Are You Comfortable With the Law and the Settlement Process?
If you handle your own case, you will need to have a good understanding of the legal underpinnings of your claim as well as the settlement process. Receiving a fair amount in the settlement may involve savvy negotiation skills combined with knowledge of both the statutory laws and case law. Some injury cases are highly complex. For example, if you were injured by a defective product or by what you believe was medical negligence, you may need the help of experts in order to uncover the evidence that you will need to prove your claim. Auto accidents may require accident reconstruction, witness interviews and a solid understanding of physics. You’ll also need to be able to decipher your own medical records so that you can appropriately value your claim. Most importantly, if the insurance company is offering an amount of money that you feel is inadequate to fully compensate you for present and future medical expenses, lost income, property damage, physical pain and emotional distress, you have but one option: File a lawsuit! Insurance companies know that filing suit in court and litigating the claim is not something that can easily be done by an individual without a lawyer. This is why people represented by counsel will get better offers prior to filing suit. By the time most people realize this reality, it can be too late. In California, you have only TWO YEARS from the date of most personal injury accidents to file a lawsuit in court or lose any right to recovery under the "statute of limitations" (NOTE: it can even be a shorter deadline depending upon different factors!) In addition, filing a lawsuit is not as simple as just sending the initial paperwork into the court. You have to then personally serve the lawsuit on the party(ies) at fault at which time their insurance company will provide them with a lawyer to defend the claim. You then have to attend court hearings, send and respond to "discovery requests" (written demands for information that must be responded to in a proper format and in a timely manner), take or defend oral depositions (questions asked of you by the attorney for the other party under oath in front of a certified court reporter) and, if necessary, conduct a mediation, arbitration or trial. This is very difficult if not impossible to do on your own.
If you are not comfortable with doing these things, consulting with a personal injury attorney is in order. An attorney who is experienced with personal injury cases may be better-equipped to value your claim. Your case’s worth will include all of your economic and non-economic losses. Insurance companies often do not volunteer offers that include money for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium and others, on their own. An attorney may be able to negotiate the recovery for both your economic losses as well as your more intangible ones.