Not the Suing Type? Protect Yourself: Call a Lawyer Before Settling on Your Own
When dealing with insurance adjusters after an accident, they seem friendly enough, and their claims of being “on your side” sound genuine.
But, often, all is not as it appears – especially when the overriding fact governing your claim is this: Once you accept a check and sign a liability release, that’s your ONLY bite at the compensation apple – forever! Does the adjuster explain that little fact? Then, go back and look at their offer. Does it really seem fair in light of the fact that your treatment for your injuries still isn’t finished, and you don’t even know when it will be?
Is that adjuster calling you too many times, asking too many questions, and giving you too little information you can use in getting compensated for your injuries, destroyed property, pain and suffering, lost income, and other damages you have suffered? How can a lowball five-figure offer cover bills, expenses and losses arising from that negligent accident which total six figures? Do you really know the actual “value” of all your losses?
The Scales of Justice are NOT in your Favor
Think about that classic statue of blindfolded Lady Justice holding a sword in one hand and scales in the other. On one half of the scales sits you – “not the suing type.” On the other side you find the insurance company’s mantra – “take in billions in premiums but only pay millions in claims.”
Given that irrefutable fact, which side wins? Do we really need to tell you?
Is your settlement offer fair? Should you accept it? Countless times we’ve seen people who should never have accepted an insurance company’s settlement offer, who are then left with no means to pay all medical bills for ongoing, open-ended – sometimes still unknown – treatment.
The Insurance Adjuster is Not Your Friend
They are trained to develop “trust” with injury victims. Their job is getting you to believe the adjuster is “on your side” so you’ll quickly accept low settlement offers. These insurance industry tactics are no different from the “good cop” tactics police interrogators use. At some insurance companies, adjusters receive bonuses which are tied to how little the company can pay claims like yours. They call this difference between what they owe and what they pay “profit.” Unless you negotiate injury cases for a living, you are in serious trouble. They have the home field advantage, because you’re playing their game by their rules.
On the other hand, an experienced personal injury attorney fairly evaluates your claim and tells you whether or not your settlement offer is reasonable and fair.
Seasoned Personal Injury Lawyers Balance the Scales
Insurance adjusters – especially when you are dealing with the ones representing those who injured you – don’t want you to talk to a personal injury lawyer! They use arguments such as, “A lawyer will take a portion of your settlement, and I want it all to go to you.” Another tactic is to say, “I can’t make this offer once a lawyer becomes involved.” When they say things like that, it’s a huge red flag.
People who have a personal injury lawyer working for them get more fair and appropriate offers for their claims than they would without seasoned legal representation – up to three-and-a-half times more money than those who settle a claim by themselves, according to a 2004 study by the Insurance Research Council.
That’s because an experienced injury lawyer can help value the elements of your claim, make an assertive demand for all damages due you, and have the ability to take the insurance company to court if their settlement offer is insufficient or they don’t negotiate in good faith. That last part is really important, because many insurance companies avoid litigation. And that’s your ace in the hole.
Personal Injury Lawyers Evaluate your Case for Free – Even if You Don’t Hire Them
Most personal injury attorneys provide an initial, free consultation. If the insurance company’s offer is a fair representation of your claim’s value, and there is no reason to hire an attorney, ethical lawyers will tell you that.
More often than not, we find insurance company settlement offers to be unreasonably low. During your free consultation, your attorneys will want to know what offers, if any, you have received. Before you decide on the law firm to hire, you should ask if the attorneys can explain why the offers are unreasonably low and outline a plan to get you the compensation that you deserve.
A Release is Forever
Occasionally, you’ll get the same treatment from your own insurance company, if, for example, you’re involved in a car accident, the other driver is uninsured, but you have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage on your auto insurance policy. Accepting a settlement waives your right to pursue a claim, whether the offer comes from your insurer or the other driver's insurance company. Once you accept any offer, all bets are off. You get nothing more.
An experienced personal injury attorney analyzes all sources of compensation and will advise you whether the settlement offer is reasonable and, if not, what your options are.
So, even if you insist on representing yourself, don’t accept a settlement without at least showing the offer to a seasoned injury lawyer. Sometimes free advice is worth infinitely more than what you pay for it.