When facing an accident claim, you might be tempted to handle the process on your own. Maybe it seems like an open-and-shut case, so why spend the money on an attorney?
The short answer is that yes, you certainly can handle your own accident claim. But should you? Before you decide, some things you should know:
- The accident claims process is far more complicated than it first appears. There are many rules and regulations governing accident claims (some of which we take a look at below).
- You will be facing a team of experienced insurance attorneys whose entire job is to pay you as little compensation as possible.
- If you make mistakes in the process, whether it be disposing of evidence or talking to the wrong person about your accident, you can jeopardize your claim for compensation. The system is not as forgiving as it might seem.
Handling your own accident claim is not something we believe you should try to do alone.
Let’s take a look at some of the mistakes accident victims often make when handling their own accident claims, as well as why you need a lawyer to handle the personal injury claim you’re facing.
If you’ve been injured in an accident and would like to speak with us about your situation, don’t hesitate to reach out for a free, confidential consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you won’t have to pay us unless and until we win your case.
1) Giving a Recorded Statement About Your Accident
By law, you are only required to give a statement to the police after an accident. Nevertheless, insurance companies will call you after you submit your claim and ask for a statement. While it might seem innocent enough, anything you say in this statement can be used against you.
Even if you never admit fault, you might accidentally say something that seems to contradict what you told the police or what you claim in court down the road. Claims adjusters are excellent at putting people in tricky situations during these recorded interviews, and even small inconsistencies can weaken your case.
Instead, when the insurance company contacts you, decline to have the call recorded and simply give your basic information: your name, phone number, and address.
2) Demands for Settlement (Too High or Too Low)
When pursuing a personal injury case, there are different types of damages that can be part of your final compensation amount. Medical bills (past and future), time off work, and pain and suffering are all areas that warrant close investigation and could contribute to how much you deserve to receive.
But sometimes, accident victims simply add up their medical bills and expenses and ask for that amount. While that certainly helps in covering bills, it might not be putting a fair value on other damages. You need to make sure you’re asking for an appropriate amount given what you have had to endure as a result of the accident.
At the same time, if you ask for too much you could be signaling that you aren’t willing to be reasonable. The point of receiving compensation is to cover your hard costs and help alleviate the burden of your situation; if it seems you have other motivations, it could work against you.
Ultimately, it’s about analyzing the strengths of your case and deciding on a plan of action based on those strengths. Once that’s understood and you can explain every dollar you’re asking for, you’ll be able to move forward with confidence.
3) Underestimating the Complexity of Accident Cases
Anyone who has attempted a do-it-yourself home project understands that things are often more complicated than they seem.
You just want to get your water heater working again without having to pay for a professional, but you end up spending countless hours with no progress – and maybe some busted knuckles – until you eventually give up and ask for help. If you get to that point without causing further damage, you’re a lucky one.
The same is true of handling your accident case.
There are also a lot of factors that go into crafting an airtight case, from correctly collecting and submitting evidence to making sure you don’t do something that could endanger your case, like posting about your accident on social media.
Generally speaking, the law can be extremely complicated, and personal injury cases are no different. That’s why lawyers like Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf, & Lathrop, P.C. exist. We help individuals who have been injured understand their claims for compensation and the laws surrounding those claims.
4) Negotiating Offers After the Accident with the Insurance Company
Claims adjusters are very crafty when it comes to how they present their offer to you. If you don’t know your rights and don’t understand how to defend yourself, it can be easy to be taken advantage of.
For example, if the insurance company thinks you have a legitimate case, they’ll typically offer you a settlement amount. This number might seem somewhat reasonable, and they will likely say it’s the best offer they can make.
But again, without an understanding of what you deserve under the law, coupled with a lack of experience handling accident claims, how do you know if it’s actually an acceptable offer?
If an insurance company is offering you a settlement, it’s because they know you have a case.
5) Receiving Fair Value for Personal Injury
So how much should you demand in compensation?
As discussed above, people often think only about the hard costs, like medical bills, the income you lost from being unable to work, and damaged property.
But the other negative effects on your life caused by the accident might also deserve compensation, including permanent physical impairment, loss of meaningful life experiences, or emotional damage (including anxiety, depression, and stress).
If you have lost any quality of life as a result of your accident, you might be able to pursue compensation for that loss.
6) Dealing with Health Insurance or Healthcare Liens
After an injury, it can be difficult to know how to manage your healthcare costs. In all likelihood, you’re watching medical bills stack up and you aren’t sure how you’ll pay for it all.
Of course, if others are found to be at fault for your injury, they (or their insurance company) will ultimately be responsible for paying your medical bills. But what do you do in the meantime?
You should start by saving all of your medical bills with your health insurance company and paying what you can in co-pays and deductibles. Not only will this ensure you get the treatment you need, but your health insurance will likely negotiate with your medical providers to get a reduced cost.
If you don’t have health insurance – or if it doesn’t cover enough – you might also be able to arrange a “treat now, bill later” agreement with your medical provider. With this agreement, they will file a medical lien on your claim to make sure they are paid for their services out of the compensation you receive.
That said, everyone’s situation is different, so it’s vital to understand the nuances to ensure you get the care you need now without hurting your case down the road.
7) Time Limits to Filing a Claim (Statute of Limitations)
As with most legal matters, there is a time limit under which you can pursue a claim for compensation. After that amount of time passes, you will be unable to file a claim.
In Nebraska, different kinds of personal injury cases have different time limits. For example, you have two years to file a claim for wrongful death while you have four years to file a claim for auto accidents.
At the same time, there are many stipulations around statute of limitations, including that, in some cases, the time limit doesn’t start immediately after an injury occurs but once it is realized.
This is important. Unfortunately, some people who are injured in an accident simply don’t realize the extent of it until later. It might seem small and inconsequential, but then become a more serious, nagging issue over time.
Again, working with an attorney is the only way to make sure you don’t violate the statute of limitations and put your ability to receive compensation at risk.
Get in Touch for a Free Strategy Session
At Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, we believe no one should have to pay for treatment after being injured because of somebody else’s negligence. We also don’t believe that anyone should go it alone. The stakes are simply too high and the legal matters are too complex.
If you think you have a case, please don’t hesitate to reach out as soon as possible to discuss the details of your situation. Please call (402) 241-5020 for a free consultation. We are also able to come to you to discuss your case if it would be more convenient.