You’re driving home from the supermarket. You are waiting on a red light when all of a sudden you are rear-ended by another vehicle. Police and ambulance arrive at the scene. You are taken to the nearest hospital. After a series of x-rays, you are told no fractures but you should follow-up with your private physician.
The next day your back is completely stiff. You call your doctor for an appointment. Your friends are all telling you to hire a lawyer but you’re not sure if you need a lawyer. You’re not even sure if you have a claim. And then you get the call. The voice on the line is very friendly. He tells you he is with the Acme Insurance Company and they represent the driver that rear-ended you. He will be handling your claim and wants to talk settlement.
Now, the adjuster may sound friendly… but he is not your friend! Of course he wants to settle your case… but for the least amount of money possible. He works for the insurance company and it is his job to settle your claim as quickly as possible and for the least amount of money possible.
And while not having to pay an attorney’s fee (typically 1/3 of the settlement amount) sounds tempting, here is a real life example of why going it alone is a bad idea.
I once had a woman call me who had been negotiating her claim with the insurance company. They offered her $15,000 to settle, which she thought was fair and was ready to accept. They sent her a release for her to sign. She was confused about the language in the release. She called me on our Hotline to ask if I could explain a certain clause to her. I started asking her questions about her accident and injury. It turned out she suffered a serious injury with lasting effects. She was scheduled for a second surgery in a few months. I told her once she signed the release she could not go back to the insurance company to try and get more money if the second surgery did not improve her condition.
I told her not to be in a rush to settle her claim. She asked me if I thought the settlement was fair. I replied it was hard to answer that question but I believed, in view of her injury and the complete negligence against the other party … and the many years I’ve had handling similar cases … her claim was most likely worth more to settle.
To make a long story short, she decided to retain me to represent her and the case was eventually settled for $75,000. She recovered $35,000 more than she had been ready to accept! And the case settled in a short time as the insurance company had no defense.
The moral of the story here is always seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer if you’ve been injured in any accident. The consultation costs you nothing.
The only time I recommend an accident victim “go it alone” is when no lawyer will take the case and there is no other choice.
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