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SHOULD I WAIT BEFORE I HIRE AN ATTORNEY FOR MY ACCIDENT CLAIM

May 3, 2018

It’s a great question and one that a lot of people ask themselves when they have been in an accident.  After all, most people are aware of the fact that attorneys charge a portion of whatever their recovery might be.  So it is reasonable to ask, “Why should I share my recovery with a lawyer if I can settle the case myself?”  The truth is, there are some claims that can be settled without a lawyer.  For example, if you have a little car accident with minimal property damage and no personal injury, you probably don’t need a lawyer.

But if you are in an accident where you have suffered bodily injury, you should get quality legal representation as soon as possible.  Never try to settle an injury case without a competent personal injury lawyer on your side.  There are several very important reasons for this:

  1. It takes time to determine the seriousness of your injury. After an accident you may be stiff and sore and unable to move as well as before the accident.  The muscles of the body respond to injury and trauma by going in to spasm of varying degrees.  The muscles tighten in order to prevent you from moving too much and causing greater damage to injured tissues and structures.  It is often difficult to know how significant the underlying issue is during the inflammatory period which can last weeks or even months.A good lawyer is going to help you understand the importance of early treatment and intervention.  In addition, your lawyer should be able to help you find a doctor who can give you this very important care at no out of pocket cost to you.  A good lawyer will be able to help you find a doctor who understands the importance of keeping excellent records that will carefully document the nature of your injury.  When it comes time to settle your case, the quality of the doctor’s records will be just as important as the quality of the doctor’s care.If you take a wait and see approach to this kind of injury, you could be in very serious trouble on a number of fronts.  First and foremost, if you wait to get appropriate treatment, you jeopardize your chances of getting the best possible physical outcome.  By failing to get the right kind of treatment early on, you could be left with permanent stiffness or limitation of motion in critical joints and muscles.  Early treatment leads to far better long term outcomes.
  2. When the opposing insurance company sees that you have a lawyer who is willing to go the distance in your corner, you have a distinct advantage right from the start.  Insurance companies are in the business of making money.  Their objective is pay out as little as possible on every claim.  When the company receives notice of your claim they are required to establish a “reserve” on the file.  This means that they set aside a sum of money that they believe will be sufficient to pay your claim.  This “reserve” is often established very early in a case.  It reflects the adjustor’s first impression of the claim.The amount of money that the insurance company places in reserve is dependant upon a number of important factors.  An important factor is the perceived quality of your representation.  If you are unrepresented, this can effect how the insurance company evaluates your case and decrease the amount of money placed in “reserve”.  By the same token, if your lawyer is known for wanting to avoid “the courtroom” or if the law firm representing you has a reputation for being a “settlement mill”, your “reserve” will suffer.  Once the “reserve” is established on a case, it is difficult to settle your case for more than the reserve amount…so you want that “reserve” to be set as high as possible from the outset.Having a quality law firm on your side tells the insurance company several critical things:
    1. They know you have taken your case seriously enough to get a good firm to represent you.
    2. They know you are willing and able to go the distance if you don’t get an acceptable offer.
    3. They know your case will be investigated and documented properly.
    4. They know your medical records and bills will be presented in a professional manner.
    5. They know your lawyer is going to be able to argue you case persuasively and with conviction
    6. They know that when it comes time to talk settlement your lawyer will be ready to file suit immediately if they don’t pay you what your claim is worth.

    When the insurance company understands these things from the outset, the “reserve” is placed where it needs to be and the case has a much better opportunity to settle for the right amount.

  3. When the insurance company sees that you have no lawyer and that you want to try and settle it on your own, your case starts off on a weaker footing.  Not only is the “reserve” likely to be much lower, the adjustor will usually take your case less seriously.  Adjustor’s can’t help themselves.  They see an unrepresented (or poorly represented) claimant as an opportunity to settle the claim for less.  Even if you threaten to bring in an attorney if the offer isn’t fair, the adjuster can’t resist playing hardball with you.  The odds are in the companies favor.  They know that they usually settle cases with unrepresented claimants for less money, so that will be their mind set when it comes to negotiating the claim with you.This kind of a negotiation paints both sides into the wrong corners and makes it difficult to settle even if the claimant eventually hires a lawyer.  At this point, the only alternative is often filing suit and going through a protracted litigation process. Filing suit after this kind of fruitless negotiation incurs significant costs that can usually be avoided when the claim gets off on the right foot.  The threat of litigation from a good attorney is a powerful negotiation tool.  The threat of litigation from an unrepresented claimant can be seen as very hollow.
  4. Insurance companies know who the “good firms” At Wattel & York we have decades of experience in helping accident victims recover full value for their claims.  We are known as fighters.  We are not afraid to litigate a claim if that means putting more money in our client’s pockets.  The insurance companies know this about us.  They know we are not a settlement mill.  They know our main objective is not to avoid the court room.  Our main objective is maximizing the value of every client’s claim.  We would be proud to be on your side.

By David H. Cluff

Of counsel to Wattel & York

Find more like this: Personal Injury

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“Amazing people, they had my claim for about a week before they were able to get my truck totaled out. Otherwise I would have been stuck with a truck that had heavy front end damage if they hadn’t stepped in to help me. I tried to deal with my insurance company myself for over a month and that got me nowhere, all I got was a massive headache and a messed up truck. They are very professional and act quickly on your claim. I highly recommend them to anyone who is looking for help.”

Candy J.

2/9/2020

“I was in an accident and decided to call Wattel and York. After months of going to a Chiropractor, I finally felt better. When it came time for settlement, the insurance company was making an offer I wanted to accept, Mr. Wattel advised against it and felt the insurance company was shortchanging me. He recommended I file a lawsuit and that will get them to cave. Well, Dave filed suit, and sure enough, the insurance company increased their offer by $4,000! I am very satisfied with how my case was handled.”

Nardeasha S.

20/20/2020

“Wattel & York were flat out outstanding with my personal injury case. They made the process painless and kept in constant communication throughout the entire time. Any questions I might’ve had were promptly answered and detail oriented. They gave me crucial advice that I would’ve otherwise not been aware of. I couldn’t have asked for more from them. Put your trust in these guys, you won’t be disappointed. Thanks Wattel & York.”

Mattew P.

13/9/2020

“Thank you so much for all your hard work on our behalf! Thinking I could handle it on my own, I was originally reluctant to take my accident claim to an attorney. But I am SO glad I called you instead. Your people were always helpful, pleasant and responsive at every step along the way. You represented us with honesty and integrity and made a traumatic experience as painless as it could be. And best of all, you helped us get a settlement that was fair and far more than I could ever have negotiated on my own! I highly recommend Wattel &York to anyone who has suffered a personal injury.”

Cathy M.

“I was the passenger in a vehicle that was 'T- Boned' at an intersection in 2014. The issues of responsibility and recovery became a difficult and convoluted confusion. I really needed help. This Team at Wattel and York walked me patiently and encouragingly through difficult months, sorting through issues and finally arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. I especially want to name two great and encouraging "warriors" of Wattel and York who directed me along the way..Brian Torba and Melissa Patterson..to them and the whole team I say "Thank You" with heart felt gratitude. Sincerely, God Bless You.”

Robert G.

“Honesty. Integrity. Transparency. Partnership. Wattel & York brought all of these qualities and more to my accident case. I'd love to thank all of the team members who helped me with the process: David Guzman, who conducted the initial interview in my home, Aly Shomar-Esparza, who seamlessly guided me through paperwork and filings, Debbie Harrach, who conducted final review, paperwork revisions and scheduling, and Thomas Grisoni, who counseled me before and attended my deposition. I never felt alone during the arduous process and always knew there was a professional team looking out for my best interest. I highly recommend Wattel & York if you are unfortunately involved in an accident that was not your fault.”

Russ W.

“I was a passenger in a car that got t-boned a few years ago and got a huge gash. I didn't know a lot about lawyers, so I basically just picked one on the flip of a coin. I called Wattel and York and they explained everything, I went into the office and filled out paperwork. Got treatment on my gash over the time I worked with them, glad I did as it opened back up a couple times and bled. They did really good, got me the maximum amount of money, and made sure I was well taken care of. I was updated from time to time so that was good. The only thing I might change is I never got to thank or talk to my lawyer. I think it was because I was already used to dealing with the lady at their Glendale office so they just kept her as my point of contact. So it's okay, I'll thank them with a good review. The last thing I could say about them is months after I thought my case was over they called me and said they had another check for me for a few hundred dollars. Apparently, they negotiated with the hospital I went to after the accident. It was a nice surprise and shows they really had my interests in mind.”

Trent B.

“Wattel & York has been great for me in the past few years. I was involved in a really bad accident while I was on Active Duty in Yuma, Arizona and they have been patient with me every step of the way through a very long process. I would recommend them to anyone thank you for all your help.”

Levy G.

“Appreciate David taking the time to speak with me. He was most kind. From the front line with the receptionist, to him, the firm was a class act all the way around.”

Claire B.

“Dave Wattel represented me and my son on a Personal Injury case from a motor vehicle accident back in 2009. Jake P. handled my deposition and Dave did the Quarterbacking. The insurance company hired NFL referee Ed Hochuli's firm to try and deny our claim. But Wattel & York made it look as easy as Tom Brady on the football field. The result was more than acceptable and my son and I were compensated for our injuries and rehabilitation. Dave Wattel cares about his clients. If I ever find myself in a situation like this again, Wattel & York will be on speed dial!!”

Vince C.

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