Insurance companies are often very tight-lipped about how their processes function. Without transparency, you may be left questioning whether the process of settling with an insurance company is fair and whether the amount they offer you is enough to cover your injuries. Understanding how insurance companies determine settlement amounts will help you understand when settling is a good idea and when you should work with a lawyer on your case.
Generally, insurance companies in South Carolina determine settlement amounts by calculating the percentage of fault their driver shared in causing the crash. Then they evaluate the repair bills, lost wages, and medical bills related to the accident. Lastly, they apply any policy caps or limitations to arrive at an initial offer. Often, this offer is too low, and you should typically work with a lawyer to negotiate a fair settlement.
For a free review of your potential injury case, call the South Carolina car accident attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today at (803) 451-4000.
How Insurance Companies Determine Fault in South Carolina
For an insurance company to even consider paying damages in the first place, they will need to make a determination that their driver is at fault for the crash. Often, insurance companies hate admitting that their driver did anything wrong, so they might challenge this point and block you from getting a settlement in the first place. In any case, our South Carolina car accident lawyers can fight to prove the driver was at fault and get you damages.
Insurance companies determine fault by looking at the totality of the evidence in the case. This means not only the statement provided by each driver but also the police officer’s crash report but also the auto appraisers’ damage reports, and any objective evidence like photos and video. If the evidence clearly shows that their driver was at fault, they may admit fault and seek to settle the case fairly.
If the evidence is unclear or does not definitively prove fault in their opinion, they might refuse to admit fault. In that case, they might determine that their driver is only partly liable – or they might refuse to admit fault at all.
If the insurance company finds their driver only partly liable, they will only want to pay damages up to their percentage of fault. For instance, if they say their driver is 50% at fault, they won’t pay damages beyond 50% of the total.
Many times, insurance companies will refuse to admit fault altogether, and our Columbia car accident lawyers need to take the case to court to prove fault before a neutral judge and jury.
Calculating Damages in a South Carolina Car Insurance Claim
Once the issue of fault is resolved, the insurance company can look at the value of the damages involved in the case. Often, insurance companies will have their own models and calculation methods for determining how much an injury is worth, but they will take into account the following:
- The property damage costs assessed by an appraiser or auto shop they approve of
- The medical bills to treat your injuries
- Any wages you lost because of the injury
- Their own evaluation of your pain and suffering – usually determined by assigning a multiplier to your other damages or a per-day cost to your pain and suffering
Some of these damages are simple enough to calculate, such as the cost to repair or replace your vehicle. However, pain and suffering damages are always difficult to put a value on, and insurance companies might challenge the valuation of future lost wages.
Ultimately, your Lexington car accident lawyers might need to step in and appeal the value the insurance company arrives at. We may even need to negotiate for a better value or fight the case in court to get all your damages covered appropriately.
Policy Limits and Other Limitations on Damages in a South Carolina Car Insurance Claim
Most insurance policies have specific dollar limits. This means that the insurance company will not pay above that amount. They will typically cap damages at that value when offering a settlement – but that amount might be too low to cover your damages in full. If that is the case, we may need to sue the driver directly to get the rest of the damages paid.
Additionally, insurance companies might have specific limitations in the policy regarding what damages are covered and what rate they are paid at. This could mean that, at best, the insurance company only pays for a percentage of your medical bills or lost wages. Fighting your case in court could get the rest of these damages paid.
Should I Accept a Settlement from a South Carolina Insurance Company?
Accepting an insurance payout can mean getting damages quickly to cover your medical bills and other expenses while you recover from your injuries. However, it could also function as a legal settlement that prevents you from going to court to claim additional damages later. Because of this, you should always have the advice and guidance of your own Sumter, SC car accident lawyers before agreeing to any insurance settlements.
Most cases ultimately end in settlement, but they do not have to be the settlement of an insurance claim. If the insurance company offers a low settlement that does not cover your needs, there is no requirement that you accept the money from the insurance claim. Our lawyers can appeal the initial amount and try to negotiate with the insurance company. We can also file a lawsuit and provide our own damage calculations and evidence to try to convince the insurance company to settle the lawsuit for a fair value. If a fair settlement value cannot be reached, we can take your case to court and argue for full damages from the judge and jury.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to settle or go to trial is one based on an assessment of how much the case could be worth, how quickly you need the damages, and how strong your case is. Talk to our South Carolina car accident lawyers for help with this decision.