Can An Injured Person Even Afford An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney?
Yes, personal injury attorneys do not require money upfront. If they do, then you are with the wrong attorney. Personal injury attorneys work on contingency, which means that I am not going to require any money from you. If we win, then that is when I get my fee. The reason for this is that someone who has just been in a serious accident doesn’t have a lot of extra money floating around to pay an attorney and to do a major investigation. Experts are required right away, which is why you need to see an attorney, and particularly someone who only practices personal injury law.
The right attorney is going to be able to spend the money that you need right away to make your claim as strong and thorough as possible, through videos, investigations, life care planning, and medical experts. That is why you hire an attorney immediately.
Misconceptions About Working With A Personal Injury Attorney
The biggest misconception is the idea that you are doing something wrong when you retain an attorney. This is an idea that has been put forth by the insurance industry to protect themselves. As it is in their financial interest to do so, the insurance industry uses psychological tactics to try to keep people from making claims. For example, how often have you heard that you are “in good hands”? Or that the insurance company is “like a good neighbor”? The insurance industry has also been known to fund front groups that put out media releases to send a message to potential jurors that all personal injury cases are fake or have some kind of conspiracy behind them. For instance, how often have you heard about the old lady that got millions of dollars for spilling a little coffee on herself? (She didn’t.)
All of these major companies put out information that essentially tells you the average middle-class person that has been in an accident- not to make a claim and that if you do, then you are the cheater.
These insurance companies are like big banks that are run by mathematicians called actuaries. Back in the 1990s, these actuaries hired a bunch of Wall Street consultants from McKinsey & Company, whose key role in creating a strategy for insurance companies to either pay low claim settlements or avoid payments altogether is well-documented. In the words of former Allstate agent Shannon Katz, McKinsey’s strategy was to make claims “so expensive and so time-consuming that lawyers would start refusing to help clients.”[i] BusinessWeek reported that this strategy was dubbed “Good Hands or Boxing Gloves” by McKinsey consultants, indicating that those policyholders who accepted lower settlement offers were in “in good hands,” while those who fought the offer should get Allstate’s “boxing gloves.” Perhaps former Allstate adjuster Jo Ann Katzman best summed up these types of tactics: “We were told to lie by our supervisors—it’s tough to look at people and know you’re lying.”
Putting it another way, McKinsey consultants realized that by delaying and denying claims, customers would become frustrated and would be unlikely to pursue their own claims by retaining an attorney. That is why major insurance companies handle their claims that way. Out of those that do pursue it, maybe another twenty percent will settle short, and never consult with an attorney.
Can You Handle An Injury Claim On Your Own?
PRO TIP: DO NOT GIVE A RECORDED STATEMENT
No, or at least I wouldn’t. One of the most important things to avoid is speaking with the insurance company on your own. Everything you say to the insurance company is recorded for the sole purpose of using it against you later on. Right after the accident, the insurance adjuster (the insurance company employee whose job is essentially to minimize the amount of money the insurance company pays out to you) calls the injured party up and is very nice. They are trained to be nice and show empathy to the person that is hurt, often saying things like “We will take care of this,” or “We’re sorry for what happened, we will work with you.” They leave you with the impression that it is all going to be okay if you just give them a recorded statement over the phone. They also know that none of their assurances to you are legally enforceable. Once they have your statement and are out of the hospital, they become more distant. When the medical bills come, it is suddenly very hard to get a hold of them. Eventually, you get a letter in the mail informing you of their decision, namely that the accident was your fault and that they are not going to pay. What happened to “taking care of it”? You think. Some “Good Hands” or “Good Neighbor”!
One good reason to hire an attorney is that the attorney can give statements over the phone to the insurance company without worrying about it being played back in court later on. So, the “Good Hands” people can record me all day long but it doesn’t do them any damn good because I am not a witness that is going to testify in court.
For motor vehicle accidents, probably about seventy percent of them are rear-ending types of accidents. In a rear-ender, liability is fairly clear. (Liability is just a legal term for who is at fault.) Even when liability is clear, however, the insurance company will fight you on damages. They may say things like, “Plaintiff so-and-so, that’s fine that you were rear-ended, but we don’t think it’s a major impact [which cannot be proven without an investigation], and we think you were already hurt because you have a degenerative condition or prior injury.”
Remember, anybody that is over thirty has a degenerative condition called life. Insurance companies will always use that against you. The adjuster is trained to say, “We’ll take care of it, just get the treatment that you need.” But then when it becomes known that you have a degenerative condition, and you ask them to pay, their tune changes. All of a sudden, they say, “I am sorry, Plaintiff. We can’t pay you for all of the medical treatment because you have a prior degenerative condition. Sorry.” Now it is too late to collect your evidence, isn’t it?
To recap, it is important to focus on your recovery and not to try to handle everything on your own. This is especially important to remember when dealing with an insurance company, as it has been shown that their primary interest is not in you, but in the bottom line. Your attorney will be able to conduct a proper and thorough investigation and build your case, as well as speak to the insurance company without fear of being recorded or saying the wrong thing.
For more information on Affording An Experienced PI Attorney, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (815) 495-5598 today.
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