We are often contacted by accident victims asking, ‘Should I accept an offer from an insurance company for my injury claim?’
Where the claimant is already being represented by a solicitor then the simple solution is for them to ask their own lawyer for guidance. But increasingly insurance companies are making settlement offers direct to people who do not have a solicitor acting for them. Our advice in these circumstances is to exercise caution, especially if the injury is a serious one.
There are a lot of myths about insurance company offers. It’s common for people to think that you should never accept the first offer they make, or that insurers will always make a better offer if you stand your ground. But while there may be some truth behind these beliefs, it’s dangerous to generalise.
When considering an offer from an insurance company, you have to balance the risk of agreeing to a settlement that might be at an undervalue of your claim, with the risk of turning down a reasonable sum and ultimately recovering a lower figure.
If the injury is relatively minor then there probably won’t be much riding on it and you can deal with it yourself without input from a solicitor. But where the injury is more significant it is generally advisable to consult a specialist solicitor. We are always happy to review cases where offers have been made free of charge and will be able to let you know whether we can assist with the claim on a No Win, No Fee basis.
One particular aspect of settlement negotiations is what is known as a “Part 36 offer”. Part 36 is the court rule which regulates the making and acceptance of settlement offers. It can be highly technical and people without legal training can be easily caught out.
The biggest risk in relation to a Part 36 offer is if the claimant fails to ‘beat’ the offer (ie recover a figure in excess of the sum offered). Failure to ‘beat’ a Part 36 offer can result in the claimant being ordered to pay legal costs, so it’s best to proceed carefully.
There are also offers that are simply made on a “without prejudice” basis which are not covered by Part 36 and it’s important to distinguish between the two kinds.
The key thing to remember if you are made an offer by an insurance company in a personal injury claim is that once the offer is accepted you cannot go back and make a further claim for the same accident. Victims only get one bite of the cherry, so it’s vital that you consider the offer carefully before accepting it. It is particularly important in injury cases to ensure that you know precisely what the extent of your injuries are. If medical investigations are ongoing it might be sensible to await the outcome before reaching any decision, because if the injury turns out to be more serious than expected then you will still be free to pursue a higher award. By contrast, if you accept a lower offer only to find subsequently that your injuries are worse than at first feared then it will be too late to seek additional compensation.