We recently addressed research conducted by the insurance industry providing evidence that car accident victims who hire an attorney often receive substantially larger settlements from insurers. While that article focused on the question of whether injury victims benefit from hiring a lawyer, this article addresses the specific advantages that law firms provide to car accident injury clients. Although each case, law firm, and situation is different, we highlight reasons that might explain why injury victims with attorneys achieve better results on average than those with no legal representation.
Reasons Injury Victims Hire Law Firms
Negotiating with Insurance Companies
Insurance companies engage in a vast number of negotiations with injury victims every year. This familiarity with the process based on contracts devised by the insurance industry gives insurers a huge advantage when negotiating with a car accident victim new to the process. Effective negotiation of an insurance claim can be derailed if an individual is overwhelmed with complex insurance policy terms, foreign terminology in medical records, accident reports and exhibits, the process of locating and interviewing witnesses, and many other necessary tasks.
The insurance company does not engage in this process to ensure you receive a fair recovery for the harm you have suffered. Rather, an adjuster or insurance investigator looks for evidence that will support a defense to the claim or mitigate the size of your settlement. Part of this process involves taking advantage of the insurance company’s advantages in experience, claims and litigation knowledge, manpower, and resources. The insurer counts on the fact that unrepresented parties are more likely to be unaware of their rights and how to protect their claim. The insurance company might contact you and request a recorded statement or an authorization for release of records to “facilitate the processing of your claim.” The real purpose is to lure unsuspecting injury victims into inadvertently disclosing damaging information or uncovering information that can be used to avoid paying a claim or significantly reduce any recovery.
A skilled personal injury attorney helps balance the scales of justice by bringing experience, legal expertise, and resources. For example, our law firm, which has been representing injury victims since 1986, has over 43 attorneys and a staff of over 170. Our lawyers have hundreds of years of cumulative experience between them, so they anticipate the tactics of insurance companies when conducting negotiations and work to maximize the value of a claim.
Filing a Lawsuit and Navigating the Litigation Process
Most personal injury cases are resolved through negotiations without the need for a trial. Despite this fact, a thorough knowledge of negligence law, legal procedures, evidentiary rules, court practices/rules, and many other complex matters can be required for success. If you have never visited a law library, the volumes of case reporters, statutes, regulations, and other research materials could fill an airplane hanger. Even if your case does not go to trial, your law firm might need to file a complaint and pursue steps in the litigation process during settlement discussions. For example, your attorney might file a complaint to ensure that your case does not become barred by the statute of limitations, which establishes inflexible deadlines for bringing a lawsuit. Law firms representing injury victims also frequently engage in the discovery process, which involves obtaining documents, admissions, and other useful information from the other side and other individuals or entities, as well as deposing witnesses and other efforts to gather evidence to build your case. With or without a trial, the litigation process is complicated. If you do not have the benefit of an experienced lawyer who handles injury claims, the road to financial recovery can be teacherous and very uncertain. At our Montlick & Associates, the client is always integral to a decision as to whether to file a lawsuit in a particular case, and our attorneys know how to navigate the litigation process and ultimately take cases to trial.
Assessing the Value of Your Claim
When your claim is properly evaluated and steps are taken to maximize the value of the claim, you might recover significantly more than if you try to settle the case directly with the insurance company. While the insurance carrier might not balk at paying medical bills and a repair estimate, damages compensible under the law go far beyond these expenses. The process of evaluating a potential claim involves th complex task of weighing many factors. A few of these factors include:
Economic Losses: These are costs that generally can be quantified like medical bills, costs of vehicle repair, expenses of retrofitting a car or home to accommodate a long-term disability, and more. While many of these types of damages can be proven with bills, invoices, estimates, and other records, proof of future lost earnings and medical expenses often require retention of experts.
The Extent of Injuries: Permanent and debilitating injuries usually will merit a larger settlement than injuries that will completely heal over time. The process of proving the extent of injury goes beyond presenting medical records and listing surgical procedures. Skilled advocacy and expert witnesses might be necessary to provide a complete picture of the impact of the injuries on your daily life.
Evidence of Liability: While the negligence of another driver might have caused your car accident injuries, insurance companies often attempt to shift some or all of the fault for causing an accident to the injury victim. The outcome of your case might entail an investigation to uncover witnesses, video footage, and other evidence to prove the fault of the other driver.
Pain and Suffering: This element of damages can be substantial, but skilled advocacy will be required to communicate the physical and emotional suffering that you have endured and must continue to cope with in the future. This can be accomplished with “day in the life” videos, testimony from family and friends, and other evidence indicating how your daily life was changed by your accident.
Prior Settlements/Verdicts: Our law firm has been settling and litigating car accident claims and lawsuits for 39 years. Although no two cases are identical, we have seen many accident scenarios and types of injuries, so we can draw on our experience resolving prior cases when assessing the value of new cases. Further, we might conduct legal reseach regarding other cases that have been resolved to arrive at a range of values for your case while taking into account important distinctions and areas of similarity.
These are only a small number of considerations that can impact the value of your auto accident claim. Your lawyer can consider the relevant factors, conduct research (where appropriate), and coordinate with experts to determine the best way to maximize the value of your claim.