Interviewer: What happens if you’re getting calls from an insurance adjuster and they’re pressuring you and they say, “We need your statement now.We’ve got to have it.”? What can you do if you don’t have an attorney yet? Do you have to give them a statement?
If You Do Not Have an Attorney, You May Have to Comply
Harry Williams: If you’re going to try to settle your own case without an attorney, and the adjuster for the at-fault insurance company insists that he’s not going to discuss settlement unless you’ve give a recorded statement. If you’re not going to hire a lawyer, then you don’t have much of a choice.
If you want to try to get a settlement offer from that adjuster, you’re going to have to give a recorded statement. If that person retains me, I’m going to basically, in most situations, refuse to allow a recorded statement from the at fault company.
You Do Have to Supply Your Own Insurance Company with a Recorded Statement
Now, concerning the injured party’s own insurance company, so for instance somebody is injured in an accident, they need to report their claims to their own insurance company to protect their own rights there. They’re going to have to give a recorded statement to their own insurance company. It’s required under their policy of insurance. But any time a recorded statement’s given, whether it’s to their own insurance company or to the at fault insurance company, I want to be there.
After Retaining an Attorney, He or She Will Supervise Future Communications with the Other Party’s Insurance Company
We’re going to schedule the time that the statement is going to be given. The adjuster can come to my office with me and my client there. Or, what happens in most situations, we’re going to schedule the recorded interview. The client’s going to come to my office. We’re going to put the adjuster on a speaker phone.
I’m going to get the adjuster’s agreement that he’s going to send me the transcript and/or the recording of the interview. After within a week or two of the interview, he has to send that to me. He has to agree to that in the recording. Then he can then interview my client on the phone, with the speaker phone on so I’m hearing everything that’s going on.
Your Attorney Will Monitor Your Communication with the Other Party’s Insurance Adjuster for Your Own Protection and for the Benefit of the Case
Every once in a while I do allow a recorded interview with the at fault insurance company. There are various reasons. There may be a question as to liability and I may determine that it’s in my client’s best interest to allow the recorded interview. I may only allow my client to talk about the facts of the accident.
As soon as there is a discussion about injuries, “Well, have you been injured before?” or, “Did you ever had back problems?” I’m going to interrupt at that point and say, “He’s not going to answer that question. My client’s not going to answer that question. He’ll answer questions concerning the accident because that’s what you need.” I’m in control. I want to be in control of what questions are answered.
Interviewer: Right off the bat, you’re there to insulate and guard the person against making statements that will directly hurt their ability to collect damages?
Harry Williams: Yes. I am there to protect them from making statements or signing documents that are going to come back to harm them later on.
Are Some People Reluctant to Retain an Attorney because They Want to Avoid the Fees?
Interviewer: Let’s talk about what do you sense that people are worried about in regards to hiring a lawyer? Do you believe that they feel like, “Oh, if I hire a lawyer then I’m going to get less money than I otherwise would because I have to pay the attorney.”?
Harry Williams: Yes, I think that is completely accurate. I think that’s the primary concern with hiring a lawyer. People generally understand that injury lawyers usually take a case on a percentage of recovery. Most people cannot pay a lawyer an hourly rate of $300 or $400 an hour. The percentage may be a third of the total settlement. It can be 40%. It may be less.
It Pays to Retain an Attorney to Handle a Personal Injury Case—You Will Always Benefit from an Experienced Attorney Handling the Case
They, in their mind, think, “Well, if I do this work, if I do this myself, I’m going to save money.” There have been studies conducted that have shown that that’s completely false. Even though a lawyer gets paid a third of the settlement or whatever percentage, traditionally an individual is able to get more money by having a lawyer than by not having a lawyer.
Now, one of the things that I can do it as that person’s lawyer, is I may be able to negotiate a reduced payment of the total bills. Or, if health insurance has paid some of the bills or there is medical payments coverage under the injured person’s own policy to pay some of the bills, we have to reimburse those companies for what they’ve paid out of settlement.
I can often negotiate get that amount reduced. Part of my fee goes to my ability and my experience in getting medical bills reduced, so my client ends up getting more money.