Injured in a car accident? Hire an attorney.
As a personal injury attorney in Broward County, I am often asked this question by friends and family…“If I get into a car accident why should I retain a personal injury attorney and give him or her 33%-40% (contingency fee) of my settlement – can’t I negotiate with the insurance company myself?”
To which I always answer…“It is in your best interest to retain a personal injury attorney only if you believe that he or she will be able to get you more money (minus the contingency fee) than you could get on your own.”
In my experience, an experienced personal injury will be able to get you (substantially) more money (even accounting for the contingency fee) than you could get on your own and here’s why:
Insurance Companies make settlement offers by accounting for RISK.
The primary reason why insurance companies settle cases is when they believe that their failure to settle a case may expose them to an excess judgment and/or attorney’s fees. Additionally, when a personal injury attorney places them on notice of their representation, the insurance company evaluates the case and makes a determination whether the cost of defending the case (attorney’s fees, expert witnesses, depositions, mediations) is higher than the cost to settle the case. The insurance company does not have to make this evaluation without the fear of a lawsuit.
Assuming the client does not “bungle” his case by getting improper medical care, obtaining poor medical reports, not having his bills properly submitted, revealing the wrong information to the adjuster, etc.
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Here are some real life examples of clients who retained our Firm AFTER they could not reach a resolution with the insurance company.
Example 1: Without Attorney – $5,000 | With Attorney –
Client was involved in a rear-end car accident where he suffered significant neck injuries. Client had a recommendation for a cervical fusion at C5-6.
Client tried to resolve the case without the assistance of a personal injury attorney as he didn’t believe a personal injury attorney was “worth” 33% of his settlement.
The at-fault insurance adjuster told the client that [insurance company] would not compensate him for past medical bills and not for his for future medical bills or pain and suffering. The final offer was $5,000.00
Our Firm got involved and filed a law suit. Within 30 days of filing suit, we received a phone call from the litigation adjuster. The case eventually settled for $65,500.00.
After accounting for our fee, our client received a net gain of $33,800.00 ($65,500.00 (settlement) – $26,200.00 (our fee) – $500.00 (costs) – $5,000.00 (initial offer) = $33,800.00.
Example 2: Car Accident – Ambulance Ride to the Hospital
Client was involved in a car accident and transported by ambulance to the hospital. Client was in the hospital for three days as doctors feared he had internal injuries and/or was suffering from a stroke. His bill was over $40,000.00. The client was discharged from the hospital and only required precautionary follow up treatment.
The at-fault driver did not have (bodily injury) insurance. Client contacted his insurance carrier (uninsured motorist) who dragged their feet for three months after he was discharged from the hospital – presumably waiting for the hospital to waive or reduce the bill. The insurance company told our client that “since he was fine he was not entitled to any money – even for his medical bills”. The insurance company offered to compensate the client $2,500.00 as a “nuisance” settlement.
Within 2 days of the insurance company receiving our Notice of Appearance they tendered their policy in the amount of $25,000.00. Why? Presumably the insurance adjuster realized that they were acting in bad faith and could be on the hook for a bad faith judgment. It took an attorney’s intervention to compel the insurance company to appropriately compensate the client.
After accounting for our fee, our client received a net gain of $14,166.75 ($25,000.00 (settlement) – $8,333.25 (our fee) – $2,500.00 (initial offer) = $14,166.75.
Example 3: Rear-end Collision – Severe Back Pain
Client was involved in a rear-end car accident. The next day she treated with her chiropractor. Over a period of two months she treated with her chiropractor on 20 occasions. Prior to the accident she suffered from minor lower back pain. As a result of the accident she now suffers from significant lower back pain, including radiating pain down her leg.
Her and her husband attempted to negotiate with the at-fault insurance adjuster without the assistance of a personal injury attorney.
The insurance adjuster told her that because her injury was pre-existing he valued her claim at $3,500.00 (top offer).
Client retained our Firm. She immediately sat for a lumbar MRI. The lumbar MRI revealed a significant herniation at L4-L5. The client saw an orthopedic surgeon who compared the recent lumbar MRI with a MRI taken two years ago. The orthopedic surgeon noted that the herniation was as a result of this motor vehicle accident.
We filed a lawsuit on her behalf. The insurance company agreed to pay our client $150,000.00 at mediation.
After accounting for our fee, our client received a net gain of $84,000.00 ($150,000.00 (settlement) – $60,000.00 (our fee) – $2,500.00 (costs) – $3,500.00 (initial offer) = $84,000.00)
These examples are not uncommon to personal injury attorneys. Every personal injury attorney can point to at least one client who exhibited a similar experience when attempting to resolve their accident claim without the assistance of an accident attorney.
Please call us today for a free consultation.