If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident or a slip and fall, you might be wondering:  do I need a lawyer a personal injury claim? Can’t I just deal with the insurance company on my own?

A study by the Insurance Resource Council, titled “Auto Injuries: Claiming Behavior and Its Impact on Insurance Costs,” looked at several thousand insurance claims from accident victims.  The goal was to determine whether victims recovered more money when represented by an attorney.  The results left no doubt: Those victims who hired an attorney received, on average, more than three times as much money as did those who went it alone.

So how exactly does an attorney get you more money? First and foremost: They know the law.

Time Limitations

From the moment your accident occurs, the clock begins ticking on the amount of time that you have to file a lawsuit.  If you miss the deadline, your claim is barred.  You will lose all of your leverage to negotiate a favorable settlement with the insurance company.  An attorney will know the relevant time limitations (they vary by state, and there can be more than one that applies) and will ensure that these dates are not missed.

Liability

In a car accident or slip and fall, the primary legal cause of action will likely be for negligence. In order to show liability (that the driver, for example, is legally responsible for your injuries), the legal elements of negligence must be proved. An attorney will know what these legal elements are and will know what evidence is needed to prove them.  If you can’t prove liability, you are not entitled to collect any damages.

Damages

If the insurance company is liable, how much will they pay out to you in damages?  They will certainly argue for the lowest amount possible.  An attorney will know the different types of damages that may be recoverable (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more).  The attorney will also know what evidence is needed to prove the extent and value of these damages.

Negotiating

Because your attorney will know the law, they will be in a far better position to negotiate with the insurance company.  Their experience and knowledge of the process will mean that they will not be swayed by the insurance company’s tactics and low settlement offers.

Leverage

Even before a lawsuit is filed, having an attorney on your side tells the insurance company: If we don’t settle with this victim, their lawyer will file suit.  Once a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company has to pay their own lawyer to defend the case — their expenses begin to pile up.

A trial is a big risk for the insurance company.  If a jury is sympathetic to the plight of a seriously injured victim, they can award huge amounts in damages.  The threat of a trial (a threat that only exists if you have an attorney representing you) provides motivation for the insurance company to “up” its settlement offers.

Headaches

Arguing with a claims adjuster who does this “dance” every day with people just like you is time-consuming, frustrating, and exhausting.  The adjuster will ask you for documents that might be difficult to track down.  They will also ask you to submit to a taped interview.  An attorney will take care of these headaches for you.  Don’t forget: You will not have to pay anything to your attorney if and until the insurance company pays you.

So why wait?  Research clearly shows that you will get more money with an experienced attorney on your side.  It will also make your life a whole lot easier.