CAN YOU SETTLE A CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM WITHOUT A LAWYER?
A common question people have after a car accident is whether or not they need to hire an attorney. Most lawyers will not tell you that many minor car accidents can be settled without their help. If you suffered no injuries or only very minor ones, you can maximize your recovery by handling your own claim.
Although it's sometimes economical to handle your own small car accident claim, it's important to understand the risks of doing so before making a decision. This article will cover if hiring an attorney could benefit you, how to settle your car accident case without a lawyer, and what to expect if you choose to hire an attorney.
HOW TO DECIDE IF SELF-REPRESENTATION IS YOUR BEST OPTION
It's possible to represent yourself after a car accident and still receive a good settlement...under the right circumstances. If you have a simple case with very minor injuries and are willing to stand up for yourself, self-representation can allow you to maximize your recovery. To help you decide, here are four important questions to ask yourself.
How bad are my injuries? If you only have a few scrapes and bruises from the accident and never had to seek medical treatment (or received very little medical treatment), you may not need a personal injury attorney.
Did I have to take time off work due to my injuries? If you lost income as a result of your injuries, you could be entitled to compensation for those wages. If this applies to you, it's probably in your best interest to talk to a personal injury attorney.
Did I pay for any medical treatment or medication out of pocket as a result of my injuries? For example, let's say your legs were broken in the accident, and you needed to buy a wheelchair. You would be entitled to compensation for the wheelchair, as well as any other out-of-pocket expenses. If you incurred a significant amount of out-of-pocket expenses, you may need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to prove your case.
Is it clear that the other party was at fault? If it's obvious that someone else is to blame for your accident, it will be easier for you to prove fault and get a fair settlement on your own. Take a look at the police report to see if the other party was cited for the accident. If liability is unclear, you can expect the insurance company to put up a fight. In this type of situation, the help of a personal injury attorney could greatly benefit your case.
If your injuries didn't require medical treatment, you didn't miss any work, you didn't need to buy things for your injuries, and the other party was clearly at fault, you likely don't need an attorney.
BENEFITS AND RISKS OF SETTLING A CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM YOURSELF
Many people want to settle their personal injury claim on their own to save money on attorney's fees. Usually, attorney's fees are about a third of your settlement - if they work on a contingency fee basis. So, the question becomes, is it worth it? Will I receive that much more settlement money if I hire an attorney?
In serious car accident claims with debilitating injuries or death, it's almost always worth it to hire a personal injury lawyer. When there's more money at risk for the insurance company, they will fight you harder on your settlement. Under these circumstances, an experienced car accident attorney can advocate for your recovery, protect your rights, and maximize the compensation you receive. For smaller accidents, it may not be worth giving a third of your settlement to obtain the services of an attorney.
If you choose to represent yourself, there are some risks involved. First off, the insurance company is not on your side. Be wary of the tactics they use to try to get you to settle for less than what you deserve. They may downplay your injuries and make you feel like you're in the wrong. It can be difficult to determine if they're even offering you a fair settlement. A personal injury attorney can help you calculate what your settlement is actually worth.
Another risk involved in representing yourself is accidentally admitting fault or accidentally working against your case in general. The negotiations process can be very stressful, and you might say things you don't mean or intend. Unfortunately, insurance companies and defense attorneys are experts at using things you say against you. Their job is to limit your recovery. That is why it's very important to talk to a personal injury attorney before speaking to an insurance adjuster.
HOW TO SETTLE A MINOR CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM YOURSELF
If you've done your research and decided that you'd rather not hire a personal injury attorney, here are the next steps to take.
Keep records. Take pictures of property damage, the accident scene, and your injuries. Get a copy of the police report.
File a claim with the at-fault party's insurance company. Provide that insurance company with documentation proving your injuries and damages.
Calculate your damages. This includes property damage, lost past and future wages, past and future medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and other financial losses attributed to your accident.
Talk to the insurance adjuster and negotiate. After you have gathered all evidence supporting your claim and submitted it to the insurance adjuster, you will need to engage in negotiations with them. Having a number in mind of what your settlement is worth can be helpful throughout this process, as the adjuster will likely “lowball” you and try to convince your to settle for as little as possible.
If at this point, the insurance company is giving you a lot of pushback and you are having difficulty getting your claim settled, we recommend speaking to a personal injury lawyer. The legal jargon used in this phase of a personal injury claim can be very confusing and overwhelming. If negotiations are proving ineffective, it's in your best interest to have an experienced attorney look at any communications you are receiving. They can craft a demand letter for you and continue the back and forth negotiations process until you receive appropriate compensation.
IF YOU DECIDE TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY, HERE'S WHAT TO EXPECT
It can be an extremely frustrating process to try and get your bills paid, gather all of the necessary evidence, engage in negotiations, and attain fair compensation for your injuries after you’ve been in a car accident. Fortunately, an experienced personal injury attorney can advocate for your well-being and take care of the claims process for you. Once liability is established and the necessary evidence is gathered, an experienced personal injury attorney can negotiate on your behalf until a fair settlement is achieved.
Sometimes, an agreement cannot be made and a settlement cannot be reached. Under those circumstances, you must file a lawsuit and pursue your claim through the court system to receive compensation.
It is possible to obtain fair compensation without an attorney when the accident, injuries, and damages are minor. When the accident, injuries, and/or damages are not minor, you will be best served by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to represent your interests. If you find yourself in need of legal assistance, please give us a call. The Ohio Car Accident attorneys at DuPont & Blumenstiel will be by your side throughout the entire process. We will advocate for your claims fully, and won't settle until a fair offer is reached - one that can bring you and your loved ones peace of mind. Call us at 614-389-9711 to have your case evaluated today. We will pursue your claim while you focus on your recovery.