Does Hiring A Lawyer Really Cost You More?
[Below is a transcription of the podcast]
This is Ann Margaret Perkins with Perkins Law Firm. I’ve had several conversations with people recently who told me that the insurance adjuster told them they shouldn’t talk with an attorney since the insurance company wasn’t going to pay any more if they hired an attorney. So, hiring an attorney would only serve to cost the client more money. I say to those folks, “Well what do you think the reason is that the adjuster is telling you that? Because they care about you?” And the clients says, “No, I know they don’t care about me.” And I say, “Because you think they care about you getting the best recovery you can?” And the client says, “No of course not. They want to save money on my claim.” There’s one reason why insurance companies teach adjusters to try to keep claimants away from attorneys. And that is because if you hire the right attorney, it’s likely to cost them more money.
I have to agree with the insurance companies that hiring some attorneys will cost you money. If you hire someone who has a case manager who gets your medical records and bills and sends them to the insurance company and recommends that you take whatever the highest offer is that the insurer makes, that lawyer is not adding value to your case. But an attorney who knows how to maximize your recovery and then works hard to make that happen does increase your recovery.
When I consult with a potential client, if I don’t believe that I can increase that person’s net recovery, I tell them that. But probably 80% of the time I look at a case and I can see things about it that I know allow me, with my experience and education, to make a positive difference in what is paid on a claim.
Here are a few examples of things that adjusters tell untruths about in claims handling with unrepresented claimants. I’m able to call them on it when they say these things to me, but an unrepresented person may not.
- “We don’t pay for future medical treatment.” Well if future medical treatment is something that is more likely than not to be required and there’s evidence to support that, then yes, the law provides that you’re entitled to recover for future medical treatment.
- “We only pay the unpaid balance of medical bills.” So if you were lucky enough to have health insurance that paid some portion of your bill and your copay is what is outstanding, the insurer may tell you they’ll pick up that 20%, but that’s it. And that’s not what the law provides for. The law provides for that you are permitted to recover 100% of the reasonable value of the medical expense. And that goes to you whether or not it’s been paid by your health insurer. Now you may have an obligation to reimburse your health insurer, you may not. But that’s no concern of the claims adjuster. And if they tell you it is because they have to pay the health insurance back, that’s another untruth.
- “We have to pay your medical providers directly any amounts that they’re owed.” Your medical bills are your bills not theirs. An insurer has no responsibility to the medical provider. That is your responsibility. You’re entitled to recover the amount of the expense and then you can take it up with a medical provider whether you can negotiate some reduction and what amount is paid when. Maybe you decide to set up a payment plan. You are entitled to handle that bill however you want to unless the medical provider filed a legally enforceable lien.
- “Yours was a minor impact.” For years now there’s been a concept in the insurance industry they refer to as “minor impact soft tissue” claims (MIST). They classify those claims as being worth less than other claims. If a collision is in fact a very minor collision, then it’s probably less likely that a significant injury happened in that collision. Just because there’s not a lot of visible property damage doesn’t mean it was a minimum impact wreck, but adjusters will tell you that’s the case. I handled a case where they tried this tactic. I knew from the repair estimate the property damage adjuster had prepared that, even though the pictures of the car did not look bad, there were a lot of pieces of metal that were bent and deformed in the impact. So I took the property adjuster’s deposition. I went through that estimate in great detail and had him identify all of the metal parts that were damaged and that some of those were pieces of steel that were bent or deformed in some way. After I took that property damage adjuster’s deposition, we were able to get the case resolved for a fair amount. He helped me prove it was not a minor impact; it was a pretty significant impact, even though the pictures didn’t appear that way.
- “Yours is a ‘soft tissue’ injury.” That’s the second part of the MIST acronym. They’ll tell you a soft tissue injury isn’t significant. Our bodies are made up of hard things like bones and then the rest of it is soft tissue. So if you’ve got a muscle injury, a ligament injury, a tendon injury, that doesn’t make it insignificant. In fact, a whiplash injury can be very significant with long-term effects. I tried a case several years ago where a client had chronic neck pain as a result of a whiplash injury. The jury appreciated that her “soft tissue” injury was significant. They returned a verdict for over five times her medical bills!
Insurance companies are making tremendous profits. In 2017 State Farm had revenues of 78.3 billion dollars. Insurance companies almost always make tremendous profits, and the way they do that is by keeping their money, not paying you yours. So when an adjuster tells you something like hiring a lawyer is not going to make them pay any more, you need to question that. They don’t make 78.3 billion dollars by worrying about you. I hope this has been helpful. If I can ever help you with a personal injury claim, I’m certainly happy to do so. My number is 770-834-2083. You can check us out on our website injuryispersonal.com. Thanks for listening.