Naturally, you might think that as an attorney I would promote the use of attorneys in car accidents. That’s not always the case. If you’re in a small fender bender where no one is injured and the insurance company for the party at fault offers to pay all of the damages and expenses you are entitled to, then you can probably use your judgment in settling the matter with minimal fuss.
What I will say, and most people who’ve been involved in a car accident of any seriousness will back up, is that the insurance agent does not represent your interests. This is the first significant factor: The insurance agent represents the insurance company’s interests, not yours.
This fact is easy to lose sight of. You may have been loyal to the same insurance company for years, and faithfully pay your premiums. They may have been very courteous and helpful when you needed your car towed that last time, and helping you replace a dinged windshield.
The second important factor to keep in mind is that the party at fault, if you were the one hit – their insurance company most definitely does not have your interests in mind. Their goal is to have their company pay out the least amount possible – to reach their goal, many agents will work to minimize your claim at every possible chance. They will challenge your estimate of the car repair, even though it was produced by a reliable shop you’ve trusted for years. They nearly always challenge any kind of medical treatment you get, and they can play psychological games trying to intimidate you and make you feel like you’re a greedy plaintiff when the fact is your neck throbs so bad from the whiplash that you can barely make it through the day at work.
People handle these types of negotiations in different ways. The third thing to know is that a car accident settlement is most definitely a negotiation. No insurance company operating today will make you an initial offer for what they actually think your case is worth. They will make you a low-ball offer and it becomes your job to know the value of your claim, make a counter-offer, and stick to your guns until you get a reasonable offer. If you are comfortable working on this kind of negotiation, you may be able to get what you need and deserve for car repair, rental service, medical expenses, and follow-up therapy.
If you don’t want to take on those negotiations yourself, or you’re not sure what your claim might be worth, by all means, schedule a consultation with a lawyer experienced in the area.
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