When a motor vehicle collision results in serious injury, victims (and family members in the event of a loved one’s death) need to understand their right to recover financial compensation from the driver whose negligence caused the wreck. Unfortunately, too many people don’t know the laws and don’t pursue a claim for the monetary damages they are entitled to. Other victims may accept a settlement offer from the insurance company and end up getting less money than they deserve.
Hiring counsel can help victims avoid these problems, as an attorney can provide advice about legal options and can help victims pursue a claim for compensation. While not every victim who should hire a lawyer actually retains one, a study from the Insurance Research Council (IRC) shows an increase in the number of people who seek help from a professional.
According to the IRC:
- The percentage of auto injury claimants who are represented by attorneys rose from 31 percent of PIP (personal injury protection) claimants in 2007 to 36 percent of claimants in 2012. This is more than double the number of people who were represented by an attorney in 1977.
- The percentage of bodily injury claimants with an attorney also increased slightly from 49 percent in 2007 to 50 percent in 2012. This number has held relatively steady, with 47 percent having an attorney in 1977.
It is good news that more people are hiring a lawyer because having legal representation seems to make a difference in the quality of care that crash victims receive. The study showed that a victim who had a lawyer was more likely than someone without representation to receive treatment in a pain clinic. The victim with an attorney was also more likely to undergo an MRI than someone who had similar injuries but no lawyer.
Because the study was conducted by the Insurance Research Council, a negative spin was put on the data and the report suggested that the victims who hired lawyers waited longer for claim payments. Furthermore, the report also suggested that having a lawyer could make the process more adversarial.
The reality, however, is that clients may wait slightly longer to get paid in some cases because their lawyer is able to take the time to negotiate a settlement on their behalf. A victim could accept an insurance company’s first offer for compensation and get a check quickly, but this might not be enough money to fully cover all bills. Having a lawyer does not guarantee that you will get full and fair compensation, but at least you can be represented by a legal professional with knowledge of how to handle car accident claims who can give you advice on whether a settlement offer is fair.
It is also important to realize that it is not having a lawyer that can make the process of resolving a car accident claim more adversarial, but instead conflicts arise when an insurance company may be unwilling to make a reasonable offer to pay what you need after your car accident claim. Being represented by an attorney can help you understand your rights and negotiate on strong footing with the insurer and you shouldn’t hesitate to get help after a collision. Contact Howell & Christmas for your free consultation.