Why Settling your Own Injury Claim is a Dead End

dead end signWhy Shouldn’t I Handle my Injury Insurance Claim Myself?

As a former defense lawyer, I have witnessed some people who have attempted to handle their own personal injury cases. Without exception, their cases were either thrown out of court or ended in an unfavorable way.

Some injury claims are so small they may not require legal representation, but my best recommendation as a former insurance defense lawyer is if you have suffered serious injuries from a collision, you need to promptly seek advice from an excellent personal injury lawyer.

An experienced trial lawyer whose focus is auto injury litigation knows how to preserve all your legal rights, not just some of them, against the attempts of the insurance adjuster and their defense attorneys to defeat or minimize your claim.

What Will a Personal Injury Lawyer do for Me?

A few people, though, may still think about handling their own serious injury case. They reason that if they get into trouble doing so — no big deal. If they run into trouble, they’ll just call a lawyer then to bail them out. They figure the risk of messing things up is worth the chance to avoid paying legal fees. When they find out, however, all the work required of trial lawyers, they generally have second thoughts. Among the many other things that trial lawyers have to do, they will have to:

  • Conduct a proper scene investigation without missing or destroying evidence.
  • Locate all the fact witnesses and obtain their sworn statements and affidavits.
  • Locate all the parties responsible for causing their injuries and damages.
  • Locate all the insurance coverage potentially covering their injuries and damages.
  • Argue and litigate insurance coverage disputes with the insurance companies simultaneously with preparing the personal injury case.
  • File a proper lawsuit, naming only the correct parties and claims in order to avoid monetary sanctions for filing improper lawsuits.
  • Respond to the defendants’ defenses and motions to dismiss the lawsuit.
  • Prepare written discovery to the defendants, requesting appropriate information about the claim and the defenses.
  • Prepare all the plaintiff’s witnesses for deposition and trial testimony.
  • Prepare for and conduct cross-examinations of all the defense witnesses.
  • Conduct legal research and write legal briefs on key issues in the case.
  • Prepare a Pre-trial Memorandum to the trial court judge addressing all legal and factual issues to be tried by the court.
  • Represent their client in court proceedings on all pre-trial issues.
  • Prepare the personal injury case for trial, including the preparation of legal arguments, entry of evidence, and witness testimony.
  • Conduct a jury trial of their case following complex trial court rules and evidentiary rules, and file post-trial motions.

For those few individuals who may still want to handle their own case, I would like to also point out that they will need to be prepared to file an appeal to reverse the bad result that is almost certain to occur.

How the Insurance Companies have Changed How they Value Claims

Insight from Florida Personal Injury colleague Tina Willis:  “In the days of old, insurance companies believed that they would get more customers if they paid claims promptly and fairly.  In other words, they believed good customer service would drive more people back to them, and therefore raise their profits. In the mid-1990′s, according to this Huffington Post article, a consulting giant named McKinsey & Company convinced Allstate and other major insurance companies that they had a better way.  In short, they encouraged and ultimately convinced leading insurance companies to rely more heavily on computers, which, unlike human adjusters using their own judgment and general human compassion, would produce purposefully low offers to claimants.  If customers or non-customers entitled to coverage did not want to accept these ridiculous, low ball offers, they were intentionally subjected to varying delay and frustration tactics.”

West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers

Chances are this is the first serious accident and recovery you have had to manage, but a lawyer whose focus is auto accident law has handled hundreds of claims for injured people.

A skilled advocate will ensure you are not taken advantage of by the complexities of the insurance claim process and will receive the compensation due to you.

Retaining an attorney adds credibility to a client’s threat to file suit, to pursue a claim to trial, and to negotiate a larger payment. Thus, a client gains more experience, more knowledge, and more negotiating credibility and power in dealing with the insurance industry.  You only get one chance to do this right.

Source:  Righting the Wrong — West Virginia Serious Injury Guide by Jeffery Robinette, Word Association Publishers, 2012.

Jeff Robinette, WV Insurance Attorney

If you or your loved one has been injured, it is important to act quickly to protect your claim in order to gain the compensation needed to help you move forward with your recovery and your life.  Mr. Robinette has handled hundreds of cases involving serious injury and wrongful death and can provide the insight you need right now.

If you have questions, call Jeff Robinette today at 304-594-1800.  You may also visit our website to find the answers you need today.  You don’t have to handle this alone.

For more information, see our free report “Why the Insurance Company Doesn’t Want You to Hire a Lawyer.”

Additional information on this important subject:  “Never Deal with any Insurance Company without an Attorney” by Tina Willis, September 28th, 2013.

How Does the Insurance Company Decide How Much My Case is Worth?

Injury Assessment Software for Injury Cases

computer imageAll major insurance companies now use computer software programs to assist adjusters in placing a “value” on injury claims. These specially-designed programs purportedly allow adjusters to “standardize” claim information so that claims evaluations are efficient and consistent. The problem is, the programs were written for the insurance companies, using their input as to what was fair compensation. So the whole program is flawed in favor of the insurance company.

Some insurance companies have developed their own adjustment software programs, while others have opted for the commercially marketed software programs. The leading adjustment software programs that are commercially available are Colossus, Claims Outcome Advisor, and Claims IQ. These programs systematically assess claim information and assign a reduced value to each injury claim. The program assesses all your past medical conditions and treatments and your current and future medical treatments and then arbitrarily places a “value” on your claim.

Some programs also assess the skill and experience of the personal injury attorney, and whether he or she is capable of getting a substantial verdict against the company. Claims adjusters are instructed not to deviate from the computer assessment of the injury claim. What they personally may think about the value of the injury claim is completely taken out of the picture; it’s not important or relevant. This is why the adjuster’s “low-ball” offer of settlement doesn’t bother them; their personal opinion doesn’t matter.

Example of a Computer Assessment for a Personal Injury Claim

Let’s consider how a claims adjuster would use computer assessment software to assess the value of a serious injury claim. Suppose the serious injury being evaluated is a crush injury to the foot. Because no surgery would adequately repair the damaged ligaments in the foot, the surgeon is reluctant to try surgery unless the injury victim reports that they can’t walk at all. So, the medical bills are just a few thousand dollars for initial treatments. But the injury victim can’t work on his or her feet without pain, and can’t participate in many other activities previously enjoyed.

The claims adjuster will enter information about the claim on the computer program, and the assessment program will indicate the highest possible value on the claim. The problem is, the assessed value may be as low as only 25% of the full value of the claim. Nonetheless, the adjuster will not offer even this grossly inadequate amount as a settlement offer—they are prohibited from doing so without special company authorization.

How Does the Insurance Adjuster Use this Computer Generated Assessment of my Injury Claim?

click here for free report buttonThe adjuster is only permitted to negotiate a settlement significantly below the computer assessment. The adjuster will attempt to withhold payment of at least 50% of the full value of the claim to the injury victim.  In the assessment of this injury claim, the computer assessment may be as low as $10,000. The claims adjuster then will offer only $5,000 in a settlement, which is half of the computer assessment value. The computer assessment completely ignores the possibility of future surgery costs, which may be as much as $30,000, because the surgeon is hesitant to say exactly when a future surgery would be needed.

Although it is clear that there is a permanent injury—a torn ligament—and all other previous treatments have failed to correct the symptoms, there is a “minimal” value placed on the injury claim.

The claims adjuster can’t even consider any lost wages because the person can still walk, albeit, in a lot of pain—thus, no reason not to work! The claims adjuster remains convinced that her low-ball offer is fair because she has a computer program assessment to support her position.

Even if the adjuster felt compelled to offer more money in the settlement, she’s not allowed to offer more without authorization from management. Because computer assessment software is written for the benefit of insurance companies, there is a built-in bias against your claim, and it should be no surprise that the claims adjuster’s assessment of the value of your injury claim is grossly inadequate to compensate you for all your injuries.

So What Can I Do to Receive Maximum Compensation for my Injuries and Losses?

free e-book buttonWhat is the value of an attorney in negotiating with an insurance company? If you go it alone, you may wind up settling for much less than your claim is actually worth. Many times, insurance companies offer settlements for cents on the dollar. But they will tell you a settlement is in your best interests. They may try to get to you say things that hurt your case. Many people who are struggling with injuries find this an intimidating and confusing process. If you enlist our firm to represent you, we will handle all negotiations on your behalf.

We have handled numerous insurance claims involving car accidents, truck accidents, premises liability and other personal injury accidents. In the past, our lawyers have represented insurance companies, and therefore we know how they value claims and what arguments they will respond to. We are adept at reaching favorable results through negotiation and settlement. If we do not achieve favorable results by those means, we are always prepared to meet the insurance companies in court.

Contact a Morgantown Insurance Dispute Attorney

Contact us to learn how we can help you recover full and fair money damages for your injuries and financial losses. From our offices in Morgantown, we represent clients in car accident and motor vehicle injury cases throughout West Virginia.  Call Today:  304-594-1800 for a free evaluation of your insurance claim.  You don’t have to do this alone.

righting_the_wrong_3dSource:  Righting the Wrong:  West Virginia Serious Injury Guide by Jeff Robinette, Word Association Publishers, 2012.