Can I Settle It Myself?
A question I sometimes am asked by people who were injured in an accident is whether the injured person can settle the claim on their own. Of course, you don't need a lawyer to settle your claim, just like you don't need a lawyer to file a lawsuit or defend against one. The real question is, under what circumstances am I better off doing the work myself than using a lawyer?
If you have read my free report, The Ultimate Guide to Accident Cases in Texas' Five Deadly Sins that can Wreck Your Claim, then you will know the answer, but here is a short course.
The insurance company is not there to help you. If you were hit by someone who doesn't have any insurance and you are making a claim with your own company, they will treat you better than if you are making a claim with the insurance company of the person who hurt you, but it's not a whole lot better.
The insurance company agents handle hundreds of cases each year. They are continuously trained. Their goal is to settle your claim as quickly as possible (because that limits their company's liability) and as cheaply as possible. Insurance companies don't make money paying claims. They make money by collecting premiums and paying out as slowly, lowly, and infrequently as they can. A good agent will appear nice and friendly, because they want to get you talking. The love to get a recorded statement which they can use against you later. If they find out anything about your past medical history, they will use that against you when ask for money. Then, it's like that Southwest Airlines commercial where the ticket agent is friendly and nice, but then turns around and has a different face when the passenger asks for an extra convenience. That commercial should be about insurance adjusters as soon as you start asking for money, they face changes and the friendly fade goes down.
You should know from your own experience, that the first time you do something, you don't do it as well as the second, third, etc. It's called the learning curve. So you are trying something for the first time while the adjuster is on his thousandth you're at a tremendous disadvantage.
A study a few years ago made at the request of one of the insurance companies determined that people who are represented by lawyers obtain more than 100% better results than if they represent themselves.
Here are some of the things I have to do to settle a case : interview clients, interview witnesses, request police report, order 911 phone calls, order ambulance records, take photographs of the area, take photographs of the vehicles, make a map of the area, request medical records and bills, review medical records and bills, interview doctors, prepare a demand letter, negotiate with the insurance company, file suit, send discovery to opposing party, defend against discovery from the opposing party, take depositions, hire expert witnesses, subpoena witnesses, negotiate with lien holders. And that's not a complete list.
Most often, I see people try to handle the claim themselves make the following mistakes:
* They don’t preserve evidence\
- They settle too soon\
- They give the insurance company too much information\
- They don’t know the value of their claim\
- They don’t know what they are entitled to recover under the law\
- They settle because the statute of limitations is running out\
- They trust the insurance company to give them a fair deal
When should you handle a claim on your own? When there is very little property damage to either car. When there are no injuries or one or two doctor visits.
Remember, if you try to handle your claim on your own, be prepared to handle it on your own through trial because most lawyers will not take on your claim after you have been working it for some time. Why? Because contingency work is a gamble if you take the first roll of the dice and come up short, don't expect someone else to come in to take the second roll.