Personal injury claims arise from auto accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents. Injured parties are facing many difficult challenges from the moment the motor vehicle accident occurs. Because personal injury claims are the only way the injured party can be compensated for the expensive medical treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering, it is very important that they hire an experienced auto accident attorney to make sure they are fully compensated for their losses. This blog discusses the three biggest mistakes that many injured parties make when they make the mistake of representing themselves in their personal injury claim.
In the below video Adam Goldfein, the host of the Autoscoop and Lawyer Talk, interviewed personal injury attorney Richard Griffin about the 3 biggest mistakes injured parties make when they attempt to represent themselves in their personal injury claim.
The first is that adjuster will evaluate the value of a personal injury case as lower if the injured party is not represented. This is often referred to as “setting the reserves” on the personal injury case which means the adjuster places a settlement value on the case.
Why would the adjuster feel the insurance company’s exposure is less if you are not represented by an injury attorney?
1. Without representation you do not know the real value of your personal injury claim;
2. Without representation you do not know your rights and how to document your damages in your injury claim.
3. Without representation you don’t know how to verify the policy limits.
4. Without representation you don’t know how to litigate your claim if the offers are too low.
Why is it bad if the adjuster sets the reserves on your personal injury case too low?
1. If the reserves are set too low, then the adjuster’s offers will remain too low.
2. If the reserves are too low, then many times litigation will be the only way to get the adjuster’s offers up to reasonable levels. Litigation is best to avoid if possible since it is a long process and since it is more expensive than settling if the adjuster’s offers are reasonable.
Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to make sure the adjuster properly sets the reserves or settlement value of your injury claim.
The second biggest mistake injury parties who represent themselves make is to settle their claim without knowing the true policy limits that cover their personal injury claim. Attorney Richard Griffin was called by one potential client who wanted to know the value of his auto accident personal injury claim. He was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident on the campus of the University of Georgia. He suffered a fractured ankle and a torn ligament in his ankle that required surgery. The liability adjuster (the adjuster for the negligent driver) verbally stated the policy limits were $30,000 and offered to settle for $30,000. The injured party had under-insured motorist coverage of another $50,000. The injured party hired us instead of settling for the $30,000 and we immediately confirmed the policy limits were actually $50,000. If the injured party had settled for $30,000 he would have lost out on the additional $20,000 in liability coverage, and he would have missed on on the full $50,000 in under-insured motorist coverage. This is because Georgia law only allows you to pursue the under-insured motorist coverage if you exhaust the liability policy. This means that he almost make a $70,000 mistake by trying to represent himself rather than hiring the experienced injury lawyer needed to properly navigate the difficult claims process to make sure the client recoveries all they deserve. The adjuster is not there to help you, but is there only to attempt to settle your claim for as little as possible to save their employer (the insurance company) money. Unfortunately the adjuster saves the insurance company money at your expense.
The third biggest mistake the injured parties often make when they attempt to represent themselves is that they will often settle their claim verbally not knowing that verbal settlement agreements are enforceable. This usually involves the adjuster making a very low offer and the injured party responding that he or she will settle for a few thousand more than the adjuster’s offer. If you offer to settle and the adjuster agrees, then you have an enforceable agreement that often means you have settled for pennies on the dollar of what your case is worth. Another problem is early settlements often are reached before the full extend of your injuries is discovered. Often MRI tests are only done after conservative treatment fails. Without this test the doctor may believe your injuries are only soft tissue. However, the later MRI may reveal that you have serious herniated disc injuries that may require extensive and expensive pain management and perhaps even surgery.