Do I really need a lawyer for my personal injury claim?
Published on May 11, 2022 by Nada Najjar
As a lawyer, one of the questions I get asked most often is “do I really need a lawyer?”. Speaking as a lawyer, my response is almost always “Yes, of course you do!”. However, all jokes aside, when it comes to pursuing a compensation claim for injuries you most definitely need to have a good lawyer on your side. Especially when an insurer is assessing your claim.
What is the role of the Insurer?
A lot of clients who have been running their own case and then come to me for advice, get quite surprised when they learn of their legal rights and entitlements. They often feel betrayed by the insurance company and their case manager for failing to advise them or inform them about their rights. It is important to note that, generally, insurance companies are not there to ensure that you get fair and full compensation. The insurance companies’ role is to limit their liability to you, and to ensure that they maintain their profits. Whilst they have certain duties and obligations with respect to the management of claims, you are not their client and they do not owe you any duty to inform you of your rights.
Does the Insurer provide legal advice?
No. The insurance company and your claims manager cannot provide you with legal advice. Insurance companies also see you through the lens of the insurer. They have very limited information or knowledge of your personal circumstances, and they often prefer the medical opinions that downplay your problems. This can have a drastic affect when assessing the amount of compensation to be paid.
What difference can independent legal advice make?
For example, I once had a client come to me who had been running her own case and was in the final stages of settlement negotiations with the insurer and wanted my opinion and advice on the amount she was being offered to settle her claim. The offer from the insurance company was essentially for an amount which would allow her to have physiotherapy treatment sessions at the rate of once per week for about one and a half years. Upon obtaining all her instructions, I advised her that in my view her claim for damages was worth more than ten (10) times what the insurance company had offered her. Luckily for her she had not yet accepted the offer or signed a settlement agreement, and we were able to get her fair compensation which included an allowance for the cost of possible future surgery and other medical treatment (including the physiotherapy), future loss of income for her loss of capacity to work, domestic care and assistance, and pain and suffering! None of that had been factored in by the insurance company, who believed that all she needed was some physiotherapy treatment and that all would return to normal. Whilst the insurance company may have been genuine in its belief about what the claim was worth, the concerning thing is that once a settlement is reached between a claimant and the insurance company, there is no going back.
Why you should seek legal advice before any settlement with the Insurer.
A settlement in most cases brings your rights under the claim to an end forever. Personal injury compensation is a complex area of the law and different types of accidents are governed by different legislation and rules. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you have your claim properly investigated and assessed by a lawyer who specialises in personal injury compensation. It will most likely be the best investment you will ever make if you happen to find yourself in a situation where you need to make a claim.