Some people claim that it is not necessary to hire an attorney to represent you in your personal injury case. This claim is based on the assumption that insurance companies will be more than happy to negotiate your claim with you individually. In fact, often times the insurance adjustor will contact you and initiate the process, allowing you to negotiate your own settlement without having to go through the hassle and expense of hiring an attorney. There are countless books and blogs dedicated to this very premise. It is an appealing argument. You can settle with the insurance company on your own terms and you get to keep 100% of the settlement. The only problem with this line of thinking is that it neglects to consider the fact that insurance companies are in business to make money – not to pay out large, or even fair, settlements.
An article produced by Bloomberg News on August 6, 2006, published online and quoted by George E. Carr, in his publication titled The Insurance Claim File: What Plaintiff Attorneys Need to Know, states:
Allstate Corporation hired McKinsey & Co. as a consultant on how to improve its “efficiency” after paying claims arising out of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Shortly thereafter, State Farm and Farmers Group also retained McKinsey’s services. According to the article, the consultants advised the insurers to implement deliberate strategies to underpay and delay payments of legitimate claims, and to force policy holders to go to court if [the claimant] sought a full recovery. According to this article, the ratio of payouts to premiums is decreasing drastically over time. Allstate’s ratio of payments to claims dropped from 79% to 58% in ten years.
This should come as no shock. Insurance companies need to maximize their profits. They have to if they want to stay in business and keep their shareholders happy. While it would be wonderful if insurance companies’ sole mission and reason for being was to insure that claimants received a full recovery of all their damages no matter the cost, the unpleasant reality is that they will do all they can to limit what they pay out in settlement. It is truly a David and Goliath like match-up. The claimant (David) and the giant insurance company (Goliath) battle (negotiate) to determine what amount, if any, the claimant is entitled to. Therefore, unless you have the right tools and experience in dealing with insurance adjustors, you will most likely be leaving money on the table. It’s just not a fair fight. You have limited experiences and resources, you need to be paid as quickly as possible, and the insurance company have entire departments filled with experienced attorneys and staff that benefit from delay and low-ball settlement offer.
There is really no reason to go it alone. You must attempt to level the playing field. Most attorneys offer at the very least a free case review or consultation. They will let you know how to value your case and what kind of fee arrangement they can offer. Additionally, most personal injury cases are retained on a contingent fee basis. Meaning that the attorney would be entitled to a percentage of the money paid out by the insurance company. It is the typical no upfront fees, and they get paid when you get paid arrangement. Thus, attorneys have a financial incentive to get their clients as large of a settlement as possible, and to get it paid as quickly as possible. An experienced attorney will know the tricks and stall tactics the insurance adjustor will utilize to maximize profits. More importantly, the insurance company will know that they are not dealing with an unsophisticated claimant who does not know how much their claim is worth. So if you find yourself at the mercy of an insurance adjustor, do yourself a favor and contact an attorney at Turner & Kuhlmann, PC in St. George, Utah as soon as possible at (435) 656-6156.