Share This Post
Should I Handle My Car Accident Case Myself? A Cautionary Example of Why You Should Hire an Experienced Injury Attorney.
Out firm recently received a telephone call from an upset woman who wanted help with her car accident case. She was calling our law firm as a prospective client seeking representation. She was at her wits’ end with the insurance company that was handling her car accident claim. She communicated that she had decided to handle her car accident claim herself and believed she was being jerked around by the insurance company. As she explained her situation, it became clear that she had made a mess of her car accident claim.
Her car accident claim could have resulted in a substantial settlement. However, since she did not know how best to present her claim to the insurance company and what steps to follow—she was receiving a very low settlement offer. The settlement offer that the insurance company was offering was not unreasonable based upon the treatment she received and the way she presented her claim. The client, who was utterly inexperienced, was being entirely unreasonable with her expectations.
What Type of Person Can Handle Their Car Accident Claim by Themself?
Unless you are an experienced personal injury attorney or an insurance adjuster who has handled car accident claims, you should not handle your car accident claim by yourself. Typically, our firm encounters two types of individuals that attempt to handle their injury claims themselves. The first type of person is someone who is simply cheap.
…the attorney will obtain a settlement amount that nets the client the same amount or more than if that person tried to handle the claim without an attorney.
These people are so concerned that a personal injury attorney is going to earn a fee—that they elect to avoid this by handling their own car accident claim. However, these individuals fail to realize that a skilled car accident attorney will pay for himself. In other words, the attorney will obtain a settlement amount that nets the client the same amount or more than if that person tried to handle the claim without an attorney. Why would anyone want to deal with the stress and hassle of presenting a car accident claim if they could hire someone else to do it and receive the exact same amount or more? Anyone with common sense would not.
The second type of person that tries to handle their car accident claim themselves is someone who is educated, organized and believes they can do it. This person often believes that they are as smart if not smarter than a personal injury attorney. While this may or may not be true, it does not matter. Intelligence is not the same as experience. When it comes to handling car accident and personal injury claims, it is not necessarily the intelligence of the attorney as much as it is the experience.
…the handling of a personal injury or car accident claim begins immediately after the crash.
These individuals typically waste hours upon hours trying to learn how to present and handle their injury claim. However, these efforts are typically too little, too late. What these individuals fail to appreciate is that the handling of a personal injury or car accident claim begins immediately after the crash. It is not simply the presentation of the claim, it is the actions of the injured individual from the moment of the car accident or injury-causing event to the final settlement.
Why Won’t the Insurance Company Pay Me More for My Car Accident Case?
In the cautionary example of the woman who recently called our office, she was the second type of individual. She was very educated. In fact, she had several higher-level degrees. She was self-employed and owned her own business serving as a business consultant. She was very organized, intelligent and well-spoken.
She called explaining that she was rear-ended on the freeway at a high rate of speed approximately ten weeks ago. Her car was totaled. Law enforcement came to the scene. She went to the chiropractor the day following the crash. She had five chiropractic treatments since the car accident. Her chiropractic bill was $1,875. She had been in a rental car since the crash. The insurance company for the at-fault driver was Progressive.
She complained that she had sent Progressive a demand letter with her chiropractic bills and records but only received an offer of $2,400. She explained that in her letter she demanded payment of $30,000. This number was made up of $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses and $25,000 in pain and suffering. She thought that she had received a low offer because perhaps she failed to list each chiropractic appointment she attended individually in her letter.
Unfortunately, we gave her a reality check. We explained that the low offer had nothing to do with the presentation of her injury claim in her letter. Instead, the low offer had everything to do with all the missteps she made following the crash.
What Do I Need to Do to Receive the Most Money for My Car Accident Claim?
With respect to car accident claims, insurance companies have a preferred course of medical treatment that they expect to see following a crash. The failure to follow this course of treatment will result in a lower injury settlement. Worse yet, the failure to follow this course of treatment may lead an insurance company to believe you are presenting a fraudulent claim.
With respect to the woman who called our office, she sought out chiropractic treatment following the crash. When we asked her about why she went to a chiropractor and this specific one, she stated that she had pain in her neck and saw the chiropractor’s business card at an auto-body shop. Unfortunately, chiropractors are not always regarded as legitimate medical providers by the insurance companies. Insurance companies tend to think less of chiropractors than they do of medical doctors and physical therapists. In the eyes of the insurance companies, chiropractors may even be thought of as quacks or insurance fraudsters.
In addition, the chiropractor charges she presented were over $375 per visit. The chiropractor was also treating her on a lien. When a chiropractor treats on a lien and does not bill health insurance, this signals to an insurance company that the claim may be suspect.
Insurance companies only have a responsibility to reimburse injured individuals for reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred.
Moreover, a charge of $375 per appointment is completely unreasonable. Insurance companies only have a responsibility to reimburse injured individuals for reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred. We explained to her, that based upon our experience, the charges for a chiropractic appointment should be half that amount at most. As such, the auto insurance company was likely valuing her medical expenses at around $900-1,000 and then offering an additional $1,400-1,500 in pain and suffering. This amount for pain and suffering would not be unusual for only going to five chiropractic appointments.
We then explained to the woman that we could not take her case at this point based upon what she had done following the crash. Specifically, the mistakes she made in getting medical treatment. She broke down and began crying when we told her this. Feeling sorry for her, we told her that we would assist her the best we could and make ourselves available to answer her questions as she continued on with her car accident claim by herself.
Am I Entitled To Having All My Rental Car Expenses Reimbursed Following a Car Accident?
To make the situation worse for the woman, she had also incurred an enormous rental car bill. She had been in a rental car for ten weeks following the crash and had accrued a rental bill of several thousand dollars! We asked her why she had not resolved her property damage claim sooner despite being offered a property damage settlement. She advised that she was waiting to resolve everything at one time. In other words, she was waiting to resolve her bodily injury claim at the same time as her property damage claim.
This was a major mistake. The insurance company for an at-fault party only has a responsibility to reimburse necessary and reasonable expenses incurred. This includes rental car expenses. An injured person has a duty to mitigate damages. This is legal jargon that means an injured party has a duty to minimize the expenses an at-fault party or their insurance company must pay.
The insurance company for an at-fault party only has a responsibility to reimburse necessary and reasonable expenses incurred.
In the above situation, since the insurance company had offered to pay for her totaled vehicle, she should have accepted it. The insurance company had offered a fair property damage settlement shortly after the crash. Instead of accepting it and buying a new vehicle, she elected to remain in a rental car for an additional two months. The woman had completely failed to minimize her damages. There was no way now that the insurance company would pay the entire rental bill—nor should it have to.
The reason that this happened was because the woman did not hire an experienced injury attorney. We would have told her that a property damage settlement is separate from a bodily injury claim and that she should resolve that as soon as possible. We would have explained her duty to mitigate damages and walked her through this process. However, since she decided to go at it alone, she had created a situation where she was going to end up losing several thousand dollars as a result of the car accident. Had she hired our law firm and one of our experienced personal injury attorneys, she would have ended up with several thousand dollars in her pocket instead.
Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney to Handle Your Car Accident Claim
If you or someone you care about was injured in a car accident, seek out the advice and expertise of a skilled personal injury attorney. The attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers, LLC are available now to discuss your case. A consultation is free and at no charge. Our attorneys can perform the consultation by phone. Contact us today.
About the author: The content on this page was provided by Scottsdale personal injury attorney and civil rights lawyer Tony Piccuta. Piccuta graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana (Previously Ranked Top 35 US News & World Report). Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He actively practices throughout Arizona and California. He is a trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is a member of the Arizona Association of Justice, Maricopa County Bar Association, Scottsdale Bar Association, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project and Consumer Attorneys of California, among other organizations.
Disclaimer: The information on this web site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information on this page is attorney advertising. Reading and relying upon the content on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact our law firm for a free consultation and to discuss your specific case and issues.