Almost always. And it's worth the expense.
Going without a lawyer means that you get 100% of the settlement amount, instead of paying 33%-40% to the attorney.
There are certainly some cases, which are simple enough that the insurance company will pay without a lawyer. For example, if the injuries are very serious and there is a small policy, the adjuster may “tender,” or offer the entire policy amount. Sometimes this happens before the victim can even call a lawyer.
However, there are serious dangers to going without a lawyer, even in the case above.
How do you know that there isn't other insurance? If you sign a release to get the check, you might be giving up rights to other compensation.
Recently, we were retained by a family whose mother had been tragically killed in a car accident. The insurance company was tendering its entire $1 million policy, and so some members of the family thought it was silly to hire a lawyer. After we were retained, we found a second $1 million policy AND a $100,000 underinsured motorist policy that applied to the claim.
• Without a lawyer… the family would have received $1 million
• With a lawyer… the settlement was $2.1 million, and after attorney fees = $1.496 million to the family
In this case, hiring a lawyer gave a net gain to the family of $496,000.
Even in a case that looks simple, there can be issues of insurance coverage, reimbursement of payments made by your medical insurance, comparative negligence and other complicated legal issues that can be very confusing.
And one final thing. A claimant who does not have a lawyer may find it hard to be taken seriously by the insurance company. They can throw legal-babble in your face and intimidate you into settling your claim for less than it is worth. To some insurance adjusters, an unrepresented claimant is just not serious about his claim.