A certain percentage of auto accident victims inevitably make the decision to try to handle an injury claim alone. The victim thinks: ‘The facts of the accident seem undisputed, the claim representative for the other driver seems very nice on the phone, and there will be more money for me at the end of the claim if I don’t have to pay an attorney.’ If you are debating about whether an attorney is necessary, stop and think.
In most accident situations, it’s your word against the other driver with no witnesses to shed light on what happened. A driver hits your stopped car from behind and pushes you into the car ahead. The police arrive after the accident and give a ticket to the guy behind you for failing to slow down to avoid an accident. At the scene, it may appear “obvious” that the rear driver was at fault. But by the time that driver reports the accident to his insurance carrier , he states that you ran into the lead car first, setting the whole accident in motion and that he is going to fight the traffic ticket. So in the days right after the accident, while you believe your claim is open and shut and you don’t need a lawyer, your claim may be in jeopardy and you don’t even realize it.
You then get a call from the other insurance carrier asking you to give a recorded statement just so that they can “complete the investigation.”
- Why do they want to record your version?
- Why isn’t it good enough that they simply speak to you on the phone about it?
- How come the carrier did not offer to send you the recorded statement given by their driver?
- Could the insurance carrier be looking for evidence that might hurt your claim?
- What are your rights during this time?
An attorney can advise you and protect your rights during this critical time.
Even if the other carrier “accepts liability” for the accident, they still have very good reasons for not wanting you to have an attorney on your side. Statistically, carriers know that they pay far more to resolve injury claims when the victim has an attorney. In other words, an attorney forces them to pay full value on a claim. Knowing this, many national insurance carriers use “advance” or “unrepresented” teams, whose goal is to get to you early after an accident, establish trust, and persuade you that you do not need an attorney to resolve your claim.
They might tell you that they successfully resolve many claims directly every year, that the case will likely resolve quicker if you do not hire an attorney, and you will not have to pay attorney fees. But what is the full value of your injury claim if you have no prior experience evaluating a claim? The insurance companies use investigators, staff nurses, outside physicians, computer programs and databases, and trained claims personnel to review and value claims. Do you have a way to fairly measure what your case is really worth? What happens if you accept money, sign a release and still have problems in the future? Are there liens or other insurance which might limit or increase your recovery? The claims representative has no legal duty to advise you of these matters. An attorney does.
At Sussman & Simcox, we strongly believe that hiring a personal injury attorney right after an accident is the best way to understand your rights, protect your rights, and maximize your chances of obtaining full compensation for your injury. After all, the insurance company has a representative right after the accident, shouldn’t you?