Legal Lessons Week 1 - Do I Actually Need a Lawyer?
Answers to Your Personal Injury Questions
Dear Attorney Norton,
Another driver ran into me on the highway. His insurance company is paying for my car damage and my health insurance is paying my medical bills. Do I still need a lawyer?
- On My Own in Denver
Dear On My Own in Denver,
Insurance companies have very experienced attorneys. Even attorneys hire attorneys. At a minimum, you should speak with an attorney to learn your rights and know what to expect. While some insurance adjusters seem nice, their job is to save the insurance company money and minimize what you collect. A friendly insurance adjuster is not your friend.
Most of the time the insurance company for the driver who caused an accident will pay for the damage caused to vehicles without much trouble. However, the insurance company will not always tell you that they need to pay you for the cost of a rental car for every day you cannot drive your car - - they need to pay, even if you do not get a rental car. The insurance adjuster will also not tell you that they owe you for the loss in the value of your car, even after it has been fixed. Often, people do not realize that their car is worthless, because it was in an accident until they try to sell it months or years later. By then it may be too late.
While the damage to your vehicle is important in the beginning, the injury part of your case can be worth much more. The Insurance Research Council, supported by insurance companies, conducted a study where it determined that injured people with an attorney get an average of 3.5 times more than those without attorneys. That translates to a 350% higher recovery for the person with an attorney.
Sometimes insurance companies try to get you to settle your injury claim early. This is only to save the company money at your expense. Often people settle because they think the “nice” adjuster is being honest. Others settle because they just don’t know the value of their case. You should never sign anything or settle your case without having a lawyer look at your case.
You stated that your health insurance is paying your medical bills. Beware!! Almost every health insurance policy has language that says, “we will pay for your medical care, but if you recover money from someone that hurt you, we must be paid back.” Yes, your own health insurance company wants to be paid back from your settlement. This is true with Kaiser, UnitedHealth Care, Anthem/BlueCross, Medicare, Medicaid, and many others.
The insurance company for the at-fault driver may get you to settle without telling you that your own health insurance company wants to get paid out of your settlement. Imagine getting a settlement from a car accident and later finding out that your health insurance company wants all of the money. Situations like these can be avoided by talking to an attorney BEFORE you settle or sign anything. In fact, some new laws in Colorado may be used to reduce what your health insurance company gets paid back or to stop them from collecting anything at all.
Because injury attorneys usually work on a percentage of what they recover, it is always best to take advantage of a free consultation to determine your rights.
Dear Attorney Norton,
I was hurt in an accident and do not think I can afford an attorney. Can you help?
- Hurt in Denver
Dear Hurt in Denver,
Most personal injury law firms will give you a free telephone, or in-person, case review after an accident. Do not hire an attorney that wants money upfront for fees or costs. While some law firms want money upfront, most personal injury attorneys will not charge you anything unless they recover money for your claim. Generally, if a lawsuit is not necessary, the attorney will charge 1/3 of any amount they can collect for your injuries. Settlements without going to trial are certainly possible and victims of accidents have rights in Colorado regardless of their age, gender, race, or citizenship status.
You may submit your questions, or talk to an attorney, free of charge, by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling/texting.