- December 20, 2023
- Strong Law
- Car Accidents
Many of us embrace a “do-it-yourself” mindset. Why pay someone else when we can handle it ourselves? I can empathize with those who believe they can handle their personal injury claims without an attorney. After all, why hire legal representation when the insurance company will compensate me anyway?
These questions are insightful. To effectively address them, it is important to acknowledge the common errors individuals commit when resolving their personal injury claims without legal representation.
Are You Making These Mistakes?
1. SETTLING FOR LESS
If you sustain an injury due to someone else’s actions, you can expect a call from an insurance company representative representing the at-fault party or business. They will likely request a recorded statement, which is strategically designed to be used against you later. In some cases, they may even present an initial settlement offer, known as a “first call settlement,” without fully understanding the extent of your injuries. All of these tactics are employed by the insurance company to minimize the compensation you deserve for your claim.
Insurance companies generate revenue from policyholders’ premium payments rather than from claim payouts. Each dollar they avoid compensating you for your injuries is an additional dollar in their coffers. While insurance companies may project a friendly image and claim to prioritize your best interests, their primary objective is to maximize profits. Consequently, insurance companies are especially pleased when you lack legal representation as they anticipate you settling for an amount lower than the true value of your claim, unbeknownst to you.
Imagine this scenario: you’re involved in an automobile accident and unfortunately break your leg. The insurance company offers you $10,000 as a settlement for your claim. At first glance, this may seem like a great deal because you get to keep the entire amount without any attorney fees. However, consider this: if you had hired an attorney, the settlement amount could have increased to $60,000. Yes, the attorney would have received 33% in fees, but that still leaves you with a substantial $40,000 – a significant difference! This highlights the importance of hiring an attorney and demonstrates why it can be the right choice in such situations.
2. SETTLING TOO SOON
Everyone desires a swift resolution to their personal injury claim. Interestingly, the insurance company shares this desire, albeit for different reasons. It is crucial to note that in a personal injury claim, you have only one opportunity to pursue compensation. Once you reach a settlement with the insurance company, reopening the claim at a later time is not possible. This holds true even if you discover additional injuries that were not apparent during the initial settlement and require future medical treatment.
Let’s consider an example: imagine you experience neck pain following an accident, and your doctor suspects it’s a muscle strain that will heal quickly. Based on this, you decide to settle your claim with the insurance company, seeking compensation for a muscle strain injury. However, as time passes, your neck pain worsens, and it’s eventually discovered that you have a herniated disk that requires surgery. Here’s the catch: not only will you not receive additional compensation for the more severe injury, but you’ll also have to pay for the surgery out of your own pocket.
Hence, if you hastily resolve your injury claim with the insurance company, you might bear the responsibility for future medical expenses. Therefore, it is strongly advised that you refrain from making impulsive decisions to negotiate and settle your claim with the insurance company before consulting with an attorney. It is in your best interest to seek legal counsel to ensure you make an informed decision.
3. LACK OF CONFIDENCE TO NEGOTIATE
To maximize your injury claim, it’s crucial to approach insurance negotiations with confidence. This confidence stems from having a solid grasp on the legal knowledge necessary to understand the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Despite your confidence in the facts and extent of your injuries, insurance adjusters often try to undermine your assertions. They may raise legal defenses like comparative fault, assumption of risk, or mitigation of damages. Additionally, they may undermine the severity of your injuries and the reasonableness of your treatment by citing outdated or unfounded medical literature. Even the most articulate and educated individuals can be misled by these defense tactics employed by insurance companies. That’s why it’s essential to be fully prepared by consulting with an attorney before negotiating on your own behalf.
4. ADDITIONAL INSURANCE COVERAGE NOT IDENTIFIED
An attorney can help you discover additional insurance coverage that you may not have been aware of. For instance, if you were a passenger in a vehicle involved in an auto accident, you might be protected by the driver’s personal injury protection (“PIP”). This PIP coverage will cover your medical expenses throughout your treatment period. Another potential source of coverage could be underinsured motorist coverage (“UIM”) provided by your own insurance policy. If you were in an accident with a person who has limited or no insurance coverage, you may be eligible to seek compensation for your injuries through your own insurance policy once the at-fault person’s insurance policy limit has been reached.
An experienced personal injury attorney will diligently explore the possibility of additional insurance coverage from alternative sources. This can then be utilized to ensure equitable compensation for your claim. Failing to identify such coverage options prior to settling your claim could result in a missed opportunity for full compensation.
5. YOU OWE MONEY – “SUBROGATION”
When individuals settle their personal injury claims with the insurance company, they often assume that the full settlement amount will be directly deposited into their bank account. However, it’s crucial to recognize that there may be various entities to whom you are indebted or who possess the right of subrogation. The right of subrogation grants these entities the right to seek reimbursement for your medical expenses. This can include medical providers, health insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, L&I, and even your own auto insurance provider if you have personal injury protection coverage, also known as “PIP.” Consequently, if you have accepted a settlement offer from the insurance company for your injury claim, it is possible that you may owe more money than you initially received.
For instance, imagine accepting a settlement offer of $10,000. However, you still have outstanding bills to pay. You owe $5,000 to the hospital for your initial emergency room visit, $4,000 to your chiropractor, and $3,000 to your physical therapist. Even after receiving the $10,000 settlement check, you find yourself with a remaining balance of $2,000. Instead of receiving the full settlement amount, you are now tasked with setting up payment plans with a collection agency.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney at Strong Law Today!
In conclusion, I sincerely hope that you can avoid these top five mistakes commonly made when settling injury claims without the assistance of an attorney. If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s actions and would like to consult with a highly skilled personal injury attorney, please reach out to Strong Law. With offices located in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Alaska, we provide free consultations and work on a contingency basis, meaning we only charge legal fees if we successfully recover compensation for you. There is no risk involved, only potential rewards. Don’t hesitate, contact Strong Law today!