A driver who has been injured through no fault of his or her own in an automobile collision often will be contacted by the insurance company for the at-fault party very soon after the accident occurs. The insurance adjuster will gather information about the individual’s injuries, and may make a settlement offer to quickly resolve the case. I have found that some injured people question why they need a personal injury lawyer to represent them with their claim when they have already established a relationship with the adjuster, may already have received an offer of compensation, and feel that they can simply deal with the insurance company on their own.
The areas of personal injury and insurance law can be very complex, and there are many facets of your case which the insurance company may not share with you in attempting to move toward a fast settlement. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to create a level playing field, and ensure that you have someone committed to making sure you receive a fair resolution of your claim.
What is an Insurance Settlement?
When you do reach a settlement in your case, the insurance company will require that you sign a release agreement. This agreement has the effect of preventing you from recovering damages for any injuries that you may experience the future, even if you did not know about or fully appreciate the significance of those injuries at the time of the settlement. Resolving your claim quickly without the assistance of a lawyer therefore tends to benefit the insurance company and potentially prevents you from realizing the full value of your claim.
An experienced personal injury lawyer is able to provide guidance as to the appropriate time and manner in which to attempt settlement negotiations with the insurance company, and whether evidence of future damages may be available in your case. In general, an injured party may want to pursue settlement only after the full extent of the injuries is understood, and perhaps not until after all medical treatment has concluded. If you’ve been injured, it’s vital to take legal action immediately. If some or all of your injuries are subjective in nature or otherwise difficult to definitively link to the accident, the insurance company often will see this as an opportunity to avoid responsibility for these damages and decline to consider them at all. This is where an attorney experienced in explaining your injuries and making the case for the necessary medical “causation” is essential.
A lawyer is also able to ensure that you claim all of the damages that you are entitled to recover under Virginia law. Most people understand that if they have been injured and they were not at fault, the insurance company for the other driver is generally responsible for paying their medical bills. But there are other items of damage that the injured, not-at-fault party may be entitled to claim in his or her case, such as: bodily injury, physical pain and mental suffering, inconvenience, disfigurement, lost earnings, and loss of earning capacity. Typically the insurance company will not volunteer all of these categories of damages to you in the course of negotiations. It is important to consult with an attorney who can carefully evaluate your case for each of these items which may be claimed, and compile and present the evidence accordingly.
The Recorded Statement
A diligent personal injury lawyer will provide guidance to you throughout the course of your claim as to what is and is not required of you, and the impact that various actions can have on the outcome of your case. For example, often the insurance company will ask to take a recorded statement from you in the days or weeks following the collision. You are not required to provide this statement, and generally there is little to no benefit to you in doing so. The reason is that the insurance company will keep the recorded statement on file, and if you made any comment that is arguably detrimental to your claim, they may try to use this against you in future proceedings.
Another example of how an experienced personal injury attorney can help to maximize your recovery is in the difficult work of finding and pursuing all available insurance. Simply identifying which insurance company covers the at-fault driver is only the first step in this analysis. Critical to undertaking meaningful negotiations is knowing the amount of coverage, or the limits of liability, of the defendant’s insurance policy. The insurance company is required to disclose this information upon receipt of certain information set forth by Virginia statute which your attorney can compile and submit.
Your Medical Expense Benefits
Often there are additional sources of insurance coverage which will not necessarily be volunteered to you without asking the right questions. You may have coverage on your own automobile policy which will be responsible for your damages if the at-fault party is either uninsured or does not carry enough insurance to fully cover the extent of your injuries. You also may have a separate type of coverage, called medical expense benefits or “Med Pay,” which will reimburse you for your accident-related medical expenses independently of the claim for those same expenses you make against the defendant’s insurance carrier. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be sure that no stone is left unturned in identifying any potential sources of insurance coverage.
I believe that one of the most important but perhaps under-appreciated benefits in hiring a personal injury attorney is that you will have the assurance and peace of mind that someone is fully dedicated to your best interests in the resolution of your case, so that you can devote your time and energy to recovering from your injuries and moving on with your life.
The law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen has been representing injured Virginia’s for over 100 years. The insurance companies know that if they do not make a reasonable settlement offer in light of all the evidence, our attorneys are prepared to go to court to obtain the recovery that is fair for our client in his or her case. If you have been injured through no fault of your own, hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer is the best way to ensure you will obtain full and fair compensation for your damages.
About the Author: David M. Irvine is an experienced trial attorney focusing his practice on personal injury law in the Allen & Allen office in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has handled cases involving car accidents, catastrophic injuries and wrongful death and has litigated cases across the Commonwealth on behalf of deserving clients. David has published on topics related to litigation in wrongful death cases and trial procedure, and regularly speaks on litigation topics.