You don't need a lawyer to help with routine car accident claims, if you take a little time to educate yourself about the claims system. The key is to figure out which cases you can settle yourself, and which require a lawyer. Before you decide whether to settle your own claim, think about these five things.
1. Is fault contested in your case, or do the other driver and their insurance company admit that the other driver caused the accident?
Where fault for a car accident is contested, if you cannot prove that the other driver caused the accident, you will lose and recover nothing. So, you cannot take a chance on this. If there is going to be a fight over fault, especially if that fight will be waged in a court that applies the technical rules of evidence, then there is too much at stake for you to go it alone, and you need a car accident lawyer's help.
2. How much are your out-of-pocket expenses for such things as medical bills and lost income?
You might be comfortable settling your own claims if your out-of-pocket expenses are $2,000, $3,000 or $5,000, but you might not want to handle your own claims if these out-of-pocket expenses are $15,000 or $20,000 or more. You have to decide at what level your case is too big to handle yourself, and your personal choking point may be higher or lower than these figures.
3. How seriously were you injured and how long did it take you to recover?
If you had a serious injury such as a broken bone or a herniated disk that affected you for a long time, and especially if you have a permanent injury that will haunt you the rest of your life, you have a potentially large claim and should hire a lawyer to present it professionally.
These last two questions are different ways of saying that the larger your claim and the more that is at stake, the smarter it is to have a professional on your side. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the case, the harder the other side resists the claim. Learn more about car accident claim value.
Here's another way to think about it. You wouldn't do surgery on yourself, but you would definitely treat a small cut or a bruise or some other minor injury. The same is true with legal claims. There are many claims that you can handle yourself if you learn how, but it would be foolish to handle large claims yourself.
4. Are you going to court?
If you have to take your case to court, and you cannot use an alternative dispute resolution such as the consumer-friendly small claims court, you need a lawyer who knows the court rules. That way you give yourself a fair chance to win and ensure that your legal rights are protected.
5. Are you willing to invest 5 to 10 hours learning how to settle car accident claims, and then actually presenting your claim?
You can probably learn all you need to know about settling routine claims in about 2 or 3 hours. Then, you will have to spend some time actually handling and settling your claim. The amount of time required varies from case to case, but it would probably be about 5 to 10 hours.
If you simply do not want to spend that much time, hire a lawyer and turn your case over to her early so she will have time to do her thing. But if you want to try to settle your own claim, go for it. You can always change your mind later and hire a lawyer if you get into the process and your feet get a little cold.
Settling your own claim is do-able, and it is profitable. Lawyers typically charge a legal fee equal to 1/3 of your recovery (and perhaps even more), so settling your own $10,000 case, for example, can put more than $3,000 extra dollars in your pocket. Not bad for 7 to 10 hours of work. Of course, it your case is too serous or you are not comfortable settling it yourself, turn it over to a lawyer. Two-thirds of something is better than all of nothing!