If you are filing an insurance claim after a recent car crash, hiring a lawyer may seem unnecessary. It may seem like your insurance claim adjuster is handling your claim with your best interests in mind. However, the adjuster’s job is to minimize the value of your claim while you are seeking to increase your recovery. You and the adjuster are working toward opposing goals, and if you do not hire an attorney, the adjuster has a major advantage.
Why Negotiating with Insurance Companies Can Be Tricky
Your claim adjuster works for the insurance company, and the insurance company’s goal is to increase profits. The company increases profits when they collect insurance premiums without having to pay money out for injured drivers’ claims. Your insurance adjuster may use a variety of tactics to try to deny your claim or decrease its value.
After a car collision, your adjuster may try to gain your trust by calling to “check in” on you and tell you that they are working hard to get you the compensation you deserve. Meanwhile, they are actually working to undermine your claim. Often, an adjuster will try to get you to make a statement about your injuries very shortly after you file. At this point, you may not know the full extent of your injuries and medical expenses. Your statement will probably underestimate your damages, and the insurance company can use the statement as evidence to reduce the value of your claim.
Some insurance companies will even look up your social media accounts to see if you posted about your car wreck. They can use these posts to make it appear that you were partially at fault for the crash. Using this supporting evidence, the insurance company can offer you a low settlement that requires you to sign an agreement stating that you will not take any further action.
Legal Representation Advantage
Hiring an attorney can help you avoid falling prey to insurance companies’ tricks. An experienced car accident attorney will be familiar with your adjuster’s attempts to decrease your claim value. An attorney can review the fine print of the settlement that your insurance company offers. This way you will know whether you are signing away your right to sue by accepting the offer.
Hiring an attorney gives you more leverage against your insurance company. Sometimes, insurance companies refuse to pay claims for various reasons. Maybe they have determined that you did not maintain the Georgia state minimum level of insurance coverage. Your insurance company may also offer you a settlement that you feel is unfairly low. The company will support its decision to deny your claim, but they may be guilty of oversights or bad faith.
A lawyer will know which of the insurance company’s reasons for denying your claim are legitimate. For example, if your insurance company offered you a low settlement because they failed to investigate your claim, you could potentially sue the company under various consumer protection laws. Insurance companies employ highly experienced attorneys, so if you do not have an attorney, your lawsuit is likely to fail.
However, it is highly unlikely that you will need to sue the insurance company. If the company knows you have a lawyer, they will probably work to rectify any mishandling of your claim.
Legal Representation Improves Settlement Outcomes
A survey by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) shows that car wreck victims who hired attorneys to help them pursue their insurance claims received average settlement awards that were 40% higher than settlements awarded to victims without lawyers. The IRC study shows that attorneys benefited their clients by filing claims, negotiating settlements with the at-fault driver or their insurance company, and advising their clients to get needed medical treatment, among other things.
Hiring an attorney can also increase the settlement you are likely to receive if you sue the at-fault driver directly. Surveys have shown that as many as 90% of personal injury claimants received a payout when they hired an attorney. In contrast, only about 50% of claimants who tried to sue without hiring an attorney received a settlement payment.
Usually, when you hire an attorney, you will not have to pay attorney fees unless you receive a settlement award. Most personal injury attorneys use a contingency fee arrangement. This means that you will not have to pay your attorney up front. Your attorney will be paid a percentage of any settlement award you receive from your insurance or the other driver.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Hire an Attorney
Even if your adjuster seems willing to work with you, you should hire an attorney as soon as possible. In Georgia, there is a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. If you hire an attorney soon after your collision, you will not risk missing the filing deadline for your claim and having your case dismissed as a result.
An attorney can also take steps to preserve valuable evidence, such as surveillance camera footage, in the days following a car wreck. This evidence can be a key component in supporting your claim and maximizing your settlement. Your attorney can also meet with witnesses and take statements while their memories of the collision are still fresh. A witness statement given very shortly after a car crash will be more reliable and may carry more weight with a jury if your case goes to trial. Most personal injury cases settle before trial, but having as much supporting evidence as possible for your claim is still very important. If you have strong evidence, you have better leverage to negotiate a higher settlement offer.