Education – the process. Or, how does a personal injury claim work, or, (why) do I need an attorney –– this is similar to asking how a watch works, but definitely a fair question that is entitled to an overview of the process.
HOW LONG DO I HAVE FOR FILING A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
As opposed to a workers compensation claim, which can be left open for life so whenever the injured person needs care for that specific injury they can get whatever care they need, a personal injury claim needs to be resolved at some point. Thus, your first question should be –– how long do I have to file a personal injury claim? In legal terms this is referred to as the applicable statute of limitations.
The most common statute of limitations allows you to file a personal injury claim within two years of the accident. However, if a public entity is involved, i.e. you were rear ended by a sheriff, that statute changes and becomes quite complicated. You are better off hiring a personal injury attorney to help you handle the process for a better outcome. Make sure you know how long you have for filing a personal injury claim.
WHAT TO DO IF INSURANCE COMPANY MADE LOW OFFER/BAD OFFER?
Insurance companies will rush you – they want you to sign and agree to their settlement offer before you have completed care or have had the opportunity to get proper care. The insurance company’s settlement offer is typically something tempting, yet unfair. An example being we’ll give you $2,500, and offer to pay up to $7,500 in medical bills. Please, do not accept that. Once you agree, it is over. You have to know the full extent of your injures and damages before agreeing to anything. That is why you must NOT get rushed or pushed into any agreement with the adjuster. I have heard too often before the adjuster telling an injured person, “If I don’t hear from you by Thursday I am closing your file”. Fine, let them close it without your agreement to their settlement offers for your personal injury and property damage. They will have to re-open it when you are ready to discuss a fair offer.
If it is a two year statute, you have plenty of time to determine the extent of your injuries, get the care you need, allow for complete healing, and etc. When you are as good as you were before the incident, then you gather all of your documentation and submit to the carrier for discussion. Do not have high expectations for discussion with your carrier. I sat in court the other day seeking the judge’s approval for my minor client’s claim. The case before ours was called and the little girl did not have an attorney representing her. The judge refused to sign the proposed settlement because he felt the offer was not good enough. The only attorney appearing on that case was an attorney for the insurance company. This is the attorney that had given advice that the child and her family relied on. It was poor advice. To me, and presumably to all present in court that day, this was simply more proof that you are not in good hands when dealing directly with the insurance company, as they do not have your bests interests in mind, even when a child is involved. Keep in mind that you are about to negotiate with someone who handles personal injury cases all day, every day, and has every intention of paying you as little as possible. And, they have ZERO obligation to deal with you in good faith. For many it will be the first time going through this process. You need to offset this disadvantage by hiring a personal injury lawyer to represent you.
DO I NEED A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY?
Considering it costs no money up front to hire a personal injury attorney, there is little reason why you would not consider hiring a qualified personal injury attorney. Many I meet with are concerned with the fact they will have to pay a percentage of the recovery to the attorney. That should not be the focus. The focus should be, what your NET recovery will be, the amount you “go home with”.
I have been personally involved in many, many cases where my client attempted dealing directly with the insurance company, received an offer, retained my services, and received a result far greater than what was offered. Additionally, there is the matter of trust and justice. The resistance you get from the insurance company will have nothing to do with truth and justice. Sometimes the only way to get that is to have your day in court.
Returning to the story above of the minor who was not represented in court and was seeking approval on the insurance company’s offer, I felt very badly for the girl who trusted the insurance company and wanted to verbally confront the defense attorney for making a bad offer to a minor, to ask that attorney how in good conscious they can do such things. There are no rules for these carriers when dealing with you. So, your best decision is to get an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side to make sure the correct result happens.