Question: My older model truck was totaled and my emergency bill is around $2,000. My daughter, who was a passenger at the time, still has anxiety when riding in a car. During the collision, I hit the steering wheel and have a chest contusion and back pain. I was on meds for a week and missed work. As a single parent, the truck was my only means of getting to work. I have trouble sleeping because of chest pain and worry about finding another vehicle. It hurts to sit up for too long and I’m concerned there might be recurring back and chest problems in the future. The incident has affected our lives in a major way. I got a rental car today and had to force myself to drive it. After about 30 minutes, my chest began to feel intense pain. I’m not sure if I need a lawyer or not. What would be a good settlement?
Answer: There is no doubt that you need a lawyer. Do not talk to the insurer at all until you get one, as statements you make will almost certainly reduce your settlement. Nor should you grant them access to neither your medical records, nor your daughter’s medical records without first speaking with an attorney. Almost always, a person with legal counsel receives more, after legal fees (which are paid out of the settlement), than they can get on their own. Often that difference is large. In fact, the insurance industry’s own statistics indicate that once an attorney becomes involved, the value of any claim at least doubles, as insurance companies are notorious for trying to settle on the least amount possible, outside of your best interest. They are a business after all, and like any business, their primary focus is on maximizing their profits. In addition to medical bills and lost wages and property damage, you may also be entitled to pain and suffering. You also should maintain medical treatment for your injuries and consider getting counseling for your daughter. It would also be helpful to have photographs of your damaged vehicle as well as any visible injuries such as bruising, scrapes, etc. Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area as soon as you can.