After a car accident caused by another driver’s careless or reckless actions, victims may have no shortage of well-meaning family and friends advising them to hire an attorney so that they can seek compensation for their injuries. However, many accident victims hesitate at the notion of hiring an attorney because they are worried about how much it will cost them.

We are often asked: “Can I get a settlement for a car accident without a lawyer?” The simple answer to that question is: Yes, in some cases, you can. When you file a third-party car accident personal injury claim with an at-fault party’s liability insurance, the insurance adjuster may admit to the liability of their insured and process a claim for payment.

Insurance adjusters and the companies they work for are not in business to pay out on claims. They are in the business of reducing or eliminating the claim’s value so that they do not have to.

Read on for more information about pursuing compensation without a lawyer. If you have legal questions about your case, our legal team can provide answers to you for free and without obligation through a case evaluation.

The Issues People Face When Seeking a Car Accident Settlement Without a Lawyer

A small number of people choose to represent themselves. This is known as pro se representation, which is derived from the Latin phrase meaning “on one’s own behalf.” Individuals who represent themselves in a personal injury claim will face many problems. A few of them follow.

#1. Do You Know How Much Your Case Is Worth?

In the next section, we will discuss why insurance companies do not like to pay out on third-party claims featuring liability by their insured, and the tactics they use to avoid doing so. However, it is worth mentioning one of the most common tactics here: In cases with clear liability, an insurance company will often offer a settlement very quickly perhaps even while you are still hospitalized from your injuries.

While this sounds like the best-case scenario a quick settlement and the case goes away it often is not. It is impossible to know how much the case is worth so soon after the accident. You are still incurring medical expenses, likely have not even addressed the damage to your vehicle, and have yet to experience the full effects of the psychological impacts your injury will have on your life.

The problem with accepting a settlement offer without knowing how much your case is really worth is that it is a done deal once the agreement is in place. If you discover that the settlement did not provide you with enough money to cover your expenses, you cannot go back and ask for more money later.

#2. The Insurance Adjuster Does Not Want to Pay Your Claim (and Will Do a Lot to Avoid It)

Insurance adjusters work for insurance companies. Insurance companies are generally big corporations with a bottom line. What serves that bottom line best is not paying out on claims, but rather avoiding the payout and increasing the insurance premium of the at-fault party for the accident as well.

Some of the other tactics that an insurance adjuster will use to diminish the value of your claim include:

  • Telling claimants that non-economic damages are not available to them, so they will not ask for compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, or the other psychological impacts of their injury.
  • Convincing the claimant to authorize the release of their entire medical history for them to investigate the claim. They may really be looking for pre-existing conditions that they can link to your current medical condition to reduce the responsibility they have to compensate for the injury.
  • Searching a claimant’s social media pages to find posts that make contradictory statements to how the claimant said the accident occurred, or photos of the claimant doing something that the insurance company feels they would not be able to do if their injury is as serious as they claimed.
  • Making a settlement offer that they know you will refuse because if you refuse a settlement instead of making a counter-offer, the insurance company is not required to make another offer.
  • Convincing the claimant to provide a recorded statement so they can search for inconsistencies in the story and use the information to shift the blame away from their insured and onto you.

An important aspect of a personal injury lawyer’s job involves leveraging their experience in the process against the tactics the insurance company uses to reduce the claim. Most personal injury lawyers will ask their clients not to speak independently with the insurance adjuster to protect the claim from these tactics.

#3. What If the Insurer Does Not Offer a Settlement?

While deliberately delaying the investigation of a claim or not responding to the claim are both forms of bad faith insurance practices, do you know how to deal with the situation? It is a safe bet that a personal injury attorney does.

Insurance companies often do not play the same games in regards to being unresponsive to claims when an attorney is working on the case because they know the attorney is well aware of what constitutes bad faith in the insurance industry and how to address it through the court system. A claimant representing themselves, however? Many insurance adjusters will take their chances that you do not know the law and that you will not call them on it.

#4. What if the case goes to court?

About 96 percent of personal injury claims in the U.S. settle before a trial begins. If the insurer does not respond to your claim or fails to make an offer that would fairly compensate you for the expenses and impacts you have experienced or will likely experience in the future, you can file your claim in court as a personal injury lawsuit. Most states have statutes of limitations for filing this type of claim between 2-4 years after the date on which the accident occurred.

While this probably seems like a lot of time, you have a lot of learning to do about the process of seeking compensation through the courts, including the formalities required by the court, the various filings pertaining to evidence that is filed through the courts, the type of evidence that you are permitted to present in court, and a host of other requirements that lawyers spend many years learning about while obtaining a license to practice law.

Just as with a settlement, litigation is a form of resolving a claim. If you fail to prove liability and expenses, your claim will likely fail, and you will have little recourse beyond signing up for more litigation experience to appeal the judgment.

#5. Where do you turn for assistance?

The amount of investigative work that goes into filing a personal injury claim is overwhelming for a single person. Most personal injury attorneys rely on a team of trained legal professionals to ensure that every detail of your claim, every filing, and every action is correct according to the law and in the best interests of the client. With some types of injuries, such as those involving the brain or spinal cord, the claimant faces a lifetime of disabilities, medical expenses, and lost earning capacity. The stakes are simply too high to be careless in the claims process.

If you become overwhelmed in the process of seeking compensation without an attorney, where do you turn for assistance? State courts will often provide downloadable legal forms on their websites, complete with brief instructions on filling out and submitting the form. However, court staff is not permitted to dispense legal advice to claimants, as only attorneys can do that.

Personal injury attorneys will often provide free case evaluations for car accident claimants to answer their legal questions. These evaluations are obligation-free, but they are generally brief. There simply is not time to thoroughly instruct someone on how to successfully obtain a fair settlement without legal counsel during a free case evaluation.

Why the Cost of a Personal Injury Attorney Is Not an Issue When Hiring One

If one were to poll personal injury claimants who consider pro se representation about why they do not want to hire an attorney, most of them would likely say they couldn’t afford one. There are different attorneys for various legal situations that arise in life. Some types of attorneys including those representing businesses, family law attorneys, and criminal defense attorneys require a retainer to provide services. The retainer is a payment made in advance of the services, with the attorney billing the client by the hour when they work on the case.

Personal injury attorneys do not require a retainer or work on an hourly basis. Instead, we use a contingent fee billing method. A contingent fee is a form of billing where the client does not pay for the services of their attorney unless the claim recovers compensation. In other words: If a negotiated settlement or a court award doesn’t compensate you, the attorney receives nothing for their services.

However, suppose there is a positive resolution to your pursuit of compensation. In that case, your attorney can help you collect your settlement or award and can under the contingent fee agreement entered into at the start receive a pre-determined percentage of that compensation.

The Benefits of Contingent Fee Billing

There are several benefits of contingent fee billing, including:

  • The ability for the legal team to begin working on your claim without needing an upfront investment from you.
  • The ability for the team to keep working on the case without worrying about whether you have fallen behind on your payments.
  • The ability for you to wait until you are in a more financially secure position, as a result of the compensation, to pay for your services.
  • The assurance that anyone who needs the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney can access it, regardless of their financial status.

A Personal Injury Attorney Works for You

Another common reason people hesitate to hire an attorney after suffering an injury is that they do not want to lose control over the outcome of the case. It is important to remember: the primary mission of a personal injury attorney is to protect your right to seek compensation for your injuries and to take actions to advance your best interests in the claim. While they can and should provide guidance and information to help you make informed choices about your claim, those decisions are yours to make.

Some of the decisions you will make regarding your claim include:

  • Decisions pertaining to your attorney’s proposed strategy for your claim
  • Settlement decisions, such as accepting an offer or making a counter-offer
  • The decision to file your claim in court

Have Questions About Your Claim? The Levin Firm Can Help

If you have been injured in an accident and are considering seeking a settlement on your own, let an experienced legal team help you consider your options. For your free case evaluation, contact a personal injury attorney today.

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