Hiring a Lawyer to Increase Your Claim Value
Many personal injury victims, be it from a car accident or slip and fall incident, initially try to take the simplest route and negotiate a settlement with the insurance company directly. This is understandable – we all want to move on with our lives. As a lawyer myself, I know that I am often the last person you want to call, and, if you can avoid it, the less lawyers in your life is usually a good thing.
Statistically, research shows that hiring an attorney rather dramatically improves the way an insurance company values your case. The Insurance Research Council did a study that shows that far more money is paid out by insurance companies toward persons who are represented than persons who are not. This study was focused on the car insurance industry but the results speak to the fact that you are much more likely to improve the value of your case by hiring a lawyer.
From our Seattle office, we represent people throughout the state of Washington and all our experience in this area stems from the local dealings with insurance companies. Two of our attorneys have backgrounds working for insurance companies, which gives us a bit of unique perspective. What we find is that most insurance companies have different adjusters who deal with the public (i.e. people who do not have a lawyer) and a different tier of adjusters who deal with attorneys. Most of the time, the adjusters at the lower end do not have a lot of discretion or ability to pay you much money. As a result, you will quickly reach the end of their rope no matter how well-crafted your position is or how much research and time you put into writing your own demand letters.
When you hire a lawyer, particularly a firm that has handled your type of case and dealt with the same insurance companies involved in your claim, you instantly have a sword to hang over the insurance company. We can run to the courthouse (we don’t literally run – everything is electronic now for the most part) and begin a lawsuit. The insurance company is banking on the fact that you, on your own and without a lawyer, are very unlikely to put any real pressure on the insurance company or force it to incur costs. Lawyers are expensive and insurance companies have to pay for them when you sue the person who hit you. Knowing that this is an inevitability unless they take a claim seriously works for your benefit.
Sometimes, however, a case is not large enough to warrant paying a percentage (often one-third) to an attorney. For example, if you are in a car accident and all you have is a single urgent care visit and maybe one follow up with your doctor, it simply does not make sense to hire an attorney who is going to take a percentage of what is likely a very modest recovery. Washington has small claims courts where you don’t need a lawyer and can likely put the same level of pressure on the insurance company without having to pay any of your settlement to a lawyer. Information regarding small claims courts can be found here.
If your case merits hiring an attorney, your case likely has better value. How much will depend on the individual case and your circumstances. Not all cases are alike and not all studies of the insurance industry are going to reflect upon your individual case. Initial consultations with our lawyers are free, and we are happy to take the time to review the facts and circumstances of your individual claims.