There are 5 huge mistakes that can kill an injury case. Not hiring a lawyer is one of them.
But what are the benefits of hiring an injury lawyer?
I’m talking about real benefits. Not just some sales pitch to hire a lawyer to protect your rights.
Here, I’m going to share 13 reasons to hire a lawyer if you are hurt in an accident caused by someone else. However, I won’t stop there.
You’re going to see actual examples (using my real settlements) of the benefits of hiring a lawyer.
1. Personal Injury Attorneys Know the Case Value
One of the most common questions that I get each day is, “How Much is My Case Worth?”
Between phone calls, my comments on my Youtube videos, and comments on this blog, I get asked this question over and over.
And for good reason. Knowing the personal injury settlement formula is not common knowledge. In fact, I’ve been representing injured victims for 15 years. Yet, my valuation skills still continue to increase each week.
Unless you have experience in evaluating injury cases, it’s very tough to value personal injury claims. Some people think that if they know the amount of their medical bills, they can value a case.
Medical bills are just one part of the damages that make up the full value of a case. And calculating the full value of your damages is just part of the equation. Even if you know full value, there are over 70 important factors that can affect how much a case is worth.
Do you know all the factors? Probably not.
Even when I had 5 years experience, I didn’t understand the factors as well as I do now.
When does an injury lawyer have a good estimated settlement range?
Possibly after you’re at maximum medical improvement (MMI). However, sometimes an attorney won’t have a solid value until you’re well into your lawsuit.
Injury Attorneys Stay Up to Date With Settlement Values
Experienced attorneys are up to date with jury verdicts and settlement values.
How do they keep up to date?
They attend seminars. They read appellate and trial cases that are decided each week.
A solid injury lawyer is friends with other personal injury attorneys and insurance defense attorneys. In other words, they are friends with attorneys who see injury cases from both sides.
A good injury lawyer is a members of listservs where attorneys share up to date information on insurance company settlements.
Simply put, an excellent injury lawyer lives and breathes accident law.
Now, some injured accident victims think that they can value cases on their own. They think that they can simply surf the web and look at past attorney settlements.
However, there is a major problem with the settlements on the internet.
Attorneys give such little information that often very little can be learned from reading their verdicts or settlements. Also, personal injury attorneys tend to not share the good facts of their case.
Basically, attorneys put the settlement in the light most favorable to them. This makes many internet settlement summaries almost useless.
Warning! I strongly suggest that you do not value your personal injury case based on an online settlement calculator. This is true whether you are looking at my Florida injury settlement calculator or one that someone else made.
Insurance companies require defense attorneys to send them a report estimating the value of a claim, and your attorney should have a similar estimation. If you are unable to evaluate the fair value of a personal injury case, then you will not know if you are leaving money on the table. You may think you are getting a great deal when in fact you could be leaving a lot of money on the table.
The insurer’s initial offer was $100,000. We knew that fair value of the case was closer to $445,000 so we held out for months and negotiated with the bodily injury claims adjuster for months.
How much money would our client have settled for if he were not represented? I did not ask him, but I think I will give him a call so I can add this to this article.
There is a chance that my client would have accepted the initial offer of $100,000. This assumes that the adjuster would have made the same $100,000 offer to our client if he was not represented by an attorney.
When I initially spoke with the adjuster – which was after my client had the leg surgery – the adjuster told me that he had set the reserve (set aside) at $150,000 for this claim. Many insurance companies transfer your claim to a different adjuster as soon as they learn that an attorney is representing you. I assume that they do this because they are taking the claim more seriously.
My client had about $20,000 in medical expenses, so he would have received $80,000 had he accepted the insurance company’s $100,000 offer. Some people would think that they are getting a great deal. The average American is in debt and I would imagine that most do not even have $10,000 in their bank account. Let alone $80,000.
After practicing for 15 years (now), I know the fair settlement range for injury cases. I told my client to wait a few months. We ultimately got a $445,000 settlement.
My client received approximately $275,000. So he received $195,000 more than had we accepted the initial offer because he listened to my advice.
Liability claims adjusters can be very convincing and are seasoned negotiators.
In fact, the particular adjuster who we dealt with said in his Linkedin Profile that his past position as a claims specialist at State Farm:
required strong persuasion and negotiation skills to facilitate injury settlements with individuals or their attorneys.
I settled another case $100,000 for a man who claimed a herniated disc, erectile dysfunction (ED) and a meniscus tear. The adjuster literally told me that he would not offer a dime more than his second offer, which was $10,000.00.
But I knew the value of the claim and I had the MRI CD read by an orthopedic surgeon and determined that the claim was worth significantly in excess of $10,000.
I sent the MRI cd to the claims adjuster and months later we settled for the policy limits of $100,000.
I could spend days giving you more examples.
2. Tell You Which Doctors Will Kill Your Injury Case
You should hire an injury lawyer who knows which Florida doctors are patient advocates, and will not destroy your claim. It has taken me 11 years to create a map of doctors in Florida who are patient advocates.
3. Attorney Can Quickly Preserve Evidence
Evidence disappears with time. Having good evidence may get you a bigger injury settlement.
For example, in Florida, the audio from a 911 call is often only kept for 60 days. An attorney can quickly request the 911 audio call for you.
A 911 call can boost the value of an Uber accident settlement.
In a slip and fall case, surveillance video can add value. An injury lawyer already has the proper letters to send to the premises operator.
4. Save Time and Reduce Stress.
Personal injury claims are stressful. Accident cases involve sending countless letters, emails and phone calls.
Believe me, I wish injury cases were simple. If they were, I’d take my kids to the beach much more often.
But accident cases are tough. Even if you’re dealing with the few insurance companies who have a good reputation.
Even if you just want compensation for lower back pain from a car accident.
And if you’ve had surgery as a result of accident, it’s a different ball game.
Because accidents that result in surgery have a higher settlement value. Hence, there is more money at stake.
Now, let’s assume you’re trying to settle an injury case with State Farm. Simply put, State Farm is cheap. With State Farm, you’re going to experience even more stress.
The same is true with other terrible insurance companies. I’m talking about car accident cases with Progressive and many others.
Is hiring a lawyer a time saver?
Yes. People love saving time. Hiring an attorney who concentrates in representing injured people can save you countless hours of time. You won’t have to do legal research. As an added bonus, you’ll have less doubt, worry and stress.
I know this because I am much more efficient than when I started practicing 14 years ago. My learning curve was much higher when I started as a personal injury lawyer. Everything was new. Now, my learning curve is much less steep.
Well, for people hurt in car accidents it’s the same. They will experience a tremendous amount of confusion. They’ll have question after question.
So is it worth hiring a lawyer (and having to pay a fee if there’s a settlement)?
Yes. You tip 20% (or hopefully at least 15%) when you go out to eat. Part of the reason that you do this is convenience (or maybe you are not the greatest cook like me) and then you don’t have to spend time cooking.
I pay my maid to clean my house. This frees up time for my wife and I to spend working in our careers. It also allows me to spend more time with my children, family and friends.
I pay for my paralegal (who is fantastic by the way) to answer the phones. She also opens the mail, scans documents and performs many other duties. This saves me time so I can concentrate on doing what I am skilled at.
I get to focus on doing what I enjoy. This includes meeting clients, negotiating with adjusters, and speaking with my clients’ doctors.
It also includes researching the personal injury law, reviewing settlement releases, attending continuing legal education seminars. I get to make more personal injury videos. And much more.
Saving time is the reason that I have an accountant prepare my quarterly payroll returns and taxes each year. It’s the reason that I pay to have my car washed. The list goes on.
5. Injury Attorney Is Willing (and Able) to Sue.
Insurance companies are willing and able to settle most cases before a lawsuit is filed. But some cases require a lawsuit to be filed. You can try to represent yourself up to the point when you decide you may need a lawyer, but by then you may have made mistakes, which may damage your case. You may be making mistakes and not even know that you are making them.
In order to know when to file a lawsuit, you must know the value of your case. Otherwise you may file suit and receive the same offer as you received pre-suit or an offer that did not justify the time and expense of a lawsuit. Sometimes an insurance company will decrease its offer in litigation.
Below are just some past cases where I was offered nothing (zero) even after our client finished his/her medical treatment.
Our Actual Case:
Offer before Lawsuit: Zero.
Settlement after Lawsuit. $300,000
I represented a client who slipped and fell at a supermarket in Miami, Florida. Following the fall, he received 2 skin grafts on his Achilles tendon, and treatment for other injuries. The supermarket denied liability and offered nothing. We sued the supermarket and settled during hotly contested litigation. We have also settled cases against Publix and another supermarket chains.
Our Actual Case:
Top Offer before Lawsuit: Zero
Settlement after LawSuit: $125,000
A car being driven by an US Customs employee struck our client while he was a pedestrian who was visiting from another country. The US did not respond within the six (6) months that they have to admit or deny a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
Therefore, we sued. The case against US Customs settled for $125,000. Now, I will say that had we waiting longer there is a chance the US would have made an offer.
It may have even been for the $125,000 that we ultimately received in litigation. But we sued because the US did not respond to us. It seemed like they were not taking the claim seriously.
We were able to recover an additional $100,000 from the insurer for the rental car that the US Customs employee was driving. We also settled for $100,000 with the uninsured motorist (UM) insurance that our client purchased when he rented the vehicle.
Our client was entitled to Personal Injury Protection (PIP) because he was putting parking receipt into his car when the car hit him. PIP paid the hospital $10,000 for billed charges.
Our Actual Case:
Best Offer before Lawsuit: Zero
Settlement After Lawsuit: $59,400
We settled a claim for $59,400 for man who surgery to a tendon in his ankle after he tripped and fell in a hole covered with grass overgrowth at a business condominium complex. Prior to filing suit, the 2 liability insurers denied liability.
Some past cases where the final offer was much less than we received after we filed a lawsuit.
Our Actual Case:
Best Offer before Lawsuit: $20,000
Settlement After Lawsuit: $210,000
One case that required a lawsuit – in order to get fair value – was where my client fell off of a loose booth at Denny’s restaurant in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Travelers Insurance, the insurer for Denny’s franchisee, would not offer a penny more than $20,000 to settle the case. As soon as we filed suit, the adjuster doubled his offer to $40,000. We filed a lawsuit. After hotly contested litigation and several negotiations we settled for $210,000.
Our Actual Case:
Best Offer before Lawsuit: $20,000
After Filing Lawsuit: $65,000
Our client had a shoulder injury (rotator cuff tear). The liability insurer – who has since gone out of business – would not offer more than $20,000. We filed a lawsuit. After depositions and discovery, we settled for $65,000.
Our Actual Case:
Best Offer before Lawsuit: Zero
After Filing Lawsuit: $30,000
My client was injured at a supermarket. Unfortunately, the supermarket denied liability.
Thereafter, I sued. After I sued, the supermarket’s third party claims administrator called me. She offered to settle for $12,000. My injured client rejected it.
Months later, we settled for $30,000.
More likely to have to file lawsuit in Cruise Ship Injury Cases
Filing a lawsuit may more likely be required in a cruise ship injury cases because you only have 1 year to file a lawsuit. You should set up and work on your claim quickly. Bad injuries take time to heal. If you are badly injured, then you most likely will not be at Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) at approximately one (1) year after the date of the accident.
Many cruise lines, such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean, require that passengers file a lawsuit for personal injury in Federal court in Miami, regardless of where they were injured.
Completing your medical treatment is one of the big factors that may affect how long it may take to settle your case. You may not want to settle with the cruise line until you know the full extent of your injuries.
I co-counseled a case with an injury lawyer from a different law firm. Our client was badly injured. Her medical treatment lasted over a year. Our co-counsel filed the lawsuit before the year expired. The case settled during the lawsuit for $325,000.
6. Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is complicated
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage can be a very complicated area of injury law. Take a look at some of the UM settlements below and ask yourself whether you would have found UM coverage and thus received a UM settlement.
We discovered an extra $100,000 in UM Coverage that our client told us did not exist.
I settled a case for $325,000 for a man who had surgery to repair his broken lower leg (tibia). A driver hit our client while our client was a pedestrian in Coconut Grove, Miami-Dade County, Florida. Part of that settlement was for $100,000 in uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage that our client did not even know existed.
When our client hired me, he told me that he did not purchase uninsured motorist coverage when he rented the car. He was wrong. He did purchase UM coverage. I was able to discover the $100,000 in UM coverage and ultimately settle with the UM insurer for the $100,000 UM limits. We also discovered $200,000 in liability coverage. The total settlement of the case was for $325,000.
We discovered an extra $10,000 in UM Coverage that our client did not know about.
Our Actual Settlement: $210,000. Uninsured motorist insurance portion of the settlement: $10,000.
I recently settled a UM claim against Progressive. My client was hit by an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer (truck) that had $2,000,000 in liability insurance but had a self-funded retention of $250,000. I offered to settle for Progressive’s $10,000 uninsured motorist insurance limits.
The liability adjuster told me that our client was not entitled to UM coverage because the rear driver who hit by a client had sufficient liability insurance.
I argued that since the adverse dispatcher had a self-funded retention of $250,000, he was therefore was considered uninsured under Florida law. Therefore, my client was entitled to UM coverage. Progressive transferred this matter to another adjuster and settled the UM claim for $10,000.
7. Discover Insurance Of Which You are Unaware.
Our Actual Case: $200,000 settlement where I found an additional $1,000,000 in bodily injury liability coverage after I sent an affidavit to the adverse driver’s insurer. Before sending the affidavit, the at-fault driver’s insurer stated that there was only $100,000 in coverage and they were unaware of any additional coverage.
8. Work In An Attempt to Eliminate or Reduce liens.
There is a high likelihood that an injured person has to pay back their health insurance company if he or she settles. I’m also referring to paying back disability insurance companies.
Sometimes settling the case with the at fault party is just half the battle of achieving a settlement.
To better illustrate, let me give you an example.
I settled a slip and fall case for $300,000. My client slipped at Sedano’s Supermarket in Miami, Florida.
My client had long term disability (LTD) insurance through his employer. Prudential was the LTD insurer.
Prudential argued that it was entitled to recover the $50,000 or so that it paid in LTD benefits. That’s a lot of money!
We finally got Prudential to waive their lien (ask for nothing). This put another $50,000 in my client’s pocket. I do not charge a fee on lien reductions. Even if it takes me hours to get the lien reduced.
Attorney May Be Able to Get Medicaid HMO Liens Reduced
I’ve also gotten a Medicaid HMO (Molina) to reduce its lien by 30%.
In that case, my client was a passenger in a car. Another driver hit her.
The at fault driver tested positive for marijuana and Xanax. In other words, the police said that she was hit by an intoxicated driver.
Here is a photo of her after the crash.
She had a hip injury. Specifically, she had a acetabular fracture. Due to limited insurance, we settled her personal injury case for $33,000.
The passenger had Molina Medicaid. Molina paid some of her bills. Molina hired Equian to recover its payments from the settlement.
I wrote Equian a letter offering a fraction of the amount that it was claiming. Equian then lowered its demand by almost $500.
This put about $500 extra in my client’s pocket! That’s a two month car payment!
And I’m currently still negotiating for a bigger reduction.
Without an attorney, the injured passenger wouldn’t have got that discount.
Because he or she doesn’t get the benefit of an Medicaid HMO reducing its lien by attorney’s fees and costs.
The best part for the client?
She didn’t have to pay me a penny for reducing the lien.
Can you imagine if the lien would’ve been bigger? I would have saved her even more money.
9. Get you a one time exam by a doctor if you are uninsured.
A claims adjuster from Geico recently gave me a “final” offer of $10,000 in a case where my client was diagnosed with a herniated disc after a car hit him while he was riding a motorcycle. My client had testicle pain but he could not afford to see an urologist. We paid for a one time expert evaluation with an urologist, who diagnosed my client with erectile dysfunction (ED).
The case then settled for $100,000. Under Florida ethics rules, we are not allowed to pay for a client’s treatment, but we can pay for a one time independent medical examination.
10. You Don’t Have to Pay Costs Up Front.
Every injury lawyer that I know does not require their client to pay costs up front. I settled a case for $445,000 where I advanced costs of close to $3,000. We hired an accident reconstruction expert to reconstruct the accident. Many injured people do not have the money to invest in their case.
You are required to pay the attorney for costs at the end of the case. Every attorney (whom I know) is paid their attorney’s fees and costs before deduction of medical bills and other liens. Moreover, every attorney (that I know) doesn’t charge costs if the client does not recover money.
11. Some First Party Coverage Insurers Reduce for Attorney’s Fees, Costs and more.
When you settle your injury claim, you may be required to pay back a health insurer, Medicare or other first party plans or insurers for benefits which they have paid which arise from the accident. Some first party insurers or plans at a minimum have to reduce their alleged lien by your attorney’s fees and costs. Without an attorney, you will not get this benefit.
The law in regards to reimbursing a first party plan or insurer can be very complex.
12. Preserve Your Rights in the Settlement Release.
If the careless party or their insurance company settles your injury claim, they will want you to sign a release before paying you. The language of the release is very important, particularly if more than one party’s carelessness caused the crash.
You have the right to negotiate the language of the settlement release, although the liability insurer does not have to agree to your proposed language. If the insurer refuses to agree to reasonable settlement language, then the insurer may be on the hook for damages above its insured’s policy limits for failure to act in good faith.
Do not give up your valuable rights.
13. Many Child Injury Settlements Need Court Approval (So You Need a Lawyer Anyway)
If your minor child settles his or her personal injury case, the insurance company may require court approval. There is a filing fee in order to get court approval.
Did someone’s carelessness cause your injury in an accident in Florida, or on a cruise or boat?
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 2014 and has been completely revamped and updated.