Friday, April 17, 2015

Do I Need a Lawyer to File a Personal Injury Claim?

After an accident, injuries are not only expected, but also very common. Of course, the severity of said injuries will vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the accident, but for the most part, injured people just want to recover not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and financially as well. Whether you’ve got a jammed finger or a herniated disc, as the victim of someone else’s negligence, it’s much more difficult to willingly pay out of your own pocket for medical evaluation and treatment. You didn’t ask for these injuries—why should you be the one struggling to afford the necessary treatment? Unfortunately, there’s yet to be a valid answer for that question.

It happens a lot—innocent people who suffer losses due to the negligent (and sometimes intentional) actions of another entity and are then expected to continue comfortable living without some form of compensation. So how do these wrongfully injured people recover? By making a first or third-party insurance claim and reaching a settlement with the insurance provider. Of course, if a proposed settlement offer is insufficient, you may consider taking the case to court. In that case, a personal injury lawyer would be a very beneficial asset for your team.

Without insurance, wrongfully injured people would have a very difficult time getting compensated for their injuries. That’s because compensatory damages can easily total up to the price of a brand new car for the liable party. The total of these damages is calculated based on medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more which arose from your accident. In this day and age, an at-fault wrongdoer is quite unlikely to have multiple thousands of dollars in hand to pay for the injuries they’ve caused. That is unless of course a very wealthy person has injured you, in which case paying out of pocket would have a miniscule effect on their wallet (or business) when compared to the average citizen living paycheck to paycheck.

Car insurance providers in most states (called “tort” states) take fault into consideration when dealing with medical-related claims. For example, an injured party (claimant) would make a third-party insurance claim with the at-fault party’s provider and would then be compensated through the Bodily Injury Liability provision. However, this can be a very long process since determining negligence after an accident takes time and can involve tedious investigation. Insurance companies will fight tooth and nail to avoid paying out a beefy settlement to anyone. Claimants grow financially desperate since it can take so long before a settlement offer is brought forth by the insurance company. For that reason, many will accept any amount of compensation offered to them—even if it barely covers their medical expenses. That means a great deal of missing out and an even greater deal of future stress.

In Florida, however, there are certain laws which make it a “no-fault” state. That means fault is not taken into consideration when dealing with claims. These states aim to make medical recovery after an accident as quick and easy as possible by eliminating the need to determine fault before receiving coverage. Instead of trying to investigate the accident, insurance providers simply cover their own insured customers. Note that this “no-fault” rule only applies to personal injuries and in no way affects the workings of property damage claims. Instead of making a claim on the at-fault party’s Bodily Injury Liability policy like you would in a “tort” state—in a “no-fault” state, you’d want to make a first-party insurance claim on your own Personal Injury Protection policy which covers any damages that you have received in an accident, regardless of their origin.

“What if I don’t have PIP coverage?”

You certainly should! In any state (with New Hampshire being a minor exception), the motor vehicle you’re driving must be insured—it’s the law. In the “no-fault” state of Florida, one of the two insurance provisions you’re required to have at the very least is known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP). With that said, any Florida driver that is insured (as they should be) will have PIP on their policy. Just like any other insurance provision, you can pay a higher premium for more PIP coverage. In general, however, most drivers carry the bare minimum they can legally get away with--$10,000 in coverage. That means if you’re driving and wind up in an accident—regardless of fault—your own insurance provider will cover a minimum of $10,000 of your accrued medical expenses. All you have to do is make a claim and wait it out.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “1, 2, 3” to make a personal injury claim and receive all or even any of the compensation you’re expecting. As insurance companies continually “smarten up” over the years (and learn how to further swindle us consumers), it has become increasingly difficult to make a claim and successfully receive coverage or compensation in good faith. Like it or not, just like you and me, everyone out there is doing their best to save a few bucks. Trust me when I say that insurance companies share the same mindset. By offering considerably inadequate settlements or unnecessarily elongating already frivolous trials, all of those greedy insurance companies effectively profit off the desperation of wrongfully injured victims of negligence. Knowing that, making a PIP claim might start to sound like a daunting task to tackle on your own. That’s where a personal injury attorney comes in good use.

Why is having a personal injury attorney’s help a good idea?

Making a PIP claim is not something you do every day. It’s likely that you don’t have a rhythm to follow, any previous experiences to reference, or even a clear idea as of what steps to take first. For all of those reasons, having a lawyer on your side to help file your claim is a good idea, but it doesn’t stop there. If you’re offered to settle for a certain amount, it could sound great on paper. Show that same settlement offer to an experienced personal injury attorney and they could inform you that the offer is significantly lower than what you should be getting. If that is the case, the mere presence of a lawyer working your claim could be enough to deter the insurance company from utilizing any bad faith insurance practices. However, if an insurance provider is proving to be exceptionally stubborn, the claim may have to be taken to court for litigation. Do you have the ability to litigate on your own behalf in a court of law up against some of the biggest insurance providers in the nation? Some other reasons that retaining a lawyer would be useful are:

There’s no financial risk. Since we work on a contingency basis—meaning us getting paid is dependent on you winning your case—you have no financial obligation upfront. If you hire an attorney to help on your case and end up losing, you’ve lost nothing in theory. Only when you win your case or agree to a settlement offer will you be required to pay your attorney for his or her services. At Dolman Law Group, this is known as our “no recovery, no fee” promise. 

 It could speed up your claims process tenfold. When an intimidating and aggressive lawyer is lurking nearby, insurance companies cower. Since they aren’t interested in lengthy trials either, they’ll often act in good faith with a generous settlement offer just to put the case to rest. This is one of the biggest benefits of hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to assist you with your personal injury claim. 

It will often yield a greater amount of compensation in the long run than accepting a half-hearted settlement would. If a case goes to trial, there’s no telling what verdict a plaintiff will receive. The insurance company could propose a $5,000 settlement offer that you turn down. After taking them to court and receiving a jury verdict, you could walk out with a far greater amount. This is especially common when punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff on top of compensatory damages. These damages are awarded when the at-fault party expressed gross negligence (an unacceptable amount of lack of care), or acted intentionally.

Do you want to speak with a lawyer today?

At Dolman Law Group, we fully understand how stressful it can be to handle a claim on your own. Additionally, the more severe your injuries are, the harder it can be to put a finger on how much compensation you deserve. Most injured parties will be unable to place an accurate estimate on their injuries. How can you avoid lowball settlement offers if you have no idea how much your case is worth? Even with the internet being replete with resources that can help you determine how much your lawsuit is worth, it can still yield very inaccurate estimates that—in the end—leave you with just as much pain and suffering as you started with.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation. If you’d like to get in touch with a lawyer today for a free case evaluation and consultation, don’t hesitate to do so. For more information, feel free to give us a call at 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900