that a court would probably not give that much, so they are actually doing you a favor.
Pressuring someone to settle is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It’s also something you are more likely to encounter whenever you are not represented by a lawyer. Hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney lets the insurance company know that you don’t intend to be a pushover.
#7. You are being shamed
When the above tactics don’t work, insurance companies sometimes resort to shaming people. One way they do this is by making you feel guilty for even filing a claim in the first place. You could even be told that your claim is negatively affecting your employer’s finances, and therefore has a detrimental effect on your coworkers. Claims such as these normally have no basis whatsoever and therefore should not be used to bully you into accepting an offer.
While these 7 signs can indicate that an insurance adjuster is trying to lowball you, they are by no means the only tactics insurers use to bully claimants into settling their case. There are many times when a lowball offer might not be so obvious. Here at Gerber Holder Law, we can help you determine what is a fair settlement and what isn’t.
Workers’ comp settlement FAQ
What can I expect for my workers’ comp first settlement offer?
In our experience, you can expect the first settlement offer from the workers’ compensation insurance company to be significantly lower than what is reasonable to cover the immediate and long-term costs of a work-related injury or occupational illness. If an insurer is quick to accept your claim and offer a lump sum payment, consider this a red flag that you may be settling for lower than your case is actually worth.
Remember that you can’t undo a workers’ compensation settlement once you’ve agreed to it, so don’t sign one until you’ve consulted a lawyer.
When will workers’ comp offer a settlement?
Generally, the first workers’ compensation settlement offer comes within several weeks or months following an accident. In some cases, the offer may be sent in a matter of days, though you should be wary if this is the case because this may indicate that the insurance company is trying to lowball you. Successful settlement negotiation in some cases can take up to 2 years.
While you may be tempted to accept a settlement offer as soon as you receive it, it’s important to consider the long-term costs of your injury or illness—and sometimes this takes time to understand. Be patient, and consult with your attorney before accepting any offer.
What is a good settlement offer?
There is no easy answer for how much your claim is worth. This is because each case is different and varies greatly. What constitutes a “good” settlement offer for you depends on the type and severity of your injury, your income, and how the injury or illness has impacted your life.
The only way to find out if a settlement offer is fair is by consulting with an experienced work injury attorney who can review the specific facts of your case.
Does workers’ comp always offer a settlement?
No, not always.
While most insurance companies are keen to offer a low settlement in an effort to avoid costly litigation and convince the claimant to settle early before they know the true cost of their injury, there are certainly exceptions. Some insurers may refuse to negotiate or cooperate on a settlement because they think they can avoid payment altogether.