I can’t get a reasonable settlement offer from the insurance adjuster after my North Carolina traffic accident. What do I do next?

We’re sorry to hear you are having trouble with your insurance adjuster—but we’re not surprised. Adjusters work on behalf of the insurance company, not on behalf of your best interests. Adjusters know that immediately after an accident, they can offer you a settlement that’s just high enough to be tempting, but really too low for the likely full value of your injuries.

It’s nearly impossible to estimate what your case is worth in the first few weeks after the accident. Questions regarding how quickly you will heal, whether your injuries will require future surgery, and if you will need long-term rehabilitation or counseling cannot be answered reliably early on. The amount offered by the insurance adjuster can hardly take into account the costs of your potential future needs.

Arbitration

In some cases, especially when you are negotiating with your own insurance company due to an accident caused by an uninsured driver in North Carolina, you may be forced to submit to arbitration. This involves a neutral decision-maker listening to both sides of the dispute and then choosing a settlement amount. 

Many modern insurance policies require that a disagreement between the insurer and a policyholder be settled by binding arbitration, which means there is no appeal (and no possibility of a lawsuit) if either side disagrees with the arbiter’s decision. However, if the insurance company still fails to pay you after binding arbitration decides the settlement amount, then the insurance company can be sued to collect the amount you are owed.

If you are dealing with someone else’s insurance company—generally, the insurer for the person who caused the accident—that company has no power to force you into arbitration, because you are not a party to that insurance agreement. The insurance company may offer to negotiate on the amount of the settlement through a mediator—an impartial third party—but the mediator will not have the power to force either side to obey.

Other Options to Agree on a Settlement

If negotiation fails to produce an agreeable settlement, there are these options:

  • Small claims court. The small claims court is part of the District Court Division in North Carolina. It handles civil cases where the maximum recovery is $5,000 or less, so you should only consider a small claims court if your losses are minor. There is no jury and usually no lawyers in small claims court. A person who loses in small claims court may appeal for a jury trial before a judge in District Court.
  • A complaint to the North Carolina Department of Insurance. You can file an insurance complaint in North Carolina online. The Insurance Department may investigate your claim if the insurer seems to be acting unfairly or illegally, but it almost certainly is not going to compel the insurer to settle with you for a higher figure. However, insurance companies don’t like the negative publicity that comes with an investigation, so they may increase their settlement offer when you threaten to complain to the Department of Insurance.
  • Hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit. If the insurance company is not cooperating, you can hire an experienced Wilmington personal injury attorney to bypass the insurer and sue the person responsible for the North Carolina auto accident. A lawsuit will get the insurance company’s attention, too—and they will understand you are serious about getting the full amount you deserve.

Hiring Speaks Law Firm also is a way to signal your resolve. At Speaks Law Firm, we treat every client as our most important client. We have years of experience and confidence to follow a case into the courtroom, if that’s what it takes to get the best compensation available for our client. Call us today at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233 to arrange a free, no-obligation conference about your case, and we will send you a FREE copy of The North Carolina Auto Injury Book, our guidebook to legal recovery for your accident.