The number of families that are impacted by serious injury or wrongful death caused by car accidents can hardly be understated. There are well over 5 million car accidents per year that result in injury to over 2 million people and tragically claim the lives of in excess of 30,000 more people. Serious car accidents can impose extreme hardships not just on the accident victim but on the victim’s family. While a car accident victim can file a personal injury accident claim, many car accident victims make the mistake of trying to handle their own legal and insurance issues.
It is important to note that there is nothing an insurance company would like more than to deal with an accident victim who is without legal advice or representation. There are many ways that unrepresented accident victims can compromise their car accident claim. Tragically, our attorneys frequently receive calls from panicked accident victims who attempt to represent themselves only to discover that they have been duped by an insurance company.
While it may not be necessary to retain a personal injury attorney if you are involved in a car accident that results only in very minor vehicle damage, you should never attempt to do so if you suffer any sort of injury. Auto insurance carriers recognize that most motor vehicle accident victims are unfamiliar with their rights or the legal process. Many accident victims are misled when they are contacted by the insurance adjuster for the other driver who is both amicable and friendly.
Common Mistakes and Traps Made by Car Accident Victims Unrepresented
The adjuster may ask an unrepresented party to make a recorded statement so that the adjuster can “process the car accident claim” more quickly. This is a ruse designed to trick a car accident victim into making statements that damage their car accident claim. It is critical to recognize that auto insurance companies do not increase their profits by paying more claims and larger settlements. The purpose of a written statement is to acquire evidence to support a theory that you are at-fault and that your injuries are insubstantial, non-existent or linked to other causes.
Common defenses that can undermine a car accident lawsuit are often based on statements given by unrepresented drivers. These defenses include comparative negligence, pre-existing condition and lack of injury (causation). A comparative negligence defense is based on establishing that you are partially at-fault in causing the car accident or your injuries.
The representative of the insurance company may ask innocent sounding questions that later come back to seriously undermine your car accident case. If the insurance company is able to convince a judge or jury that you are partially responsible for your injuries, your recovery will be reduced by your percentage of fault. The insurance company will also ask about your medical history to develop a defense that your injuries occurred prior to the car accident or that you are exaggerating the extent of your injury.
Another common tactic that may be employed by an insurance company against you if you are unrepresented is to push you to settle your car accident case for less than its actual value. If you have suffered serious injury, the insurance company recognizes that your medical bills and time off work may create financial pressure on you and your family. The goal of the auto insurance company is to exploit your financial hardships by offering you a low-ball settlement with the intent of inducing you to sign a general release. A general release will generally result in you waiving all claims against the insurance company’s insured, including legal claims and injuries that you are not aware exist. If you are represented by an experienced car accident lawyer, the law firm may be able to provide advances against your potential settlement to deal with urgent financial issues while your case is pending.
The Complex Process of Evaluating a Car Accident Claim
It is generally not advisable to settle a car accident lawsuit prior to completing your treatment because sometimes injuries are more serious than the initial prognosis and require more extensive treatment and longer periods to recover. Many times those who are not represented by an auto accident lawyer have no idea how to determine the value of their auto accident lawsuit. An experienced car accident attorney will have a wealth of past cases to draw on for an estimation of the value of your case as well as the ability to research similar other settlements and verdicts to determine the amount of verdicts and settlements in similar cases.
It is extremely difficult for a layperson to estimate the value of an accident claim because there are many factors that impact such a calculation. The insurance adjuster may suggest that there is a formula that determines damages, such as adding the amount of your lost income to medical bills and multiplying medical costs by some multiple depending on the seriousness of your injuries. A skilled personal injury attorney knows that this only serves as a negotiating starting point for an insurance company and may not bare any relationship to the actual value of your lawsuit.
No Lawyer Usually Mean No Fair Settlement Offer
If you are not represented by a car accident lawyer, the insurance company also will be less likely to settle your car accident claim unless you agree to settle for an amount that is woefully inadequate. The insurance company knows that a layperson will be overwhelmed if the case proceeds to trial. The civil litigation process is governed by technical rules of civil procedure, the evidence code, discovery procedures and law and motion rules along with an abundance of other legal complexities that make it virtually impossible for a non-attorney to effectively navigate through the civil litigation process. It is basically unheard of for a car accident victim to receive more compensation by handling their own car accident claim than by retaining an experienced auto accident law firm. The insurance company knows that they have the advantage if the case goes to trial against a layperson so the insurance provider has no incentive to offer a reasonable settlement.
If you or someone you love is injured in a car accident, our experienced car accident lawyers offer a free initial consultation so that we can advise you of your rights and options. We represent clients on a contingency fee meaning that you do not pay attorney’s fees unless and until we settle your case or obtaining a verdict in your favor. Our experienced California car accident lawyers provide comprehensive discovery and analysis of the facts, expert knowledge of the law, a proven litigation approach and compelling advocacy. We are committed to assisting car accident victims obtaining the financial compensation necessary to rebuild after suffering serious injury or the loss of a loved one in a car accident.