There is an old saying "a man who represents himself has a fool for a client."
Here's the scenario: You've been in an auto accident where you are in no way at fault and you're badly injured. You receive a phone call from the other car's insurance adjuster, eager to discuss the case. She is the nicest lady, who promises to promptly and fairly compensate you for your injuries. You think to yourself "What do I need an attorney for? The insurance adjuster is going to take care of this." You've developed a rapport with this lady, and she told you that there is no need for an attorney. Sadly, you would be wrong. The insurance adjuster is playing you, using a façade of care and concern for your injury in order to attempt to pay you pennies for a dollar on your claim. Here's the big picture, and if you remember nothing else from this blog, remember this: INSURANCE COMPANIES MAKE THEIR PROFIT BY PAYING AS LITTLE AS THEY CAN ON YOUR CLAIM.
When this sweetheart of an adjuster sees that you are unrepresented, she realizes she is in a superior negotiating position. She is thinking to herself that she can pay you much less than your injury is worth and make her boss extremely happy when he sees the money she has saved the company. This adjuster knows that generally an unrepresented person is not familiar with personal injury law and has little or no experience in negotiating the value of injuries. Hence, she knows you have no idea what your claim is worth, and she is going to take advantage of that weakness. Insurers know, and tell their adjusters during training, that in the most common personal injury claims, "Represented claims [when an injured person uses an attorney] settle for 2-3 times more than unrepresented claims [when a person deals directly with the insurer]." Allstate Unrepresented Adjuster Training Manual, July 1995.
Sure, insurance companies will boast that they are motivated by their goal of prompt payment of claims and good customer service, but what's really going on here is they are trying to take advantage of a situation. She wants to resolve your claim as quickly as possible, before you realize how much your injury is really worth and you retain counsel to do so for you. She knows that while you're unrepresented, you're not in a position to threaten the insurance company with a lawsuit, and thus they have no reason to feel pressured or threatened into handing over the fair amount.
This is not to say insurance adjusters are terrible people. They have a job to do, a family to feed, a house to pay for and most importantly, a boss to answer to. It just so happens that part of being successful in their line of work is to settle your case as cheap as possible. These adjuster's have a supervisor, a claims examiner, a regional manager, and a corporate office who all look at only one thing, how much money the adjuster has saved them. With that being said, adjusters do not take an unrepresented injured person seriously. They look at that situation as a one where they can save the company some money, and look good to their boss by taking advantage of someone who doesn't know what they deserve.
On the other hand, experienced attorneys such as Rubin & Licatesi, P.C. know how much your claim is worth. Through our 30 years of experience, our attorneys have substantial knowledge of what similar cases have settled for and can provide usable statistics to the client to make an informed decision about how far to pursue a claim.
A personal injury lawyer also has a fiduciary responsibility towards his client to work in good faith in advancing the client's interests, while an adjuster owes his allegiance solely to the insurance company and has a responsibility to save it as much money as possible. If a lawyer makes a mistake (for example, misses a critical deadline which is fatal to the claim), he and his malpractice insurer are responsible to the client. If an unrepresented party allows a critical deadline to expire, that's just tough luck. Unlike an attorney, an adjuster has no ethical or legal obligation to tell an unrepresented party about other sources of insurance coverage or the consequences of losing coverage through failure to take investigative or procedural steps which would be known by a competent personal injury attorney. These are some of the fatal risks an unrepresented person takes when pursuing their personal injury claim.
As well as that, attorneys such as the ones at Rubin & Licatesi, P.C. will handle your claim for free if you do not recover any money for your injury. This can only mean one thing, if you lose, we lose as well. It is to the economic interest of the attorney to obtain the highest recovery possible for the client, while it is to the economic interest of the adjuster to make the lowest possible settlement with the unrepresented victim. Some companies even give adjusters bonuses for the number of "unrepresented" claims they close in a year.
Lastly, insurance companies will be more likely to pay the full value of your claim to an attorney because they know an attorney has the ability to put your case into suit. Once that happens, insurance companies have to pay attorneys a vast amount of legal fees. Insurance carriers want to avoid cases going to trial, which makes them more likely to negotiate and hand over the fair amount to a represented claimant.
For more information: Call (516) 478-0237
By: Candice L. Deaner, Esq.