Asked in Insurance Bad Faith and Small Claims for California

Q: Is it too late for me to hire a Personal Injury Attorney to negotiate my claim with insurance co.?

I was rear-ended in a car accident where my car suffered minimal damage (rear bumper had to get replaced) but my injuries were still significant (severe whiplash). Ultimately I was treated 23 times (19 PT sessions and 4 dr visits/urgent care). The claims adjuster does not believe my 19 PT sessions were "reasonable given the nature of the accident" and also points to a "37-day gap" before commencing PT as a basis for denying coverage. I've provided evidence including PT notes from my therapist, proof of a medical leave of absence from my school due to my back injury, and trip cancellation to Peru where I planned to hike Machu Pichu (amongst other pieces of evidence). Regrettably, I didn't hire a lawyer and was forced to file a small claims suit before the SOL expiration date (CA). The small claims suit is for 8050 and the adjuster has offered to settle for 3,000. I still dont think this is fair because medical expenses were 3,400. Can i still hire a lawyer? or is it even worth it?

2 Lawyer Answers
Alexander Bakhache Perez
Alexander Bakhache Perez
  • Fullerton, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Is it even worth it is the question, the costs are going to be more than the case is worth at this time.

Do the small claims case on your own if you wish or just settle and offer the doctor half his bill and show him what is the offer.

Delay in treatment and not going the urgent care or medical doctor sooner was the problem to establish if it was related to the accident.

Assume the best and you win $8000 with an attorney (fee would be $750 costs and attorney fee at least $3000)

Not enough value to take the risk and role the dice.

maybe try one more time to counter and settle for $3500 or $4000 (realistically small claims will only give a small amount of pain and suffering)

next time call an attorney sooner and get seen by your own medical doctor immediately after an accident, or the next day or so, the pain only get worse later.

Steven M. Sweat
Steven M. Sweat pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Insurance Claims Lawyer
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: This is a typical tactic from a California auto insurance carrier. Claiming "minimal impact" and alleging "delay in treatment" are two of the more common excuses for low settlement offers. Because you have already initiated the small claims action, you have two choices: (1) let the small claims process go to it's conclusion (i.e. present your evidence at the small claims hearing and see what the judge awards you); or (2) hire an attorney and move to put the claim into limited jurisdiction. Given where you are in the legal process, the potential value of the claim, and the legal fees involved in hiring an attorney (i.e. usually at least a third of the settlement is a standard fee), you may be better off to let the small claims process conclude. That's my honest opinion.

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