Is a Private Settlement for a Car Accident Legal?
It’s legal to settle a car accident privately. Yet, doing so might not be in your best interest. By accepting money directly from the at-fault party, you risk settling for less than your case is worth. This could put you in dire financial straits if your condition worsens and you need more money.
Many injured claimants wonder whether they can settle a case privately because they worry about affording legal help. Our team works on a contingency-fee basis, meaning clients pay nothing upfront or out of pocket. To learn more about working with a car accident lawyer from our team, call (954) 633-8270.
Think Twice About Settling a Car Accident Case Privately
After your collision, the at-fault driver may offer you a cash settlement. Initially, this may seem more enticing than filing an insurance claim or lawsuit. After all, you want compensation as quickly as possible.
Still, you should consider the following:
You Could Have a Serious Medical Condition
Adrenaline runs high at an accident scene. The “rush” you feel may mask certain symptoms that point to serious conditions. For instance, you may have a traumatic brain injury. At first, you may experience a mild headache, along with other low-risk symptoms.
Yet, you wake up days later, and you have memory loss, feel disoriented, and don’t feel like yourself. If you’ve already settled your case, the other party doesn’t have liability for your outstanding medical costs. You would have to front those costs yourself.
You May Not Know the Full Value of Your Losses
Because of the collision, you may miss time from work, require medical attention, and need someone to care for your children. These losses can increase over time. For instance, what may originally seem like a $2,000 car repair bill could quickly turn into a five-figure repair bill.
If another party’s negligence caused your collision, they should pay for your losses––not you. However, to request the amount you deserve, you shouldn’t rush to settle.
A Private Settlement May Not Account for Your Non-Economic Damages
Economic damages, like medical bills and lost income, are just part of your injury claim’s value. You may also deserve reimbursement for pain and suffering, disability, and disfigurement––also known as “non-economic damages.”
Non-economic damages are losses that don’t have monetary value but reflect your physical and emotional accident-related hardships. Because they don’t have inherent monetary values, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re owed.
When you work with a Florida car accident lawyer, they can determine your non-economic damages’ value and include that figure in your claim. Then, they can fight for what you need.
Your Car Could Have Hidden Damage
On the surface, your collision may seem like a minor fender-bender. You accept money at the accident scene and drive off, thinking nothing of it. Then, a few days later, your car breaks down on the highway. It turns out the damage was more serious than you thought. What now?
Because you settled your case with the at-fault party, you’re now responsible for those repair bills. You’re also stuck with related out-of-pocket expenses, like using rideshare services and public transportation.
You Must Notify Law Enforcement of the Incident
The at-fault party may offer compensation because they don’t want to involve the police. Yet, under Florida Statutes § 316.066, you must report an accident if:
- Someone suffers serious injuries or “complaints of pain”
- Someone passes away
- One of the cars required towing
- The collision involved a commercial vehicle
Filing a police report creates a record that your accident happened, and it caused you to suffer injuries. By failing to report the incident, you cheat yourself out of valuable evidence that could support your claim. What’s more, you violate Florida law.
Why Would Someone Want To Settle a Car Accident Case Privately?
When considering whether to settle your case privately, it could help to understand the other driver’s motivation. They may offer immediate compensation because:
- There’s a warrant out for their arrest. The other party might not want to involve the police because they risk criminal charges.
- They were driving under the influence. Florida doesn’t take driving while intoxicated lightly––especially when it causes accidents. If the other driver was high or drunk at the accident scene, they might want to quickly resolve your case.
- They don’t have insurance. The Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles says that everyone must have at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL). Yet, the other party might not have insurance to pay for your losses. If not, they may offer cash.
Begin Your Free Case Review With the Law Offices of Wolf & Pravato
Bottom line: don’t settle your case privately. As intimidating as it may seem, the claims process exists for a reason. The Law Offices of Wolf & Pravato can evaluate your losses, handle communications with those involved, and fight for a fair settlement. Contact us to begin a free case review, call (954) 633-8270.