Question: What is the worst advice or biggest misconception you read from non-lawyers on the internet or otherwise hear about personal injury claims?
Answer: There are two, actually. I’ll address the first one this week. When an injured victim (usually from a car or truck wreck) requests recommendations for a qualified personal injury attorney, Burress Injury Law is very often on that list. However, there will normally be a comment among the recommendations by a lay person (often who works for an insurance company) advising the victim not to retain legal counsel, but to instead just handle the claim directly with the insurance company(s). The comment usually goes on to state or imply that the insurance company will be fair and that it’s wise to cut out the attorney (and the attorney fee). This is wrong for the following reasons:
1) First, legal fees in personal injury claims are typically calculated on a contingency basis – meaning unless a recovery is made, no fee is earned. This benefits the victim greatly because in almost every other type of law, you are paying by the hour whether your case is won or lost.
2) Second, insurance companies are not attempting to be fair with victim claimants. If they were, personal injury attorneys would not be needed. Generally, insurance companies operate under a basic business model: Premiums received minus claims paid equals profit. Insurance companies are building the largest office towers and paying the most for sponsorships/primetime commercials for a reason; their business model is very profitable.
3) Third, controlling the “dissemination of information” is of huge importance in an insurance claim. An unrepresented victim providing his/her social security number, authorizations to order medical records, and submitting to recorded interviews/insurance medical examinations are a recipe for disaster. A personal injury law firm can protect a client and preserve the claim’s value by tightly managing the dissemination of information process.
4) Fourth, the way an injury claim (especially the damages portion) is developed is extremely important to the ultimate value of the claim. A lay person normally does not have the expertise of best practices on dozens of issues (e.g. how to properly document injuries, whether to use treatment providers on credit vs. health insurance providers, timing of health insurance, appealing denials of health insurance claims, how to order and present medical records/bills, evaluating and defeating/reducing liens, subrogation interests and outstanding medical bills, etc.). We start this development process in our initial intake meeting where we take our clients through a 2-hour crash course in personal injury law and provide them with a 10-page written guide to their case when they leave.
5) Finally, a qualified personal injury law team can create value in many ways including, but not limited to:
- helping you receive quality medical treatment (especially when many family doctors will not see patients who have been injured in an auto crash);
- developing your case the right way so you can focus on healing and thereby eliminating stress;
- obtaining full monetary value for your claim; and
- reducing the amount of your recovery that must be used to repay medical expenses, liens, and subrogation interests, thus maximizing your net recovery.
In summary, handling a personal injury claim the right way is an extremely complicated and tedious process. As Jason K. Burress always says, if you do not retain our law firm, please get help from another qualified injury lawyer and do not try to navigate this process on your own while you are struggling through your injuries.