Attorney Matt Dolman Answers the Most Common Questions Regarding Hiring an Attorney versus Facing the Insurance Company On Your Own.
Many individuals struggle with the idea of whether or not to hire an attorney after they’ve been injured. Some feel that there is a stigma attached to the process or the notion of seeking legal representation; others simply don’t want to deal with the process of researching and choosing an attorney they can trust. For some, this dilemma leaves them with only one other option, forgo hiring an attorney and instead handle the claim with the insurance company on their own.
The cost-benefit analysis for hiring an attorney varies from case to case, but the overall concerns are generally the same.
Before we get started answering some of the most common questions associated with this topic, check out this video where I address what to look for (and what not to look for) in a personal injury firm.
FAQ Regarding the Personal Injury Claim Process
Will the insurance company take me seriously if I handle my car accident case myself?
Sadly, the answer here is usually no. Often times the insurance company will stone wall victims of car accidents because they know that they can. These companies are multi-million dollar conglomerates that can afford to wait around to pay individuals involved in car accidents or even refuse to pay at all; they know how much victims depend on these funds and they use this to their advantage. These companies also handle thousands and thousands of cases of a year; if an individual is lucky, they may only deal with a car accident once a decade. This means that the insurance companies have plenty of experience, understand the process in and out, and know how to manipulate people to get their way. The main reason insurance companies are more willing to be compliant with a personal injury attorney is primarily because they know they can’t get away with most of their usual tactics. Hiring an attorney evens the playing field. Like the carrier, injury attorneys have experience too and thus can’t easily be fooled.
Another major reason that insurance companies take clients with attorneys more serious is because of the threat of lawsuit. When an attorney states that they are moving the case into litigation, there’s no denying that they have the means to do so. This is the point in a negotiation that the insurance company is trying to avoid. Lawsuits costs carriers even more money, so they want to avoid them if possible. After all, they’re in the business of making money, not spending it.
It’s been more than fourteen days since my accident, can I still file a claim?
Yes, you can. The fourteen day statutory time-limit is for PIP (Personal Injury Protection) benefits. Every person with car insurance in Florida has this mandatory coverage which allows for $10,000 to be extended to medical expenses and lost wages, regardless of who was at-fault in the accident. If you didn’t visit a doctor in that first fourteen day window, then you will not be able to use your PIP benefits. However, PIP is not the only route toward recovery. The only two things you need to file a viable personal injury claim are injury and another’s negligence; if you have these than you can still file a claim.
I was only involved in a minor impact accident and don’t think I would have a strong case, should I even bother consulting with an attorney?
Yes, you should definitely still consult with an attorney. Some accidents can cause only minimal property damage to the vehicle, yet result in severe injuries to the passengers. Certain vehicles are meant to endure and absorb large impacts while causing little body damage. However, the individuals inside may absorb the impact and as a result sustain injuries. I have seen numerous cases where the property damage was several thousand dollars and no one was hurt; and conversely, I’ve seen cases where the damage was a few hundred dollars yet someone had severe spinal cord injury.
Most, if not all, personal injury firms offer free, no obligation consultations. That means that you can make an appointment, meet with an attorney, and discuss your case—for free. Of course, I can only speak for my law firm, but I can tell you that at Dolman Law, you will not be pressured to hire us nor will you be made to feel like your concerns are invalid. It’s a complicated and confusing process, we get that. Call our office, speak with our knowledgeable personnel and get an appointment scheduled.
If I don’t hire an attorney, what are the chances that I will get a fair settlement?
Quite simply, it depends on many different factors. The first variable is, of course, your expectations. What you consider fair will make a big difference. If you have a few minor injuries and would like a small sum of money to help you with physical therapy, then it’s possible to get a fair settlement. However, this issue still presents concerns that leave the concept of “fair” behind and venture into more serious concerns. I would warn clients to be cautious of minor-impact soft tissue damage, since they can be deceiving and may cause severe symptoms down the road. Make sure to receive an MRI and see an appropriate doctor to determine if your injuries are actually as minor as you believe before you settle for a low sum on your own.
I think this is also a good time to bring up another important point regarding settling on your own. Cases involving injury are often much more complex than they seem. If the insurance company is telling you that this is a simple process, they’re doing so to settle your case quickly and cheaply. Hiring an attorney gives you the benefit of an experienced professional who knows what kind of things to keep in mind when determining a fair settlement. For example, will there be future medical costs? What about paying back your healthcare provider for anything they covered? What if you miss more work in the future? The list of concerns is long. The reason that insurance companies want to settle with you quickly is because once you accept an offer, you have no right to ask them for more. So, if you think you only need a few thousand dollars worth of chiropractic care and accept $5,000, but later you find out that you’re going to need a $100,000 back surgery and will be out of work for months, there’s no going back. A good personal injury attorney will be sure to explore these avenues before settling.
How do I go about finding an attorney that I can trust?
The best place to start when researching an attorney is the same as everything else: the internet. A popular and reliable tool that can be used to help find a reputable attorney in your area is avvo.com. AVVO allows you to read former client reviews, as well as the attorney’s location, experience, and background. You can also check Google Reviews and the Florida Bar’s website to get a better feel for the firm and their standing with the state.
Hiring an attorney shouldn’t be stressful. However, not all personal injury attorneys are the same. Some only care about the bottom line and will rush a case to turn a quick buck (these are referred to as settlement mills; while others are too busy for their own good, forcing them to have a paralegal handle the case or to allow it to sits for months before they even think about it.
This is never acceptable. And it’s not how we run our firm.
At the Dolman Law Group, we pride ourselves on being always available to our clients. You will receive the personal cell phone number of your attorney should you have any questions. Further, we give each case the time and attention that it deserves. Should you have any questions or if you would like to speak with an attorney, please call us at: (727) 451-6900.