Do I Need A Lawyer?
If I receive a Settlement Offer, do I need Legal Advice?
When it comes to public liability and personal injury claims, one of the most common questions that we receive from clients is, “if I’ve received a settlement offer, why do I need legal advice?”
We can understand why people ask that question. After all, lawyers are only really necessary when a case goes to court, aren’t they? Well, actually, no. Personal injury lawyers do a lot of work well in advance of a case going to court to:
- Protect your rights.
- Ensure you understand what’s happening.
- Ensure that you appreciate all of your options.
- Save you money wherever possible by settling the case before it goes to trial.
Most importantly, a lawyer will know what investigations and other information is required to maximise the amount of money that are entitled to receive in injury compensation or damages.
Why are insurance claims like home renovations?
It’s probably easier to explain the role of a lawyer by drawing parallels with home renovations. Seriously!
Television renovation shows are hugely popular in Australia and they usually have a flow on effect to the average person. The more renovation shows that people see on television, the more willing they are to attempt renovations on their own homes. There are plenty of jobs around the house that most people can do. For example, changing a light bulb or fixing a tap washer. But then there are other jobs in which specialised knowledge is really an advantage. For example, tiling, brick laying and electrical wiring.
Everyone’s heard of the nightmare stories in which a person has decided to do their own renovations, only to cause significant damage and escalated costs. Often, the end result is that an experienced professional is called in to fix up the mess, which means even more expense.
There can be similar issues if a person decides not to engage a lawyer when making an insurance claim. Mistakes can be made along the way, you may not claim everything to which you’re entitled and the process is delayed because you don’t know the system.
But unlike home renovation disasters which usually can be fixed by experienced professionals, when it comes to insurance claims, you only get one bite of the apple.
That means that you only get one chance to make the claim. If you make a mistake, that’s it. The opportunity is lost forever.
Just think about how you may be impacted if you settle your claim for less that it’s worth. Or if your injuries are far more severe than you had originally expected. If you’ve settled your claim with the insurer, you won’t be allowed to bring any further action. Unless you have experience in these claims, how do you assess the exact nature of your damages?
How insurers operate
It’s worthwhile remembering that insurers will usually act in their own best interests, which are not necessarily your best interests.
In general, insurers will often offer compensation in the early stages of a claim. For them, this helps to reduce the risks and costs of having the case go to trial. If you haven’t instructed a lawyer and you accept an offer from the insurer, there’s a big risk that you’ll be settling your claim for less than it’s worth.
Remember that if you’ve suffered an injury, you’ll probably also be under a lot of stress, especially if you’re dealing with loss of earnings and increased medical fees. This can put you under pressure to settle the claim rather than getting legal advice and negotiating a more favourable settlement.
Early on in your claim, an insurer may contact you to offer an “all inclusive” lump sum to settle. (This would be a one-off all-inclusive payment, meaning that loss of earnings, medical expenses and any future entitlements are all included in the payment.) This offer might be made before any medical reports have been provided. Medical reports may provide more specific evidence of the extent of your injury and the potential losses you may face, so they are a very important part of the process when making a an accident injury claim.
What should I do?
If you wish to make a personal injury claim, or if you want to know more about your legal rights, you should seek legal advice from the outset.
If an insurer has made an offer of settlement to you, you should consult a lawyer urgently. Don’t accept any offer without legal advice and without all the medical reports that you may require.
Medicare and Centrelink
You need to understand how Medicare and Centrelink requirements will impact on your claim. If you are awarded compensation or receive a settlement sum (after getting legal advice), you may be faced with demands from Medicare and Centrelink that you pay back any entitlements that you received from them since being injured. In some cases the repayment sum can exceed the amount of compensation awarded to you.
You need advice from an experienced lawyer to ensure that you won’t be out-of-pocket after receiving compensation.
Websters Lawyers has an outstanding team of personal injury and public liability lawyers who are experienced in all aspects of these types of claims. Contact us today for a free initial consultation and find out whether a No Win No Fee arrangement can apply to your situation.
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