If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may decide to retain the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected and that you obtain proper financial compensation for your injuries. There are several benefits to having a lawyer represent you.
Initial Free Consultation
Ideally, an accident victim should seek legal advice before the initial meeting with the adjuster or even before reporting the accident to the insurance company. Most personal injury lawyers will provide you with an initial consultation at no charge.
During this consultation the lawyer can assess your situation, listen to any concerns that you may have, and provide you with appropriate advice. If you decide to retain a personal injury lawyer, he can provide the necessary documentation to activate your claim. He can insulate you from the claims process and make sure that you receive the benefits to which you are entitled so that you can concentrate on your recovery.
Legal Fees Are a Percentage of the Recovery
Legal fees are usually a percentage of the recovery in personal injury claims. Most lawyers will also pay all disbursements (expenses) on the Client`s behalf until the conclusion of the claim. This enables any accident victim to hire a personal injury lawyer, regardless of his or her financial circumstances.
The Insurance Adjuster
The claims representative (adjuster) in charge of your file is working for the insurance company, not you. An adjuster’s job is to attempt to settle your claim in the best interests of the insurance company which usually means less than the full compensation to which you are entitled. You may wish to obtain the services of a personal injury lawyer who will be working on your behalf and in your best interests to make sure that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.
When you first meet with the adjuster, you will be asked to provide a detailed written statement regarding the accident and how it has affected you. It is the function of the adjuster to explore issues which could reduce the amount of your claim, such as whether you were partly to blame for the accident or whether you had a pre-existing injury or medical condition that could reduce the amount of your financial recovery. Although the statement is prepared by the adjuster during the discussion with you, you will be asked to sign it. If your statement is not accurate in all respects, it could be used against you at some later time in the claims process.
A personal injury lawyer can provide an accurate statement on your behalf that has the proper amount of detail.
During your initial meeting with the adjuster, you will also be asked to provide authorizations for the release of medical and employment information and documentation. This allows the insurance adjuster to contact your employer and health care providers directly. For example, adjusters can access your medical history both before and after the accident including a medical services plan printout listing all health care providers that you have seen and the services provided. There may be medical matters of a highly personal nature in your medical file that are not relevant to your claim.
A lawyer will obtain all relevant medical and wage loss documentation on your behalf and supply it to the insurance company in support of your claim. You may find this preferable to having a representative of the insurance company contacting your health care providers and employer to discuss your claim, and obtain information and documentation that may not be relevant.
There are numerous limitation periods which may be applicable to your claim. If you do not file and/or provide documentation within certain time limits during the claims process, your claim could be terminated. Lawyers are aware of these limitation periods and can take appropriate action in a timely manner to preserve and protect your rights.
During the course of your recovery, the insurance company may arrange for you to attend what they refer to as an “independent medical examination”. This is an examination by a specialist, usually an orthopaedic surgeon, picked by the insurance company. This doctor is not there to treat you or provide you with medical advice. His function is to examine you and provide a detailed report to the insurance company. In many cases on-going treatment is terminated on the basis of the opinion supplied by the specialist.
Many of these specialists derive a large part of their income from these examinations and a personal injury lawyer will know whether it is in your best interests to attend. In certain cases a lawyer can provide the adjuster with the names of more appropriate doctors for the examination which are sometimes accepted. Usually, the lawyer can at least obtain the report or notes prepared by the doctor as a condition of your attendance.
The value of your claim is based largely on medical opinion as well as other expert opinion. A lawyer will have your doctors provide medical reports that include opinions on matters that are necessary to support your claim. A lawyer can retain other experts such as occupational therapists, vocational consultants, and economists who can assist in the proof and valuation of claims for impaired earning capacity and future care costs.
Amount of Compensation
After a lawyer has received the necessary medical and other expert reports, he is then able to properly evaluate the amount of your claim. He has access to decisions of previous court cases that are similar to yours which can be used to evaluate and support your claim. Without a personal injury lawyer, you will not know what your claim is worth, and are therefore at a disadvantage against an experienced adjuster when the time comes to negotiate a fair settlement of your claim.
Once a lawyer is able to determine the value of your claim, he is then able to use his negotiation skills to obtain the best possible settlement with the insurance company. Approximately 95% of claims settle prior to trial as a result of skilled negotiation. In the event that a fair settlement can’t be reached during the negotiation process, a lawyer can present your case at trial in an effective manner so that a court can decide on proper compensation for you.