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Insurance companies, by their own admission, try to settle injury claims as quickly and as economically as possible. They have little interest in protracting litigation because that costs them money. When you've been in an accident and sustained damages or injuries, the insurance company of the person at fault will likely contact you and offer to resolve or settle the claim right then or in a very short time frame.
Insurance companies focus on dollars, not victims
If you are offered a dollar amount from an insurance company, what should you do? If you've been seriously injured, never take the first offer. It's unlikely the company will ever provide you with their best offer first. The insurance company may say they're offering you a fair settlement, but why would they be fair to you, a person they don't represent? Insurance companies are in the business of making money not giving it away. The company doesn't choose their claims adjusters based on their kindness.
The insurance company wants to see how serious you are. The first-line claims adjuster is not going to give you the limit of what he's allowed to give. Thatís not how he gets promoted. Moreover, you need to be informed about the litigation process in order to make a good decision about whether or not to take an insurance company's offer.
When not to hire a lawyer
You probably don't need to retain counsel when the accident was a simple fender bender and you were not injured. Just settle the case for property damage, get your medical bills paid, if you have any, and let it go. Seeking legal advice under those conditions is a waste of your time. Many times, accident injuries are not severe enough to warrant the outright rejection of a company's first offer.
- Anyone who is seriously injured in an accident should seek legal counsel. Serious injuries are not always evident right away, so even if you receive emergency care, you should have a follow-up visit with your regular doctor. "Insurance companies have army of investigators, adjusters, house counsel, trained to save them money and millions of dollars for support. And you, as an injured person, are trying to fight an army in which every adjuster has dealt with 100 cases like yours already.
- When involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you should always retain counsel. Unfortunately, these guys don't want to pay. In addition, you may have only a limited time to file suit against an underinsured motorist. Certain insurance policy language states that if you wish to arbitrate with an uninsured motorist, you and the uninsured must reach an agreement within 60 days after the day of the accident. You should hire a lawyer immediately after the accident, and to make sure your attorney understands insurance law and policy language.
- Two questions to ask yourself before retaining counsel are: "What settlement will I be happy with?" and, "Am I going to do better or worse with an attorney?" The first question is easy to answer. The second is unforeseeable. There's no way to tell if you'll do better or worse. The case's jurisdiction (meaning the laws where your case is based), your individual circumstances, and your willingness to settle are all factors that make the outcome of a case tough to predict.
What to know
Another factor that can make the litigation process difficult is your own inexperience with legal processes. Most claimants ask for either too much or too little. People just don't know the process and they don't know the value of cases, which makes a resolution tougher. It is best for injured victims to find out how many personal injury cases a lawyer has handled in the past before hiring him or her. Don't be shy (about asking), you're not going to see an orthopedic surgeon to have heart-bypass surgery.
Get an attorney who has some experience. The attorney may be a great probate lawyer, but he's not servicing you (if he has no experience)." Claimants also don't often know to seek medical attention right away after an accident. If you don't, and your injuries are still with you six months later, claims of long-term injury are hard to prove because you don't have a doctor's documentation to back you up.
The attorney fee
Most Washington personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis and don't charge a fee for an initial consultation. However, expect to give up at the very least 33% of your settlement to your attorney. Most lawyers take one-third of the settlement agreement, but if you go to trial, expect the attorney's cut to reach 40 percent.
How long before I see any money?
Your settlement is based on your injury. The injury-recovery process is the most time-consuming, but most important. It would be unfair to you to settle your case before you reach a stationary condition, and when your doctor will release you from care. Once you notify your attorney that you have been released, a request will be send in order to obtain your medical records. A demand package will then be send to the insurance company for your recovery.
Within the next 30 days the adjuster should call with his or hers first offer to settle your claim. Many severe auto accident last about nine months, but that includes only injury-recovery time and arbitration, not the trial process., lasting six months on average. There's no reason the settlement can't be resolved within 90 days after that, unless you have to file a lawsuit. If you decide to file a lawsuit, but the suit is settled before it goes to trial, expect a resolution about 13 months after the accident.
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