Part 1: Can I really handle my own lawsuit?

Yes, you can handle many small personal-injury cases without a lawyer.

It may sound unfortunate, but the odds that you’ll get injured in an accident caused - at least in part - by another person are still great. No matter how careful you are, getting injured due to another person’s carelessness, recklessness or even anxiousness is a reality many people face every day. Getting injured might not be a pleasant experience for you, however, to a lot of people it is their bread and butter. When people get injured a whole lot of people line up to profit  from their injuries. First and foremost is the highly unregulated insurance industry. Many insurance companies take 12 cents out of every dollar you earn - even if you have not been in an accident. This insurance stranglehold comes in the exorbitant rates charged for car, home, and health insurance. Yet, after a claim, insurers will try to find ways to deny it or attempt to pay out the bare minimum when they are forced to honor the claim.

Second is the health industry! Just like the insurance industry, the health industry is adamant to increase the financial duress of the injured person. Medical care is a booming business, and the health industry is corporate controlled, meaning they offer extremely expensive medical treatment thus contributing to outrageous health insurance costs.  But it’s a price we must pay to protect our health.

Injured people also have to worry about lost work time as the lack of protection for lost work can cause the individual great losses. American employers have the right to permit very limited paid time off. Out of all major industrial nations of the world, America - with fewer than 11 paid non-medical days off per year - ranks worst when it comes to paid time off. The Netherlands, for  example, averages 32 days off per year; Germany, 30; and Japan, 24. Americans who have been off work for any length of time knows that the government provides little backup for lost days and lost jobs.  Any for many of us, our income is directly linked to our work.  No work, no income.

Third and final is our legal system, which makes it extremely difficult for injured people to get compensated. The legal system accommodates the lawyer-dominated claim and lawsuit system but provides few alternatives for this system. While lawyers can help the injured person get compensated, they take 33% to 40% of this compensation in cases where the lawyer is asked to take the case on a contingency fee. Apart from that, the injured person often also has to reimburse the lawyer for out-of-pocket costs like filing fees and expert witnesses.

Insurance companies like to settle claims because it is less expensive than a lawsuit. 

Insurance companies that are willing to settle your claims quickly, don’t do so because they are fair, honest and with integrity; to the contrary, they choose to settle because it is cheaper to pay rather than prolong the fight and spend heaps of money on lawsuits. This way the company saves a lot of money.

Often claims that adjusters work the longest on receive greater compensation. It only gets worse if lawyers get involved as now the company will also have to fork out lawyers’ fees and if the claim goes to court, the cost skyrockets. When you know how much your claim is worth and don’t drop it without a settlement, insurance companies feel forced to pay sooner than later to avoid losing greater amounts of money if they get entangled in a lawsuit. 

Insurance companies find the costs of fighting claims to be so great that they will often pay a “nuisance value” - paying a claimant a small amount - even if the odds of winning were in their favor if they went to court. In other words, insurance companies will sometimes pay a claimant a quarter or tenth of the money owed  if it means that they can avoid fighting a claim in court which can cost them several thousand dollars in legal fees. The truth is, it is statistically much cheaper to settle a claim early. 

Here’s why you can handle many claims on your own.

Few people are aware that it is possible to receive fair compensation after an accident. Better yet, you can handle your own insurance claims without spending one red cent on a lawyer or the insurance company trying to reduce or completely deny your compensation. In order for you to do this, you will however need to have basic knowledge of how the accident claims process works, some organizational skills, and a little patience. In fact, if you do this correctly, your claim can get resolved faster and you can receive more compensation for your injury by handling it yourself. This is a double win for you as you might receive a bigger payout from the insurance company and you won't have to dig deep into your pockets to pay for attorney fees. All you need is knowledge of how insurance companies and how their claims processes work. 

  • Handling a small claim is just a process, and it is simple.

Insurance companies like to create misbelief that settling an injury claim might be a long and arduous process when in reality the opposite is true. Settling an injury claim is quite simple and you don’t have to know any technical jargon or complex legal rules to do so. You will need to send a few short letters and make a couple of calls to an insurance adjuster who just like you has no legal training and no more information than you’ll find here. To get fairly compensated, you'll also need common-sense ideas of who was careful and who was careless.

As the claimant, and the person who experienced the injury, you know better than the insurance adjuster or attorney how the accident happened. You also know better than the insurance adjuster and attorney what injuries you've suffered and how they affected your physical condition since then.

Contrary to what they want you to believe, the amount of compensation for a claimant is not only determined by lawyers and insurance companies' words. In actuality, many factors such as type of accident, injuries, medical costs, etc. determine how much a claim is “worth.” Insurance companies often will try to pay a reasonably small amount, regardless of who handled your claim for you, whether it was a lawyer or you did it yourself. Usually, when an insurance adjuster notices that you understand the claims process, they will settle very small claims with you right away at almost the same amount that you would’ve gotten after you had paid a lawyer.

  • You will not have to pay legal fees to a lawyer.

While hiring a lawyer might seem like the best thing to do, when you have no knowledge of how the claim process works, it can be devastating to your finances. Lawyers will take a fee of up to 40% of your recovery and additional costs that can quickly run into thousands of dollars. Yet, in simple “fender-bender” cases, lawyers can usually get only an extra 25% to 50% above what you would already get. 

But some cases do need a lawyer.

Regardless of how well you know the claim process, in certain situations, you will need a lawyer. An experienced injury lawyer presents a threat to the insurance company and therefore such a lawyer is worth the pay to represent you. There are several reasons why you may need a lawyer.  For example, due to the seriousness of your injuries, it may be difficult to pinpoint the potential amount of your compensation, there are complex legal issues around your claim, or the insurance company does not want to settle the claim in good faith.

Hiring a lawyer depends completely on the injury case. There are no specific injuries that require a lawyer. It is a personal decision that you have to make while you are in the process of settling your claim on your own. If you feel like things are not going as desired then you might want to hire a lawyer. Hiring a lawyer is great in cases when you feel overwhelmed by too much work because the insurance company decided to throw an obscure legal rule at you to thwart your progress. Or when an insurance adjuster claims that the company is in their right to give only a small to settle or not compensate you at all. In these cases, a lawyer would be of great help. 

There are accidents and incidents where lawyer’s intervention, expertise and experience are always needed. Here are a few.

Do you have serious injuries, permanent injuries, or future medical needs?

Some accidents cause injuries that have a long lasting effect - more than one year- on your physical abilities or appearance. In cases like these, an experienced lawyer may be needed as calculating the worth of such a serious injury can be difficult. If you still decide to handle the matter on your own, it is still wise to consult a lawyer to make sure you have covered all the bases in your claim when it comes to an injury with a long period of recovery or a permanent physical effect.

In most cases, the total sum you receive from your accident compensation is determined by the severity of your injuries, which in turn is measured by your lost income, how long you remain injured or disabled and the total sum of your medical bills. As soon as the amount of your medical and lost-income figures start to increase, the amount of compensation automatically increases and it also becomes more difficult to fairly estimate the amount of compensation an insurance company would want to pay. And in these types of situations, it would be worthwhile to have a lawyer handle your claim.

In cases where the injury may not be that serious and medical costs and income loss are in a few thousand dollars, hiring a lawyer may not be the best option. The best time to hire a lawyer is when injuries are severe and medical costs go over $10,000. In this scenario, compensation can vary between $20,000 to $100,000. In such a scenario hiring an experienced lawyer to help you get the highest possible amount in compensation would be wise. Of course, your lawyer's fees will be high, but your payout will be higher. 

There are no fixed determiners to look for before considering hiring a lawyer. Some people will hire a lawyer as soon as their bills stack up to a couple of thousand dollars, yet other people would not even consider a lawyer and handle such a claim on their own and avoid lawyers’ fees. Some people would not hire a lawyer even if their medical bills amount to $10,000 or more with a potential compensation of $100,000.

Handling your own claim is a gamble, thus it is important to know exactly what you are doing when taking this step. This is a huge decision and you should feel comfortable doing it as one slight mistake could cost you a decent payout. Hence, it is best to get a thorough understanding of how compensation amounts are calculated beforehand. You can apply those criteria to your situation to get an estimate of the amount in compensation you might receive. With this estimate, you can decide you can either, negotiate with the insurance company, decide if you want to complete the case on your own or hire a lawyer to do the work. 

Do you have a medical malpractice case?

Medical malpractice cases are caused by carelessness, unprofessional behavior or incompetent treatment by medical personnel. So, if you have suffered an injury or illness caused by doctors, nurses, clinic, laboratory, hospital or other medical provider, the wisest thing to do is to hire a lawyer experienced in medical malpractice matters as these cases can often be intricate as both the medical questions and the legal rules come into play.

Has the insurance company just refused to pay what it owes?

Sometimes, the insurance company does not want to make a fair settlement, regardless of the severity of your injury, lost income or amount of medical bills. In this case you will have to hire a lawyer to help you get a reasonable compensation. This practice by insurance companies or government agencies is referred to as “stone walling,” because negotiation with the insurance company is like talking to a stone wall. Insurance companies stonewall in various cases. Allstate, USAA, GEICO, and State Farm do this in nearly all cases.  One popular way they do it is by simply denying that its insured was covered for the type of accident that happened or that its insured is responsible for the accident at all. Governmental body who may be burdened with your claim can also stonewall you by claiming immunity - legally protected —from responsibility for the accident. 

Continue to Part Two

Our Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys Are Here To Protect You

If you are getting jerked around by the insurance company or exhausted with trying to handle your own case, speak with an experienced Dallas personal injury attorney. We are happy to talk with you about your case. There’s no downside to getting a no-cost consultation from a firm run by a board certified personal injury attorney. To request a consultation, complete the contact form or call/text us at 469-466-2600.

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Steve Samples
Helping personal injury and car / truck accident victims in Farmers Branch, Carrollton, Dallas and Fort Worth.

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