How do I begin the process of negotiating a settlement for pain and suffering I don't really want an attorney?
A person is capable of settling a personal injury case on their own without an attorney. But you will be at a severe disadvantage. Remember, liability carriers make money by collecting premiums and then NOT paying claims. Paying claims means less profit. So they hire people called adjusters whose job is to "adjust" claims. So they will look at your medical records and come up with a bunch of garbage about how your treatment was too much and too expensive and all kinds of excuses you can't even imagine. And don't expect much of an offer for pain and suffering. If you make a claim with say $5k in medical bills, they will probably offer you some lowball number like $2k, when in fact your case could be worth in excess of $10k. You don't know how to put pressure on them with argument and potential lawsuits because you aren't an experienced personal injury attorney. You are absolutely better off and money ahead to retain a personal injury attorney.
If you don't want an attorney, before you negotiate pain/suffering, you want to make sure that you are back to the same pain-free level that you were prior to your accident. Don't settle if you are still having pain and/or are still treating. BUT make sure you don't pass your statute of limitations. If you do, you will not be able to sue. Also, don't settle if this just occurred recently since the full extent of your injury is not know. Once you know the full extent of your injury, you need to make sure you attain all your medical records and bills. If you went to the hospital, you may have 3-8 different providers and bills there alone. So be careful. Any bill you miss, you will be responsible. Also find out about any other possible liens such as medicare, insurance, etc. You don't want to be surprised later on and find out you owe them money too. Once you have an idea of your medicals, liens, injury, etc. , then you can start negotiating. You send a demand and include the records that are pertinent to your injury and care. The insurance will give you a low offer and then you will have to push to negotiate. Negotiating skills are important. Also insurance also knows you are not an attorney and thus may offer less because they know you may not be ready to file in the case if you don't like the offer. Just be ready to push, and keep an eye of the statute of limitations. The truth of the matter, you may want to have attorney handle for you (especially since most charge a percentage of the recovery). However, if you don't want an attorney, I hope the above gives you some guidance. Be careful with the SOL. Also, be careful not to give recorded statements. Insurance companies tend to use those to find reasons not to pay. So you be careful what you say too.
You may not think you want an attorney, but you may soon find out that you need one. The sole goal of any insurance carrier is to pay nothing or as little as possible on any claim. Insurance carriers are neither your friend nor your good neighbor. If you needed brain surgery, would you attempt to do it yourself on your kitchen table with a scalpel and a mirror or would you try to hire a brain surgeon?
You should obtain needed medical care and treatment immediately and follow the doctor's advice. Do not give any statement to the adverse party or insurance company nor grant them access to any medical records. Photograph the injuries and the damage done to any property. Contact a personal injury attorney in your area as soon as possible so that you can protect your rights. You may also find it helpful to review the Legal Guides I have published on Avvo.com dealing with many of the issues you are now facing. We
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Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
Most likely you do need an attorney. The law for pain and suffering is usually different from state to state. In Florida to get pain and suffering following an automobile accident you need to prove permanent injuries and that the injuries were the result of the other driver's wrong-doing. In order to prove permanent injuries you need a medical specialist (e.g. doctor) to validate that your injuries are permanent.
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