If you’ve been injured in an accident, you might be facing some pretty big decisions. Do you file an insurance claim? Can you afford to take time away from work? Should you handle the insurance company on your own, or do you talk to an attorney?
There are a lot of things in life you can easily do by yourself, but handling complex legal matters isn’t necessarily one of them.
Insurance companies don’t analyze claims with your best financial interests in mind. Their goal is to pay you as little money as possible… and they’re good at what they do.
Facing them on your own can leave you at a serious disadvantage — a disadvantage the insurance adjustors will be all too happy to exploit.
“But what can happen if I settle a personal injury claim without a lawyer?” you might ask.
Below, we look at five mistakes people often make when trying to negotiate an insurance settlement on their own.
1. You Might Settle for Far Less Money Than You Deserve
In the early stages of a personal injury claim, the insurance company’s goal is to make your claim go away as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Accordingly, they might respond in one of two ways:
- Deny your claim without any extensive investigation into its merits, or
- Offer you a small amount of money in exchange for signing a settlement agreement
Both options favor the insurance company’s interests over your own. In either scenario, the insurance adjustor might try to discourage you from taking further action. They might say things like:
- “You don’t have a case.”
- “We aren’t liable.”
- “You were at fault for the accident.”
- “The policy doesn’t cover this type of claim.”
- “If you don’t take this offer now, we aren’t obligated to pay you anything.”
- “Hiring a lawyer will only make things more complicated.”
All of these arguments are designed to pressure you into a settlement. The insurance company wants you to feel that you’re lucky to get any money at all, or that you’re fighting a losing battle.
They know that if you don’t have a lawyer on your side, you might not have a strong sense of how much you’re entitled to. And since you are unrepresented, they’ll suspect you aren’t willing to fight back.
Insurance companies calculate settlement offers very carefully. Often, they use computer algorithms that spit out a settlement amount without considering all the evidence or factors at play. Depending on the circumstances, you may be legally entitled to substantially more compensation, but the insurance company won’t offer it without a fight.
Too many people have accepted lowball settlement offers only to learn later that they had a right to claim much more.
2. You Might Settle Too Soon
Injuries aren’t always obvious right away. Sometimes, they’re worse than they seem at first. Healing doesn’t necessarily progress as expected. Secondary complications, like abscesses or infections, can set in without warning.
Even if you do get better sooner than anticipated, the medical bills may end up being a lot more costly than you planned.
This is one of the reasons insurance companies want to buy you off with a quick and inexpensive settlement. They know that your damages might increase over time.
In the world of personal injury, timing is critical. You don’t want to settle a claim too soon because doing so will prevent you from getting compensation for damages that might arise after the settlement. At the same time, you don’t want to wait too long because claims take time to prepare, and they must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations.
An experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyer can help you develop a strategy for filing your claim at the right time in order to put you in the best possible position for an optimal recovery.
3. You Might Sign Your Rights Away Forever (without Realizing It)
If you’re asking, “What can happen if I settle a personal injury claim without a lawyer?” you might be operating on the assumption that you could simply get yourself a lawyer later if the settlement turns out to be a bad deal.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. In most situations, once you have signed a settlement agreement, there’s no going back.
Insurance settlements contain mutual release provisions, which forever prohibit you from claiming more money from the insurance company relating to the same incident.
That’s why settling too soon (or for too little) is such a concern. You could be signing your rights away permanently.
4. You Might Accidentally Give Up Your Property Damage Claim Too
What can happen if you settle a personal injury claim without a lawyer? One big risk is accidentally losing your property damage claim in the process.
Typically, when an insurance company enters into a settlement agreement, they will ensure that the terms release them from any and all claims you might have against them. Whether you realize it or not, that includes your claim for vehicle repairs and other property damages.
Likewise, the check itself might include language that requires you to accept it as full and final payment for any and all claims against the insurance company, including your property claim. This can leave you with thousands of dollars less than you expected.
Make no mistake: insurance adjustors are savvy. They know what they’re doing. They have used the same tactics to protect their interests in countless claims before. They’ll look for every opportunity to do the same with you.
An experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyer can help you fight for a settlement agreement that provides full and fair compensation for all your damages, including economic damage, property damage, and pain and suffering whenever applicable.
5. You Might Get Out-Negotiated by the Insurance Company
The insurance claims process is complex, mired in red tape, and wrapped up in a sophisticated web of statutes, regulations, and case law.
There is no substitute for experience, and unless you are an attorney, the insurance company will have much more experience than you have on your own. Mistakes are all too easy to make.
During settlement negotiations, insurance companies are often motivated by the fear of litigation. Trials are costly, time-consuming, and pose the threat of losing. It is frequently in both parties’ best interest to avoid a trial. But if the insurance company doesn’t believe you will push the case that far, they may be less willing to negotiate reasonably.
What can happen if you settle a personal injury claim without a lawyer? There’s a lot that can go wrong, but it boils down to this: you might have a very hard time getting the fair shake you deserve.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer at Colombo Law
Colombo Law is a West Virginia personal injury law firm that helps injured people understand their rights and fight for them under the law. That includes the right to full and fair financial compensation after an accident.
In the majority of our cases, we have been able to negotiate favorable settlements without going to trial, getting our clients more money than the insurer was willing to offer before we got involved. However, we do also try cases in court, and we prepare each claim for the possibility of trial.
Our law firm fights to maximize compensation. Let us fight for you. Colombo Law proudly serves accident victims and their families throughout West Virginia, not only in Morgantown but also in Bridgeport, Buckhannon, Clarksburg, Elkins, Fairmont, Parkersburg, and Weston.
Here is our promise to you:
- A free case evaluation with absolutely no obligation to hire us
- Honest guidance and advice
- No attorney fees unless and until we recover damages for you
- Our time, passion, respect, and attention to your needs
Don’t try to settle a personal injury claim without a lawyer in West Virginia. Contact Colombo Law and schedule a free case review right away. Just dial 304-599-4229 (888-860-1414 outside of Morgantown) or contact us online.