In the last entry of this series, let’s discuss you acting as your own lawyer. Rule number one — don’t think about it. Rule number two — don’t think about it. If rules number one and two go unheeded, here’s the advice I would give.
First, get organized. Make sure you have all of your medical records in order and, if possible, a letter from your doctor which sets out your medical problems and any restrictions that you have. If future medical treatment is probable, it should be described and priced (if such treatment is imminent, hold off your settlement – see below). Next, research the company you’re dealing with. There may be chat rooms or message boards where other consumers discuss the company you dealing with, or even the adjuster (doubtful). If property damage is still at issue, go to a reputable source on the Internet for vehicle valuations (NADA, Hemmings, etc.). If your vehicle is a late model, there will almost surely be a diminution in its value. This is an area that can bear fruit in your negotiations with the adjuster if you don’t try to overreach. Make sure that you:
– ask if the policy has a medpay provision. That is money paid toward medical expenses without regard to fault.
– understand that once you sign a release – IT’S OVER. The carrier, whether that of the at fault driver or your own underindured carrier HAVE NO FURTHER OBLIGATION TO YOU.
– don’t get in a hurry to settle. This always works in the carrier’s favor.
– politely let the company understand that you will deal with them as long as you believe that they are being straight with you and that you have not foreclosed the possibility of hiring a lawyer. Don’t bother telling them that you already have a lawyer or show copies of your letters or emails to one – that is a sure sign to the adjuster that you are on your own.
– make sure that you have cleared the decks with every person or company that is looking to get paid back (health care provider, other medical providers not paid by your health insurance carrier, body shops, etc.).
– strongly consider getting a lawyer to review, at an hourly rate, your final product. Good luck – and I mean it.
Cum Laude graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Pet Mackey is a civil trial litigation expert who represents plaintiffs in business and consumer tort, contracts and construction, employment disputes and insurance. He is board certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Certified Alabama Mediator, and an “AV” rated lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell.