You were in a car crash, or you fell and hurt yourself. Seems like you might have a legal case against the party responsible for your injury. They might even pay you enough money to cover your medical bills and maybe your pain and suffering. Before long, a nice person from the insurance company calls you or comes to your home. But you don't have a personal injury lawyer.
And before you know it, without even meaning to, you have given up all your rights.
How can that be fair or legal? Read on to find out.
You probably know is that when you settle a personal injury case, in exchange for money paid to you, you agree to release the responsible party and his or her insurer from further liability. Usually, you also allow the other side to not admit fault.
But the most important factor in getting a fair settlement is that you fully understand the value of your case. And there is simply no way for you to understand that unless you have hired an established and experienced personal injury lawyer.
Recently, insurers have taken advantage of people by actually claiming they settled their cases ON THE TELEPHONE days after their injuries! Then, later, when that person hires a lawyer who contacts the insurance company, the lawyer gets a letter from the insurer claiming the client already “settled” their claim.
On the phone.
Without a lawyer.
For incredibly little money.
Without even understanding their injuries.
There are a number of reasons insurance companies like to settle as quickly as possible. If their client’s fault is clear, they know they will have to make a payment. By settling early, they may be able to minimize the amount of that payment. Because you have no idea what your case is worth and you are not represented by a lawyer, you may be willing to accept less than your case is really worth. Also, if you are in pain, the prospect of a trial may seem overwhelming. You may reason that it’s better to accept a sure payment now than to go through a lengthy trial for an uncertain outcome.
In fact, insurance companies are counting on you thinking like that. But if you are still in medical treatment, you should never settle, because until your doctors release you, there is no way to know what permanent injuries or restrictions you may have.
Insurance carriers try to settle cases directly with claimants as soon as possible for as little money as possible because they have all the power and knowledge and you do not. It’s a classic case of unequal bargaining power. They know that once you have an experienced lawyer’s advice, their advantage begins to disappear.
Many trusting claimants hear, “We will pay all your medical bills, plus $400,” and think that sounds like a great deal. Unless you sustained a torn fingernail, it is not a good deal. It’s a complete rip-off and it is outrageous to consider it a settlement at all.
You might have liens or subrogation agreements, which could take a big bite out of your “settlement” and actually cost you money.
As with all personal injury cases, you should immediately file a police report, get medical treatment, and not talk to anyone (especially an insurance adjuster!). Then, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. The lawyer can assist you in filing an insurance claim, put the carrier on notice that you are represented, and provide guidance on the value of your case and the need for medical treatment recommended by your doctors.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front, and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day—contact Stephen now.