Believe it or not, it is sometimes a good idea to accept an insurance company’s settlement offer, instead of pursuing your legal claims in court. There are some cases that, while they may appear straightforward to you, are likely to fail on technical points of law. Rather than take a weak case to trial and lose, sometimes an insurance settlement will give you the most compensation you can use to get back on your feet.
Negotiations & Offers
Insurance companies are not in the business of making exorbitant settlement offers. They will very often open discussions with you – both yours and the insurer of the other driver involved in your accident – far quicker than you might expect. Generally, insurance policies contain language that requires you to cooperate with their investigation, and provide all the relevant information they may ask for. You are not, however, required to provide any information to the other driver’s insurance company unless you are deemed to be at fault for the accident.
The most recent available data shows that approximately 90% of personal injury cases settle before going to trial. A big reason for this, aside from crowded court dockets, is because insurance companies very often attempt to force settlements. However, in an effort to keep costs down, many undervalue claims if they think the potential plaintiff is unsure of what they have. This is one of the main reasons that consulting an attorney is a good idea – attorneys are trained to spot a low offer, and can counsel against it.
The “Tyger River” Doctrine
Insurance companies have an obligation to settle a case if it would be reasonable to do so, even if they might wish to pursue the matter further. In South Carolina, the plaintiff has one other tool at their disposal to compel payment from an insurance company that does not wish to pay – the Tyger River doctrine, named after the case of Tyger River Pine Co. v. Maryland Casualty Co. (1933). If an insurer fails to settle when it would be reasonable to do so, they may wind up liable to both you and the other insurance company for any amount awarded that is more than the policy limits.
To get your insurance company to comply with this proviso, you must send what is called a “Tyger River” demand to the company at the appropriate time. This compels your insurer to settle your claim for the maximum amount on your policy. However, the appropriate time to send this demand can be difficult to pin down – if your case could settle for an indeterminate amount, you should not settle, because a jury may come to a similar conclusion. If your case involves relatively minimal damages, it would also not be worth sending a Tyger River demand because a case with minimal damages would never settle for the maximum policy amount. Your case must be significant enough to possibly settle for the maximum, but not too potentially far-reaching that it would be in your best interests to simply go to trial.
Contact An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
While most insurance companies are entirely legitimate and willing to work with you to arrive at an appropriate settlement figure, it is almost always worthwhile to enlist the assistance of a competent accident attorney. An attorney will be able to notice things you may miss, and can potentially save you from accepting a low offer. The talented North Charleston accident attorneys at Callihan & Syracuse are well versed in the tactics, both legitimate and underhanded, used by insurance companies to come out ahead. We will fight for you. Contact our offices for a free initial consultation.