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By Jim Struck
DO I REALLY NEED A LAWYER TO HANDLE MY PERSONAL INJURY CASE?
In the vast majority of injury cases, the person or business that caused your accident has liability insurance, so most of the time you will be dealing with an employee of the insurance company with the title “Claims Adjuster”. Even if the other person does not have liability insurance, you may have a claim under some other policy of insurance, such an uninsured motorist coverage in your own automobile insurance policy, but those coverage issues are best left to another article.
Claims Adjusters are trained to settle your case for as little money as possible. They use a wide variety of tactics to do this, but some of the more common are as follows:
//Bad mouthing your case.
The Adjuster tells you things like: “You have only soft tissue injuries, so your case is worth virtually nothing” or “I do not believe my insured is at fault” (even though he ran a red light) or “We do not recognize chiropractic as reasonable or necessary medical treatment”. The idea is to make you doubt your case and either give up or settle for peanuts.
Time really is on the insurance company’s side, so they will delay and delay and then delay some more. In the meantime, your medical bills are piling up, and you are getting frustrated and worried. This is exactly what the Adjuster wants; you panic and take an offer that is far below the case’s value.
This seems to contradict “foot dragging”, but when there is a serious injury, the Claims Adjuster wants to settle your case right away, before you recognize the full impact that your injury might have in areas such as recreational activities, work-life expectancy, and possible future medical care. Many people are under the mistaken impression that they can make a settlement now, but if a problem comes up in the future, they can “re-open” their case. Wrong. When you settle your case, the insurance company will insist that you sign a document called a “Release of All Claims” and that form always contains a clause that says that you are waiving forever all claims – known and unknown- that arise out of the accident. This means that you should not settle your case until you know and understand how your injury will effect you in the future.
There is a lot a gamesmanship in trying to reach a negotiated settlement in a personal injury case. To the uninitiated, it sometimes feels a little like buying a used car. The Claims Adjuster’s first offer is never his best offer, and he will make the assumption that your first offer is not your final offer. You have to be mentally prepared to do your best negotiating.
This article just scratches the surface. If an insurance company has made you a settlement offer, I invite you to make an appointment and discuss it with me. Since the consultation is free, you owe it to yourself to have your case professionally evaluated. If I cannot get you a better deal, I will let you know; if I can, then we will use what the insurance company has already offered as a “benchmark” for computing our fee. Remember, all personal injury cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning you incur no fees until your case is concluded.
*This article is for general information only and is not meant to take the place of face-to-face legal advice. Just because you read an article I wrote does not make you my client. Any decision you make on what to do on your case should always be made after consulting a real live lawyer.