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Compensation lawyers vs DIY settlement?

By ThisIsAName - 10 March 2011 5

A family member was rear ended some time ago, sustaining whiplash. Recovery took around six months, including about 6 weeks off work etc. NRMA obviously wants to close the books now, so general damages negotiations are expected to start soon.

Obviously, NRMA want to close the case as quickly & cheaply as possible. We are trying to decide if we should get a compensation lawyer, or manage the settlement ourselves. The trade off seems to be potentially more faffing with the DIY approach, although getting a lawyer should be simpler, albeit more expensive.

Can anyone who has gone through a general damages settlement recommend a reasonable lawyer? For those who chose DIY route, how did you find it?

Thanks in advance.

What’s Your opinion?


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5 Responses to
Compensation lawyers vs DIY settlement?
legal_chick86 9:37 am 28 Oct 11

liability said :

Do you know about such things as the Griffiths v. Kerkemeyer component of CTP personal injury claims? If not, then you definitely need a solicitor to act for you.

CTP personal injury claims are fairly simple and pretty much any good solicitor should be able to handle it for you. The one that seems to do the bulk of them in Canberra is Maliganis Edwards Johnson. I’m not saying there the best, just that they do a lot of them and you would hope that they have the process worked out by now. I see an earlier poster recommended Colquhuon Murphy – very, very good litigation firm, but I don’t think they do many CTP personal injury claims, and I would think that you are better off going to a firm that specialises in such matters.

Things that you need to consider in working out what your claim is worth include:

Special damages – Out of pocket expenses – loss of income, medical costs, costs of taxis to attend treatments, home help, etc

General damages – Loss of earning capacity in the furture, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life.

The Griffith v. Kerkemeyer matter that I reffered to earlier relates to domestic assistance even if gratuitously provided. For example if the injured person needed help with washing, cleaning, cooking, etc, this is claimable. You can claim this even if the person that provided the care was your wife, son, neighbour etc and you didn’t have to pay for it. This can add up to quite a bit in some cases. I think the current rate is somewhere around $20 an hour or thereabouts.

A couple of things you also need to be aware of are that Medicare gets first bite of any compensation payment you get, as they take whatever amount that Medicare paid for your treatment. If you received Medicare rebates for treatment, were bulk billed or treated in hospital as a public patient this could actually add up to a fair amount that will come off your settlement.

The other very important thing to know, is that NRMA will have you sign an agreement that the compensation payment is made in full and final settlement of the claim. This means that if you accept a settlement that is the end of the matter. If the injury flairs up in six months time and you need surgery, that is now your problem and not NRMAs. This is why it is not always a good reason to try and settle a claim early, as quite often it takes a lengthy period of time to know what the long term prognosis of an injury is.

Assuming that NRMA have had the person assessed by a medico-legal specialist, and they have details of your medical costs, lost wages, ect they will have put an estimate on what they think the claim is worth, i,e, a $ figure. They will obviously offer you much less than this to start with, and will try to settle the claim as cheaply as possible, which is just good commercial practice. A good solicitor will know how much your claim is worth, based on Court precedents, and will be able to argue this with NRMA. There is usually a bit of negotiating involved, but generally both NRMA and your solicitor will know what the claim is worth and they will usually reach an agreement without resorting to litigation, assuming that liability is not an issue [i.e. you were clearly the innocent party – which appears to be the case with your rear ender].

Just be aware that the settlement process can take some time. Your solicitor will most likely send you to be assessed by a medico-legal specialist of his choice and this can quite often taken several months just to see that doctor and for you solicitor to get his report. It is not uncommon for fairly simple claims, which you appear to indicate this matter is, to take a year to settle.

I just want to add that the reason behind the several month wait to be assessed by a medico-legal specialist is actually to wait for the claimant’s injuries to settle so we can do an accurate assessment of future treatment and loss.

liability 8:05 am 11 Mar 11

Do you know about such things as the Griffiths v. Kerkemeyer component of CTP personal injury claims? If not, then you definitely need a solicitor to act for you.

CTP personal injury claims are fairly simple and pretty much any good solicitor should be able to handle it for you. The one that seems to do the bulk of them in Canberra is Maliganis Edwards Johnson. I’m not saying there the best, just that they do a lot of them and you would hope that they have the process worked out by now. I see an earlier poster recommended Colquhuon Murphy – very, very good litigation firm, but I don’t think they do many CTP personal injury claims, and I would think that you are better off going to a firm that specialises in such matters.

Things that you need to consider in working out what your claim is worth include:

Special damages – Out of pocket expenses – loss of income, medical costs, costs of taxis to attend treatments, home help, etc

General damages – Loss of earning capacity in the furture, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life.

The Griffith v. Kerkemeyer matter that I reffered to earlier relates to domestic assistance even if gratuitously provided. For example if the injured person needed help with washing, cleaning, cooking, etc, this is claimable. You can claim this even if the person that provided the care was your wife, son, neighbour etc and you didn’t have to pay for it. This can add up to quite a bit in some cases. I think the current rate is somewhere around $20 an hour or thereabouts.

A couple of things you also need to be aware of are that Medicare gets first bite of any compensation payment you get, as they take whatever amount that Medicare paid for your treatment. If you received Medicare rebates for treatment, were bulk billed or treated in hospital as a public patient this could actually add up to a fair amount that will come off your settlement.

The other very important thing to know, is that NRMA will have you sign an agreement that the compensation payment is made in full and final settlement of the claim. This means that if you accept a settlement that is the end of the matter. If the injury flairs up in six months time and you need surgery, that is now your problem and not NRMAs. This is why it is not always a good reason to try and settle a claim early, as quite often it takes a lengthy period of time to know what the long term prognosis of an injury is.

Assuming that NRMA have had the person assessed by a medico-legal specialist, and they have details of your medical costs, lost wages, ect they will have put an estimate on what they think the claim is worth, i,e, a $ figure. They will obviously offer you much less than this to start with, and will try to settle the claim as cheaply as possible, which is just good commercial practice. A good solicitor will know how much your claim is worth, based on Court precedents, and will be able to argue this with NRMA. There is usually a bit of negotiating involved, but generally both NRMA and your solicitor will know what the claim is worth and they will usually reach an agreement without resorting to litigation, assuming that liability is not an issue [i.e. you were clearly the innocent party – which appears to be the case with your rear ender].

Just be aware that the settlement process can take some time. Your solicitor will most likely send you to be assessed by a medico-legal specialist of his choice and this can quite often taken several months just to see that doctor and for you solicitor to get his report. It is not uncommon for fairly simple claims, which you appear to indicate this matter is, to take a year to settle.

creative_canberran 4:51 pm 10 Mar 11

The law is complex and self represented litigants are both a hazard to themselves in the courts and a massive challenge for the courts to deal with. The statistics are very poor for SRL and the delays they cause the court have led the High Court to preclude them altogether.
It makes sense to at least obtain some initial professional advice, at least to get an outline of probabilities and issues involved in the case.

astrojax 4:10 pm 10 Mar 11

i can recommend colquhuon murphy in braddon

– like dtc says, a lawyer practicing in this field is more likely to know what and how much you might claim. f’rinstance, you might also find a lawyer could get nrma to pay your legal costs. have you got reports from doctors and other medical experts you’ve consulted? these will cost a bit, but are worth their weight in gold and you should be able to get nrma to reimburse thee additionally to any damages settlement.

get a lawyer. really, get a lawyer.

dtc 2:52 pm 10 Mar 11

Ask yourself this question: do you know how much the claim is worth? Do you know all of the types of damages you can claim?

If not, use a lawyer.

If you do, settle it yourself.

Keep in mind that the NRMA has no obligation to offer you a ‘fair’ amount; it will try to settle for as little as possible.

Lawyers will negotiate their fees – perhaps get a first offer and go to a lawyer (first visit free one) and say ‘if you can get me more than this offer after deducting your fees, then I will hire you. But our fee agreement is that after paying your fees I will not get less than this offer’.

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