Lawyers, amiright? Who needs ‘em?
Last night, you got rear-ended at a stop sign. You were feeling alright at the time, but today you’re starting to feel some serious aches and pains. Your neck and back hurt, you’ve got a big bruise on your shoulder, and your head feels all swimmy. Yuck.
Early this morning, a very friendly adjuster from the other party’s insurance company gave you a call, apologized profusely for the accident, and offered you a whole $500.00 to settle your claim. Tempting as the offer was, you were shrewd enough to pick up on the potential shiftiness involved, and you told ol’ Berry Gordy to get lost. But after you hung up the phone, you got to thinking about who you should trust to handle your shiny new personal injury claim. Should you entrust it to some lawyer? Or should you just handle it yourself? How hard could it be, right?
The pros and cons.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a committed DIYer and I hate paying others to do things that I could do myself. I do most of the preventative maintenance - oil changes, tire rotations, brakes, etc. - on all of our family vehicles, I install new light and electrical fixtures around the house, and I even build a good portion of our furniture myself. I totally get it that many folks out there would rather handle their own claims and keep more of their money.*
But here’s the thing. While I love doing my own thing and keeping my own counsel, I also recognize that certain tasks are outside of my depth. I’m no good at HVAC, and I’m terrible at plumbing, and so when something in that area comes up, I call a professional right away. Why? Because I see the value in doing so, and I see it in stark contrast to the likelihood that I’m going to screw something up if I try to do it myself.
So! Imagine with me that there’s a tiny supernatural being - either an angel or a demon - sitting on your left shoulder. It’s telling you all the reasons for why you should handle your own claim, e.g., simplicity, saving money, independence, all that good stuff. Now imagine me, as the opposite tiny supernatural being, sitting on your right shoulder and pitching you all the reasons for why you should hire a professional to handle your personal injury claim. Terrifying, I know, but bear with me!
Peace of Mind. Handling your own claim can be stressful! You’re hemming and hawing with the adjuster(s), keeping meticulous records of all of your medical records and other documentation, and otherwise just trying to get better from a medical standpoint. It can be a lot on its own, and when you throw in work, school, and family obligations, a ton of claimants end up taking a terrible settlement offer just to have the thing over with. Attorneys aren’t like that. We handle these claims for a living, and we stake our reputation on getting you the best possible settlement that we can.
Adjuster Responsiveness. I feel like over the past couple of years, I hear more and more horror stories about adjusters being unresponsiveness, rude, or downright abusive to claimants. My personal experience has been that while rude adjusters are a reality of the industry, they tend to cool it a little when they’re dealing with an attorney as opposed to a layperson.
Legal Protection. A great many of the people who sit down in my office for a consult have done some research into personal injury law before they come in. That’s a great thing; I want people to be proactive about their legal interests and if I’m being completely honest, I get a little bit concerned when a prospective client is completely apathetic about protecting their own rights. But let’s balance this idea against the fact that whatever information you can pull up on Google, it’s probably very insignificant when compared to an attorney’s three years of law school, countless hours studying for the bar exam, and years upon years of experience with precisely the type of case that you have. Not to brag, but we know a lot and we’ve made a career out of using that knowledge to protect you. There are a ton of pitfalls in the law that pro se claimants can fall afoul of all too easily.
Liens. This is similar to the last one, but it’s scary enough that it deserves its own paragraph. While North Carolina has a clear anti-subrogation statute, the truth is that the rule has been vastly outweighed and outnumbered by the many, many exceptions. If you’ve got health insurance through an ERISA plan, the State Health Plan, TRICARE, Medicare, Medicaid, or something similar, there are almost always going to be very complicated avenues whereby your health insurance carrier will be able to pay itself back some or all of the money that it paid toward your medical bills (not to mention that each one is handled very differently and according to its own distinct set of rules). If you mess that up - and no offense, but the odds of that happening are high - you could land yourself in very deep trouble.
Preparation for Trial. Attorneys are trained to look at a personal injury claim, even in its early stages, through the lens of how the case will look in a courtroom. We pride ourselves on being adept at framing the case and preparing all of the evidence in a way that will endear both you and your claim to a jury. The earlier that process starts, the better it will be for your case. As a result, it’s advantageous not just to entrust your claim to an attorney, but to do so as early on as possible.
Give me the hard sell, why dontcha?
I know, this is about as preachy and salesman-like as I get, and I’m sorry for that. I don’t work in sales for a reason. I wrote this article not to persuade anybody to hire me, but to illustrate what a major difference an attorney’s presence can make in even the most straightforward personal injury claims. It’s true that many claims can be handled by a layperson claimant, but it’s also true that there’s a fundamental difference between can and should.
That’s all I’ve got for today. Until next week!
*This assumes that you’ll actually net more money on your own than with an attorney. Definitely not a foregone conclusion.