Every so often, I get a call from a client who caused a car accident. They are worried about a claim possibly being made against them, and worse, having to defend themselves in a potential lawsuit. They ask, "Do I have to hire a lawyer to defend me?" It's often surprising to me how many folks don't realize that a benefit of having automobile insurance is the insurance company will handle the claim for you. That's why you are paying premiums. Report the accident to your insurance company and let them deal with the claim. If the incident was very minor, you might be able to handle things yourself, but in most cases, you are are better off tendering the matter to your insurance company. If you are sued, they will provide you with an attorney to defend you in most cases...however you should take comfort in knowing that most cases are settled without going to court.
Keep in mind, you should make sure you have adequate insurance. If you have a good job and income, and/or some assets, don't get the minimal insurance policy required by law. If you cause significant injury to someone, their attorney is not going to be happy with your tiny car insurance policy. They are going to take that policy and go after you for the rest. Therefore, if you have adequate insurance, your insurance company will handle the claim for you and provide you with an attorney to defend you just in case. The reason you want adequate liability insurance is to encourage a claimant to take your insurance policy without coming after you for the rest. If you want to learn more about this subject, feel free to call my office to discuss.
Today I spoke with a potential personal injury client. She told me she was in an accident several days ago. The insurance adjuster for the party at fault had contacted her and kept wanting to meet (no doubt to offer a paltry sum of money to quickly settle the case). After several calls, the client lost her cool and screamed and yelled at the insurance adjuster. I told her that wasn't a very wise thing to do. She seemed perplexed until I explained the adjuster is the very same person who may end up writing her a settlement check one day. I asked her, "Do you think your yelling and screaming made it more or LESS likely the adjuster will ever write you a check?"
An adversarial relationship with the insurance adjuster is rarely in your best interests. You can certainly disagree about many things (and you probably will), but it's generally better to maintain a civil and friendly relationship with the claims adjuster. Sometimes, a good relationship with an adjuster can make or break your chances of settling your personal injury case. In most cases, it leads to a more amicable settlement for all involved.
I've been asked to do some crazy things in my career as a lawyer - not only in my former life as a defense lawyer for the insurance companies, but also as a lawyer for plaintiffs.
I got a call from a client recently, and he was telling me about his accident. It was a decent impact but he wasn't really hurt. He suggested I refer him to a chiropractor for treatment although he wasn't in any pain. Then he suggested he would visit the chiropractor once a week, but he wanted me and chiropractor to say he treated three times per week!
Needless to say, this client was not a good match for my office. I explained that I would not engage in such dishonest behavior. He was surprised, "You mean to tell me you're going to walk away from what could be a very good case? My former attorney did this for me...why can't you?" I told him to keep searching for a lawyer because I wasn't going to participate in his game. Not only is it dishonest, but it's insurance fraud.
This kind of fraud gives my profession a bad name. Sometimes it starts with the lawyer's office, but sometimes, it starts with the doctors, the clients, etc. If a lawyer or a doctor (or anyone else) suggests fabricating evidence or any kind of dishonest behavior, run the other direction. I did.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.