It makes all the difference in the world. If you are not at fault, or somebody else is at fault or mostly at fault and owes you compensation, and you don’t have an attorney, you don’t know what your rights are, and the insurance company is going to take advantage of that. They’re going to try to pay you as little as they can get away with, have you sign a release, and you’re out of their life forever. You can’t reopen that claim.
Let me give an example. You might have $5,000 in medical expenses, but you had health insurance and your health insurance paid, say, $4,500 of it, and you only had a $500 co-payment. The insurance company for the other side is going to try to tell you that you’re only entitled to that $500 that you’re out of pocket, but that’s false. You’re entitled to recover the entire $5,000 of your medical expenses. You might have missed only a few days from work, and therefore they’ll tell you they’ll just compensate you for those few days from work. But you might need to miss some time from work in the future because of the injury. They’re not going to tell you that they owe you for the time you’re going to miss in the future.
Or, you might say you didn’t really lose any money, even though you missed a few days, because you just used up your sick leave, or vacation leave, or your employer paid you anyway. The insurance company’s going to try to get away with not paying you for the time that you missed. But they do you owe you for the time that you missed. The fact that your employer paid you or you used up your sick leave, or your vacation leave, and didn’t actually miss the pay, is no excuse for the insurance company for the at-fault person to avoid paying you or compensating you for that loss of time. Additionally, you’re not going to know what your pain and suffering is worth. You’re not won’t know what pain and suffering consists of. The insurance company is not going to tell you. They’re going to offer you $500, or $1,000, or $2,500, or something far, far less than the full measure of your damages and try to get you to sign-off on it.
You need to talk to an attorney and have the attorney explain to you what you’re fully entitled to receive in the way of compensation for your past and future medical, income loss, and pain and suffering, general damages, for how it’s effected your family, and in some cases, for what your family might have had to go through, or your husband or wife might have had to go through as a result of your injuries. Don’t expect the insurance company that’s trying to avoid paying you any money to fill you in on those details or to tell you what your case is worth. You need to get the advice of an attorney. And if an attorney doesn’t feel that the case is big enough to merit hiring an attorney, he’ll tell you so or she’ll tell you so.
You will at least have the benefit of talking to somebody who knows what they’re talking about, who can educate you and tell you what you should expect and what you should receive, what you should know and what you need to avoid doing and what you need to do in order to protect your claim. Only an attorney can do that. Whether you end up hiring or not that attorney, you’ll be far better off just for having talked to him or her. So please, if you have a serious injury, don’t just settle with the insurance company. Talk to an attorney, find out what your rights are. And if you end up having a serious injury or a significant case, you’ll be far better off not trying to handle it yourself, but letting yourself be assisted by a competent attorney.