If you’ve been injured in a car crash, don’t try to handle things with the insurance companies alone. Their job is to make sure you get as little as possible for your vehicle and any injuries sustained from the accident.
“You can settle your own case, but it’s highly likely you’ll undervalue your claim compared to what an attorney can achieve for you,” says attorney Bill Adler of Jim Adler & Associates.
“While you have a legal right to settle your own case, keep in mind that an insurance company will want to pay as little as possible. An attorney can help in many ways to get a fair settlement,” says senior briefing attorney Kyle Schnitzer of the firm.
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No Charges Up-Front But There Is A Contingency Fee
Jim Adler & Associates charges clients no up-front money, but instead works on a contingency fee basis. That means if the firm fails to settle a case, it’s paid nothing. And when it does settle a case, the firm is paid only from a part of the total recovery or settlement, and nothing from a client’s own pocket. You will never write us a check.
As for how much is a contingency fee, “Most attorneys, including us, charge 33⅓ percent of the gross settlement if a case is settled without a lawsuit,” Bill Adler says. “If a lawsuit must be filed, the fee goes to 40 percent. But most cases are settled out of court, with no lawsuit necessary.”
“And we won’t file a lawsuit without a client’s permission,” Schnitzer adds.
What does this mean in dollars and cents? If your car accident lawyer negotiates a $60,000 settlement of your claim from an insurer, you receive two-thirds of that amount, or $40,000, while your attorney gets one-third, or $20,000. However, from the two-thirds amount your medical bills are paid and you keep the remainder.
Settlements For Car Accident Cases
“Settlements are paid out of the insurance company’s checkbook and usually in a lump sum,” Bill Adler says. “Insurers don’t designate different amounts for different things, like a jury would do. Insurers pay one sum.”
Out of that amount will come a car wreck attorney’s fee and payments for medical bills. For such things as lost wages and pain and suffering, “the rest goes to the client,” Adler says.
You Can Hire A Lawyer Even If You’re At Fault
But key things may apply, such as whether fault was shared in the wreck.
If the other driver was partly to blame, he or she must be more than 50 percent responsible for you to receive anything, Adler says. It’s Texas law.
That means if you were found to be 40 percent at fault, and the other driver was 60 percent at fault, you’d receive 60 percent of your claim. But if you were deemed more than 50 percent at fault, you’d get nothing.
Keep in mind that just because you received a traffic ticket does not mean you were legally to blame.
“If it’s a swearing match — someone says green light, and you say red light — part of our job is to argue that it wasn’t your fault,” says Schnitzer.
Even so, a police report which goes against you may weigh heavily with an insurance adjuster, who may try to deny or underpay your claim.
You Can Sue An Insurance Company Without A Lawyer
“You could,” says attorney Bill Adler, “but it’s not a good idea. I don’t think a layman would know the rules of evidence, and I’d strongly advise against it.”
The court will expect you to know the rules and procedures,” Schnitzer says. “And the other side will take advantage of you.”
“Lawyers go to law school for three years just to learn the basics of the law,” Adler says. “An individual with no formal legal training will likely get hammered. You need a car accident lawyer to represent you.”