You don’t need a lawyer for every claim. If you have a minor injury and make a quick recovery, you probably can resolve your claim on your own. However, if you have a more significant injury or you face a longer recovery, you should consider hiring a lawyer. Without an experienced attorney on your side, you’ll be at a disadvantage dealing with the insurance company that represents the at-fault party.
Adjusters’ Careers Depend on Settling Cases for Cheap
An insurance company’s goal is to pay you the least amount of money possible. In fact, adjusters are graded on how good a job they do settling cases below reasonable value. An adjuster’s performance is constantly reviewed. If they are not consistently settling cases below reasonable value, they will have a very short career.
The “Three Ds” of Insurance Companies
Insurance companies have developed very sophisticated procedures to break down claimants so you’ll settle your case for less than it is worth. This practice is called the “three Ds”: deny, delay and defend.
First the insurance company will deny that you’ve been injured and delay resolving your claim. Then if that doesn’t get you to settle for cheap, they will vigorously defend against every aspect of your case.
One almost universal defense technique is to force you to attend an “independent” medical exam. These examinations are rarely independent. Instead, the insurer selects a doctor that is known to consistently render opinions that favor the insurer and minimize the claimant’s injuries. Both the insurance company and the doctor benefit in this mutually advantageous relationship.
Another time-honored defense technique is to attack your personal character and accuse you of being a liar and a faker. The insurance company may conduct surveillance on you, investigate your personal life, interview friends and co-workers, and dig up embarrassing private medical records.
An Experienced Attorney Levels the Playing Field
Most people do not have a lot of experience handling a personal injury claim. They have never negotiated an injury claim with an insurance company, do not know what their claim is worth, and are not accustomed to the tactics of the insurance industry. Injured people can be at a huge disadvantage if they are not represented by an experienced personal injury lawyer.
An attorney will take control of your claim so that you are not engaged in a one-sided negotiation with the insurance company. Depending on the case, an attorney may retain other professionals to advance your case, including private investigators, medical doctors, accident reconstruction experts, engineers, economists, life care planners and vocational rehabilitation specialists.
A good attorney also will monitor your medical care to help ensure that you get appropriate care that supports your legal case. An attorney should also perform a myriad of other tasks including:
- locating and establishing sources of payment for your medical bills;
- keeping track of all your bills and any outstanding balances and, when possible, stopping your bills from going to collections while your case is pending;
- ensuring that the correct and most advantageous source is paying the bills; and
- negotiating reimbursement and future care with your health insurer and any other entity that has provided medical benefits on your behalf.
If your case involves complicated legal or medical issues, a jury trial may be inevitable. If so, getting a skilled lawyer involved early in your case is essential.
In essence, if your injury is a relatively minor injury and you are able to make a full recovery quickly, you may be able to handle your own case. But a more serious injury that requires a long recovery or is permanent demands an experienced lawyer on your side to level the playing field with the insurance company. Finally, if your case involves complicated legal or medical issues, you should seriously consider retaining a lawyer early in the process to maximize the chances of getting a favorable settlement or—if your case does not settle—to present your case to a jury.