When a loved one dies due to injuries caused by a negligent party, surviving family members could have the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit in California. While many cases require your family to fight vigorously before receiving a settlement offer, the insurance company sometimes offers to settle first. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be asking—what should I do if an insurance company approaches my family with a settlement?
It’s crucial to watch what you say when speaking to an insurance adjuster. They are looking for anything they can use against you during the claims process—they may even try to use something as simple as “I’m sorry” to claim that you admitted fault for the accident. So before accepting any offer or discussing a potential settlement with the defendant’s insurance company, speak with a lawyer first. If you have questions about a wrongful death lawsuit or settlement offer, the California personal injury lawyers at The Larsen Firm are here to help.
Wrongful Death Settlement Negotiations
When an insurance company offers a settlement right away, that is likely a red flag. Insurance companies will not extend an offer right away unless there’s some benefit for them.
Lowball Offers Benefit Insurance Companies—Not You
The adjuster might quickly realize your family’s case is worth a significant amount of money. To save their company money, adjusters will often try to resolve the case quickly before you discover how much it’s actually worth.
The adjuster hopes you agree to a quick lowball settlement offer before speaking with a lawyer. They hope that your mounting medical and other expenses will make a quick offer very tempting. If the insurance company can get you to accept a settlement and sign a release, your family can never go back for more money in the future. That means you cannot go back and demand a fair payment if you talk to a lawyer and find out the case is worth three times more after you’ve signed the release. And you cannot go back to get more if your medical bills continue to come in long after the settlement money is gone.
Low Insurance Limits
The other instance where they might offer compensation immediately is when their insured has low insurance limits. For example, suppose a drunk driver kills your spouse in a collision. When you present the wrongful death claim to the driver’s insurance, the claims adjuster will determine the available liability limits. If the adjuster confirms coverage for the claim, they might offer to “tender its limits” of $15,000. If you accept the offer, the claims adjuster will make you sign a release that says you will not pursue a claim against their insured for additional money.
Do not agree to any settlement or sign a release without first speaking with a lawyer to discuss your rights. If you decide to settle, your family could be losing out on significant potential compensation. Furthermore, while many releases of all claims contain boilerplate language, some adjusters will try to sneak in other unfavorable terms.
California’s Negligence Laws
California is one of a handful of states that has a very liberal negligence standard. It’s a pure comparative negligence state, meaning that victims have the right to a percentage of their damages, even when they are partially at fault. For example, the insurance company might argue that your family member was 70% at fault for the accident. By trying to place the bulk of responsibility onto the deceased, the adjuster can potentially reduce its company’s exposure. In this situation, your family would only receive 30% of your damages.
How a California Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Hiring a lawyer following your loved one’s death is the wisest step you can take. Having a legal representative handle all communication with the insurance company protects you from inadvertently saying something the adjuster can later use against you.
At The Larsen Firm, we know the tactics that insurance companies use to save themselves money and close files sooner. If you have an attorney, the claims adjuster is far less likely to extend a lowball offer because they know your lawyer will tell you to reject it.
When you have a lawyer representing your family’s interests, we handle all the complex legal issues. We will open an independent investigation right away and collect all pertinent evidence. And since there may be more than one party who is liable for your loved one’s death, we will identify all potentially liable parties and put them on notice of a claim.
Contact Our California Wrongful Death Lawyers Today
If your family member died unexpectedly due to another party’s negligence, you don’t need to take on the complicated legal system alone. In the aftermath of a death in the family, many people wonder, What should I do if an insurance company approaches my family with a settlement offer? If you need some compassionate guidance, contact The Larsen Firm today. We have decades of experience assisting grieving families who’ve tragically lost a loved one due to another party’s actions. Don’t let the insurance companies take advantage of your family during your grief; let us protect your rights. Schedule an initial consultation to learn more about how we can help you.