Posted on 02/28/2022 at 08:00 AM by The Biker Lawyers
Should I settle my personal injury case without a lawyer?
Car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents can be life-changing events. An accident can bring chaos, confusion, and frustration to every part of your life. You may suffer pain and injury. You may need time off from work. You may incur expensive medical bills. Your car may be severely damaged or totaled. Your loved ones may have suffered injuries as well.
And then there is the insurance company – telling you that you don’t need a lawyer, that they will treat you fairly, and that the insurance adjuster will look out for your best interests.
It happens to people every day. They get injured in an accident, it’s not their fault, and the other person's insurance company wants to settle the claim… fast, “for your convenience.”
Of course, you want compensation for your injuries. Sure, you want to move on with your life, but do you know what a fair settlement offer would be? Does that offer take into consideration your ongoing pain and suffering, which may be significant? The problem that most don’t recognize until it’s too late is that settling your case too quickly following an accident can be a big financial mistake. It's important for you to understand the process of settling with an insurance company, and, equally as important that you realize there are alternatives to settling a personal injury claim by yourself.
Can you, and do you really want to handle your personal injury claim on your own?
Most people think they could, but don’t want to. Unfortunately, they often find themselves settling their case on their own simply because they don’t know where to start or do not have time, so they accept a settlement offer. What they fail to see is that the likely reason that the insurance adjuster is contacting you is that he or she knows that you are not represented by an expert and does not wish to even try putting together a case against yours. They know that you don’t know what you don’t know, so they often try to low-ball you (with a number that seems just high enough to you that you’ll jump at the chance to get some cash).
But seriously, should you settle your case without a lawyer?
Ultimately, that’s up to you, but you need to consider all the pros and cons.
The first question to ask yourself is whether you have enough information to make an informed decision about settling your claim. What do you need to know before deciding?
Here are a few important things to consider before trying to settle on your own.
You need to make sure you understand the deadlines for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Iowa. Missing those deadlines could mean losing the opportunity to get fully compensated for your injuries. You might say that a personal injury lawsuit starts the moment you feel you've been damaged in some way. The clock begins ticking on the statute of limitations deadline. In Iowa, most personal injury claims must be initiated within two years of the incident.
Time is critical to your personal injury claim. Waiting to get legal help will make it difficult to gather evidence and locate witnesses who can help prove your claim. Also, medical records may be lost or destroyed if they're not gathered immediately after an accident or injury.
What kind of evidence do you have or can be obtained that proves the defendant was negligent? Evidence goes beyond the scene of the accident. When fully investigating your case, you’ll need to consider documentation, photographic evidence, medical records, and much more. Speaking of medical records…
Medical bills and other records
The costs of medical bills can add up quickly after an injury occurs. A serious injury can require surgeries and treatments that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars over months or years.
Make sure you know the total amount of your medical bills so far and the cost of any care you will need going forward. This should include things like physical therapy, mental therapy, or medical devices that may be required to aide with any permanent physical restrictions that come as a result of your injury.
In terms of evidence, it’s important to do your best to make sure that your doctors (or other healthcare professionals) link all your injuries to the accident very clearly in their medical records.
Health insurance reimbursement
You may have had great coverage from your insurance provider, but make sure you know if your health insurance is expecting (or asking) to be paid back out of a settlement, and if so, how much. Keep in mind, this also might include any short-term or long-term disability plans you have.
Short-term & long-term effects
If an accident has impacted your quality of life now or in the foreseeable future, this should be considered in a settlement discussion. Will you have permanent physical or mental pain? Will you have permanent physical restrictions? How much time have you had to miss from work because of the accident? What is the cost of that lost time in terms of lost wages so far? How will this impact your ability to create income?
“What else do I need to know?”
Hiring an Attorney doesn’t always mean going to trial
Many people are afraid to hire an attorney because they think it means going to court. But many personal injury cases can be resolved without a trial or lawsuit. In fact, most personal injury cases settle outside of court.
Even if your case does go to trial, that's okay too. If you have hired The Biker Lawyers, you've got the best possible representation on your side, so you'll be able to meet the challenges and answer any questions that come up along the way.
Here’s What We Recommend (The Dos and Don’ts of Personal Injury Settlements)
After an accident, your first step should be to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, even before you speak with the insurance company or accept a settlement offer from them.
A personal injury attorney experienced in motorcycle accidents, car accidents, and truck accidents can help determine who was at fault for the accident and whether there are legal grounds for filing a personal injury claim to receive compensation for your losses.
Don't talk to the insurance adjuster before speaking with an attorney.
Don't sign anything without having a lawyer review it first. It could be a release of all claims or a request for your medical records.
Don't let the insurance company trick you into believing that if you don't settle now, the money will go away. In Iowa, most cases must be filed within two years of the injury. You have time to investigate your case and evaluate its value before making a decision about whether to settle or file a lawsuit.
Don’t be tricked into believing that your case is straightforward — perhaps you were rear-ended by another driver and suffered whiplash — you might think you can handle negotiating with the insurance company on your own. You might even be tempted to skip reporting the accident altogether, figuring it's not worth the hassle and that any injuries will heal in time. That’s rarely a good idea. You probably don't have enough knowledge to know all the ways your life has been affected by the accident. Things like lost wages and pain and suffering are fairly obvious, but there may be more subtle ways in which your life has been impacted.
Do hire an attorney with experience handling personal injury claims in Iowa courts, not just someone who practices other areas of law like real estate or criminal defense.
Do ask if the lawyer's firm has experience dealing with personal injury cases where the defendant (the person who caused the accident) is not insured.
Do ask what percentage of their practice is devoted to personal injury claims, and how many jury trials they have handled involving personal injuries over the past five years.
What should I know if I am sure I can settle on my own?
If you are still not convinced you should at least speak to an attorney for a free case evaluation and have decided you are going to settle your claim without a lawyer, here are some things you should know:
You will probably get less money than you would with an attorney. It's hard to give an exact percentage, but at least half of all claims end up settling for more money if they are handled by an attorney than if they are settled by the injured person themselves. This is because attorneys understand the legal process better than injured people do, they understand the value of claims better than injured people do, and they know how to negotiate with adjusters in order to get top dollar for their client's cases.
Don't be afraid to hire an attorney later on in your case if it becomes clear that you need one. Many people start their own cases and then realize that they need help from an experienced attorney who knows what he or she is doing. In these situations, there is no shame in speaking to and hiring an attorney later.
Insurance companies do not represent your best interests in negotiations. They are on the other side of your claim and have one goal in mind — to pay you as little as they can get away with.
You might not realize this because the claims adjuster assigned to your case may seem friendly and even sympathetic. Even though they may ask questions and make the process seem straightforward, they are likely employing tactics designed to minimize the amount of money they pay you. While an insurance company may offer a settlement quickly after an accident to get the claim resolved more quickly and cheaply, it’s important not to accept any offers before having a chance to review all your damages.
The truth is that the insurance company is working hard behind the scenes to minimize what they end up paying you. This will likely include hiring investigators to gather evidence against you, researching how much similar injury claims have settled for in Iowa, and taking advantage of any information that may make you look bad when presented to a jury.
It is rare that someone will be fully compensated for a personal injury without hiring a lawyer. Attorneys understand the law and know how to prove liability, damages and negotiate settlements. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how much your claim is worth and can help you reach a fair settlement with the insurance company. If the insurance company won't make a fair offer, you may need to sue and let a jury decide what your case is worth.
If you have been injured by someone else, call The Biker Lawyers today at (877) 209-9452 or fill out our easy online contact form to learn how we can help you get what you deserve.