Should You Negotiate a Personal Injury Settlement Without a Lawyer in California?
It’s possible to seek an accident settlement in California without an attorney, as the state does not require you to have a lawyer in personal injury cases. However, many claimants find that they need an attorney’s guidance and representation as settlement negotiations often turn difficult. Here’s what you need to know about negotiating an injury settlement by yourself, and why a lawyer could be indispensable.
How to Negotiate an Injury Settlement Without an Attorney
If you opt to negotiate for personal injury compensation on your own, these are the basic steps to take:
- Gather evidence and documentation. These include the police report, photos of the accident scene, photos of your injuries, medical records, receipts of expenses, and even a journal of your pain and suffering.
- Calculate your economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages, such as medical bills and lost income, are easier to compute, but non-economic damages like pain and suffering will be challenging to establish.
- Build a case against the liable party (or parties). You’ll have to prove that their negligence or violent actions caused your injuries.
- Send a demand letter. You can initiate your settlement claim by sending a letter to the at-fault party’s insurance provider, detailing the amount you are seeking, why you believe you deserve this amount, and why the insured party should be liable.
- Negotiate with the insurer. An insurance adjuster will respond to your demand with their own offer, and if you don’t agree with this offer, you can communicate back and forth with them for a more agreeable settlement amount.
- File a lawsuit. This is often needed with insurance companies that keep delaying the negotiation or don’t take the injury claim seriously. When you file suit, it doesn’t automatically mean you’ll have to go to trial. Most cases are settled out of court.
As you can see, most of these steps may need the legal support of an attorney, from the compiling of evidence, case-building, navigating the law, and dealing with experienced insurers. In addition, the entire claims process is riddled with pitfalls that could cost you your fair compensation. We discuss these challenges below.
Challenges in Personal Injury Negotiations Without a Lawyer
Insurance companies are prepared to minimize claims.
It’s common for claimants to encounter insurance tactics that downplay their claim. Early on in the settlement negotiation, the insurer may likely give a lowball offer or an amount that’s much less than you deserve. Many claimants end up accepting this low amount just to address their piling bills and lost wages.
Insurance adjusters are also experienced in spotting weaknesses in your claim. For instance, they may take your statements out of context so that it looks like your injury isn’t as serious as you claim. They may request more and more paperwork, or take any opportunity to stall the negotiation, in hopes of getting you to settle for less.
In these common scenarios, it’s extremely helpful to have an injury attorney who has first-hand experience in how insurance negotiations work in the real world.
Your non-economic damages will likely be disputed.
If you suffered non-monetary losses related to your injury – such as pain, mental distress, and disfigurement – they should be included in your settlement claim. However, be prepared to experience pushback from the insurance company. Non-economic damages are challenging to prove, and there are several ways to calculate them. An insurance adjuster can quickly refute this part of your claim.
You’ll want an attorney’s help to determine the value of your non-economic damages and assert it to the insurer. We at Hamparyan Injury Lawyers can help you maximize this part of your claim by examining various aspects of your life that have been affected by your injury. We look into your capacity to work, career prospects, difficulties in your daily life, and more. With our 20+ years of experience, we’re ready to deal with the insurer for the true value you deserve.
California looks at your own share of fault, if any.
Some injured claimants in California may be disadvantaged by the comparative negligence principle. It’s a rule that looks at all the parties that had some fault in the accident, and how much they contributed to it. If you, as the injured party, were partially at fault in the accident, your compensation could decrease accordingly.
Insurance companies will take advantage of this rule when they have an opportunity to say that the injured claimant was also at fault in their injury case. You’ll need a lawyer to protect you and your rights in this situation.
Insurers might not take your claim seriously until you have an attorney.
On paper, the process to get an injury settlement may look straightforward. But in reality, many injured claimants have had their claims delayed or denied for vague reasons – until they got a lawyer. Insurance adjusters are more likely to take the claim seriously, or even settle on a fair amount, if there is a credible threat of a lawsuit. In cases where negotiations continue, an experienced attorney levels the playing field and gives the claimant fair negotiating power.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in San Diego County
Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers are top-rated in Southern California for our relentless work in negotiating on behalf of injured claimants. In the last two decades, our firm has obtained favorable settlements for our clients, now amounting to over $100 million.
Talk to us if you need help with your settlement negotiation. Your consultation with us is free, and you won’t have to pay us lawyer fees until we obtain compensation for you. Call us today at (619) 550-1355.
Robert Hamparyan is one of California’s most accomplished personal injury lawyers. Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers San Diego was founded so that Robert could bring more of his skill and knowledge to personal injury victims in all types of cases. Robert and his team have dealt with semi truck accidents, wrongful death cases, brain & spine injuries, and many other types of personal injury cases with soaring success.
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