Insurance companies and casinos are in the risk business. More on that later.

But first let’s talk about your situation.

You’ve been in a car accident.

It seems clear to you and your friends that the other person was at fault. The other person rear-ended your vehicle. They got out of the car and said “Oh my god. I am so sorry. I was texting. It’s all my fault.” You recorded all this on your cellphone. Then they friended you on Facebook and repeated their confession in writing. They even let you plug your laptop into their OnStar computer and download the data from to show the collision. Plus, it happened live on the local news channel.

In short, fault is not up for discussion. They’re at fault.

They owe you and it’s just a question of how much their insurance company pays.

That’s the situation we’re talking about.

You open a claim with their insurance company.

Things are moving along. You’ve signed some medical waiver (not always the smart move, BTW). You’ve put your medical bills in a spreadsheet. You’ve got an affidavit stating the amount of work you lost with supporting paystubs. You’ve crafted a PowerPoint using animations to explain the mechanics of the accident. You’ve got Google Earth showing the scene. And you’ve got that local TV broadcast, I humorously invented above.

In this kind of a situation, a certain type of person figures this is something that they can take care of herself. Attorneys do not have the monopoly on detail-oriented, intellectual work. Lots of people teach themselves how to do new things all the time. For example, a software developer teaches himself a new programming language, or a musician learns to play a new instrument from watching YouTube videos.

Heck, I bought an ODB-II to diagnose my check engine light. Sometimes, I YouTube my car’s problem before I talk to the mechanic.

So maybe you’re the type of person that likes to do things for yourself. Maybe you believe that you will do your case better because it matters more to you than to anyone else. I can certainly respect that. I get the appeal of figuring it out for yourself.

Just don’t do it yourself to save money or time.

The insurance company’s job is to minimize what they pay you. That’s how they make profits to return to their shareholders.

Assuming fault is truly not up for discussion and you put together a good package of your own medical bills, my sense is that if the amount you’re asking for is less than $20,000.00, you might do okay. I don’t know. I’m certainly not promising that your insurance company is one of the “better ones” that is going to treat you more fairly. I don’t know that. I don’t know how injured you are, or whether you’ll need treatment in the future. Once you cash the check, though, it’s over. There is no going back for more money.

However, my strong expectation is that the insurance company is going to lowball you. In our wins page, I talk about a woman who had tens of thousands in medical bills and the insurance company offered her $400. Crazy.

There are lots of tricks that insurance companies might use. They want to make you doubt yourself. They say your injuries were caused by a pre-existing condition. That you were at fault. That you deserve less.

Oh, be advised that there is something called the statute of limitations. Under the statute of limitations laws, if they continue the case long enough, then you can’t bring a claim at all. That’s right, if they delay it long enough, they don’t have to pay you. (Are you doing the claims adjuster dance? How many adjusters or specialists have you talked to? Someone on vacation? Get transferred? Needs to check with their boss?)

I don’t play blackjack for a living. When I go to a casino, I expect the house to take my money. They’re the pro. I’m the amateur. This is how they make money and build a shiny casino while employing thousands of people and returning profit to their shareholders. And as the card players say, if you don’t know who the fool is at the table, well, … you better know who the fool is.

Update: Since publishing this, I have talked with several people who attempted to negotiate with their insurance company. They were all treated badly in my opinion. I don’t think any of the people were close to getting their case resolved.