Whether you need a lawyer to help you handle an insurance claim depends on the facts of your case. If your claim is small, you are a savvy negotiator, and you understand the basics of personal injury and insurance law, you might be able to resolve your claim on your own.
You will probably need a lawyer to maximize your compensation for a large or complex claim.
Step One: Schedule a Free Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer
The best person to know whether you need a personal injury lawyer is a personal injury lawyer. Since a personal injury lawyer works on commission (known as a “contingency fee”), they have no incentive to “blow sunshine at you” by pretending to like a claim that is too weak or too small to require the assistance of a lawyer.
Since these consultations are free of charge, you have nothing to lose by scheduling one.
Red Flags That Indicate You Need a Lawyer
The following circumstances should alert you that you probably need a lawyer:
- The accident victim was killed, and you seek to file a wrongful death claim.
- The at-fault party’s conduct was outrageous, and you plan to seek punitive damages.
- You are filing a personal injury claim on behalf of a minor or incapacitated person.
- The other side is claiming that the accident was partly or completely your fault.
- Your case is technically complex. You might need an expert witness, and personal injury lawyers often have strong working relationships with prominent expert witnesses. Medical malpractice claims and product liability claims frequently involve expert witnesses.
- Your doctor expects you to suffer long-term disability. You might need the assistance of an expert witness to calculate and prove your long-term damages.
- You are claiming against a California state or local agency or the federal government. Special procedures and limitations apply to lawsuits against the government.
- Your claim involves more than two parties. This could happen in a traffic accident or in a situation where you need to claim against more than one defendant.
- The insurance company is using deceptive tactics or trying to bully you.
- Your claim is large. The general rule is that if your claim is too large for small claims court, you probably need a lawyer.
These are just a few examples of circumstances that might call for the assistance of a lawyer. Seek a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer if you are unsure whether you need one.
Dealing With the Insurance Company’s “Department of Dirty Tricks”
The insurance adjuster will bring an invisible bag of negotiating tricks to settlement talks. They will be particularly aggressive if you are representing yourself. If you hire a personal injury lawyer, they should be able to handle the entire negotiating process for you. Don’t forget that your lawyer cannot finalize any settlement without your consent.
Spying on Your Social Network Accounts
The opposing party can subpoena material on your social media accounts and use it against you in court. Your best bet is to suspend your social media accounts until your settlement check is in your hand. If you absolutely must use social media, tighten your security settings and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
Denying Your Medical Claims Based on Their Own “Expertise”
Insurance adjusters are not doctors, and they lack the expertise to make medical decisions about your case. They have no business, for example, telling you that you didn’t really need that eye surgery.
Playing the Blame Game
Under California’s comparative negligence system, you can lose damages even if the accident was mostly the other party’s fault. If you were 10% responsible, for example, you can lose 10% of your damages.
The insurance company may try to use this system to “nickel and dime you to death” with a series of small objections to your list of damages. They might even try to blame you for 100% of the accident.
Asking You To Provide a Recorded Statement
Don’t fall for this one. They will ask you trick questions and use them against you later. ”How are you?” “I’m fine.” “You’re fine? But aren’t you claiming to be seriously injured? How can you be fine?” That’s how careful you have to be when giving a recorded statement.
Misrepresenting the Scope of Coverage
It isn’t difficult for an insurance adjuster to deliberately misinterpret the language of an insurance policy written in “legalese” to unfairly exclude your injuries or the accident itself from the scope of coverage. If you suspect that the insurance company is trying to pull this trick, you’re probably right. Very few insurance companies will dare try such tactics on a skilled personal injury lawyer.
Asking for Unlimited Access to Your Medical Records
Don’t sign anything giving the insurance company full access to your entire medical history. You might have to provide them with medical records concerning the accident, but you probably don’t have to give medical records for any time prior to the accident. If you do, they can search for something, such as an old back injury, that they can claim is a “pre-existing injury.” In a worst-case scenario, this argument could deprive you of all compensation.
Refusing To Take Your Non-Economic Damages Claims Seriously
In California, non-economic damages might include:
- Emotional distress;
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Loss of consortium;
- Diminished quality of life; and
- Permanent disfigurement.
This list is not necessarily exhaustive. Non-economic damages are intangible, but they could amount to well over half the value of your claim. Nevertheless, the insurance company might use the intangible nature of these damages to dismiss them.
Hiring a Private Detective To Spy on You
This will only happen if your claim is large. Their investigator might watch you from a parked car or take photos of you without your knowledge. Don’t do anything in public that might raise doubts about the validity of your claim.
Sending You an Unsolicited Settlement Check
If you cash an unsolicited settlement check, assuming that it is simply the first installment, you could be setting yourself up for an unpleasant surprise later. Even a court might treat it as a full settlement of your claim. This won’t happen if you don’t cash the check.
Advising You Not to Hire a Lawyer
Taking this advice could be the biggest mistake you can make. The reason is that a good lawyer can protect you against every insurance company trick except “Don’t hire a lawyer.”
Fighting Back: Insurance Bad Faith Claims
If the insurance company tries to take advantage of you, you might have an insurance bad faith claim. If you win an insurance bad faith claim, it will be added to your insurance claim so that you might obtain a double recovery.
If You Need a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
If you decide you need a Los Angeles personal injury attorney, act promptly. Evidence grows cold over time–witness’s memories fade, people move out of state, and physical evidence deteriorates. Don’t wait until the statute of limitations deadline is looming to start pressing your claim.
Contact or call our law firm at (877) 300-4535 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys of M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers. Our legal team aggressively pursues personal injury claims for maximum compensation for our clients.