Knowing when to get legal help when making an insurance claim for an injury can be the difference between receiving satisfactory compensation and getting the cold shoulder from the carrier. While insurance claims may be slightly less complex than a formal lawsuit, they can often be more challenging if you are prosecuting the claim on your own. If you’ve sustained an injury and are trying to collect from an insurance company, knowing when to seek help from an attorney can make all the difference.
If you were injured in an auto accident, slip and fall or even in a medical malpractice situation, there is nothing stopping you from making a claim with the insurance company of the party that caused your injuries. And you are not required to secure the services of an attorney to do so. In relatively simple cases, as long as you have kept good records and have the requisite patience necessary when dealing with insurance adjusters, you can successfully secure compensation for medical bills and other economic damages relating to your injuries.
Insurance claims are informal proceedings. Phone calls, demand letters, and recorded interviews take the place of subpoenas, complaints and depositions under oath. While not exactly a cooperative process, an insurance claim is far less adversarial than a lawsuit. Never forget, however, that insurance companies stay in business by taking in premiums, not paying out claims. Adjusters can and will fabricate hoop after hoop for you to jump through, and wrap them all in miles of red tape. An attorney knows how to recognize and cut through the red tape, and professional assistance could dramatically increase your chances for success.
If you are seriously injured, seek legal assistance immediately. Even if you don’t want to file a lawsuit, obtaining legal representation will often cause insurance companies to escalate your claim, and give it more attention than would otherwise be paid if you were unrepresented.
If your claim and injuries are legitimate, this is a good thing. It means that you will be dealing with a senior adjuster or claims attorney that will pay attention to your claim and deal professionally with your chosen attorney.
Obtaining legal assistance from the outset of your claim will allow your attorney and the insurance adjuster to build a relationship and will, if both sides are doing their job, go a long way toward smoothing out what can be a rough process. Bringing your attorney into a case in the middle of a claim can often cause friction. An adjuster who has worked the case from the start often feels ambushed, and a defensive insurance adjuster is far less likely to write a check.
If you have started a claim on your own, and begin to encounter resistance from the insurance company, do not be afraid to seek legal help no matter how far the claim has progressed. Your best interests should be your top priority.
Insurance companies will often try to make a lowball first settlement offer to unrepresented parties, or will promise settlements but then drag the process out interminably. If this happens in your case, get help from a lawyer. It creates some space between you and the adjuster, and signals to the insurance company that you are taking the claim seriously and won’t be put off by delay tactics, smoke and mirrors.
As stated above, some low-level adjusters may take offense when you bring in an attorney mid-claim, but the benefits of representation -- particularly in a claim that is beginning to become adversarial -- far outweigh the risks involved.
Insurance claims are informal processes that don’t require legal help. But knowing if and when you should obtain legal assistance in a personal injury insurance claim can often mean the difference between a prompt, reasonable settlement and a never-ending cycle of red tape.