If you are injured in an accident, there are times that the insurance company will offer you a settlement outside of a lawsuit to compensate you for your injuries and damages. In civil law, a “settlement” is a monetary award that the insurance company offers for you to sign a waiver absolving them from any further claims or litigation. It is usually preferable to settle a case out of court, but if you don’t consult an attorney, there is no way to know whether you are getting all that you are entitled to – or if the insurance company is not giving you all that you deserve.
The insurance company’s job is not to pay out the money necessary to make those they insure “whole.” Their objective is to limit the money they spend in order to save their bottom line. If you, an uninsured motorists, are handed a settlement offer and you are without representation, you can almost always be assured that you could get more if there was an attorney involved. That is why it is imperative to consult a personal injury lawyer before you sign on the dotted line.
Why you should hire a personal injury attorney
A professional personal injury lawyer will not only be able to negotiate more effectively with the insurance company; they will also know what your injury is worth. Unless you know how to calculate both economic and noneconomic damages, there is no way to know for sure that you are getting a decent settlement offer.
A personal injury lawyer will also ensure that you get any tests necessary to know the extent of your injuries. Often, those injuries that initially seem like nothing at all can become significant over time. And if they aren’t addressed or anticipated, you might be left without the resources to pay for the treatment you will require. A lawyer will tell you what tests you need to have done to prove causation and to make sure that if something should arise in the future, you have the money you will need to accommodate any further treatment.
What if you don’t have the money for an attorney?
Many people choose to take a settlement offer from an insurance company because they believe they don’t have the money necessary to hire a professional. The good news is that you don’t have to pay an attorney up front. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means they do not take any money from unless you can recover for your injuries and damages; since they don’t make any money unless they can recover, they are less likely to take on a case that will lead them nowhere. If a personal injury attorney thinks you have a case, then you most likely do.
There are also times when a lawyer might cover your medical expenses pending the outcome of the trial or settlement, and then they will take the money out of your award. If you don’t have medical insurance, then you might need some financial help to get you from the accident until the time of settlement or trial. Since this can be a lengthy period, having someone to help out can sometimes keep you from spiralling into debt, which is just one more reason that hiring a personal injury attorney is an excellent idea.
Your personal injury lawyer will usually have a contract in place saying if they can collect money for your damages and injuries, they get a certain percentage – which is typically anywhere from 30-33% of whatever they can recover. It might sound like a lot, but if you settle without knowing what you are entitled to and without representation, you are almost always guaranteed to get a lot less than what you deserve.
It is typically a good idea to try to settle out of court instead of proceeding to a lengthy and expensive trial, but not if the settlement offer you receive is a fraction of what you deserve. Before you sign on the line to absolve an insurance company from any further liability for your injuries, make sure that you are getting a settlement offer that covers not just your immediate damages and injuries, but one that anticipates anything that may result in the future.