Can I Settle Auto Injury Case Without a Lawyer?

Written by Steven Matz on . Posted in .

Yes, but the question isn’t whether you can do it, but whether you should do it. Something you should also be careful to consider is how much you will be charged by an attorney to assist you with your personal injury case, if you choose to hire an attorney.

Settling an Auto Accident Case in Michigan

Sometimes the insurance company for the other driver will contact you, or a family member, within hours or days of an injury incident. The insurance adjuster will try to assure you that the company wants to deal with your fairly, and pay you the compensation you deserve, as a result of the negligence of their insured client.

The caller will ask you questions about what happened, what injuries you have, and, if the victim is your family member who was fatally injured, the adjuster will want to know more about the deceased person. They may tape record the telephone conversation without telling you–a fact that can haunt you later as your earlier statements “backfire.”

All of these questions may seem reasonable, and you may believe you can trust what the adjuster is saying, because you are probably thinking that the accident was certainly “their” fault, and injuries resulted. There seems to be nothing to disagree about, right? You deserve to be compensated, correct? Why do you need a lawyer to take a share of something you can get for yourself for free?

Michigan Law

What you may not know about Michigan law is that in order to qualify for any money at all against the other driver for your pain and suffering (even if the other driver is 100% at fault), you have to have “serious” injuries that impair you, or have serious scarring, brain injury, or loss of life.

There is no precise definition as to what a “serious” injury is, but it usually takes more than muscle strains or bruises to interest an insurance company in offering you any money. They don’t care if your car was wrecked and you have no way to get to work, or if your spouse had to find a babysitter for two days while you were in the hospital. It’s not as simple as you might think to get compensation for an auto injury.

The insurance company will stay in touch with you, assuring you that they care about how your recovery is doing, and reminding you that if you don’t hire a lawyer, you won’t have to pay attorney fees. The insurance company may even offer to pay a lawyer for you to go to court to finalize a settlement for a child who was hurt in the collision, or on behalf of a family member whom you lost in the collision (there are some cases that have to have court approval even if you think you have a “done deal” with the insurance company).

Insurance Companies In The Legal Process

While there is no reason to think that the insurance company will lie to you about how much insurance coverage is available to cover the person who caused the accident, they are under no obligation to tell you if other people, including you, may have had additional coverages that could add to the amount of money you could get.

While in many cases there is more insurance available than may at first appear to be the case, the fact is that settling with one insurance company can cause you to lose your right to get more money from other policies, even if you find out later that you could have received more! Examples of cases that have to settle in a certain order are dram shop claims (drunk driver served in a retail liquor establishment) or underinsurance claims on your no-fault policy.

Who is Responsible

There are also cases where other people or companies could be responsible to pay damages, if you had only known where to look. For example, an office worker driving home after punching out at work who stops to deliver some papers to a client may cause an accident.

The office worker may only have limited insurance coverage to pay for pain and suffering to the victims of the crash, and the insurance adjuster would be telling you the truth about that–as far as it goes. However, even though the clerk had punched out for day, (s)he may still be considered acting for the employer at the time of the crash (delivering documents), which would mean the employer’s insurance might also be available to cover your losses.

Final Thoughts on Getting a Lawyer For Your Car Accident Case

There are certainly some cases where it will turn out that a lawyer can’t get you any more money than you could have received on your own. But the risk that you won’t know where and how far to look for other coverages is so much greater than the chance that you can figure out the legal system as well as a lawyer can that you may decide to look for legal help with your auto, truck or motorcycle collision case.

Consider interviewing an attorney experienced in the personal injury field who will negotiate the percentage fee that you will pay upon the settlement of your case. The maximum fee for injury cases in Michigan is 33 1/3% of the net recovery. At Matz Injury Law, we charged just 22%, meaning you keep more of your settlement.  To speak with an experienced car accident attorney, contact us through our form or call 1-866-22Not33 today.

Written By Steven Matz

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury. Mr. Matz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high distinction and highest honors in 1974 from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor degree in 1977 from The George Washington University National Law Center. Mr. Matz lectures and publishes in a number of areas, including ethics, marketing, trial tactics, and head injury. Mr. Matz has served on the Michigan Association for Justice Executive Board and currently serves the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board as a Hearing Panel Chairman and Master. He is also a member of the State Bar Committee for Character and Fitness.
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The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 33 1/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 33 1/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients. 

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients.  We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims.  Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.

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