This article was written on April 10, 2020, by Dustin Lee, a licensed South Carolina car accident and injury attorney. Dustin is managing partner of Lee Law Firm, LLC, with a primary office on Hilton Head Island. Dustin has been helping clients seriously injured in car accidents and other injury matters for over a decade, after receiving the highest grade in his law school class in South Carolina Insurance law. This article is not nor should it be construed as legal advice – if you have been seriously injured in a car accident in Hilton Head, Bluffton, or anywhere else in South Carolina, and do not currently have legal representation, please call us at 1-843-474-0614 or 1-800-996-0683 if you would like to get advice specific to your situation.
I have been fortunate to represent clients from seemingly all backgrounds during my legal career. For some reason a few of these clients decided before hiring us to try to negotiate directly with the insurance company representative for the negligent individual or at-fault driver; the fact that these clients later hired us likely speaks for itself as to the results, but without seeming critical, I wish to give a bit of insight about why this is not a good idea in my opinion.
I am going to redact the type of injury and many details to protect my client, but I want you as a reader to understand some of my concerns. I recently had a client who was extremely intelligent, highly educated, and had advanced to a high level at her job – this person supervised a lot of people. While in the Bluffton, South Carolina, area visiting her family for a vacation, my client was pretty seriously injured due to the negligence of a third party. The treating doctors recommended that my client not go back to work for over two-weeks, and then only be on light duty – this was a client that could have probably run a marathon without issue before the injury. This injury also ruined my client’s vacation and would result in some permanent scarring. Nevertheless, for some reason, my client decided to try to negotiate directly with the insurance company soon after the accident, as in her business she was indeed a skilled negotiator. My client was offered less than 25% of “just” the medical bills she had incurred up to that point in settlement. My client then did something that is a big no-no for many reasons – my client had a family friend (out of state) call the insurance company to negotiate, seeking a better result. Why is this a no-no? First, this could be considered the unauthorized practice of law – the friend could get in big trouble. Next, the friend, an accomplished business person that made a very healthy six-figure salary I am sure, was likely not a licensed South Carolina attorney, so the insurance company knew the person could not file suit or really do much. The friend did apparently get a higher offer, but this was still less than 50% of the medical bills incurred by the person who became my client. For example (I am using fictional numbers to keep things simple), if the medical bills were $20,000.00, the settlement offer was about $8,000.00 – this obviously did not account for pain and suffering, lost wages, future medical care for my client’s recovery, etc. considering it did not even cover the initial medical bills incurred.
Fortunately this individual got my name and number from a local licensed South Carolina attorney who does not practice injury law, but knows that I do. We got involved and quickly stopped trying to settle at that time (with our client’s blessing) as a) my client was not fully recovered and b) we did not know what follow-up care would be needed. In short, why would we possibly advise settling at that early stage when we did not even know what the full damages were (the extent of the injuries, follow up care and the cost of the same, etc.)? While confidential as to the amount, at the end of the day we ended up getting my client a settlement more than ten times greater than what her friend had negotiated. Please note – this case was fact specific and we cannot guarantee any particular result.
That is a great story, I am sure you may be thinking, but what does it have to do with my injury I suffered? Hiring a licensed South Carolina attorney that handles injury cases routinely, even if it is not me, does a few things:
- The insurance company can look me up and see that I am licensed in South Carolina and can actually bring a lawsuit (and we frankly have no problem filing a suit if we need to);
- Often clients say things early on that come back to “bite them” later. As this came directly out of the client’s mouth, it can be used against the client much easier;
- If I am working on your case, you can focus on other things, such as your recovery;
- While I am sure it could happen, I have yet to see an injury case we have been involved in that was successfully settled (meaning a negotiated resolution was reached) where the client ended up worse off financially (getting less in his or her pocket at the end of the matter) than if the client did not hire us (based on any offer the client received while unrepresented prior to hiring me). Due to the fact that we take injury cases on a contingency basis (we only get “paid” if and when the client recovers), I cannot figure out why someone would not obtain competent legal representation to help through the process if seriously injured;
- As I do this for a living, we can usually better assess the value of your case.
If you have been seriously injured due to the negligence of another individual in South Carolina and you would like to find out your legal options, please feel free to contact me at 1-843-474-0614 or 1-800-996-0683. While most car accident and injury matters we handle are in Beaufort County and Jasper County due to our location on Hilton Head Island, I have handled car accident and injury matters throughout South Carolina. While we are working remotely at this time, we are still working hard for our injury clients and available for complimentary injury consultations via telephone and video conferencing.
Office Information: Our primary office location is 37 New Orleans Road, Suite V, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, 29928. We are located in Orleans Plaza on the South End of Hilton Head Island, near the Sea Pines Circle, on the second floor.