Do I need an attorney right away?
After sustaining injuries in a bike accident, you may be asking yourself, “Do I really need to hire an attorney right away?” It may seem more prudent to focus on recovering and getting your life back in order before delving into the legal repercussions of your accident. Finding the right lawyer can be a daunting ordeal, and you may feel confident enough to handle negotiating a settlement yourself. That all said, we strongly encourage you to hire an attorney as soon as possible for the following reasons:
Insurance Companies Lose Money Paying Claims
For individuals confident they can negotiate a decent settlement themselves, remember that the adjuster’s full time job is dealing with accident and injury cases. The adjuster has access to an array of resources and a team backing them up, including professional investigators, medical experts, and vocational specialists. The adjuster knows exactly what your case is worth and assumes you have no idea what you’re doing—that you are likely “in over your head.” The adjuster has been trained in the art of negotiation to minimize the insurance company’s liability for your claim.
The insurance company will offer you an unrealistically low settlement amount immediately. They understand that many individuals are under financial pressure to settle quickly due to outstanding bills. If you refuse to accept it, they may start demanding more and more documentation from you evidencing your losses. This protracted process may become so time consuming and frustrating that you eventually settle for a lesser amount simply to finish the process.
The longer you hold off retaining an attorney, the longer it takes to settle your claim. Once retained, an attorney will begin gathering the necessary documentation supporting your claim. The process of gathering documentation supporting your losses can be incredibly time consuming, as we rely extensively on the cooperation of large, bureaucratic medical facilities.
An insurance company could also interpret a delay to mean you are not interested in your claim and/or your injuries were not serious. Or even worse – a long enough delay can create statute of limitations issues! Your legal rights expire after a certain period of time. If you delay settlement for too long, the statute of limitations may run and you may be precluded from any compensation whatsoever.
Evidence May Fade
If too much time passes between your accident and our investigation, evidence will be lost. Evidence is freshest immediately post-accident. The longer the delay, the more difficulty we have documenting injuries, locating witnesses, finding possibly accident footage, or taking accurate scene photos. Witness memories fade; security footage gets thrown out; roadways get restriped or repaved; your injuries heal quickly. Sometimes these critical pieces of evidence can make or break your case.
Unintentionally Hurting Your Case
We regularly receive calls after someone attempted to negotiate their claim themselves before realizing just how complicated, nerve-wracking, and time-consuming the process can be. And worst of all, sometimes they have irreversibly damaged their own case, leaving little that can be done. Some mistakes include:
Giving recorded statements of fault or liability to the insurance company;
Proposing a low settlement due to an improper understanding of damages, liabilities, and the compensation they are legally entitled to; and
Signing overbroad authorizations which violate your privacy rights
Frequently, these errors result in a lawsuit, creating additional expenses and delay. Therefore we always recommend contacting an attorney immediately if your injuries are serious.
The Advantages of Bicycle Attorney Representation
You can irreparably hurt your case by waiting too long to follow up on your claim. The earlier an attorney begins working on your case, the more likely you will negotiate a favorable settlement without stepping foot inside a courtroom. The attorney will analyze the specific facts surrounding your injury/accident, decide if you have a viable case, hire medical experts to review your records, approximate the financial worth of your case, and ascertain the statute of limitations. Finally, keep in mind that an attorney will actually add value to your case and increase the likelihood of a favorable settlement.
Rules for Representing Yourself
If you are still on the fence about hiring an attorney, please take the following steps to avoid damaging your case:
- Don’t talk to the insurance company.
If the driver has reported the accident to his insurance company, someone will contact you. NEVER talk to anyone representing the at-fault driver or insurance company. You could unknowingly admit liability and/or maybe communicate a possible settlement amount that grossly underrepresents your damages.
- Don’t sign any authorizations.
Never sign anything presented to you by insurance companies. Even simple mini-tort releases could contain the fine print of waiving future injury claims or allowing an at-fault insurance company to access your entire medical history. It always a safer bet to consult with an attorney before signing any documents with an insurance company.
- Don’t repair any damaged items, or destroy any evidence.
If your bike was damaged during the accident, do not repair it until you consult with an attorney and have its reasonable value accurately documented and recorded. Property damage claims can vanish if the damaged property was not properly documented. Additionally, save all documentation, receipts, casts, braces, prescriptions and other medical items related to your injuries. This is evidence