Negotiating an Accident Settlement Without a Lawyer

If you have incurred an injury through the negligence of another person, you may have the legal right to compensation for any losses you have sustained. Complicated cases may result in protracted litigation, but the vast majority of such matters result in an accident settlement outside a courtroom, and in some instances you may be able to negotiate your accident settlement without legal representation.

In general, the upside of obtaining a settlement without a lawyer is that you get to keep the entire amount agreed upon rather than owe the lawyer the thirty-three percent or more that is the customary legal fee in personal injury cases. Lawyers will suggest that injured victims typically receive higher accident settlement awards when represented by counsel, but that is not always true. Determining the best way to proceed in each case, will require weighing all the various factors.

The Nature and Extent of Your Damages

When you negotiate an accident settlement, a monetary award is agreed upon in the attempt to place you, as much as possible, in the position you were before the accident; in other words, to make you whole again. For example, say you were involved in an automobile crash. It is a relatively straightforward process to have the damages to your car assessed at a body shop and calculate the repair costs, but what about your injuries? These damages may not be as obvious.

Extensive and Permanent Injuries

A major factor to consider in any settlement without a lawyer is the extent of your injuries. Every situation is unique, but in many situations complete recovery takes an extended period of time. In other instances, full recovery is not possible, and you may be left with what is deemed a permanent, stable condition. The important lesson is that you must be fully aware of the nature and extent of your injuries before placing a dollar value on them. If you need additional treatment or find you will never be the same again after you accepted a settlement, you will not be able to reopen the case and ask for more.

The Question of Liability

While it may seem obvious to you that the other party was at fault in the accident, the issue of liability may not be so clear. Again, the specific facts of your case are important. If you have witnesses, for example, who support your version of the events, it may be easier to establish liability. If the other party doesn’t agree he or she may deny fault, blame some other party or even claim you had some responsibility for the accident. Trying to recreate an accident scene with issues of contested liability can be a daunting task.

Handling Your Own Case

If you decide the circumstances warrant going it alone, there are certain issues you should be particularly mindful of:

  • Address any medical issues first and be certain you know the full extent of your injuries; keep accurate records of all costs.
  • Document the accident as thoroughly as possible and as soon as is practical, including getting copies of any police reports.
  • Determine if the other party has insurance and the policy limits of coverage.
  • Do not speak to anyone about the incident other than the appropriate insurance adjuster; make no admissions of any kind regarding your liability.
  • If you miss work for any reason related to the accident, keep accurate records of lost income.

Negotiating a Settlement

Realize that an insurance company will likely begin with a low-ball offer, and that there is no reason for you not to start with a demand that is higher than what you will accept. For the insurance company this is all part of the negotiation process.

Consider a Consultation with a Personal Injury Lawyer – Even with the most simple of cases, you may wish to protect your interest by speaking with experienced counsel. If injuries are serious, this becomes even more imperative.