“You don’t need a lawyer.” “We will take care of everything.” Insurance adjusters will tell you this. As a Dallas personal injury lawyer since 1994, I’ve heard it too many times from clients who call me after their cases went bad.
It Starts Like This…
You get into a car accident. You are injured. The adjuster for the other driver’s insurance company contacts you very soon after the accident. Trust me! They do this on purpose so they can get to you before you hire a lawyer.
They tell you that they are investigating the accident and will “take care of everything” once they “complete their investigation.” You believe the adjuster and trust they will stand by their word. This is your first mistake!
You even mention that you might get a lawyer. The adjuster responds: “You don’t need an lawyer.” “Your case is pretty cut and dry.” “All the lawyer is going to do is take 1/3 of your money.”
Here are some things that can go wrong…
The most important part of hiring an injury lawyer is making sure your case is properly managed. In this scenario, your first mistake was trusting the adjuster. You have to know that the adjuster’s job is to investigate and evaluate the claim for the benefit of their driver. They do not work for you! Their legal duty is to defend the other driver. It is not to handle your claim fairly.
Then they ask for a recorded statement. You give it to them. Then they send a bunch of documents to sign so they can obtain your medical records. You sign them.
You try to find a doctor. Most doctors won’t see you unless you have health insurance or you pay up front. If you have health insurance, then you use it. If you don’t then you pay upfront.
Beware and Be Smart.
1. Don’t give a recorded statement: When you give a recorded statement, you provide an opportunity for the other adjuster to manipulate your answers. Even though the questions sounds harmless, you are not used to answering questions like this. You don’t even know that what you are saying might be harmful to your case.
You can make an innocent statement like: “I never saw the other car coming.” or “Everything just happened so fast.” On the surface, these statements sound harmless and innocent. But they can have drastic consequences in your case. That is what the adjuster is hoping for.
2. Make sure to get the right medical treatment: When you are in a car accident, managing your medical treatment is the first step to getting maximum value for your case. Going to the wrong doctor, or going to a doctor who does not know how car accident cases are handled can be devastating.
Sometimes, using your health insurance is a good thing and may be necessary. But you have to know when and where to use your health insurance.
3. Don’t sign medical or wage authorizations: When you do this, you open up your entire background to the adjuster. They will use these authorizations to get vital and private information which they will use against you later.
You are not necessarily required to give the adjuster these authorizations. Sometimes, you are. But again, you have to know the difference.
“I can just get a personal injury lawyer later if I need to.”
Not necessarily. I have turned away many cases because too many things have gone wrong in the case. It hurts me to tell the client that I cannot take their case. After all, they trusted the adjuster. Now, they regret that decision.
When you wait to hire a lawyer, many bad things are happening in your case that you may not appreciate or even know about. A personal injury lawyer knows that cases that are managed properly from the very beginning have the best rate of success.
The last thing a good personal injury lawyer wants is to take on a case that is unpredictable. It’s not good for the lawyer; but most importantly, it’s not good for the client.
Developing a strong personal injury case is a step-by-step process which starts from Day 1. It’s a matter of doing things right and avoiding mistakes. I have seen too many good cases go bad because they were not properly handled from the very beginning. One mistake in your case is like a cancer that grows from the inside out.
What about paying the personal injury lawyer?
Personal injury lawyers handle cases on a contingency fee basis. That means the lawyer’s fee is paid once there is a recovery in your case. You do not have to pay the lawyer out of your pocket. Rather, the lawyer gets paid as a percentage of the amount that is recovered on your behalf.
Under this arrangement, you and your personal injury lawyer are essentially partners in getting justice done on your case. If the case goes bad, then the lawyer gets very little or no money. So, you can see that you and your lawyer want to make sure your case is handled properly and gets the best value.
When the adjuster says you don’t need a lawyer….
Get one! What if one football coach tells their rival team that they do not need to hire a coach? Should the team not hire a coach? Of course they should hire a coach. That is the same thing as the adjuster trying to tell you that you do not need a lawyer.
So, if the adjuster for the insurance company tells you that you do not need to hire a lawyer, then get a good personal injury lawyer early.
Regardless of what the adjuster says, get a lawyer anyway. It is not only good for your case, it is also good for you and your peace of mind.