Does this sound familiar?
You’ve been in a car accident — one that wasn’t even any fault of your own — and now you don’t know what to do. Maybe you were injured and had to miss work. Perhaps your car is totaled. Whatever happened, you’re just not sure what to do next. You might be feeling pressured to look for somebody to sue. But the person who caused your accident was a nice little old lady and she just made a mistake.
Do you really want to sue?
This situation is all too common. It demonstrates one of the most common confusions and misconceptions people have about the legal system, as well as how insurance claims work and possible alternatives to lawsuits.
Many people are extremely hesitant to hire a personal injury attorney after being the victim of a crash because they don’t want to sue. In fact, they might even be looking for alternatives to a lawsuit.
But here’s something that might surprise you. Even when someone hires a personal injury attorney, an actual lawsuit rarely happens. Working with a lawyer doesn’t mean you’re ever going to court.
Let’s find out what really happens.
The common situation: Negotiations
After a car crash causing an injury, the process starts with an informal negotiation between the insurance company that insured the responsible driver’s car and the victim of the crash.
This informal negotiation is commonly known as the “claims process.”
Do I need an attorney during the claims process?
Not necessarily, but it sure helps! Experienced and skilled attorneys can raise the value of a monetary claim settlement with an insurance company without suing anyone or ever going to a courthouse.
Having a lawyer on your side during negotiations means there will be someone who will …
- Stand up for you – The insurance companies have lawyers looking out for their interests and trying to minimize the value of your claim. They’re not always known for treating the average person fairly, something known as “bad faith.” An experienced lawyer is there to make sure your voice is heard and ensure you get a fair settlement.
- Prevent errors and tricks by the insurance company – Insurance companies are in the business of making money. They’ll do whatever they can to get you to agree to a small settlement. Your lawyer makes sure everyone follows the rules and that you’re not being taken advantage of.
- Show you’re serious – When an insurance company is dealing with a private individual, they know they have the upper hand. When you have a lawyer on your side, the playing field is leveled. You have a much better chance of achieving your desired outcome.
- Ease frustration to focus on recovery – Being frustrated at the insurance company who will attempt to evade your calls and make the process difficult can hurt your ability to medically recover from injuries. Easing that frustration burden is a main job of an attorney at all times.
The uncommon result: Lawsuit
The process of suing the responsible driver only occurs if the insurance company for that driver refuses to provide a fair and reasonable amount of compensation for the victim’s claim. If that stalemate occurs, then the victim can consider their options. Filing a complaint in court can be one of those options. The filing of a complaint does technically mean you sue the other person, but it doesn’t mean you’ll end up in court.
What really happens: Will you get your day in court?
99% of the time, even if a lawsuit is filed, you’ll never set foot in a courthouse. The case will be resolved through what’s known as an out-of-court settlement.
The actual process of seeing a lawsuit through in court is long, drawn-out, complicated, and potentially expensive for the insurance company. It’s something both parties likely want to avoid. That’s why these cases are so often settled sooner rather than later.
So the truth is even if you’re worried about the stress of a lawsuit and trial, try not to worry too much. The case is far more likely to resolve outside of court than actually going to trial.
How exactly will a lawyer help me?
First of all, a skilled lawyer brings years of expertise. They’ll help you settle your claim faster and get more money than if you went it alone.
Here at Judnich Law Office, our personal injury attorneys know exactly what the insurance company is looking for. No time is wasted and the process is as efficient as possible.
As experienced injury attorneys, we have knowledge of the industry and can usually predict a pretty close value for a claim. Often, parties or victims who don’t have experience in the industry will attempt to throw out a completely random monetary number to try to settle. This can be a huge problem and can delay the claim significantly.
Insurance companies know that if you can’t support your claim and are not familiar with the process, they can drag their feet and not do what is right and fair.
Without knowledge of how the claims process works, you just don’t know what the correct avenue is and how to get to your goal in the most efficient way possible.
An attorney can not only make that process faster, but obtain more money for you as well.
How can I be sure I’m picking a good lawyer?
Here are 3 simple questions any personal injury attorney should be able to answer.
1. How many active injury claims does your office handle at one time?
This question will tell you not only how busy the office is, but how much attention they will give your case. For example, if you know the law firm only has 2 attorneys and 1 support staff member, but has a caseload of 100 active clients, then those clients don’t get any personal attention. Three people covering 100 claims is not enough personal attention.
The amount of correspondence and monthly maintenance to actively oversee an injury claim should be closer to 1 experienced staff member to about 20 active claims. This ensures nothing is missed and individual attention can be given to all clients equally.
2. How many lawsuits did the firm file on injury cases in the last year?
In addition to asking this question, request a copy of each filed complaint. It’s important to require the firm to show you actual copies of filed complaints, as it’s easy to just say you file lawsuits when you don’t.
You’ll find out if the firm just settled everything, or if they actually fight for their clients and file lawsuits when necessary. It’s a sad reality that some proclaimed injury attorneys never file a lawsuit, they just settle every case they have which means accepting less than some people deserve.
When a firm gets a reputation for relying on settlements, the insurance companies know the firm will not sue them. They can settle claims with that firm cheaper, because they know they won’t have to invest in defense counsel on any claims with them.
Filing lawsuits when necessary shows the firm has the power to force insurance companies to court. Insurance companies will also pay larger settlements because they know those firms mean business and will enter into costly litigation if necessary.
This is a very important question, so ask it and demand proof!
3. What makes you different from any other law firm?
Many firms’ answers will mention their fees. But the most important answer is: the service a firm provides their clients. A firm that provides consistent communication and attorneys who will actually return your call are huge considerations when choosing the right firm.
The #1 complaint people have about any law firm is not returning calls. The right firm will return your call in a timely manner and answer your questions. That’s what you’re paying them to do.
Have more questions? Let’s talk!
If you’d like to learn more about how the experienced personal injury lawyers at the Judnich Law Office can help you, contact us today. We’re happy to offer a free consultation to answer your questions and learn more about your case.
Marty is a former criminal prosecutor in the Cascade County Attorney’s Office and now uses that experience to defend those accused of crimes. A University of Montana School of Law graduate, Marty focuses his practice on personal injury and criminal defense and is a premier DUI defense attorney. He is also well versed in the insurance claims industry and has negotiated significant settlements with nearly every major insurance company.