Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for my Car Accident?
If you have been injured in a car crash, you may decide to navigate the insurance claim process yourself and negotiate your own settlement. However, there are a number of things to consider before doing so. Most importantly, your focus should be on your medical treatment and recovery from your injuries, not dealing with the insurance companies. Furthermore, chances are you will receive a greater settlement if you hire a personal injury lawyer.
Liability Carrier and PIP and UM/UIM Carrier
In a typical car accident claim scenario, there are at least two insurance companies involved: the other driver’s insurance company or “liability carrier” and your own insurance company or “PIP and UM/UIM carrier.” The liability carrier pays monetary damages to people injured by its insured driver’s wrongdoing (or “negligence”) up to the amount of the liability policy limits. In Oregon, all drivers are required to have a minimum of $25,000 in liability limits. This does not mean that every case will result in a settlement of $25,000 or more, only that Oregon law requires drivers to carry insurance that pays a maximum of $25,000 to certain injured people.
The other insurance company typically involved in a car crash claim is your own car insurer. Assuming you live in Oregon and obtained your car insurance while living in Oregon, your car insurance provides you with two important forms of coverage: PIP and UM/UIM. Personal Injury Protection, commonly called PIP, pays your medical bills and wage loss up to your PIP policy limits. In Oregon, all car insurance policies must provide a minimum of $15,000 in medical coverage for up to two years from the date of the crash. UM/UIM pays your monetary damages if you are injured by an uninsured motorist (“UM”) and it may pay underinsured motorist (“UIM”) benefits if the other driver’s policy limits are insufficient to compensate you for your injuries.
Communications with Liability Carrier and PIP and UM/UIM Carrier
It is likely that both insurance companies will contact you for information about the crash, your injuries, and your medical treatment. One or both of the carriers may ask you to give a recorded statement—you will be asked questions and both the questions and your answers will be recorded and transcribed into a written document. The statement can be used against you in future legal proceedings regarding your claims. An attorney can advise you whether to give a statement, help you prepare to give a statement, and participate in the statement to instruct you not to answer objectionable questions. The liability carrier may also ask you to sign a medical record release authorization. The liability carrier has no right to this information prior to a settlement demand being made. A personal injury lawyer is best equipped to decide when and what information a liability carrier should receive.
Your PIP carrier may arrange for you to attend an independent medical examination or “IME” with a doctor they choose. If you attend the IME, the doctor will write a report containing an opinion regarding whether your ongoing medical treatment is reasonable and necessary as a result of the car accident. If the doctor concludes that it is not, the PIP carrier will likely cut off benefits and stop paying your medical bills. An attorney can advise you whether to attend a PIP IME.
The liability carrier may quickly try to negotiate a settlement with you by offering a paltry sum such as $500.00 or $750.00 when your case may be worth significantly more. This is perhaps the most important reason to retain a personal injury attorney. Personal injury attorneys are experienced in evaluating cases, which means they know the monetary value of a wide range of different injury claims. An attorney will negotiate with the liability carrier to obtain the maximum recovery for an injured client. Most personal injury lawyers are paid on a contingent fee basis, which means that they are only paid if they recover money for their clients. The attorney is paid out of their client’s settlement, and amount they are paid is a percentage of the total amount they recover related to their client’s claims. Even after the attorney receives his or her percentage of the recovery, an injured party is far more likely to end up with more money than if that party had negotiated directly with the insurance company.
Do I need a Lawyer for my Car Accident Claim?
The benefits of having a personal injury attorney advise you from the very beginning of the claim process far outweigh the risks involved with handling it yourself. You are far more likely to obtain a more favorable outcome with an attorney on your side. Again, your focus should be on recovering from your injuries, not the hassle of the claims process. Let a professional deal with the insurance companies. In the end, it will likely result in less stress for you and more money in your pocket.
The Rosenbaum Law Group has assisted thousands of injured people over its thirty years. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car crash, trucking accident, motorcycle crash, or while walking or riding your bike, call us today for a free consultation.