Accident victims sometimes consider settling their own injury claims. That might make sense when the injury involved bumps and bruises with no significant medical care, but serious injury claims benefit from the serious attention of an experienced professional. Here are five of the many important things that a personal injury lawyer can do to help accident victims.
Insurance claims adjusters usually want to interview accident victims as soon as they can, long before the victim has made a claim. They say they are just gathering information, but some adjusters have a different agenda. They ask leading and misleading questions, trying to guide the victim into saying something that will make it more difficult for the victim to collect fair compensation.
Unless an accident victim makes a claim against his or her own insurance company, the victim has no duty to speak to the claims adjuster. By contacting a personal injury lawyer immediately after the accident, the victim can obtain legal advice about whether it is wise to speak to the adjuster. Usually, it is better to let the attorney speak for the victim. After all, if a lawyer offers to let the victim give a statement in exchange for taking a statement from the insured driver, the adjuster will almost always decline. Why should victims play by rules that insurance companies are unwilling to follow?
After obtaining emergency medical care, accident victims should obtain legal advice. Personal injury lawyers can give accident victims tips that will help them maximize the value of their injury claims.
It is important for injury victims to be learn about the need to follow a physician’s advice. When accident victims start to feel better, they tend to skip appointments with doctors. They put the other activities in their life ahead of their nagging pain. After a couple of physical therapy appointments, they stop going because physical therapy is time consuming and painful.
Insurance claims adjusters always look for reasons to believe that an accident victim’s injuries have healed and that the victim is fabricating claims of ongoing pain. When accident victims stop going to physical therapy or skip doctor’s appointments, claims adjusters contend that the absence of ongoing medical care proves that the injury healed.
The most effective way to deal with the claims adjuster’s argument is to preempt it. That’s why personal injury lawyers follow up with their clients and remind them to keep seeing the doctor until the injury has fully healed or the doctor has decided that the injury has reached its maximum state of healing.
Every personal injury case turns on its own facts. What role did each driver play in the accident? What did the witnesses see? What can skid marks or gouges in the pavement tell us about how the accident occurred? What do the medical records reveal about the accident victim’s injuries? How have the injuries changed the victim’s life? Do payroll records substantiate a wage loss? Can a vocational expert shed light on the work a disabled injury victim will be able to do in the future? What will a lifetime of care cost the victim of a catastrophic injury?
None of those questions can be answered without conducting a thorough investigation. Personal injury lawyers get answers by asking questions. We talk to witnesses, investigators, and experts. We talk to the accident victim, the victim’s family members, and the victim’s employer. We uncover all the information we need to obtain a full settlement or a favorable jury verdict on behalf of our clients.
Dealing with insurance claims can be stressful. Keeping track of the paperwork, trying to decide what to do and what not to do, and not knowing whether an insurance adjuster is offering a fair settlement all contribute to an injury victim’s anxiety.
Personal injury lawyers take on those duties, relieving their clients of stress. That allows injury victims to focus on healing. Emotional (and sometimes physical) injuries heal more quickly when accident victims can move on with their lives.
Injury victims who try to settle their own cases are hampered by a lack of knowledge and experience. Insurance claims adjusters are experienced negotiators who understand how claims should be valued. They are able to take advantage of injury victims who do not understand the value of their claims.
Personal injury lawyers help injury victims recover their wage loss, medical expenses, and other financial losses, but we also know that compensation must be awarded for pain and suffering. The ability to place a value on nonfinancial injuries comes from studying settlements and jury verdicts in similar cases, and from experience negotiating with insurance claims adjusters.
Injury victims who believe they will save money by settling their own claims usually lose money. Because they don’t know how to calculate a fair settlement value, they often accept settlements that are much lower than they deserve. Studies show that settlements negotiated by personal injury attorneys more than offset the fees that the attorneys earn. Maximizing an insurance settlement is one of the most important benefits that personal injury attorneys offer to accident victims.
Attorney Tim Ryan, author of "The Personal Injury Victim's Bible", has assisted thousands of injury victims, obtaining more than $1 billion for his clients collectively since 1981.
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