Settling a Car Accident Without an Attorney—Is it Worth it?

When a man signing agreement

A victim has only one chance to settle a claim after a car accident. Once an agreement is signed, there’s no going back. Some people feel capable of dealing with an insurance company and settling a car accident without an attorney…but that can be risky. When a wreck is someone else’s fault, the victim deserves full compensation for all they have suffered and lost due to the incident. There are significant reasons for not going it alone.

If all they’ve suffered is some damage to their vehicle, they might be able to get the compensation they need without any help. An accident that involves bodily injury, however, is more complex. Some injuries can take weeks or months to heal, or cause permanent disability. It’s difficult for an inexperienced individual to navigate confusing insurance claims, especially while they’re trying to recover.

Dealing With Insurance Companies

Insurance claims adjusters are trained professionals with a job to do. Their assignment is to quickly settle claims without paying out huge sums. They do this for a living, so they’re very good at minimizing what the insurance company has to pay.

An accident victim without the same type of experience can quickly feel over their head. The insurance world can be confusing and intimidating for a person not trained in it. If someone doesn’t understand the process, or makes a mistake, there is a good chance it will affect their case and the amount of money they receive.

A car accident attorney in St Louis, on the other hand, knows what to expect when dealing with an insurance company. They understand the paperwork and procedures necessary to file a claim that will be paid.

Hiring a lawyer takes the stress of dealing with the insurance company off of the victim. It is the attorney’s job to handle all written and verbal communication with the company. They will cover all of the little details, and they know the correct terminology to use. The victim does not need to feel nervous about forgetting an important step or misinterpreting letters filled with legal jargon.

Accident Victims Have the Burden of Proof

Accident victim working with lawyer

Even if it is obvious to a victim and witnesses who caused an accident, it is still up to the victim to prove they were not at fault. When someone is thinking of settling a car accident without an attorney, they may not be prepared for how much time and energy that will take.

Evidence that a driver was negligent can come from police reports, witness statements, photos from the accident site, and surveillance footage. Gathering all of that information starts immediately after the incident and can continue long after with follow-up calls and requests for information. A driver who is seriously hurt may find it difficult, if not impossible, to complete this task.

Let’s say a victim is able to collect the proof needed to show the other driver was at fault. It is still the insurance company’s job to avoid paying, if possible. They will almost certainly deny the claim no matter what, hoping the victim will give up. Worse, they may try to shift some or all of the blame to the victim. This is important in states like Illinois and Missouri that follow the principle of comparative negligence. If a victim is found to be partly at fault for the crash, they may have to give up part of their compensation. In Missouri, the amount is equal to their percentage of the blame. In Illinois, they could lose their case completely if the two drivers are equally at fault.

A car accident attorney has the resources to collect the necessary evidence after a crash. They have the ability to access police reports, do reconstructions of the crash, and interview witnesses. A letter from an attorney requesting information tends to get a much better response than a phone call from an average citizen.

A lawyer will also know what the insurance company is likely to try and be ready with a response.

Determining the Value of Your Claim

Adding up all of the medical bills associated with a car accident is not as easy as it may sound. This is due to the fact that few injuries are resolved immediately. Someone seriously hurt may need follow-up doctor visits, medication, treatment, physical therapy, or rehabilitation—all of which should be included in a car accident settlement.

And that is assuming the victim will eventually heal. For injuries that cause long-term conditions or permanent disability, a settlement might add in ongoing nursing care, equipment like wheelchairs or walkers, and more. Figuring out the price of these things going years into the future can be difficult.

Loss of wages when a person is unable to work due to a car accident injury must be calculated too. This might amount to a few days of lost pay, or an entire career spanning the rest of the person’s life.

And finally, seeking a settlement means placing a dollar amount on pain and suffering.

Car accident attorneys have the advantage of case histories and legal precedents at their fingertips. Not only are they able to track down every reimbursable expense for a client, they know the formulas for coming up with a fair amount for damages that are not easily defined like emotional distress and trauma.

Calculating a dollar amount to fully compensate for a car accident injury is only the first step. Settling a car accident without an attorney means having to negotiate the amount too. Claims adjusters are experienced negotiators—and so are car accident attorneys. Someone without the necessary negotiating skills will likely be outmatched.

Avoid These Costly Mistakes

Woman looking at her laptop, frustrated after making a costly mistake in settling a car accident without a lawyer

When an individual tries settling a car accident without an attorney, there are plenty of opportunities to get tripped up. Victims can accidentally cheat themselves out of compensation that is rightfully theirs.

Insurance adjusters will push for a quick settlement. They’ll ask the victim for a recorded statement or a signed medical release. These and other tactics can hurt a victim’s chances of collecting their claim. Saying the wrong thing in a statement, such as “I’m sorry,” or “I didn’t see the other car” could be seen as an admission of guilt. And signing a medical release might prevent a victim from requesting payments for any future treatment.

An attorney’s job is to protect their client from doing or saying anything that might prevent them from receiving fair compensation. They will make sure all expenses are included in the claim and that it’s filed correctly and on time. Lawyers will also go over all documents, making sure that nothing is agreed to that shouldn’t be.

It’s crucial to remember that once a settlement is accepted, it’s over. There is no going back once the papers are signed. Anyone settling a car accident without an attorney must be very careful that they’re not making a mistake.

When a Lawsuit is Necessary

Victims may struggle with deciding whether they should accept a settlement offer or keep pushing. When the parties in an accident claim can’t come to an agreement on a settlement, it might be necessary to file a lawsuit to get fair compensation. Few people will know when this is appropriate or how to do it on their own. If up until this point, they tried settling the car accident without an attorney, it is time to hire one for the trial.

Personal injury cases can take time to work their way through the court, and that time will be even longer if a lawyer needs to get up to speed on the case. If, however, they were involved from the beginning of the claim, it can go much smoother. In fact, in many cases, simply having an attorney hint that they may file a lawsuit could move the insurance company to improve their settlement offer.

Don’t Risk Settling a Car Accident Without an Attorney

Trying to handle an insurance claim and the legal aspects of a personal injury case is more than most people can handle, let alone doing it while trying to recuperate after a car accident. Most people simply do not have the time, resources, or expertise to get compensation for their losses on their own. It’s well worth it to get a lawyer’s opinion first.

Hipskind & McAninch, LLC has attorneys who are skilled at assessing the details of a car accident, calculating damages, and building a case. They fight for their clients’ rights to a settlement that gets them the compensation that they need and deserve.

If you or someone you know has been hurt in an accident that is someone else’s fault, contact Hipskind & McAninch for a free consultation.


Car Accidents


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