Should I Hire an Attorney to Settle my Auto Accident Claim?
In the vast majority of cases, the answer to this question is undoubtedly “yes.” If your claim is for more than a few thousand dollars and involves personal injuries, you will likely benefit from legal representation.
A federal study indicates that the economic cost of traffic accidents nationwide is more than $242 billion a year. This includes estimates of lifetime economic costs from nearly 33,000 fatalities and roughly four million injuries each year. When considering various other factors, the total cost nationwide from motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was $836 billion. That number is, no doubt, higher today.
In 2010, private insurers paid about 54 percent of those costs, or about $130 billion. For insurance companies, those payments are losses. As for-profit businesses, insurance companies make every effort to limit those payments. If you have significant personal injury damages, even your own insurance company will seek to limit how much it will pay on your claim. Under such circumstances, you might want to consider hiring an experienced insurance dispute attorney to maximize the claims benefits.
Factors to Consider When Deciding Whether to Have A Lawyer to Help Settle Your Claim
Regardless of whether you are pursuing a claim against your own insurance company or the insurer for the other driver, several factors remain important:
- The insurance company’s representatives will take steps to limit the amount the company will pay out
- Insurance companies seek to limit their losses by minimizing payments for settlements
- Insurance companies do not want you to have an attorney
- If you are represented by an attorney, the insurance companies know the claim likely will cost them more
- Your statements to insurance company representatives can be used against you in settlement negotiations or in court
If another driver was at fault in the accident, that driver’s insurance company likewise will attempt to limit claim payments. There can be even more complications if you and the at-fault driver have the same insurance company. But in either case, the insurance company’s claims adjuster is an experienced negotiator. Further, there are many pitfalls to handling a claim on your own.
Given all that, when going up against an experienced claim negotiator means you should have an experienced negotiator of your own. It pays to have an advocate on your side for such negotiations that knows how to evaluate the true value of your claim.
The circumstances surrounding personal injuries from accidents can be complex. It requires investigative and legal experience that most people simply don’t have. As a result, without help, victims of serious accidents can get taken advantage of. They are at risk of accepting settlements that are far below the actual value of their case. Further, they often make statements that can hurt their ability to recover compensation.
What Should I Do When an Insurance Company Makes a Lowball Offer?
You should retain counsel, preferably as soon as possible after the accident. And certainly try to do this before a settlement offer is made.
That being said, let’s assume you have taken the risk of going this far on your own (which we would never recommend). Regardless of whether the insurance company is yours or the other driver’s, its first offer is likely to be low. Remember that the insurance company wants to pay you as little as possible. Insurance payouts, after all, are losses for insurance companies. They try to minimize losses.
Insurance adjusters are often given a range of authority within which they can make a settlement offer. They will always pick the low end of the range to give themselves room to negotiate. Further, a low dollar settlement will please his or her supervisor.
Don’t accept the first offer without a lawyer
Don’t settle. Review the offer with a lawyer. If the offer is not fair enough to pay for your damages and injuries, have your attorney reject it. The insurance company is hoping you will accept it. Disappoint them, because you and they know the offer is too low.
When dealing with your own insurance company, you might not receive a letter or a phone call from your insurance company with a settlement offer. Instead, you may receive a check in the mail with settlement terms. If you cash the check, they will argue your acceptance of the offer. Don’t do this, especially if the offer seems to be too low. This can leave you with unpaid bills and other damages from the accident.
To know that an offer is too low, though, requires that you know what your claim is worth. While the insurance adjuster’s first offer is typically too low, you need to be able to counter with hard facts that demonstrate that the offer should be higher. The best way to show this is to demonstrate the cost of your damages and injuries. There are steps to take to evaluate an offer from your insurance company. That being said, it is possible – even likely – that your claim is too difficult to handle on your own.
You Need an Attorney to Evaluate an Insurance Settlement Offer
Even if you do everything right, it is unlikely that your insurance company – or the other driver’s insurance company – will make you a fair offer. If an insurance company continues to refuse to provide what you consider a fair settlement, even in the face of documentation of damages, it is likely the adjuster is hoping to place at least some of the blame of the accident on you. At this point, you should hire a lawyer, if you haven’t already.
What Are the Dangers of Settling a Case Without an Accident Lawyer?
When you settle an accident and injury claim without the advice of counsel, so many things can go wrong. Here are a few examples:
Settling too soon
You settle your case because you need the money or an adjuster bullies you into taking an offer. Soon after, you need additional medical treatment. Unfortunately, you will not be able to reopen your case.
Settling a case blindly
You receive a settlement offer and accept it, as it is more money than you were expecting. Later, you realize you still have to pay your medical bills, or that it is not enough to cover your medical bills.
Further, you may receive a settlement check, and to your surprise the check is made payable to your health insurance carrier or a hospital. If the insurance company receives medical liens or insurance subrogation notices, they do not have to volunteer that information. You have to know how to address those issues.
Settling without knowing case value
The reality is you have no idea what your case is worth. It could be worth $10,000, or it could be worth $100,000 for all you know. It is so easy for an insurance adjuster to take advantage of accident victims, and they often do. Further, settlement offers often drastically increase once a lawyer comes in on the case. However, often those who try to handle a case on their own tend to damage the case before that lawyer arrives.
A few common ways to damage to your own case care as follows:
- Giving a written or recorded statement
- Not obtaining necessary medical treatment in a timely manner
- Failing to timely and properly notify an auto insurance carrier of an accident, as necessary with some companies
- Providing an adjuster with information that they do not have a right to know
- Letting the statute of limitations expire
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer at Abels & Annes
If you have been in an accident and are trying to reach a settlement with an insurance company, you should strongly consider consulting our experienced Chicago car accident lawyers. You will want to determine your rights under the circumstances of your accident. Our Chicago car accident lawyers can assist you in protecting your rights. Contact us today at (312) 924-7575.
To learn more about your specific insurance carrier and how we can assist you today review some of our pages and learn how Abels & Annes, P.C. can get you the compensation you deserve.
- Hartford Insurance claim lawyer
- AAA Insurance claim lawyer
- Travelers insurance claim lawyer
- AIG auto insurance claim lawyer
- Farmers insurance claim lawyer
- Liberty mutual insurance claim lawyer
- Geico insurance claim lawyer
- progressive insurance claim lawyer
- Allstate insurance claim lawyer
- State Farm insurance claim lawyer