Making An Accident Claim – How to Decide Who to Turn To For Legal Help

If you’ve recently had an accident and currently looking for information on what to do or who to instruct, you’ve probably realized that there’s a bewildering amount of choice.

So where does one start and how does one make a decision as to who to instruct when faced with so much choice?

Gone are the days when you simply picked up the Yellow Pages or instructed your local solicitor. The fact is that we live in a far more complex legal world and in response to this, specialist law firms have evolved to deal with the ever-increasing legally complex cases. As a result, the smaller, more general high street law practices have gradually either been absorbed by larger law firms or simply closed shop, as it becomes increasingly difficult to provide the breadth of legal services that today’s clients need.

If you’ve been in an accident and want to claim compensation for injury, loss and or damage, you have 4 main choices, each of which I address below:

1. The DIY approach where you negotiate directly with the third-party insurer.
2. You leave it to your own insurer to deal with claiming compensation for loss, damage and personal injury.
3. You use the services of a claims management company, or
4. You choose to go directly to a firm of solicitors.

With so much choice, inevitably it’s become more difficult to make a decision as to the best route to take.

Dealing Directly With the third-party Insurer

Whilst, the guilty party’s insurer will encourage you to deal directly with them, for obvious reasons, there is very good reason why it’s never advisable to deal directly with a third-party insurer. However, if you didn’t suffer any injuries and you’re confident in your ability to claim all your losses and damage yourself, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.

However, if the accident involves making some kind of injury claim, you need to be a lot more clued up on your legal right, for once you agree settlement terms you won’t be entitled to later reopen the deal and claim more compensation.

It’s therefore imperative that you receive expert legal advice. A solicitor will ensure that you get properly examined by a specialist consultant who prepares a medico legal report on your injuries. This is a very important aspect of personal injury claims. This report assists your solicitor in ascertaining whether or not you have any other injuries or medical conditions other than the obvious and gives an opinion on the likely duration for full recovery.

You need to understand that it’s not uncommon in accident cases for a victim to display relatively minor injuries, but on expert medical examination to discover that the condition is more serious and longer term than perhaps was originally contemplated.

Having a solicitor act for you in the negotiations also has the added benefit of providing you with a kind of backup insurance policy. A solicitor is there to advise you on the best course of action and to negotiate the best terms reasonably possible. If that advice is defective or negligent, you may be entitled to sue your solicitor to recover any loss sustained as a result of that negligent advice.

Leave It to Your Insurance Company to Deal With the Case

This will normally be available to you if you have legal expenses cover as part of your policy, which is normally added to most insurance policies free of charge.

All Insurance companies have their own select panel of solicitors to whom they refer cases. They will have panel solicitors to defend cases and also panel solicitors who they instruct to represent victims of accidents.

It’s common practice for panel solicitors to pay insurance companies a fairly substantial fee for referring them cases. Personally, I don’t like the practice. I don’t believe solicitors can be truly independent and unbiased when there’s a financial relationship between the parties. Let’s not forgot that the panel solicitor instructed has to negotiate with the third-party insurer and oftentimes this may include having to take court action if they cannot reach mutually agreeable terms of settlement.

Another thing is that the insurance industry is a rather small market that’s dominated by a few big players. In other words it’s a very incestuous business, as it’s not uncommon for the insurer that is instructing the panel solicitor to also be the insurance company in the negotiations on behalf of the driver at fault. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sit comfortably with me.

Another point to bear in mind is that you don’t get any choice over which firm of solicitors the insurance company ultimately instructs on your behalf.

Now, here’s my point. Not all solicitors are suitably experienced to deal with all types of accident claims. As I mentioned above, specialist law practices have evolved for the specific reason that in order to best serve clients with particular legal problems they need to develop a very specialized understanding of the law.

Can you be sure that you’re receiving the best legal advice and representation for your accident claim, when the panel solicitors that are acting for you is most likely bulk buying cases from insurance companies.

In other words, it’s a bit of a lottery whether you end up with a good solicitor or not for your type of claim.

Claims Management Services

Claims management companies are the middle men that came onto the scene when the ban on referral fees was lifted in 2004.

As with insurance companies, claims management companies form working relationships with a handful of solicitors firms to whom they refer cases, sometimes for a substantial fee. You will have no say or control over which firm of solicitors they appoint on your behalf. So once again it’s a matter of chance whether you get good legal representation or not.

Like insurance companies, claims management companies make their money by getting your details and passing it on to their panel solicitors for a fee, which reportedly can be as high as £1000. Some claims management companies will charge you directly for their services if your claim is successful. Therefore, check their terms and conditions carefully before you commit to a claims management service.

The problem with claims management referrals as I see it, is that they add an additional cost in the legal process of recovering compensation for accidents, but in the process have added little or no value to the handling of your claim i.e they are simply collecting accident cases and passing it onto a solicitor for a fee.

Therefore, the referral fee represents an additional fixed expense in the recovery of compensation for you, the injured party. So even before the solicitor has done any work to recover compensation for you, it has already cost the solicitor quite a lot of money.

The point I’m making in this. Despite what the public thinks, solicitors firms do tend to have very high overheads – expensive premises, expensive indemnity insurance and equipment and highly qualified lawyers and assistants that are expensive to employ.

For your average case, having to pay a referral fees means that the law firm instructed will need to cut costs else where in the claims process to maintain profitability. This is very likely to result in the client getting a less personalized service or even a poorer service since it will almost certainly mean that the solicitor handling your case won’t be able to spend as much time on your case as it may deserve. A modern legal development that I’m now seeing much more often is the establishment of very large accident claims departments. Often these firms will be on several insurance company’ panel of solicitors, who receiving a very large volume of cases on a referral basis. This is what I’d describe as the commoditization of the accident claims. A bit like wholesale retailers.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with this set up, it is something that you should be aware of especially if you would prefer to have a much more personalized and professional service.

The pressure to commoditize the injury claims process, with an emphasis on employing a lot of unqualified and relatively inexperienced staff to undertake much of the work, is unfortunately an inevitable phase in the drive to reduce costs and maintain market share.

Instruct a Firm of Solicitors Directly

This last option is to deal directly with a firm of solicitors.

What’s important here is for you to select a firm that specializes in the area of law that you need help with. So, if you’ve had a motorbike accident, instruct a firm that deals specifically with motorbike accidents. If it’s a car accident claim, then deal with solicitors that specialise in that kind of work. If the injury is due to medical negligence, then make sure that the firm you instruct has a strong work emphasis in this area of law. Or if it’s an industrial disease claim, then it’s important that you instruct a firm of solicitors that have experience in this field of law.

You may also want to consider whether to instruct a large or a small to medium size law firm. In my experience, I’ve always found smaller to medium size businesses, not just in the legal market but generally across the board, tend to have a more personalised service.

One of my biggest criticism with large corporate organisations is that many have become so large that they lose that personal connection with the customer. This can be very frustrating especially if the service doesn’t meet with your expectations.

In an ideal world, we all want to be treated as if we were the only customer and whilst that is not possible in practice smaller niche practices do provide the next best thing. We also prefer to deal with people we like. Sometimes, I feel that large corporate organisations fail to understand this basic concept with their conveyer-belt style of operating.

So How Do You Choose the Right Firm of Solicitor?

Instinctively you might think, go with a legal comparison site. But my advise is not to waste your time. Many comparison websites are designed to display results based on price. And here’s the problem with this approach.

Price is irrelevant.

You don’t want to be searching for the cheapest provider because what you need a solicitor who is an expert in the field and who will provide you with the best service possible.

Besides, if most accident claims solicitors are offering you a “non win no fee” deal on costs, why on earth would you want to go to a legal comparison website to choose a low-cost law firm?

Unfortunately, the only real way to find a good firm of solicitors with the requisite expertise and specialism is to do your homework and start looking locally or on the internet. Whilst this may sound like a lot of hard work, I’m confident that it will be well worth it in the long run.

If you’re looking for a more personalised specialist service, try to seek out a firm of solicitors that don’t work with insurance companies and who don’t buy in bulk leads from claims management companies.

I refer to these law firms that rely on personal recommendations and market reputation, as independent practices. In other words, they don’t have any financial connection with insurance companies or claims companies, and they’re more likely to be smaller niche practices that offer a more personalised service to clients.

Boating Accidents – Statistics and Legal Rights Info

Most boating accidents can be cured by wearing good quality life preservers. That’s the biggest takeaway I can provide you with. If you intend to go out on a boat make sure you have vests and other PFD’s (personal flotation devices) available.

But let’s say you took that precaution, and even other precautions recommended to you during your boating safety training. Despite all of your preparation you still incurred an injury or got into an accident while in the water. What do you do now?

This article is here to share some of the most common statistics regarding boating accidents to help make you an informed boater. In addition, it is going to analyze what you can do from a legal perspective to make sure you are properly compensated for the negligence or incompetence of an outside party that damaged your property or caused injury to you or your loved ones.

Boating Statistics:

When trying to frame the circumstances of your accident, it might help to know some of the common statistics involved in boating accidents every year.

On average, there are appx 700 reported boating deaths every year in the United States. Furthermore, there are appx 4,500 accidents reported every year. Interestingly, it is believed that only 10-15% of all incidences are properly filed.

Property damage involved with these events is disproportionately large when compared to more common land accidents. In 2008 there was an estimated $54 million dollars in damage across the country. For some more interested stats, consider those compiled on commanderbob.com/cbstats.html:

” * Over two-thirds of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, ninety (90) percent were not wearing a life jacket.

* Only ten percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.

* Seven out of every ten boaters who drowned were using boats less than 21 feet in length.

* Careless/reckless operation, operator inattention, no proper lookout, operator inexperience and passenger/skier behavior rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

* Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17% of the deaths.

* The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (43%), personal watercraft (23%), and cabin motorboats (15%).”

Types of Boating Accidents:

It was touched upon in the statistics section, but let’s list some of the most common types of accidents to determine if your situation falls into one of these criteria.

* Boat Collision. Quite simply this entails two or more boats striking each other. However, collision can happen in a variety of places, including crowded docks, narrow passageways, and on the open sea.

* Object Collision. Similar to boat collisions but with objects either at dock or in the open water. Object collision can be the fault of the boat operator, or can be caused by negligent/inappropriate placement objects by other boaters or water officials. Examples include loose buoyees, inner tubes, boat parts, etc.

* Water Skier/Tuber Incident. Water skiing can be extremely exhilarating, but it also has inherent risks. If you went on a skiing or tubing trip and you believe injury occurred due to faulty equipment or driver negligence, you may have a case.

* Driver Error. Many accidents occur due to negligence, intoxication, or lack of education of the boat driver.

* Boat Capsizing/Equipment Failure. A surprisingly small number of accidents occur as a result of equipment failure. However, negligence and lack of proper preparation can cause this to be an issue.

* Cruise Liner Incident. Cruise liners offer a whole different set of circumstances than normal watercraft. All manner of injuries can be sustained on a cruise liner, and if you believe it was caused by the crew or poor conditions, you may be able to pursue the situation legally.

* General Intoxication. Whether it be via the driver, passengers, crew, or whatever, intoxication is a leading cause of drowning and injury on boats.

Filing a Boating Accident Report

Something that goes hand-in-hand with boating accidents is the BAR, or boating accident report. Most boaters are made aware of the federal and state rules regarding accident filing when going through boater safety training. However, when an accident occurs that you believe might require legal involvement, it is important to understand the rules more thoroughly.

According to accidentinfo.com/blog/when-to-file-a-boating-accident-report-bar/, a BAR must be filed when:

“1. A person dies; or

2. A person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid, i.e. treatment at a medical facility or by a medical professional other than at the accident scene; or

3. Damage to vessels and other property totals $2,000 or more or there is a complete loss of any vessel; or

4. A person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury.

If you experience a boating accident where one or more of these criteria have been met, you must file a BAR within 48 hours if:

1. A person dies within 24 hours of the occurrence; or

2. A person requires medical treatment beyond first aid; or

3. A person disappears from the vessel.

You have 10 days to file a BAR if the damage only involves the vessel and/or property. Be aware that these are the minimum requirements for federal regulation of BARs and individual states may have stricter reporting requirements.”

Seeking Legal Compensation

Some accidents are quite simple and only involve you as the boater or passenger. However, if it involves multiple parties or a need for compensation from an external source, it is important to get in contact with a professional boating accident attorney even before you start this process. They will be able to give you proper advice and keep you from sabotaging your own case.

Be sure to find an attorney who is not only skilled at boating accident cases in general, but who is also an expert at your states specific rules. The stringency of boating law varies from state to state and it is critical to make sure you are doing everything you can to prove you were not at fault, or even partially responsible for the incident.

What to Do in the Event of a Car Accident

It has been proven that car accidents are more likely to occur in the winter. The weather is colder, people are in more of a hurry, and stress-levels are at an all-time high during the holiday season. In order to avoid car insurance fraud, be sure to follow all of the following rules for follow-up after a fender-bender or car accident.

Pull your car over to a safe part of the road, and assess your and the other car’s damage with the driver of the other car. Be sure to stay calm and keep your temper in check. Shouting at someone, especially if it is their fault, will only worsen the situation and make them more likely to try and rip you off or get away without admitting to their mistake. Make sure that you and the other driver have verbally agreed on what exactly has been damaged on both cars, and if possible, take photographs of both cars at the time of the accident.

Do not leave the scene of the accident, even if it means missing a movie or arriving late to work or an event. It’ll help you out MUCH more in the long-run if you take the time to contact the police immediately so as to acquire a legal accident report. People can easily make up injuries over and damage if there isn’t an authority present at the scene of the accident, but a policeman can document any legitimate damage or injuries immediately. Be sure to speak directly to the policeman when they arrive about the specifics of the accident. If you get too wrapped up in what the other person is saying, there is a chance you will agree with something that isn’t true simply because you are under pressure and still in shock.

Don’t neglect to exchange the facts with the other driver. Get their name, address, phone number, and insurance type if possible. Give them your information in return, and don’t leave anything out. You don’t want to look like you are trying to get away with anything, so be completely honest. Get their car color, make, year, and license plate number.

Call your insurance agent or company immediately after the accident. If time permits, do so with the policeman present. Oftentimes they will be willing to speak with your agent or company, and will give them the legal description of what occurred. This will be especially helpful is the other driver makes up an injury later on. Insurance companies are much more likely to side with the person who took the precautionary measures immediately after an accident. Your claim will be processed quicker this way, and you will be on your way to fixing your vehicle and moving on hassle-free!