Thursday, January 8, 2009

Should You Settle Your Injury Claim without a Lawyer?

You definitely do not need an attorney for every small accident case. What is a small accident case? There are no hard and fast rules, but usually a small case involves an accident with no damage, or little damage to the vehicle and the treatment for any injury lasts no more than a few weeks. In a small case, the medical bills usually will not exceed a few thousand dollars and the injuries will not be permanent. These are cases that can often be settled without the assistance of a lawyer. In my practice, I tell clients that it may not be cost effective to use an attorney for small case because most of the recovery may go to pay the attorney. Someone may have just as good a chance of recovering a settlement near or equal to one that an attorney could get in a small case. Consumers may be well served by handling the case on their own without an attorney. But even if someone has small case, this book can help in understanding the issues which must be considered. There are some considerations consumers should be aware of before simply accepting an offer from an insurance company.

First, in accepting an offer to settle an injury claim the consumer is assuming they know clearly the nature and extent of their injuries and whether any further medical treatment may be necessary. Accepting the insurance company's offer will require providing a release. As mentioned before, the purpose of a release is to forever bar any further payment, even should the injured party's medical condition become worse or be far more serious than originally believed by them at the time the release was signed. Therefore, consumers must be absolutely certain they will not require further medical care. The amount received must fully compensate them for physical and emotional pain, suffering, scarring, disfigurement, emotional distress and loss of the enjoyment of life, as well as any out-of-pocket expenses incurred. They must be confident the amount will cover expenses likely to be incurred in the future as a direct result of treatment related to the injuries received in the accident.

Second, many general releases prepared by insurance companies are broadly worded. They include language releasing, not only the insurance company and party directly involved, but other potential parties whether named in the release or not. Signing such a broadly worded general release has the potential of unintentionally releasing claims against the injured party's uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist carrier, as well as potential claims, such as for medical malpractice resulting from treatment received in the accident.

Additionally, in cases involving more significant damages, particularly when there is a relatively small bodily injury policy covering the defendant, consumers sometimes attempt to avoid hiring a lawyer and work out a settlement with the defendant's insurance company accepting their policy limits. Often they do this with the intention of seeking further compensation for their injury from their own UM/UIM policy. This has the potential for actually preventing them from being able to seek such damages. Florida statutes require that notice be given to the UM/UIM motorist carrier before settling with the at-fault party and giving them a release of liability. The injured party must obtain the written consent of their own UM/UIM carrier before such a settlement occurs in order to preserve their right to seek further damages under their own policy of insurance. The failure to obtain such written consent may result in the UM/UIM carrier claiming prejudice against their interest and denying coverage altogether.

Finally, most consumers have virtually no experience in evaluating what an injury claim is worth. They should be very wary of relying on any representations of value argued by the opposing claims adjuster. That adjuster's one goal is to settle it for as little money as possible. They are trained in this process and are evaluated constantly by their company. Consequently, a consumer may feel comfortable negotiating a small case, as I've discussed above, howeve they should be very careful about undertaking the evaluation and negotiation of any accident with more significant injuries.


About the author
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Attorney James W. Dodson is a Clearwater, Florida personal injury trial lawyer with over 20 years experience representing clients in all types of injury claims including vehicle accidents, fall cases and wrongful death. He is the author of three books offered FREE to consumers as a guide to dealing with accidents and insurance. Visit his website at JWDodsonLaw.com for FREE copies of these books, other articles, videos, news and commentary.

12 comments:

  1. My lawyer ended up getting more from my settle than I did.

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  2. You can negotiate this cost. Not all personal injury lawyers charge for their secretary, paralegal time or every time you talk to a different lawyer.

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  3. I just came across to your blog and reading your post i agree with your view thanks alot for sharing this.

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  4. Personal injuries claims have become very common in UK. Insight knowledge of the same is required for each one to tackle the situation in a best possible way. There are a few requirements needed before you get a personal Injury Claims form to get quick action on your claim. The first thing, the victim must see is, if the injury caused is due to someone else’s conduct. If the injury caused is due to the negligence of some other person, or a firm or an organization, you get a better chance of getting high compensation for your personal injury claim. Fore more information Click here.

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  5. When any form of medical malpractice happens, you should always approach a malpractice attorney to get the compensation to which you are entitled.

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  6. What a great post, I actually found it very thought provoking, thanks

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  8. I learned that you should always have a reputable lawyer with you when you are entering settlement negotiations the hard way. I was cheated out of a fair settlement and only realized it after a month or so!

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