Do You Need an Attorney in Delaware Ohio?
Many people are reluctant to hire an attorney when they become injured, even though they can truly benefit from the use of an attorney. Their reasons for not doing so range from not understanding what it is that a lawyer can do for them to believing that they will receive more money if they negotiate on their own behalf.
Very often, insurance adjusters fuel and feed upon these concerns. Indeed, the major insurers instruct their adjusters to do everything possible to discour- age injured parties from seeking the representation of an attorney for one simple reason – money.
Insurers know, and tell their adjusters during train- ing, that in the most common personal injury claims, when an injured person uses an attorney, the claim is settled for 2-3 times more than when a per- son deals directly with the insurance company. 1
Adjusters are trained to tell injured parties that:
- An injured person isn’t required to hire an attorney, that the company settles claims directly with many accident victims every year.
- People who settle their claims without an attorney generally settle their claims more quickly than those who hire an attorney.
- Attorneys typically take 33-1/3% of a recovery; however, if the injured person settles directly with the company he/she gets to keep the total settlement.
- An injured person can always hire an attorney, so there’s no reason to hire one from the outset.
What the adjusters don’t say:
- An attorney will force the insurance company to pay the full value of the claim, which is usually much higher than an injured person is willing to accept.
- A quick settlement takes advantage of a victim’s present need for cash and doesn’t allow for the full nature and extent of the loss to be evaluated and appreciated. It’s much cheaper for the insurance company to settle early, before a victim comprehends the full nature of their loss.
- Using the insurer’s own statistics, a represented victim almost always obtains a larger recovery for him- self, even after deducting attorney’s fees.
- The longer an adjuster keeps a claimant from seeing an attorney, the more likely the adjuster will build rapport and engage the victim’s sense of trust by appearing to act as an advocate (e.g., “I’m doing every- thing I can with the company to get you the recovery that you and I both know you deserve.”) while reducing the victim’s expectations of settlement by gently pointing out all the negatives of the claim. The longer a victim puts off seeing a lawyer, the more likely it is that the victim won’t see one.
During training, adjusters are told that only about one- third of claimants are predisposed to hiring an attorney.
Further, since most claimants contact and hire an attorney within two weeks of an accident, adjusters are told that it’s critical to contact the claimant and establish rapport as quickly as possible. Phone contacts are handled by script so that the adjusters don’t forget to make the necessary points to gain rapport and to discourage the use of an attorney (e.g., “If you hire an attorney, then I won’t be able to talk with you anymore.”). Contact by phone is preferred by the companies because it’s cheaper. However, if it appears that the claimant is a candidate for hiring an attorney, then the adjuster is required to meet him/her face-to-face immedi- ately to build rapport. Allstate tells its adjusters that, “One way of identifying good candidates for face-to-face is to carefully think through the risk of losing the claimant to an attorney and your ability to influence the decision.” 1
In short, the most powerful arguments for hiring a per- sonal injury attorney are found in an insurer’s own training manual.
Those reasons are usually economic in nature. Some other considerations are these:
- A personal injury lawyer usually has substantial knowledge of what similar cases have settled for and can provide usable statistics to the client to make an informed decision about how far to pursue a claim.
- A personal injury lawyer has a fiduciary re- sponsibility towards his client to work in good faith in advancing the client’s interests, while an adjuster owes his allegiance solely to the insurance company and has a responsibility to save it as much money as possible.
- If a lawyer makes a mistake (for example, misses a critical deadline which is fatal to the claim), he and his malpractice insurer are re- sponsible to the client. If an unrepresented party allows a critical deadline to expire, that’s just tough luck. Believe it, because it happens.
- It is to the economic interest of the attorney to obtain the highest recovery possible for the client, while it is to the economic interest of the adjuster to make the lowest possible settlement with the unrepresented victim. Some compa- nies even give adjusters bonuses for the num- ber of “unrepresented” claims they close in a year.
- An adjuster has no ethical or legal obligation to tell an unrepresented party about other sources of insurance coverage or the consequences of losing coverage through failure to take investi- gative or procedural steps which would be known by a competent personal injury attor- ney.
In conclusion, you are not required to get an attorney when there’s a claim for personal injury or death.
However, given the insurance industry’s own statis- tics and track record, would it be wise to do so?
- Allstate Unrepresented Adjuster Training Manual, July 1995
Linda L. Kendrick Attorney at Law 614-499-2020
94 N. Sandusky St., Suite 2
Delaware, Ohio 43015