Personal Injury Claims: Five Myths
FIVE MYTHS REGARDING YOUR PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM
Among many subjects that people think they understand, but really don’t, are personal injury liability claims. These are claims brought against insured persons for mistakes that cause injury to the claimant.
The most common injury claim is a collision claim, car, truck, motorcycle, or 4-wheeler. Claims can be brought against the driver of the other vehicle or the driver of the vehicle in which you are the passenger or both. There can be claims against a stranger or “friendly” claims against a family member or friend limited to the amount of liability insurance coverage.
More problematic are claims for injuries sustained as a result of “slip and fall“ in retail stores or public places, injuries sustained in the home of an insured homeowner, or claims for injuries resulting from defective products. This article applies to them all. They can be settled but are harder to settle than a clear-fault collision. Then there are “mass-tort” claims, nursing home claims, and medical and legal malpractice claims, but we won’t focus on them here.
Here are the myths and the truth:
I. The Insurance Adjustor is Your Enemy
If you are properly represented, the insurance adjuster may be “your best friend“. A good attorney can document your claim and help the adjuster justify a substantial payout. It is important to find a good lawyer as soon after the collision as possible. That increases the chance of a settlement without a lawsuit.
However, if you are trying to settle your own claim, remember that the adjuster is paid by the insurance carrier to pay as little as possible. They tend to pay at least double to represented parties because they know you can sue them, which means more in YOUR pocket and less chance of a suit.
II. Personal Injury Lawyers Always Take at Least One Third
If liability (fault) is questionable, or you wait too long to hire a lawyer, the fee may be 1/3 or higher because a suit has to be filed.
But, unlike “slip and fall” or “product liability” cases, fault in collision cases is likely to be clear, and I accept just 20% of the sums recovered when “fault” is admitted and 25 % where “fault” is disputed but settlement occurs without filing suit. This is NOT true for most personal injury firms, which tend to charge 1/3 (33 1/3%). It is my “competitive edge”, and it works because we have a great staff and system.
Also, remember the term “subrogation claim”. That’s the claim your medical insurance provider asserts for paying your medical bills. Your medical insurance contract requires you to reimburse your insurance when you collect from “the tortfeasor.” Your attorney can usually negotiate a significant discount of the subrogation claim, putting more money into your pocket.
III. If I Hire a Lawyer, I Will Get Stuck in a Lawsuit
If you don’t hire a lawyer, you will have to accept whatever the insurance adjuster offers or hire a lawyer. Hiring a lawyer just weeks or months before the “statute of limitations runs” may allow valuable evidence to be lost, memories to fade, or witnesses to move away. That’s when the chances of a lawsuit multiply. Just call me! I’ll even visit you in the hospital or your home. That’s when our documentation plan will begin; not when it is too late!
IV. I Can Settle My Own Case
See my comments immediately above. The adjuster knows that a “self-represented party” lacks the ability to prosecute a lawsuit. She/he knows that being friendly and helpful will lull you into a “false sense of security”. But that “friendly and helpful” adjustor will hold tight to the cash if he knows you are likely to “settle cheap”. The insurance company exists to make a profit; every dollar kept is a dollar earned.
I don’t mean to “over-explain” this, but with over 40 years of experience, I know myriad ways to document and argue your case; medical records, lost wage and benefit statements, your daily diary, “lay witness statements” from your family and friends, and solid arguments relative to “fault” and to the seriousness of your injuries are just some of the tools we use.
And for people who say, “I just want my bills paid.”, you need to know that a valid claim may be 3, 5, 10, or 25 times the “out of pocket” costs. Besides your bills and lost wages and benefits, your claim includes your pain and suffering, which may be immense; also, your mental anguish, which may include “P.T.S.D.”, post-traumatic stress disorder. P.T.S.D. and other injuries can last a lifetime, as can your vulnerability to future injury. So don’t risk it! Seek proper compensation.
These permanent injuries, symptoms, and impairments multiply over the years as do, disfigurement and loss of a limb or bodily function which may cause your life to seem not worth living. A good lawyer helps you give voice to these many factors so you can focus on your recovery.
V. People Who File Personal Injury Claims Are Greedy
This is a myth fostered by insurance companies and “big business”. For decades they have funded media campaigns and planted “news” stories that exaggerate and hype various claims as increasing your insurance and even endangering our way of life. Yet, the whole purpose of insurance is that relatively small sums are paid by a large number of people so that the smaller number of persons who are injured by another’s fault can be compensated. It is our “civil justice system”. It is a system that works.
People who file personal injury claims are your family, your friends, your neighbors, and, someday, sadly, maybe you. And when meet your lawyer for the first time, you will stress that you aren’t like “those other people”.
You might be surprised to know that most people just want to recover and get back to normal. No sane person gets injured so they can get money. Invariably, they agree they would never endure such an injury again if they could avoid it, no matter what the “payoff”!
So, forget the myths, give us a call, and give us a chance to answer your questions. Once we have, we are confident you will want us in your corner helping you avoid a lawsuit, a trial, delay, and expense.
This post was written by Burton Hunter