If you have suffered an injury in some kind of accident, is it a good idea to handle your own settlement negotiations? Some people think so. They can see themselves saving the cost of an attorney, and they might have a job that they believe gives them the ability to negotiate a settlement for their injury. No matter what your background is, however, unless you are a personal injury attorney, it is unlikely that you have the experience and knowledge necessary to successfully negotiate a satisfactory settlement. You might think you are a shrewd bargainer, but you will be facing an insurance adjuster or the other party’s attorney – or both – who have been a part of dozens, if not hundreds, of such negotiations, while you will be involved in your first. Still like your odds?
Most Personal Injury Cases Settle
You will only get one shot at a good settlement, so it makes sense to do everything you can to get the best settlement possible. That probably does not involve you handling negotiations yourself. Virtually all aspects of life have become more complex, and the legal system is no different. It is unlikely you have the skills or knowledge to successfully handle your own legal case, including settlement negotiations. Nothing personal, but that is the way things are these days.
If the system has become too complex for you to obtain your best settlement on your own, you are really in trouble if you try to do so because the vast majority of personal injury claims – and this is especially true for auto accident injury claims – settle before a verdict is handed down. Most settle before trial even begins. In fact, the federal government estimates that up to 97% of personal injury cases go to a trial verdict. Other estimates come in lower, putting the number of personal injury cases that settle at no more than 87%, but even that study acknowledges that other studies find settlement rates at 95% or higher. Unless you are supremely confident in your ability to negotiate the best possible settlement for your injury case, trying to negotiate a settlement on your own might not be your best choice. Being confident is not the same as being right.
Just for starters, insurance companies and their lawyers know that insurance payouts, whether to their own insured or on behalf of their insured who is liable for an accident, are entered as losses on the general ledger. They will try to minimize that loss, and offer as little as possible in settlement for your claim. Insurance adjusters – and the lawyers representing insurance companies – know the permissible range for their settlement offer and will stay to the low end to allow flexibility for negotiations. You do not know what their high end is, or how to drive that top limit higher. You should have an attorney take care of those negotiations. You do not have the time or the experience to do the job right, and if the negotiations break down and you have to go to trial, you will want an attorney who was involved with the case from the beginning.