Note: This article was last updated on February 25, 2021 with the latest statistical data. Most people go their whole lives without getting hurt in a car accident — and thank goodness for that! But for those who are injured, deciding what to do next can be difficult. You may have already filed an insurance claim, and now you’re wondering if you made the right decision. If you’ve ever wondered whether getting a lawyer is better than filing an insurance claim for car accident injuries, we think you’ll find the information below quite helpful.
Q: Can I cancel my car accident insurance claim after talking to a lawyer about my options?
A: Yes, so long as you didn’t cause the accident. Three good reasons to do this are: 1) if your car damage costs about the same amount as your deductible; 2) you can’t afford to pay your deductible; or 3) you want to recoup 100% of your car accident injury and property damage costs.
Canceling an auto insurance claim will probably prevent your insurer from raising your premium rate. However, any insurance claim that you file stays on your driving record — even if you cancel it. The good news is, canceling a claim before your insurer pays it can sometimes lower your insurance costs.
Q: If insurance will cover my car repair cost and medical bills, why do I need a lawyer?
A: One word: damages. “Damages” is a legal term for all money an injured person lost due to an auto accident. Examples include:
- medical bills
- unpaid time off from work
- time and costs involved with a lengthy recovery from your injuries
- pain and suffering
Insurance policies only cover about 54% of car accident costs, according to National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. What does that mean, exactly? Well, most insurance policies do cover hospital bills for anyone injured. However, most insurers will not pay for a physical therapist afterwards.
If a lawyer files your injury claim, you’re far more likely to recover 100% of costs associated with your car accident. That’s because personal injury lawyers work to recover the maximum amount in damages from all responsible parties. In 2019, the average car insurance bodily injury claim paid $18,417. In most cases, a lawyer secures a significantly larger payout than what insurance companies offer to claimants without representation.
Q: How does a lawyer estimate the total amount of damages owed for my car accident injuries?
A. Lawyers follow a careful process for estimating the full damages owed after an auto accident. They add up all medical bills — including hospital stays, lab fees, prescription drugs, and visits to a rehabilitation specialist. Then, they include compensation for any lost wages, pain and suffering or emotional distress that you experienced. Finally, if the liable driver can’t pay the full amount owed at once, your lawyer can calculate an appropriate structured settlement plan. That means receiving a set dollar amount in regular installments over time.
Q: Won’t filing an auto accident injury claim take longer to settle than dealing with the insurance company directly?
A: If you’re seriously hurt in a car wreck and the driver at fault has full coverage, the insurer’s job is to settle for the lowest acceptable amount. Their goal is to save money by paying out less than they earn in monthly insurance premiums. To get you to accept their lowest offer, they may say you were either fully or partially at fault. They may suggest this to avoid paying you the full amount that you feel your injuries deserve.
Insurers may assert your estimated damages aren’t justified, or that you submitted unclear or inaccurate documentation. If the insurance company’s first settlement offer seems low, you’ll have to keep negotiating until you can both agree on an amount that seems fair to you. But if you’re recovering from a serious injury, you’re probably better off letting an experienced lawyer negotiate a settlement for you.
Q: Once I pay legal fees, won’t I actually get more money by filing an insurance claim?
A: It depends. Did your car accident injure anyone else? Could that person counter-sue you or your insurance provider? Will your premiums go up more than you can afford? Can the insurance company cancel your policy for filing a bodily injury claim? Many car insurance policyholders think they decide whether to renew their policies or not. However, insurers can decide to stop covering you at your next renewal date.
How old are you, and is your driving record otherwise perfect? Every car accident that results in an injury is unique. It costs nothing to have a lawyer review your case before accepting an insurance company’s settlement offer — so why wouldn’t you?
Related: How to Avoid Going Broke If You’re Hurt in a Car Crash