The number one question I’m asked is “do I need an attorney?“. I’m not a lawyer and I can’t give you legal advice, so ultimately, that’s your decision. I can tell you, from what I’m told by clients, most of them believe they settle quicker and for close to the same amount as if they used an attorney. The biggest difference is they get to keep 100% of the claim instead of giving up 30-50%. Attorneys know that most Diminished Value claims settle quickly, that’s why they’re so interested in signing you for a 40% commission. 40% of $3000 is $1200., and most of the time for sending a simple demand letter. Yes, we give you a sample demand letter with your appraisal.

Attorneys know that most Diminished Value claims settle quickly, that’s why they’re so interested in signing you for a 40% commission

So let’s look at a DIY vs. Attorney scenario. Using easy, round numbers. (this isn’t legal advice, just a hypothetical situation)

The setup: Diminished Value appraisal is $10,000 on a car.

Attorney: If the appraised Diminished Value is $10,000, an attorney may settle this out of court for $7000.  But let’s give him the Benefit of the doubt and say he settles for $8,000.  If you’re on a contingency of 40%, which seems to be the going rate for DV Cases,  You get $4800, and the attorney gets $3200.  Now, again, I’m not an attorney. But, as I’m told, according to a new Oregon law, the Attorney may also be paid additional fees from the insurance company if they raise the insurance company’s offer just 1 penny. (please bear with me as I tiptoe around this, as I don’t want to be sued for some stupid reason). So the attorney may be paid hundreds if not thousands even if he only settles for 1 penny more than what the insurance company offered you. Also beware of the “hidden” charges. Not long ago, I retained an attorney on a contingency basis, in my instance after it was all said and done (2 months after I received my award), I was billed over $600. for several extra things the attorney said was not covered by the contingency agreement. You may have also heard that once an attorney is involved that many insurance companies will wait until the day before the trial to settle, which could be put off for months.

If you’re on a contingency of 40%, which seems to be the going rate for DV Cases,  You get $4800, and the attorney gets $3200.

DIY: The insurance company offers you $100 for Diminished Value. You submit a demand letter with the appraisal that shows your car is worth $10,000 less due to Diminished Value. Many of my clients have settled for 70-85% of the appraisal. But lets be realistic and say they only settle for  50% That’s still $200 more than you would have seen if an attorney had settled it for you. Now, if they refused to budge, and after 30 days they still don’t give you an acceptable offer, guess what…. You still have the option to retain an attorney.

if they refused to budge, and after 30 days they still don’t give you an acceptable offer, guess what…. You still have the option to retain an attorney

I strive to produce an appraisal that is clear, concise, logical and with a ton of 3rd party documentation to support my conclusion. The report is well organized, highlighting specific negotiation points, such as percentage of the cost of repairs to the pre-loss value of the vehicle. Having easy to find info at your fingertips can increase your chances of winning a negotiation. Most of the main points are on the first two pages of our appraisals. Main points are in bold type, with figures like pre-loss value and diminished value in Red. Blocks are color coded in yellow, blue and silver to prevent confusion of what goes with what. All in all, I’ll put my appraisal up against anyone’s(which I actually do, because the insurance company will have an appraisal prepared also).

Having easy to find info at your fingertips can increase your chances of winning a negotiation.

Shooting holes. I can’t give you legal advice, but if after you submit the appraisal and their appraiser looks at your vehicle, I can audit their appraisal and (shoot holes in it) point out errors, omissions and inconsistencies. Which can give you a lot of leverage in your negotiation.