It’s a sad truth that sometimes people get hurt through no fault of their own. Maybe someone runs a red light and hits another car. Maybe a fence gate wasn’t properly latched and an aggressive dog bites a passing stranger. Since there are so many ways for people to get hurt, personal injury claims can range from straightforward to bizarre to very complicated. This may account for some confusion surrounding personal injury claims. Here are a few of the most common misconceptions.
I Can’t Afford to Hire an Attorney
It’s true that some lawyers can be expensive to hire, but many personal injury lawyers don’t ask for any money up front. Instead, they take on your case for a contingent fee. A contingent fee is a percentage of the settlement or what the court awards you at the end of the case. In exchange, your lawyer negotiates with the insurance company for you and, if necessary, represents you in court. Since your lawyer’s pay hinges on what you get, it means he or she is motivated to get you a good settlement.
I Should Take the Settlement Offer
An insurance company is a business and looking to keep costs down. Paying out on insurance claims is a big cost for them. When they make that first settlement offer, they’re trying to buy you off at the lowest price they think you’ll take. Also, if you’ve been injured, you’re better off waiting until after you’ve at least seen a doctor. You may be looking at serious medical bills before it’s all said and done. It’s better to think of that offer as the first move in a negotiation. You should be armed with as much information as possible before you or your attorney makes a counter-offer.
It’ll Take Too Long
Movies and television often treat personal injury claims like these things that always drag out for years and years. That just isn’t the reality. It’s true that, in some cases, lawsuits can drag out for a very long time. However, those cases usually involve many people who were injured or harmed by the actions of a large company. These are class action lawsuits and often very complicated. Normally, a personal injury claim only involves a few people who are dealing with an insurance company. These claims frequently get settled long before anyone steps inside a courtroom.
I’ll Get More if the Case Goes to Court
Taking the claim to court is a calculated risk. Sometimes it pays off, but there is no guarantee that a jury will award you more money. Going to court can also backfire. A jury may not believe you and award you less than the insurance company’s settlement offer. While the decision to take a settlement or proceed into the courts will be yours to make, your lawyer should be able to advise you about your chances of actually winning the case.
With these misconceptions cleared up, it’s important to remember that settlement offers are only offers. You aren’t obligated to accept the first one the insurance company makes. Having a lawyer in these situations can help to make sure that you don’t get taken advantage of by an insurance company watching its bottom line.
Bart Costello is the founder of Injury Law. Bart is passionate about helping people. He has built a strong reputation over the last thirty years as one of the premier Boulder personal injury attorneys.