A new study finds that auto accident victims who hired an attorney to settle their claims reported medical expenses almost 400 percent higher in 2002 than the expenses incurred by people without an attorney. The study, commissioned by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), found that between 1998 and 2002, average medical expenses grew 100 percent for those with an attorney, according to findings released in a statement Thursday. Expenses for people without an attorney grew 22 percent. The study also looked at injury victims’ satisfaction with their final payments. It found that almost three-fourths of those without an attorney were satisfied with their total payment, compared to less than half of those who hired an attorney. Among people with the highest accident expenses, who usually incurred the most serious injuries, two-thirds of those who did not hire an attorney were satisfied with their total payment. In contrast, among people with the highest losses who retained an attorney, fewer than four in ten were satisfied. These findings are unchanged from a similar IRC study conducted in 1998. The report indicates two factors that may contribute to lower satisfaction among accident victims who hire an attorney: higher costs -- specifically, attorneys' fees and medical expenses -- and longer settlement times. Those with attorneys paid them, on average, a contingency fee of 32 percent of their total payment. The new IRC report: Paying for Auto Injuries: A Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims, is based on more than 3,000 responses to a consumer panel survey of auto accident victims. The Insurance Research Council is a division of the American Institute for CPCU and the Insurance Institute of America. The IRC is supported by leading property-casualty organizations, though it claims not to lobby or advocate legislative positions.
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