DIY Accident Claim – Should I…?
Whether it is a homemade recipe for Turkey or installing your flat screen TV on the wall, nowadays most of us will not pass up an opportunity to find something and try to DIY (Do-It-Yourself). This practice is prevalent with the abundance of easy-to-access education via the internet, where one can find videos and explanations on just about everything. Accident claims are no different. Internet browser searches show that people frequently inquire about questions such as “how much is my case worth?”, “how to open a claim with the insurance company?”, and “should I settle?”.
A person who wants to handle their accident claim on their own to avoid paying attorney’s fees is free to do so. There is no rule that requires or forces anyone to hire a lawyer to open a claim or handle it. In fact, many times, a person will try to hire an accident lawyer only to be told by the lawyer that the person should handle the case on their own. Often times, this is especially true when a person either has sustained only minor property damage or minor injuries. However, before making a decision of whether to hire an accident lawyer to handle your claim, there are several points that one should consider:
1. Hiring an accident lawyer does not mean you will pay him/her: Most accident lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, meaning, if they are unable to help you get a settlement or judgment, you owe them nothing. Additionally, most accident lawyers get paid from the settlement proceeds or the judgment recovered against the person who’s at fault, not you. More often than not, it is not even the person at fault who pays, but their insurance company.
2. If you initially decide not to hire an accident lawyer, but then change your mind later, it may be too late: You may think that you can try to “google” how to negotiate with an insurance company and then do it without affecting your case. However, if you are not someone who settles injury cases or negotiates legal matters for a living, chances are, you will undoubtedly say or do something that will prejudice your case or share information that will affect the value of your case. By the time you change your mind and want to get a lawyer, the damage will be done.
3. You may be leaving money on the table: You can research all you want what the elements of damages are in a case like yours and try to assign them the value your research finds to arrive at a settlement with an insurance company or a person who injured you. Unfortunately, an accident attorney’s determination of what a fair settlement value is will take into account many variables that a lawyer learns during his or her practice and not in a law book such as prior verdicts in your jurisdiction, prejudicial factors, costs to take a case to trial, unpredictability of juries, level of skill of opposing counsel, judge assigned to a case, type of evidence available and admissible at trial, strength of evidence, and many more. It may very well be that your research leads you to accept an offer that is simply not fair taking into account all the facts of your particular case.
4. If you settle prematurely, you may be left without future recourse: typically, once you settle, you are doing so in exchange for not suing the person or company at fault in the future. For example, if you were hit by a city garbage truck and they offer to pay the bills and lost wages you have incurred, you will likely be asked to sign a release giving away your right to sue them for that accident ever again. That is fine if you have no future damages, but if you need to get a medical procedure the following year, you will have to pay with your own money or your own health insurance. Also, if there were damages that did not manifest at the time of settlement, you will have no recourse after signing the release. An accident lawyer will not want you to sign a release unless and until the full extent of your damages is known or ascertainable.
5. You may not have the resources to find out who all the parties at fault are: Supposed that you get hit by an 18 wheeler because the truck driver fell asleep. This particular driver was known for having a sleep apnea condition, but his company failed to fire him and instead, allowed him to get behind the wheel and endanger the public. When the crash happened, you exchanged information with the driver, and you were taken to the hospital. The police did not arrive at the scene. The truck driver provided insurance information of an old policy that has since expired. How can you find the trucking company now and hold them responsible? You hire an accident lawyer. Granted, in some cases, even accident lawyers will not be able to help, but they definitely will have more experience and resources than the general public.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it should be used as a starting point. If you or someone you love was involved in an accident, call Pastrana & Garcia Firm at 512-474-4487 for a free consultation and no commitment.