After an accident or injury, surround yourself with people you trust. Friends and family are excellent resources when providing support and offering guidance. However, your personal injury attorney will be your most prominent advocate and help you fight for a fair and reasonable settlement in your legal case.
If you have never processed a personal injury claim, you may have questions about what constitutes “fair and reasonable” compensation. In the same regard, you may wonder, “will the attorneys be truthful about what I deserve and what I will get?” Below, we’ll look at the law, the process, and what you can expect.
Do lawyers lie about personal injury settlements?
The American Bar Association prohibits attorneys from intentionally misrepresenting facts to another party on their client's behalf. Under ABA rules, an attorney cannot out and out lie or affirm anything they know is false. However, insurance companies repeatedly exploit known exceptions to this rule. Specifically, the ABA lists price estimates and a party's intention to settle as statements generally not considered material facts.
In all cases, expect your attorney to:
- Truthfully discuss the merits of your case—whether you have a case
- Calculate your case’s real value—they should not tell you your case is worth more to get you as a client)
- Share all offers from the insurance company
- Provide appropriate guidance on whether you should accept an offer
Lies the insurance company’s lawyer may tell you about your injury settlement
The sad truth is that you cannot count on the insurance company to do what is right. They are in the business of making profits. While they may not lie, they have no problem bending the truth. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you sort through what’s real and what’s not and help you make the best decisions for your case. Some of the fibs you might hear from the insurance company’s lawyer include:
“We need you to provide a recorded statement.”
When you call an insurance company to make a claim, in most cases, they will ask for your permission to record the call. Unfortunately, most people give permission without a second thought. From this point forward, the insurance company will look for a way to use your words against you.
You are not required to provide a recorded statement. In fact, you do not have to talk to the insurance company at all. If the insurance company calls you, tell them you have an attorney, and all correspondence should go to them.
“Your injuries are not that serious.”
Far too many people fail to file a claim because they think their injuries are not bad enough. The insurance company has no business telling you your injuries don't mean anything, nor do they have the qualifications. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine whether you have a case.
Common injuries the insurance company writes off as “not serious” include:
- Emotional trauma
- Sprains and strains
- Cuts and lacerations
“We are not liable for your injuries.”
Why reduce the settlement amount when you can get out of paying it entirely? One of the ways insurance companies get out of paying is to say their customer was not at fault, or worse, assign the fault to you. When victims hear this, many times they drop the case for fear they may hold some financial responsibility. Unfortunately, this is a common and effective tactic many insurance companies use. However, in most cases, there is no basis for this claim at all.
“That’s the highest settlement we can offer.”
Most insurance companies do have a maximum amount they are willing to pay. Most insurance companies will never actually reach that number. Insurance companies start by offering a very low amount and then move up slowly. Their hope is you will take a settlement before they reach their max. An experienced attorney can review your case and tell you how realistic the insurance company’s offer is and what amount you should expect.
“We’re not afraid to take the case to court if you won’t settle.”
This is perhaps the biggest lie of them all. The insurance company is afraid to go to court. A jury gets the final say when you take a personal injury case to court. And juries can be very unpredictable. If a case makes it to court, an insurance company can pay much more than they want to, and in some cases, more than the case is worth. This is why the majority of all personal injury cases settle outside of court.
What is a reasonable personal injury settlement?
To determine whether an insurance company is lying about your settlement, or whether that lie matters, it is helpful to know what goes into determining the value of your case. Once you understand this, you can process the information from the other side accordingly.
There are many factors the insurance company will look at when they make a settlement offer. The severity of your accident, your injuries, and even your credibility play a role. But ultimately, one of the biggest things the insurance company will look at is the actual costs.
Costs primarily depend on the circumstances of your case but may include:
- Medical bills: This can include doctor visits, hospital stays, surgeries, medications, and other related medical expenses. If your injuries are serious or permanent, your attorney may fight for future medical costs. You may include these costs in your settlement.
- Lost wages: If your injury results in missed time at work, you will likely have a claim for lost wages. Lost wages cover any missed income starting from the day you miss work until you can return to work. The missed time must be directly related to your accident. Once again, for serious injuries, you may have a claim for future lost wages or retraining.
- Pain and suffering: This is the most variable cost. If you suffered physical or emotional pain due to your injuries, you have the right to pain and suffering. The insurance company may look at your prognosis, your reported pain level, and your overall quality of life to calculate this cost. Examples of pain and suffering include physical pain, emotional distress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
How to choose a personal injury attorney you can trust
The number one way to protect yourself against the insurance company’s tactics is to hire representation. Your attorney will help you see through the insurance company’s lies and represent your best interests.
When you choose an attorney, one of the most important factors you should look at is trust. You don’t want to find yourself questioning the integrity of your legal counsel.
To find an attorney that is right for you:
- Ask for recommendations: Personal recommendations are one of your best tools when choosing a personal injury lawyer. If you know someone who has had to use an attorney, ask for a recommendation. Because your contact has worked with this person before, they're likely to have a good sense of the attorney's ethics and whether they would be a right match for you. If you don't have anyone who can give you a personal recommendation, sites like AVVO and Super Lawyers allow previous clients to post reviews.
- Check with your local bar association: Your state's bar is available online and lists all licensed lawyers and their disciplinary history. Here you can also find out how long they were licensed and their contact information.
- Request a consultation: Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations. This is your opportunity to get to know the attorney and ask questions. You can often get a feel for whether you are a good match within this first meeting. Don’t be afraid to meet with more than one attorney. Don’t settle until you find the person who is right for you.
- Ask questions: Before you schedule a consultation, write a list of questions for your attorney. Ask these questions to every attorney you meet. Take notes. It's okay to ask about money and your case. These questions can help you decide if an attorney's approach is right for you.
- Be open: One of the best ways to build trust with your attorney is to be open and honest. Talk about your concerns and speak up if you have any questions. Your attorney’s job is to fight for you. They want to hear from you. If you have concerns or have concerns about the progress of your case, don’t be afraid to speak up.
Know your rights. Don’t settle for less.
Have you been injured as the result of someone else's negligence? If so, you may have the right to financial compensation. Now is a time you want someone by your side you can trust. Don't let the insurance company lie to you and take advantage of you. Your rights matter and you deserve a fair settlement for your injuries. If you have questions, don't wait. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more.