This is America. There is absolutely no requirement that you have a lawyer assist you with your personal injury claim.
However, there are some pretty significant advantages to having a lawyer help you with your claim.
An often-cited study by a major insurance company shows that on average a claim that’s handled by a personal injury lawyer settles for 400% more than a claim that is handled by an individual without a lawyer.
This study is the major reason that insurance claims adjusters are so aggressive in trying to get individuals to resolve their claims before lawyers get involved.
Remember the basic rule of insurance companies: they are in the business of making money.
Insurance companies sell insurance products. They generate the revenue from consumers paying them for the insurance. Their costs occur when they have to pay claims.
Therefore, for insurance companies to make massive profits they want to sell as many policies as possible and deny paying as many claims as possible.
These are billion-dollar companies that have been making record profits year after year. To put it in perspective, State Farm saw a $3.2 billion increase in net income between 2011 and 2012. Insurance companies are very good at denying or settling claims for pennies on the dollar.
Now, lawyers do cost you money on the backend of your case—which we’ll talk about a little later. For an average claim, a lawyer will take 33% of the recovery.
So, let’s do some quick math. For example, let’s say a claim resolves for $25,000 with a lawyer. Let’s assume that the average claim with a lawyer settled for 400% more than for which the claim would have settled without an attorney. In this example, the individual would have received a $6,250 settlement (before the medical bills are paid!) without a lawyer.
The attorney would take a settlement fee of $8,325, leaving $16,675 in gross recovery for the client (before any medical bills are paid). In this example, the net recovery for someone who works with an attorney is on average $10,000 more than what that person would have received without a lawyer.
Now, there are certainly situations where it might be worth it for someone to try to resolve his or her case without a lawyer. For example, cases where the medical bills are a couple of thousand dollars or less and the person does not have a permanent injury. In Florida, if someone does not have a permanent injury, he or she cannot ask for compensation for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. It is these damages that significantly increase the value of a personal injury claim.
Next, we discuss what to look for when hiring a personal injury lawyer.