I am sure this forum gets a million questions regarding the value of one's personal injury claim from an automobile accident, and I understand its not an exact science. With that being said, I am curious about something, and I will make my story as brief as possible:
I was rear-ended while at a complete stop on 10/29/05. The driver was a teenager who admitted she wasnt paying attention. The property damage was minimal ($500) but the impact was certainly a jolt. I didnt seek immediate medical attention, but began to experience progressive pain and saw my physician 2 weeks later. That began a series of neurological appointments, Physical Therapy, Chiropractic Care, and diagnostic tests that lasted several months. The combined medical reports indicate that, in addition to various soft tissue injuries, I suffered a mild spinal disc protrusion attributable to the accident. I stopped treatment as of 5/5/06, and my special damages totaled $9,800.
I refused to hire an attorney at first and felt confident I could handle the settlement myself. I kept meticulous records of all reports, bills, and medical narratives. I used the internet to learn about the "specials" formula often used by insurance adjusters, and felt confident that my case would at least be worth 2 times the specials (i.e. 20,000). I sent the insurance adjuster (from GEICO) an honest and direct settlement letter and package (one that I was confident would be effective), and made a demand of $58,000 - not an amount I truly expected to receive, but I allowed myself negotiation room, of course. After waiting 2 weeks, I get the call from the insurance adjuster, who cites the fact that I waited 2 weeks to seek medical attention (a weak argument) and the fact that the property damage was minimal so the injuries should be minimal (an even weaker argument). Then, she drops her bombshell - rather than "deny" my claim (as though that was really an option for her), she is willing to settle it for $5,000. Folks, I realize that the first offer is usually a lowball offer, but how in the world can an insurance adjuster keep a straight face while offering an amount that doesnt even cover the most basic of liabilities - the medical bills? She has medical narratives right in front of her face that mention the protruded disc (which, unlike soft tissue problems, is a "hard" or tangible injury), and she has a pile of bills that total almost $10,000! She went on to say that I can "do what I want" with the offer.
I did just that, sending her an aggresive yet respectful letter that declines the offer and reiterates the true facts of the case. For anyone who has had a similar case (or any lawyers out there), my question is:
Do I stand a snowball's chance in hell of getting this settlement up to the $20,000 area within the next two months or so? Or should I just cut my losses and forward it over to an attorney? I've already had one attorney agree that the case is worth "15K-50K" and is willing to take it, but with that comes the 33% price tag, of course.
Suggestions? Advice? I really appreciate it.