If my spouse and I were involved in an auto accident and the at-fault driver's insurer has offered us "inconvenience money", what do we do?
Question Details: It was not our fault. The driver who rear-ended us was insured. The insurance company has assumed full responsibility and is handling the claim. Our auto is most likely totaled. We were both taken to the hospital. I was discharged that night after examinations and X-rays for whiplash. My spouse was kept for observation for 1 1/2 days. The insurer called us and offered $3000 for what they called "inconvenience money" for the trip to the emergency room, tests, etc. They clearly said it has nothing to do with medical bills. It this legit? Are they worried about us suing? We are very cautious. Could you explain what is going on?
They are calling it "inconvenience money" to avoid acknowledging the medical bills and injuries. What they are offering is almost certainly too low, given that their driver is almost certainly at fault (the law presumes that the rear driver in a collision like this was at fault, since he had the obligation to maintain a safe following distance and speed and pay attention, so he could brake in time). If you sue, which you could, and won, which seems likely from what you write, you could receive the sum of:
1) The current blue book or fair market value for a totalled car.
2) Your out-of-pocket (not paid by health insurance, etc.) medical costs--e.g. deductibles, co-pays, etc.
3) Future medical costs, if it develops that you need treatment for anything resulting from the accident.
4) Possibly "pain and suffering" if you suffer any life impairment or disability which lasts at least a moderately long time--for example, if it turns out that you or your wife were whiplashed or concussed.
5) Lost wages, if any, from the accident.
6) Other out-of-pocket costs, such as towing, having to rent a car, etc.
Unless the total of the above is less than, say, $5,000 or $6,000, this is a low or weak offer. (If it is only around $5k, then you may wish to take it and give up the extra $2k to avoid the time and cost of suing.) Before taking any offers, speak with a personal injury attorney (many provide a free initial consultation; you can ask about his before making the appointment) to discuss the case.