Should I Hire an Attorney to Settle my Auto Accident Claim?
In the vast majority of cases, the answer to the question posed above is undoubtedly “yes.” If your claim is for more than few hundred dollars and involves injuries or the potential replacement of your vehicle, then you will almost certainly benefit by retaining legal representation. A federal study indicates that the economic cost of traffic accidents nationwide is more than $242 billion a year. This includes estimated lifetime economic costs related to the nearly 33,000 fatalities, roughly four million injuries, and approximately 24 million vehicles destroyed or damaged each year. When considering various other factors, the total cost to society 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. It’s just one way for them to limit their losses. If you have significant property losses or personal 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 professional assistance to maximize the claims benefits.
Factors to Consider When Deciding Whether to Hire 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 designed 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.
- The things you say 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. This can become even more complicated 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, and you are not.
Given all that, it seems clear that going up against an experienced claim negotiator means you should have an experienced negotiator of your own. It pays to have someone on your side who is experienced in such negotiations and knows how to evaluate the true value of your claim. The circumstances surrounding personal injuries from accidents tend to be complex, requiring investigative and legal experience that most people simply don’t have. As a result, without help, victims of serious accidents are at risk of accepting settlements that are far below the actual value of their case or making statements that can hurt their ability to recover compensation.
What Should You Do When the Insurance Company Makes You a Low Offer?
Regardless of whether insurance company with whom you are making a claim 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, and so they try to minimize losses. Insurance adjusters, for your company or the other driver’s company, are given a range within which they can make a settlement offer, and they will always pick the low end of the range to give themselves room to negotiate. Don’t let them. Review the offer, and if the offer does not seem to be a fair offer to pay for your damages and injuries, 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 usually won’t get a letter or a phone call from your insurance company with a settlement offer. Instead, you likely will receive a check in the mail. If you cash the check, you have accepted the offer. Don’t do this, especially if the offer seems to be too low, as it can leave you with uncovered 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 virtually guaranteed to be 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 you can take to evaluate an offer from your insurance company, but it is possible – even likely – that your claim is too complicated to handle on your own.
Sometimes, You Need an Attorney to Evaluate an Insurance Settlement Offer
Even if you do everything right, there is no guarantee 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, experts say that it is likely the insurance company 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.
If You Need Assistance in Reaching a Settlement with an Insurance Company in the Chicago area, Contact the Attorneys of Abels & Annes
If you have been involved in an accident and are trying to reach a settlement with an insurance company, you should strongly consider consulting an attorney to determine your rights under the circumstances of your accident. The attorneys of Abels & Annes can assist you in protecting your rights when you are involved in such an accident. Contact us today at (312) 924-7575.