Can I Get a Settlement for a Car Accident Without a Lawyer?
You suffered serious injuries in a car accident. Pursuing a settlement looks like your best option for paying your medical bills and having the funds you need to move forward with your life. Do you have to hire a lawyer to get a settlement?
Hiring a lawyer for your car accident case may sound expensive, at a time when you likely have more than enough incoming bills. The liable party’s insurance company may even try to talk you out of retaining a lawyer, suggesting you can resolve the claim on your own. But an experienced car accident attorney often gives victims the best chance of getting the full amount of compensation they deserve, sufficient to cover all expenses and impacts they have suffered.
What Does a Lawyer Bring to the Table in a Car Accident Settlement?
Car accidents often leave victims with severe injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, or broken bones. These are not only expensive to treat, but may prevent you from working so that you can pay for treatment.
You will need to file a claim to recover, and you have to decide whether or not you need to hire an attorney. You may feel that it is clear who is responsible and that you should be compensated for all expenses that you have incurred because of the accident. But it isn’t always that simple, especially when dealing with insurance companies.
So, what does an attorney really bring to the table in filing a car accident claim?
1. Having an attorney signals to the insurance company that they must take your claim seriously
Insurance companies minimize the compensation they have to pay out. One tactic is to take advantage of accident victims who do not have legal representation. They may assume that a self-represented claimant has little knowledge about the full compensation they deserve and how to go about getting it. Often, they will assume the claimant will not fight hard for the full compensation they are due, and will instead accept a quick, low settlement offer.
But when an attorney enters the picture, the insurance company knows it must take your claim seriously, as you have someone at your side who is knowledgeable about how much you deserve and how to demand it. Just hiring an attorney may lead an insurance company to increase its settlement offer.
2. An attorney can investigate the car accident and defend against an insurance company’s attempts to deny or reduce your claim
In many cases, insurance companies try to disclaim liability, arguing that a claimant caused the car accident, or at least contributed to it, such that they may deny or reduce a claim payout. On your own, it may be hard to know where to start to push back. But an experienced car accident attorney knows how to investigate an accident to corroborate your claim, from gathering evidence such as video footage and accident reports to tracking down witnesses.
An attorney can also look into your medical needs and other impacts following an accident so that you can build evidence to support your compensation demand.
3. An attorney can help you navigate the process to vindicate your right to compensation
You know you deserve compensation after your car accident, and your attorney may gather ample evidence to support your claim. But an insurance company won’t back down immediately, and will often push back aggressively, conducting its own investigation and making counter-arguments to continue to disclaim or minimize its liability. An experienced car accident attorney knows how to navigate negotiation with an insurance company, and how to proceed with a claim in court if an insurance company refuses to settle for a fair amount.
How Do Insurance Companies Minimize the Compensation You Can Receive for Your Car Accident Claim?
Insurance companies use certain tactics to deny claims or minimize the compensation they pay out for car accident claims. An attorney will be familiar with these tactics and can give you a better understanding of what they might try to pull in your specific case. However, there are a few particularly common tactics you can expect in any claim.
1. Making a quick, low initial settlement offer
Often, immediately after a serious car accident, insurance companies will try to convince claimants to accept a quick, low settlement offer. That offer often does not reflect the compensation you really deserve for your injuries, but the insurance representative may pressure you to accept it, and without hiring an attorney. Often, that pressure includes trying to talk you into accepting an offer fast, with the theory that it might “go away” if you fail to accept it quickly, or trying to convince you to accept an offer before you have a chance to hear back from your attorney. These are scare tactics that you should not be intimidated by, and you should always at least consult with an attorney before accepting a settlement offer.
2. Unduly delaying the process
When resolving a claim quickly and cheaply doesn’t work, insurance companies often adjust to an opposite strategy—prolonging the claim process as much as possible. Insurance companies can make it difficult for accident victims to get compensation by delaying the claim process. By doing so, the company hopes to wear out claimants and get them to fold to a lower settlement than they deserve.
As a result, victims may prove more likely to accept whatever offer they can get, just to end the process and make it easier for them to move forward with their lives. An attorney can support you, push back when an insurance company delays the process in bad faith, and give you some idea about how long you can expect to have to wait to settle.
3. Minimizing the value of your claim
You know what injuries you suffered in an accident and how much they have impacted every area of your life, from broken bones to serious back and neck injuries. However, the insurance company may try to devalue your claim. They may try to catch you participating in activities that suggest you may have lied about your injuries. They might suggest that your injuries are pre-existing conditions. An attorney can advise you about what precautions to take to avoid giving the insurance company any chance to call the value of your claim into question, and how to counter other arguments the insurance company may make to deny or minimize your claim.
Can You Get a Settlement for a Car Accident Without a Lawyer?
While you can get a settlement on your own, you are likely to end up getting less than if you work with an experienced car accident attorney. Working with an attorney can help you maximize the compensation you can receive from a car accident claim. Don’t delay getting in contact with an attorney after a car accident to consult about your claim and to start the process of recovering the compensation you deserve.