Early Settlement Offers – Can They Ever Be Advantageous?
One of my primary objectives when acting for clients is to ensure that they are compensated properly for the injuries they sustain.
For this reason, it is not ideal when insurers make very early offers of settlement, especially in cases of substantial value. If an offer is made before medical evidence is complete, a solicitor must advise a client on a “best guess” scenario – will the compensation that is offered be enough to compensate that client for any ongoing pain or lasting complications from their injuries, and will it cover all necessary treatment and care costs going forward?
However, in some limited circumstances, an early offer of settlement can be of benefit to a claimant.
My client Mrs M was a passenger in a car being driven by her husband on a country road. Another driver tried to overtake the car on approaching a hill. There was no clear line of vision. An oncoming horsebox came into sight and, to avoid colliding with the horsebox, the other vehicle drove into the side of Mrs M’s car. The force of the action sheared off the back wheel and axle and the car careered into the bank. Very sadly the other driver was killed in the collision.
My client who was 90 at the time suffered significant injuries including a fractured skull and spinal fractures throughout her upper and mid spine. She was in hospital for 3 weeks. She developed BVVP (a form of vertigo).
The insurers agreed to fund an Immediate Needs Assessment (INA) under the Rehabilitation Code 2015. This enabled me to instruct an independent case manager to visit my client and prepare a report making recommendations for rehabilitation to support my client in her recovery.
The INA report gave some costings for the initial recommended rehabilitation, (so for example it recommended initial assessments with a pain management specialist, neurologist, neuro-physiotherapist and psychologist). It also gave some recommendations for the initial care support my client would require in her recovery.
On disclosure of the report, the insurers made an early offer to settle the claim for £75,000.
An INA is designed to support a claimant in their recovery, not to enable the claim to be valued. The usual progression of a personal injury claim is that, when a client has made some recovery from their injuries (hopefully with some extensive rehabilitation funded by the insurers), they are seen by various independent medical experts who prepare reports which give an opinion and prognosis for the injuries sustained. Those reports enable a solicitor to value the claim.
At such an early stage in Mrs M’s claim, I was unable to advise her with any certainty that the offer would be enough to compensate her fully. We simply didn’t know how fully she would recover from her injuries and what investigations, treatment and support she may require long term.
However, Mrs M was 90 at the time of the accident, and sadly her husband had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Whilst there was a risk that she would be undercompensated for her injuries by accepting this offer, given that it would bring her claim to a swift conclusion (and we had the INA for her to follow up with any recommendations made for her treatment using the compensation she received), she was keen to explore early settlement.
Following negotiations with the insurers, I was able to secure a six-figure settlement for my client which she was happy to accept.* Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*