Should You Settle Your Injury Claim without a Lawyer?

Dec 12 11:46 2008 James W. Dodson Print This Article

An article about the real truth about settling your claim without a lawyer.

You definitely do not need an attorney for every small accident case. What is a small accident case? There are no hard and fast rules,Guest Posting but usually a small case involves an accident with no damage, or little damage to the vehicle and the treatment for any injury lasts no more than a few weeks. In a small case, the medical bills usually will not exceed a few thousand dollars and the injuries will not be permanent. These are cases that can often be settled without the assistance of a lawyer. In my practice, I tell clients that it may not be cost effective to use an attorney for small case because most of the recovery may go to pay the attorney. Someone may have just as good a chance of recovering a settlement near or equal to one that an attorney could get in a small case. Consumers may be well served by handling the case on their own without an attorney. But even if someone has small case, this book can help in understanding the issues which must be considered. There are some considerations consumers should be aware of before simply accepting an offer from an insurance company.

First, in accepting an offer to settle an injury claim the consumer is assuming they know clearly the nature and extent of their injuries and whether any further medical treatment may be necessary. Accepting the insurance company's offer will require providing a release. As mentioned before, the purpose of a release is to forever bar any further payment, even should the injured party's medical condition become worse or be far more serious than originally believed by them at the time the release was signed. Therefore, consumers must be absolutely certain they will not require further medical care. The amount received must fully compensate them for physical and emotional pain, suffering, scarring, disfigurement, emotional distress and loss of the enjoyment of life, as well as any out-of-pocket expenses incurred. They must be confident the amount will cover expenses likely to be incurred in the future as a direct result of treatment related to the injuries received in the accident.

Second, many general releases prepared by insurance companies are broadly worded. They include language releasing, not only the insurance company and party directly involved, but other potential parties whether named in the release or not. Signing such a broadly worded general release has the potential of unintentionally releasing claims against the injured party's uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist carrier, as well as potential claims, such as for medical malpractice resulting from treatment received in the accident.

Additionally, in cases involving more significant damages, particularly when there is a relatively small bodily injury policy covering the defendant, consumers sometimes attempt to avoid hiring a lawyer and work out a settlement with the defendant's insurance company accepting their policy limits. Often they do this with the intention of seeking further compensation for their injury from their own UM/UIM policy. This has the potential for actually preventing them from being able to seek such damages. Florida statutes require that notice be given to the UM/UIM motorist carrier before settling with the at-fault party and giving them a release of liability. The injured party must obtain the written consent of their own UM/UIM carrier before such a settlement occurs in order to preserve their right to seek further damages under their own policy of insurance. The failure to obtain such written consent may result in the UM/UIM carrier claiming prejudice against their interest and denying coverage altogether.

Finally, most consumers have virtually no experience in evaluating what an injury claim is worth. They should be very wary of relying on any representations of value argued by the opposing claims adjuster. That adjuster's one goal is to settle it for as little money as possible. They are trained in this process and are evaluated constantly by their company. Consequently, a consumer may feel comfortable negotiating a small case, as I've discussed above, howeve they should be very careful about undertaking the evaluation and negotiation of any accident with more significant injuries.

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About Article Author

James W. Dodson
James W. Dodson

Attorney James W. Dodson is a Clearwater, Florida personal injury trial lawyer with over 20 years experience representing clients in all types of injury claims including vehicle accidents, fall cases and wrongful death. He is the author of three books offered FREE to consumers as a guide to dealing with accidents and insurance. Visit his website at for FREE copies of these books, other articles, videos, news and commentary.

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