In very small claims (perhaps less than $10,000), it may not be worth hiring a lawyer to run your case, but even in those cases we would recommend that you speak with a lawyer before making any offers or accepting any offer from the insurance company. Paying a relatively small amount ($500 or so) for a 1 hour consultation with a personal injury law expert could well result in you receiving much more compensation than you initially anticipated.
With respect to claims where you have suffered reasonably significant injuries that have, for example, impacted on your work or might well impact upon your work in the future, there is no doubt whatsoever that you should engage an expert personal injury lawyer from the start. Your lawyer will then be able to provide you with advice on how best to “set up” your case so that you receive the maximum amount of compensation possible.
When dealing with an insurer directly you really do have to question whether the insurer is going to act in your best interests and make offers that are fair and reasonable, or whether they are going to look after their own interests by resolving your claim for as little as possible. Claims officers have KPIs and incentives that they work to, which would benefit the insurer, not the claimant.
The findings reported in a paper presented to the Motor Accident Insurance Commission by the Australian Lawyers Alliance in August 2019 are very telling in that regard.
The ALA’s report noted that statistics obtained in 2019 show that, in road accident injury claims, claimants who have “independent lawyers representing their interests receive clear in their hand after all legal costs, statutory refunds and outlays more than five times the amount of compensation of those who relied upon the purported “fairness and professionalism of insurers” and were not legally represented”.
Those submissions stated as follows:
(a) Those legally represented reported settlement amounts averaging $78,000 and estimated their lawyer’s costs (which would include outlays) at just under $30,000.
(b) Presumably the balance of approximately $6,000 would be the estimated statutory refunds for each claimant (averaged).
(c) A person legally represented would receive approximately $42,000 clear in their hand after payment of all statutory refunds, legal costs and disbursements.
(d) Claimants without a lawyer – those who chose to rely on the insurance company – received less than $8,000 ($7,839.05) clear, in damages/compensation for their injury. This figure is down on the 2017 average by over $5,000 from $13,481.
(e) Thus, those with independent lawyers representing their interests, receive clear in their hand after all legal costs, statutory refunds and outlays more than five times the amount of compensation of those who relied upon the purported “fairness and professionalism of insurers” [the phraseology used in the report] and were not legally represented.