You may have heard many pejorative terms used to identify a personal injury attorney.
Some people find it a mystery how this happens after all, personal injury lawyers help people whom another person injured. So, why is their reputation so bad?
How Personal Injury Lawyers Get a Bad Rap
Some people feel personal injury lawyers are not in a positive profession.
However, much of the bad name attorneys get is from insurance industry lobbyists.
Insurance Companies and Their Profits
Every person who has ever filed an insurance claim understands the challenges they face. In large part, insurance companies will nickel and dime every claim. Typically, if you file an insurance claim, the insurance company will require you to submit three estimates of the costs necessary to ensure you are whole after an accident.
However, they may require multiple estimates and in nearly all cases, they will agree to settle for the “lowest” estimate. In some cases, such as a car accident, the difference is not worth fighting over.
This works a lot differently if you have suffered a serious injury in an accident that someone else caused. Some of this is because of how insurers make and retain their earnings. Customers, like you, pay a premium for insurance. Whether you pay monthly, quarterly, or annually, this improves the insurer’s bottom line. Paying claims means they are taking a hit to their bottom line.
Legal Obligation to Customers
In some states, such as Texas, a Consumer’s Bill of Rights dictates how an insurance company must protect its clients. They must address insurance claims promptly or face the repercussions of the consumer filing a complaint about their handling of the claim.
However, the bill of rights does not necessarily govern what tactics an insurance company may use to deal with claims. One of the reasons why an insurance company may offer an immediate settlement without a lot of back and forth is because they know the sooner they pay a claim, the less they may have to pay.
Remember, the insurance company primarily wants to preserve its profits. That means if they can settle a claim quickly, for less than they might have to pay after a protracted fight, then they will consider that a win. This is why insurers often scorn personal injury lawyers.
Insurers and Personal Injury Lawyers
You may be wondering how the information we provided above relates to how an insurance company views personal injury lawyers.
Let’s stop and consider the difference between hiring an attorney versus filing a claim on your own.
- Your rights under Texas law – you may be unaware of your rights under Texas law following an accident. Insurance company adjusters are aware of this and will use it to their advantage. If you hire an attorney, they will be there to protect your rights.
- Testing the settlement offer – insurance companies do not evaluate claims based on the person who suffered an injury. In fact, they typically use a program called Colossus to calculate the amount they will offer. In most cases, this will be what the insurer tells you will be their “best” offer. A personal injury lawyer knows the initial settlement offer is seldom the best and always will be lower than what you might be entitled to.
- Negotiating with insurers – if you try to negotiate with an insurance company on your own, they will likely drown you in paperwork or simply stick with their original offer. This is unlikely to occur with a personal injury attorney involved because they will issue a settlement demand to the company immediately after determining your losses.
These are some reasons why an insurance company prefers to deal directly with an accident victim versus dealing with a personal injury lawyer.
How Lawyers Calculate Your Losses
Unlike an insurance company, which prefers to use a piece of software to calculate how much money to pay on a claim, a personal injury lawyer looks at the entire picture.
Some of the factors an attorney may consider which insurers will not consider include:
- Family situation – when your personal injury lawyer reviews your case, they will ask whether you are married, have children, or serve as the primary caregiver for anyone. This will help them determine your overall financial needs.
- Your health – in addition to asking for information about the injury you suffered during an accident, the attorney will want to know about your health before the accident. This is important the only way to determine the long-term impact of your injuries on your health is to understand your health situation before the accident.
- Your employment – your personal injury lawyer will ask you about the specific tasks you performed, your wages, benefits, and other bonus payments you may normally be entitled to as part of your work.
- Your financial status – if you are normally the usual primary breadwinner at home, your attorney will want to know that as well. Even if your home has two incomes, this will be important information.
You may wonder why your personal injury attorney wants this much information. The reasons are not as complicated as you may think. While the insurance company has a vested interest in paying as little as possible on your claim, your lawyer is fighting to get you the maximum compensation you may be entitled to collect.
How Lawyers Use Information They Gather
Your lawyer’s goal is to make sure you are not suffering financially after an accident that was not your fault. They will be required to obtain a thorough evaluation of your injury, determine the value of wages you will lose because of your injury, and determine what future losses could result from your injury. The more serious the injury, the more significant the impact on your overall financial status.
This information is important because not everyone recovers fully from an injury they suffered in an accident. The initial costs associated with your injury include an evaluation at the emergency room, tests that may be run to evaluate your physical condition, and your follow-up visits may only be the beginning, particularly if you have suffered a serious injury.
The Long-Term Costs of Accident Injuries
The injury a victim suffers in a car accident varies depending on:
- Vehicle sizes – someone who is involved in a car accident with a small car is likely to suffer a lesser injury than someone involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer.
- The speed at the time of the crash – the faster the vehicles are traveling at the time of the impact, the more serious the injuries a victim will likely suffer.
- Age of victim – a younger victim will often not face as long a recovery time as an older victim. This is because they are often in better physical condition. However, the younger the victim, the longer they will have to live with the long-term consequences of their injury.
Accident victims should always reach out to a personal injury lawyer after an accident in which they suffer injuries. While an insurance company will focus on the “industry norm” for your injuries, your attorney will take the time to investigate thoroughly and decide how much compensation to seek based on your specific circumstances.
Working With a Personal Injury Lawyer
Victims often don’t seek assistance from an attorney after an accident because of the cost of legal representation. In some cases, when you initially contact your insurance company, they may recommend you not hire an attorney and cite costs as the primary reason.
However, you must understand a couple of facts about personal injury law and how to handle cases before you make a final decision.
Accident Victim Consultation With Attorney
Almost every personal injury law firm will offer you a free consultation. During this consultation, the attorney will want to know the circumstances of the accident that resulted in your injury. They may also inquire as to whether you have photos, sought medical care, and what other steps you took following an accident including reporting the accident to the insurance company.
Following a Personal Injury Lawyer Consultation
Once a consultation has been completed, the attorney will generally advise you of what options you have available to you to pursue compensation for your injuries. The attorney will tell you the pros and cons of each approach so you understand the risks and benefits of each avenue open to you.
Deciding to Pursue a Legal Case
When a victim decides to pursue a legal case, a personal injury lawyer will not ask you to pay any legal fees upfront. This is because they work on a contingency fee. This is good news for accident victims. They are often suffering financial issues because they are out of work recovering from their injuries.
Never let the inability to pay for legal representation dissuade you from seeking help from a qualified personal injury lawyer.
How Personal Injury Lawyers Get Paid
Your attorney will handle all negotiations with the insurance company. If the attorney receives any communication from the insurer offering a settlement, they will share it with you because no attorney has the right to decide on your behalf regarding a settlement. Even though you hired a lawyer, you have complete control over the final settlement. Your lawyer will advise you of the pros and cons of each amount, and help you make the right decision.
Only after you have accepted a settlement will your attorney be paid for the work they did on your case. The attorney will take a percentage of the amount of the settlement an insurance company offers, or if you have had to go to court, a percentage of the final judgment.
When to Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Any car accident victim should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon after an accident as possible.
The reasons include:
- Focus on your recovery – you want to take the time to allow yourself to heal from your injury. To do this, you have to focus your attention on your recovery. Telephone calls from insurance company adjusters will likely take up a lot of time, and add a lot of stress, impeding your recovery. If you hire a lawyer immediately, they can handle all these calls on your behalf.
- Insurance companies know you mean business – when your attorney handles the negotiations from the beginning, they also know that an attorney is less likely to settle for the full amount of your losses. In most cases, this means they will not lowball any offers to settle your claim.
- A willingness to go to court – hiring a lawyer shows the insurer immediately that you are willing to take the matter to court if necessary. They will be more likely to stick to realistic offers versus running the risk of facing a judge or jury.
These are some reasons why personal injury lawyers have a bad reputation. Potential clients need to understand it’s because of the insurers against whom they have won significant cases.
Accident victims or families who have lost a loved one because of someone’s negligence should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible and find out your legal options and make sure you know your rights. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking that personal injury lawyers are unsavory. A personal injury lawyer will serve as your best advocate and an invaluable tool for holding bad actors and their insurers accountable.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.