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Callis L. Childs

Practicing law since 1972 and only personal injury since 1995
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Callis Childs P.A. Articles, case studies and news about Arkansas' Injury Law practice.
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Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer Will Most Likely put More Money in Your Pocket

A Special Report – If you hire a personal injury attorney you will most likely end up with more money in your pocket.

The following report presents research that you and your family must know if you are injured. Auto insurance companies are betting that you will take the first small settlement offer, if any, that they offer. They are betting that you will not know your rights or the law, will not know how to protect yourself, and will not hire an attorney to protect yourself.

A shocking CNN expose, “Insurance Companies Fight Paying Billions in Claims”, was shown on February 07, 2007. (http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/Anderson.cooper.360/blog/2007/02/insurance-companies-fight-paying.html)

Anderson Cooper 360 investigated how insurance companies get out of paying accident victims billions of dollars. CNN looked at how Allstate handled the claims against it including one woman, Roxanne Martinez, whose car was hit in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Her medical bills and lost wages added up to $25,000 and Allstate offered her only $15,000 to settle. Roxanne, realizing that she needed help, hired a lawyer. After taking Allstate to court, a jury awarded Roxanne $167,000, to which they felt she was entitled to receive as compensation.

According to this expose, 10 of the 12 top auto insurance companies are doing what Author and Law Professor, Jay M. Feinman, calls the 3 D’s – Delay, Deny, and Defend – in order to save their companies money. (Feinman, Jay M., “Delay, Deny, Defend: Why Insurance Companies Don’t Pay Claims and What You Can Do About It,” Penguin/Portfolio Publishing, New York, NY, 2010). According to Feinman’s book which was published in 2010, this strategy was first introduced in the 1990s as a way for insurance companies to cut their losses, prevent fraudulent claims, and decrease costs.

However, they soon realized that they could increase their profits and make billions of dollars for their shareholders by denying legitimate claims as well. As Feinman explains, if you are hurt in a minor accident, these companies will usually try to delay handling your claim, deny that you were even hurt, and possibly defend their decision in a long drawn-our court battle unless or until you are protected by a lawyer.

Another insurance industry strategy according to Feinman and Anderson Cooper 360 in “Keeping Them Honest: Insurance Battle” is to discourage claimants from hiring representation and force them to walk away with a small first-time offer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvPW087RiJ8

In fact, one former claims adjuster for Allstate, Shannon Kmatz, told CNN that they would just take the $50 fearing that, if they did not, they would get nothing.

It was Allstate’s policy, like most insurance companies, that people would not wait or sue and in most cases would not even hire an attorney.

In the Allstate training manual that CNN obtained, adjusters were instructed to force “smaller walk-away settlements.” Allstate believed that people would just walk away with their first offer and the smallest amount of compensation possible “even if it was not enough to cover their expenses. In other words, without an attorney to protect them and advise them of their rights, people simply walk away from billions of dollars that insurers keep for themselves which should compensate people for their injuries and damages. (http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.coooper.360/blog/2007/02/insurance-companies-fight-paying.html)

What these insurance companies don’t want you to know is that hiring an attorney can help you end up with more money in your pocket. For example, you can recover general damages (i.e. pain and suffering) in addition to recovering your out-of-pocket expenses (i.e. medical costs and lost wages).

According to “A Century of Change in Personal Injury Law, “ published by the California Law Review in 2000, the amount of money that lawyers can recover for their clients is much larger today than it was 100 years ago.

This increase in personal injury damages is due to the increased amount our legal system awards to victims for pain and suffering. (88 Cal. L. Rev. 2413, 2000)

If personal injury lawsuits promised victims only what they could get without filing a lawsuit, they would have no incentive to hire an attorney and/or file a lawsuit. However, that is not the case. If most of the money wound up in the lawyer’s pocket, the client would have no incentive to sue. But, if after paying lawyer’s fees, a client can get much more money than is necessary to pay all of out of pocket expenses and still have money left, then the benefits of hiring an attorney are much clearer. (88 Cal. L. Rev 2421, 2000)

According to the 1999 Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims, “Paying for Auto Injuries,” attorneys play a very important role in the compensation process for auto insurance claimants. According to the survey, injured victims received an average of 40% more money when hiring an attorney to represent them versus representing themselves. (“Paying for Auto Injuries: A Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims,” Insurance Research Council, 1999, pg. 45-52)

The number of injured people hiring an attorney to represent them has consistently increased over the past three decades and over half (52%) of auto accident victims in Arkansas, that file insurance claims, also hire an attorney. (“Paying for Auto Injuries.” Pg. 6; Table A-35, Attorney Involvement by Accident State, pg. 82)

Services rendered by attorneys on behalf of auto injury victims included: filing a claim or lawsuit (54%), negotiating a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company (35%), and advising which doctors, chiropractors, or clinics to avoid for the treatment of wreck related injuries (18%).

Other important reasons associated with hiring an attorney were denial of the claim by the insurance company, the other driver not being insured, dissatisfaction with the amount of money offered, and delay in getting the claim settled. (“Paying for Auto Injuries: A consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims,” Insurance Research Council, 1999, pg 7)

The Insurance Research Council provided another article in 1994 entitled “Auto Injuries: Claiming Behavior and Its Impact on Insurance Costs.” 85% of dollars that are paid out by insurance companies for bodily injury claims are paid to injured parties who are represented by attorneys. The study indicated that these payments are about 3.7 times higher for those clients with attorneys as compared to those who do not have attorneys. For an average injury, $11,939 was awarded to a client with an attorney compared to $3,262 to a claimant with no attorney. For neck sprains or strains, the average payment to a claimant represented by an attorney was $7,918 and to a claimant without an attorney $2,480. For a bone fracture, the average payment was $39,397 and to a claimant without an attorney $19,105. For minor lacerations, the average payment was $4,771 and without an attorney $1,166. These amounts are much higher today. As the study suggests, claimants who hire attorneys are much more likely to find themselves with more compensation in their pocket than those who do not hire an attorney.

Showing similar results, a 1988 study, “Attorney Involvement in Auto Injury Claims,” was conducted by the All-Industry Research Advisory Council. The study found that households that reported large losses were more likely to hire an attorney. But, more importantly, the households that hired attorneys received more reimbursement per dollar of economic loss, after deduction of attorney fees.

In fact, attorney representation in personal injury claims of $5,000 or less increases the claimant’s gross payment per each $1 of economic loss by more than two times that of claimants who are not represented by an attorney.

Even with $5,000 to $10,000 in personal injury damages, claimant, represented by an attorney, receives $1.59 for each $1 of economic loss compared to only $1.26 by an unrepresented claimant.

In addition, more than half of these claimants who were represented by an attorney thought that the amount they received, even after deducting attorneys’ fees, was far greater than what they could have received without an attorney. 60% of all households that hired attorneys were completely satisfied with the settlement or award negotiated or obtained by their attorney, and 75% of the households that hired attorneys were satisfied with the overall performance of their attorney.

In the 1985 RAND Corporation studies entitled, Automobile Accidents Compensation: Vol. 1 Who Pays How Much How Soon?” and “Vol. 2 Payments By Auto Insurers,” conducted for the Institute for Civil Justice, claimants who were represented by an attorney would receive higher compensation than those claimants who were not represented by an attorney.

This was true after attorneys’ fees were paid. The study particularly found that the relationship between the amount of general damages “lost wages, pain and suffering” and medical loss is highly dependent on whether the claimant is represented by an attorney.

Claimants in every state that were studied had a higher expected net recovery with an attorney than without an attorney. In some states, the relationship between payment for general damages and medical loss is highly dependent on whether or not the claimant is represented by an attorney.

Represented claimants not only recover larger payments on average, according to this study, but they also are more likely to recover payment for general damages than an unrepresented claimant with the same type of injuries.

According to the RAND studies, in California injured parties not represented by an attorney were paid an average of $1603 for general damages, if any money at all, and those represented by an attorney were paid an average of $3251.

In New Jersey the average size of general damages paid to a claimant not represented by an attorney was $5536 and $9003 to a claimant who was represented by an attorney. This study was conducted in 1985, so today’s averages would be much more depending on each state.

Injured parties who retain attorneys are paid much more money than quoted above for general damages on average than claimants who handle their own case.

In 1980, a study was conducted at the State University of New York at Buffalo, “Settled Out of Court: The Social Process of Insurance Claims Adjustment,” by H. Laurence Ross. The study focused on the effects of attorney representation and the average recovery one could expect to receive as a result of such representation.

According to the study, the average recovery of injured parties who hired an attorney, was found to be from 4 to 12 times higher as the recovery of unrepresented injured parties. In cases where the injury was moderate to severe, a represented client was expected to receive an average of $11,608 and an unrepresented person was expected to receive only $1,652. This study was conducted in 1980. These amounts do not take into account changes in inflation and would be much higher today.

A 1968 study conducted in New York City, “Dollars, Delay and the Automobile Victim,” by the Walter E. Meyer Research Institute of Law found that injured parties represented by an attorney have a 90% recovery rate while injured parties who represent themselves only have a 65% recovery rate. The main factor associated with greater plaintiff success was hiring an attorney.

The New York City study also revealed that the amount of money recovered for a client was over three times more when the injured party was represented by an attorney as compared to those injured parties who were not represented by an attorney.

The conclusion of the study was that, even after an injured party client pays attorney’s fees, the amount of compensation received in settlement or in litigation is so large that the injured party will “net” more money in his/her pocket than if he/she had handled the case himself/herself.

What the Research Studies Say

In all the research studies cited above, injured parties with legal representation ended up with more money in their pocket after attorney’s fees were paid. This was confirmed by studies conducted by the major Insurance Companies themselves and the more reputable research organizations in the world. In fact, in those studies, injured parties who hired an attorney, recovered an average of three and a half times more money than those claimants who did not hire an attorney.

Hiring an attorney has its advantages for several reasons. According to the 1985 RAND Corporation study, “Automobile Accident Compensation,” attorneys are very skilled at negotiating larger settlements than an average claimant because of their education, knowledge base and experience. First, adequate compensation is rarely rewarded to claimants in automobile accidents until or unless they retain an attorney to protect their legal rights to file suit, to pursue a claim to trial, and to negotiate a larger settlement. As a result, an injured party gains more experience, more knowledge, and more negotiating credibility and power.

The Bottom Line is – You Will End Up With More Money

In Your Pocket If You Hire An Attorney

 

Bibliography

“Attorney Involvement In Auto Injury Claims.” All-Industry Research Advisory Council, 1988.

“Auto Injuries: Claiming Behavior and its Impact on Insurance Costs,” Insurance Research Council, 1994.

“Dollars, Delay and the Automobile Victim,” Walter E. Meyer Research Institute of Law, Bobbs-Merrill Publishers, Inc., New York, 1968.

Feinman, Jay M., Delay, Deny Defend: Why Insurance Companies Don’t pay Claims and What You Can Do About It. Penguin/Portfolio Publishing, New York, NY, 2010.

Griffin, Drew, AndersonCooper 360, “Insurance Companies Fight Paying Billions in Claims,”CNN, February 07, 2007,

http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/blog/2007/02/insurance-companies-fight-paying.html.

Griffin, Drew, Anderson, Cooper 360, “Keeping them Honest: Insurance Battle,” CNN, October 2, 2007, www.financeandinsurancetips.com/videos-anderson-cooper-360-keeping-them-honest-battle/.

“Paying for Auto Injuries: A Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims,” Insurance Research Council, 1999.

Ralph, John E., “Automobile Accident Compensation – Vol. 1: Who Pays How Much How Soon?” and “Vol. 2: Payments By Auto Insurers,” the Institute For Civil Justice, RAND Corporation, 1985/

Ross, H. Lawrence, “Settled Out of Court: The Social Process of Insurance Claims Adjustment,” Aldine Publishing Co., New York, 1980.

Sugarman, Stephen D., “A Century of Change in Personal Injury Law,” 88 Cal. L. Rev. 2403, 2000.