If you are in a car accident, it may seem like a good idea to settle privately with the at-fault driver. You don’t want to spend money on an attorney or professional if you can do it yourself, right? The problem with that is the legal process is complicated and complex, with lots of small caveats and loopholes that insurance companies (and dishonest people) often use to ensure they lose as little money as possible. That means that if you are able to secure any sort of compensation for yourself, it will likely be far less than you would have been awarded had you had someone experienced in car accident cases working with you.
Five reasons why you should not settle privately
Likely the reason you may be thinking about handling your car accident case yourself is because you want to save money. If you were in a minor fender-bender where no one was injured, then you may be able to succeed at that, but for any accident where someone was seriously injured or major property damage occurred, in order to succeed and secure appropriate monetary compensation, that requires intimate knowledge of the legal system.
Here are five great reasons why you should hire an attorney instead of settling privately:
- You’re unfamiliar with the laws. Unless they’ve gone to law school, most folks don’t know the intricate ins and outs of the law, especially all the details that go into succeeding at a personal injury lawsuit. Injury attorneys do; it’s their job to know them. Securing you compensation or award is a lawyer’s end goal because if you don’t win, they don’t win. Lawyers will use their vast knowledge that they gained not only from years of schooling, but from years of experience in the field, to ensure that you receive as much as possible from your case.
- Claims and lawsuits create more stress for you. It is a lot of work to file a lawsuit or fight a claim. Imagine balancing not only all the work you have to do for the lawsuit on top of your everyday job, your household errands, and your family and social obligations. An attorney can ensure that you can focus on living your life, while they are busy focusing on your case, communicating with insurance companies, with other lawyers, and with experts who can add credence to your case. They handle all the documents, the accident investigation, gathering evidence, and any other work that goes into compiling and putting together a strong case.
- Your injuries are severe and/or permanent. In an accident where there were severe injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or other injuries that require intense and lengthy medical treatment, then hiring a lawyer is the best idea. These injuries are likely to cost you an enormous amount in hospital bills , not to mention the cost of losing your salary if you’re unable to work. The chances of someone with no legal background successfully negotiating a fair and just settlement with an insurance company are, unfortunately, slim. Having an attorney greatly increases the likelihood of a successful outcome. As an added benefit, should you need to go to trial, you’ll already have an attorney in place who is familiar with your story and your case, and who can present that case to a jury.
- You won’t get a second chance if the award isn’t enough. If you settle with the person who hit you – whether through a “handshake” deal on the side, or by accepting an offer from their insurance company – that is all you can ever get. If in six months you’re still suffering from symptoms or need more medical treatment, or still cannot work because of your injuries, you cannot go back and ask for more money: what you accept in a settlement is final under the law, and you cannot file an additional claim or lawsuit to seek more. Working with a car accident lawyer means you have someone who knows what a fair settlement award is, and who can advocate for a better deal for you.
- It doesn’t cost you anything. Our car accident attorneys work on contingency. That means you pay nothing until after we’ve obtained your award. There’s no upfront costs for our time or the work we do. Once we’ve won your case or secured a settlement, we take our fee from the total award.
Injury lawyers aren’t the only ones who think you should have help with your claim
Maybe you’re thinking “Why should I take an attorney’s advice on hiring them when they’re obviously biased?” But it’s not just us who understand that having a lawyer at your side is a good idea.
Bob Hunter, director of insurance at the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America, told Forbes that the threshold for what one can afford in a private settlement varies individually, with those having significant financial resources able to settle at higher amounts than those with limited means. Typically, it’s the at-fault driver who initiates private settlements, either to potentially sidestep issues with their insurance company or due to a lack of auto insurance.
However, experts caution against accepting immediate cash settlements, as the full extent of damage or injuries may not become apparent for some time. Additionally, “a private cash settlement may not adequately compensate someone for damage or injuries.” Attorneys know when and how to settle and when and how to take a case to court, if need be.
The problem with insurance companies
As you can probably guess, we advise that you do not settle privately. After an accident, after you have been medically treated for any injuries you may have sustained, and before you report the accident to your insurance (or concurrent with), you should contact an attorney to determine the best way forward. While insurance companies are meant to be serving you to the best of their ability during such times as these, you cannot trust that these companies will act in good faith. Insurers are more concerned about their bottom line than they are with offering you the appropriate amount of coverage and compensation. Even then, your insurance claim may be denied in the end.
When you or a family member find yourselves in a car accident, the last thing you want to contend with is an uncooperative insurance company, especially when dealing with vehicle damage claims, and particularly in situations where the other driver lacks proper insurance coverage. Uninsured and underinsured claims come with specific time constraints and complexities due to policy language. Many of these cases follow arbitration procedures, making legal representation essential. Our law firm has extensive experience in handling such cases, and have successfully recovered over $500,000 for a client through litigation, even after the insurance company initially denied coverage. At Glisson Law, our goal is to assist you in fully leveraging the insurance policy you’ve invested in and ensuring you can get back on the road without undue financial burdens.
Operating from Alton, the attorneys of Glisson Law proudly serve injured clients in and around Belleville, Edwardsville, St. Clair, and Madison counties, as well as the broader Southwestern Illinois and Missouri regions. Call or contact us today for a free consultation, and we will help you deal with all the complicated legal work that comes your way.