Why you need an attorney for your accident or insurance case

Occasionally we have clients whom have attempted to handle their own cases without hiring an attorney. We do not recommend this.

Here are some reasons why you should hire an attorney rather than “do it yourself”:

  1. A experienced lawyer knows the value of your case. If you have an antique vase to sell you go to an antiques dealer to get fair value. If you have an accident or insurance matter you should go to an attorney.
  2. An experienced attorney knows the law and the value of cases. If you try to handle it yourself you may be “flying blind.”  
  3. If you go it alone against the insurance company the insurer can take advantage of you in either paying much less than the full and fair value or trapping you into losing your rights. See the example below.
  4. The attorney is worth his fee against the risks of either receiving much less or no recovery.

Sometimes clients represent themselves to save on the attorney’s fee. The supposed savings may be non-existent. Indeed a “do it yourself” legal job can result in a dismissal and no recovery.

Here is an accident case which is a cautionary tale against “do it yourself” lawyering: The client lost her twenty one year old daughter in a car accident. It was clearly the fault of defendant who lost control of his car due to a diabetic attack.

Naturally, the client was grief stricken at losing her only child. Instead of turning to an attorney she turned to a co-worker, a non-lawyer, to represent her on the wrongful death claim against defendant’s insurance company. One of the client’s motivations was to save money. Her friend and fellow worker, an insurance claims adjustor, offered to get the case settled for free so that the client would receive the entire settlement without paying a legal fee. Also, the friend said that he had enough experience to handle this case.

The friend proceeded to discuss and negotiate the case with the insurance company over a couple of years. No lawsuit was filed. The time for the client to file a lawsuit passed, and her friend was still negotiating. The friend claims that he and the insurance were close to a settlement, however, no concrete offer of settlement was made. The friend finally recommended to the client an attorney with no experience in accident cases, and the attorney filed the lawsuit too late. He could have corrected the error, but he failed to do so in time.

Now, the insurance company maintains that the lawsuit is too late, i.e., the lawsuit was filed beyond the statute of limitations. It has won a dismissal of the lawsuit in the trial court. The dismissal is on appeal.

The moral of the story is that by attempting to save money the client may lose it all. Here is another case:

The clients, parents in Pakistan, consulted with us regarding collecting the benefits on their recently deceased son’s life insurance policy. The policy was for $2,000,000.

The parents decided to proceed with the claim on their own in order to save on a legal fee. The insurance company kept delaying making a decision because it had to investigate the circumstances of the death of their son which it claimed was suspicious.

Many years passed, and the parents came back to us to hire us to sue the insurance when the insurer refused to pay the claim. The parents came to us many years later at almost the time that a lawsuit would have been too late. Fortunately, we were able to file suit shortly before the deadline, and a recovery was obtained.

The lesson of this case is that by luck the clients were not shut-out, but they almost lost the case by delaying and trying to be their own attorney.

The law is fraught with technicalities and defenses which a lay person will not know. An insurance company will be very happy to negotiate with a self-represented client and allow the clock to tick. Insurers also like to settle directly with clients since the insurance company pays much less than the cases where an attorney is present.

We live in an age where people try to “cut-out the middleman” and do their own printing, taxes, home repairs, and auto repairs. But, we urge that clients do not attempt to go it alone and be their own lawyers on accident and insurance cases. It can be hazardous to your case. Always consult an attorney first.

If you have any questions regarding a potential case, please contact our office by calling (800) 581-1434.


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