Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer? An In-Depth Look
THE SIMPLE GUIDE TO DETERMINING IF YOU NEED A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
If you were recently involved in a personal injury accident, you might question if you need to be represented by a personal injury attorney. From a legal standpoint, you do not need an attorney to file a claim. You can do this yourself. Suppose your claim is minor, and you expect to receive little in the way of compensation. In that case, it is financially prudent to handle your claim instead of hiring an attorney.
However, if your injuries are severe or your accident was complicated, it only makes sense to have a personal injury attorney on your side. Your lawyer can preserve your rights and stand up for you to the big insurance companies, their experienced adjusters, and their teams of attorneys.
It is also beneficial to have an attorney as they are familiar with the applicable laws, legal procedures, and local court rules. Their experience allows them to be your advocate. With a personal injury attorney on your side, you can focus on healing from your injuries. At the same time, they do the work to ensure you get fair compensation.
Do these thoughts or concerns sound familiar?
- I am unsure if I have a valid case.
Personal injury lawyers only work on million-dollar cases. If my case isn’t worth as much, will the law firm give me an inexperienced attorney
- I can do it myself.
Do I have the bandwidth to do this myself? Do I have constraints on my time? Do I have the expertise and negotiation skills to have a successful legal claim?
- It’s not fair that I suffered injuries caused by someone else.
Should I sue someone else?
- I am so frustrated with this situation!
How do I select the right personal injury lawyer? There are so many.
These are all real questions and concerns that personal injury victims face. Let’s explore them in-depth and find out what it takes to craft a successful personal injury claim, whether you hire a lawyer or represent yourself.
Were You in a Personal Injury Accident?
After sustaining a personal injury, deciding whether you need a lawyer or not is one of the most important things you need to do. However, first, you must ask yourself if you were in a “personal injury” accident that gives you an opportunity to initiate a claim to receive compensation for your damages.
To determine this, you need to examine two factors:
- Was your accident the result of the negligence of another person or entity?
The law allows individuals who are injured due to negligent action or inaction of another person or party to pursue monetary compensation for their damages. This circumstance is what makes an accident a “personal injury” accident. To receive compensation, you can either file an insurance claim and settle your case or file a lawsuit and receive compensation through the legal system.If another driver hit you on the interstate when they changed lanes without looking and broke your leg, you have a personal injury. However, if you were texting while driving, drove your car off the road, and broke your leg, you would be liable for your injuries and not a personal injury.
- Did you sustain an injury?
Merely being in an accident caused by someone else doesn’t mean you have a personal injury, and you need an attorney. Personal injury accidents must cause a physical injury to the victim. If you did not suffer an injury in the accident, as confirmed by a licensed physician, you do not need legal representation. If you did suffer an injury, move on to the next question.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding if You Need an Attorney
Did You Suffer Serious Injuries?
Nearly everyone who is injured in a personal injury accident believes their injuries are serious. After all, accidents are traumatic and should be treated as such. On a legal and objective level, injuries are only severe if they need immediate medical attention and impact the victim for more than merely a week or two.
Generally speaking, non-serious injuries don’t require much paperwork when making a claim with the insurance companies. In these circumstances, your claim will likely be settled quickly. There aren’t many complexities that an attorney can help you with, and hiring one is unlikely to increase your compensation by much. Once the attorney takes their percentage, your compensation may be less than if you had handled your claim on your own.
So what types of injuries require an attorney?
- Minor injuries: Perhaps you saw a chiropractor a few times and now feel fine. If your insurance company offers to settle your claim for $500, it’s a good idea to take it since your injuries were minor. Some attorneys will take on these types of claims, but if you only need a few doctor visits, it’s unlikely that you need an attorney. However, if you are still hurting or not functioning correctly after a couple of treatments and following your doctor’s advice, it might be time to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss your rights.
- Severe injuries: On the other hand, if you were whisked away by an ambulance from the scene of your accident, received treatment in the emergency room, had surgeries or several appointments with medical specialists or physical therapists, your injuries are considered severe. With many complicated medical treatments, the insurance company will need to review all the details to determine what they are willing to offer you for your claim.
Taking on your injury claim, especially while dealing with your injuries and receiving treatments, is challenging. Your injuries might become more complicated and severe, and you will likely need help to have a successful injury claim. Pain, inconvenience, and suffering go hand in hand with serious injuries. You may also need to take a break from your hobbies, job, caring for your family, and even cooking and basic household chores. You may be unable to care for yourself and need assistance with even basic tasks like brushing your teeth.
Each one of these damages is compensable; you could receive money for your losses. However, building a claim that includes these damages requires some legal expertise. Receiving maximum compensation for your injuries will likely need an expert who can prove your damages to the insurance company, their attorneys, and possibly a jury.
The seriousness of your injuries determines the complexity and value of your personal injury case. The severity of your personal injuries is measured by:
- The severity and type of injuries you sustained in the accident
- The medical procedures required to treat your injuries
- How long it will take for you to recover from your injuries fully
- The expenses for all medical services resulting from the accident
- The expected cost of any potential future medical care and treatments
- The projected cost of any long-term care you may require in the future
- The extent to which your injuries limit your ability to work
- How the injuries restrict your capacity to do your ordinary life activities
The more severe your injuries are, the more compensation you are likely to receive for them. Likewise, more severe injuries are also more complex to settle, often requiring a skilled personal injury lawyer’s expertise. It’s important to have leverage from an attorney to maximize your complex claim.
Serious Injury Types
Are you still wondering if your injury is serious? If you have any of these types of injuries, you should strongly consider meeting with a personal injury attorney.
Some injuries resulting from personal injury accidents can impact your body for many years into the future. You could be disabled or even permanently restricted in your activities. Long term injuries can significantly interfere with your daily activities, hobbies, and your job performance. These complicated injuries also have tricky price tags. There is not a set monetary value to compensate you; instead, you need to calculate and determine its value for yourself.
If your injury causes you to be disabled or restricted permanently, you will live with them for the rest of your life. Your life is forever changed. You will need to assess the lifetime impacts of your injuries and if you have any scarring or disfigurement.
Individuals who suffer long-term or permanent injuries are entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering and how they will affect them financially. They will likely have substantial medical bills and may not earn a living the way they did before or even at all.
As you can see, determining how much the person who caused your accident owes you is not a simple process. A personal injury attorney is experienced in this area and also has paid medical and vocational experts to assess the total value of an injured party’s damages. If you want to receive a fair settlement, your best option is to hire a personal injury attorney.
Hiring an attorney after sustaining a severe personal injury is beneficial for the following reasons:
- They know how to attain a settlement that includes money for all of the damages you are legally entitled to receive
- They are experts in negotiating settlements higher than what accident victims can garner on their own
- Insurance companies and their defense attorneys will take your claim more seriously when you have the representation of a reliable lawyer with a history of receiving full and fair settlements for their clients
Is Another Person or Party at Fault for Your Injuries?
The next question you need to consider is if someone else caused your injuries, whether directly or indirectly. If the answer is yes, then you are more likely to need a personal injury attorney. Understanding the different types of liability will help you answer this question.
Clear Liability: The other party accepts full responsibility for the accident that caused your injuries. Perhaps they made a statement to the police or their insurance carrier verbally expressing their fault.
Police reports and independent witness statements often help to produce clear liability.
- Shared Liability: If you have some fault in causing the accident, there is shared liability. In this scenario, you might also be subject to insurance claims from the other party at fault. Typically, this will decrease your settlement or even prevent you from receiving any compensation. It will depend on how much liability you have for the accident.
- Keep in mind that if you live in a “contributory negligence” state (Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington D.C.), any liability on your part can bar you from any financial recovery. Anyone who has been injured in an accident and could be partially at fault should speak with a personal injury attorney. If you hire an attorney, you could be protected from counterclaims or cross-claims from other parties and maximize your settlement. The same applies if you were in an accident where multiple parties could have liability.
- Disputed Liability: Insurance companies can still dispute liability for the accident, even if you genuinely believe you have zero liability, and the other party is entirely to blame. The insurance company will often say that their policyholder is not at fault or that you do not have sufficient evidence to prove they are 100% to blame. As such, the insurance carrier will deny part or all of your claim, and you will receive little or nothing at all for your claim.
If your accident involves shared or disputed liability, you will likely need a personal injury lawyer unless you:
- Understand or can learn the intricacies of the personal injury laws pertinent to your situation
- Know or can learn how the workings of the insurance industry and how to manage an accident claim
- Have or can collect adequate evidence (such as eyewitness testimony or video footage) to prove that the other party is at fault for your accident
If you agree that 100% of the fault for the accident belongs to you, you do not need a personal injury lawyer. If someone was injured in the accident and filed a legal claim against you, it is the job of your insurance company to provide you with legal representation.
Is Your Case Complicated?
Now that you know about liability, it’s time to examine the complexity of your case to determine if you should hire a personal injury attorney. Let’s look at the issues that might complicate your case:
as previously mentioned, minor injuries stemming from a simple accident don’t usually warrant the services of a lawyer. However, severe injuries like those previously described need the attention of a skilled personal injury lawyer.
If there are no disputes or nuances over liability, you may not need to hire an attorney. Having a personal injury attorney on your side if there are severe injuries and multiple parties involved can make all the difference in your claim’s outcome.
Insurance coverage issues and who owes you compensation and what amounts can become complicated quickly when numerous parties are involved, multiple people are injured, or multiple people at fault for the accident. These situations need an experienced personal injury attorney to sort them out.
Insurance coverage issues and who owes you compensation and what amounts can become complicated quickly when numerous parties are involved, multiple people are injured, or multiple people at fault for the accident. These situations need an experienced personal injury attorney to sort them out.
When more than one party is liable for your accident, your claim will involve several different insurance companies. It can be confusing, time-consuming, and quite a burden to untangle a mess like this. Your attorney knows how to interpret various insurance coverages, exclusions, and communications with the appropriate carriers. When you hire an attorney to take on this task for you, your life will be much simpler.
If multiple individuals were injured in an accident, the at-fault party would probably have several claims filed with their insurance company. This fact means less settlement money for you. Other injured parties likely have attorneys on their side fighting for the compensation they deserve, shouldn’t you have the same?
If you determine that you have serious injuries and that your case has one or more complicating factors, you need to answer the next question before calling a personal injury attorney.
Is There Money Available to Pay for Your Injuries and Damages?
Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. As such, there must be money available for compensation; otherwise, they will not get paid. If there is no money to be obtained, it makes no sense to hire an attorney.
Sources for financial compensation after an accident include:
- Third-party insurance coverage
- Your insurance coverage
- Third-party personal or business assets
At least one of these sources should be available in your case. If not, it’s not worth your time to hire a personal injury attorney. The reason injured parties hire attorneys is so that they can be financially compensated for their damages. If there is no money available for the compensation to come from, you won’t have much of a claim.
However, it is still imperative that you schedule a consultation with an attorney. There may be sources of funds of which you were unaware. If you do not check with an attorney, you could unknowingly be leaving money for your damages on the table. Insurance policies are often confusing. You may be unsure of whose insurance company should cover your damages or with whom you should file a claim. If this sounds familiar, read on to learn more about insurance policies.
Types of Insurance Coverage
Assuming you did not cause the accident, the “third party” is the person who did. Since carrying proof of insurance is required by state law, you will likely know immediately at the scene of the accident, whether the person at fault for your accident has insurance coverage or not. If you were seriously injured, you were probably taken from the scene by ambulance without an opportunity to exchange this information.The police will record insurance information for all involved drivers in their report. However, it may take approximately one week to receive a copy of this report.
Even when you get the insurance information, the amount of coverage available will likely remain unknown until it can be confirmed with the insurance carrier. It is also essential to find out if the third party was on the clock at the time of the accident. If so, their employer could be liable for the accident. In this case, a commercial insurance policy will apply, which generally affords higher coverage limits than a personal insurance policy.
Even if you know what types and amounts of coverages are available on your car insurance policy, finding out what other sources of compensation could be available in your claim can be difficult and time-consuming. Hiring an attorney who will take on this task for you is often the best way to go. Once the attorney can determine that there is money available to draw from, your personal injury claim is viable.
When Did Your Accident Occur?
The success of your claim and whether or not you should obtain legal representation can hinge on the amount of time that has elapsed since your accident happened. After an accident, there is no specific timeframe in which you should hire an attorney. If you decide to manage your claim on your own, you can always hire an attorney at any point before your claim is settled. If you start off thinking about hiring a lawyer, there are some ideal times to get one on board to make your case more successful.
Hiring an attorney at the scene of your accident or from the hospital may be premature but do not wait too long because your claim could quickly become complicated. You will generally want to consult with a seasoned personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident. By getting a professional legal opinion right away, you will be able to find out if you have a valid claim worth pursuing. If you do, your attorney can advise you of the next steps. If you don’t, you can prepare to handle the claims on your own. Nearly all personal injury lawyers provide free initial consultations to determine if you have a case. These can be done at your convenience via phone, video chat, email, or in-person.
The Law Restricts How Long You Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Every state has a deadline for filing personal injury claims. This deadline is commonly known as the statute of limitations. In California, the statute is two years from the date of the accident. If your claim is against a government entity, you only have six months after the accident to file a claim. Other state statutes will vary, so you must be aware of the time constraints you have. It should be noted that minors have different deadlines for filing claims to help protect their rights. If you attempt to file a personal injury claim once the statute of limitations has expired for your case, you will more than likely be barred from receiving compensation for your damages. Hiring a personal injury attorney should be done well before this time runs out unless you intend to handle your injury claim on your own.
Can I Wait to Hire an Attorney Since I Have Years to File a Legal Claim?
You may want to wait until you have completed your medical treatments before hiring a personal injury attorney. However, you also have the option of hiring one sooner who will work with you to get you the treatments you need. Your attorney can begin guiding you through your injury claim while ensuring you are getting the best medical treatment available.
Already having an attorney at this point will make you ready to start negotiating a settlement as soon as you are released from your medical care. It’s never too early to get on the right track with your legal game plan. If you decide to wait until after your medical treatment is complete to hire an attorney, be aware that you may run into several different problems.
Insurance companies are often intentionally tricky to work with. They are allowed to speak to you cordially, but only to obtain specific information about your claim. They often try to talk with you as soon as possible, before you can ascertain the gravity and impacts of your injuries. Too often, they trick innocent, unsuspecting injured individuals into saying something that will harm their claim. By hiring a personal injury attorney as soon as possible, you can avoid this happening to you. Once an attorney represents you, the insurance company will have to go through them for any information they need from you.
It is vital to use appropriate language when you are interacting with your medical providers. A personal injury attorney can provide you with the legal guidance you need to avoid sounding overly worried about your legal claim or, in other words, litigious. Most medical providers detest patients like this, which can hurt your claim. You can avoid being one of these patients by working closely with a personal injury attorney.
Within your legal claim, you are only entitled to receive compensation for medical treatment that is considered to be reasonable and necessary. If you are not getting medical treatment that is effective or appropriate, you may risk not being compensated for their costs. Of course, attorneys are not usually medical professionals, but they can audit your medical treatment to ensure you are only getting treatments that will most likely be covered in your settlement.
If you sit back and allow your medical bills to go into collections status, which damages your credit or you pay your medical bills unnecessarily, it can impact you for a long time to come. With an attorney on your side, you can avoid having your medical bills go to collections or paying for treatment out of your pocket when you don’t have to. A customer service-oriented attorney can help you get specific medical bills covered by your health insurance policy, med-pay, or other benefits. They can also help set up medical liens, payment plans, or put your accounts on hold so that they do not have to be paid until you receive your settlement.
Additionally, an experienced personal injury attorney might be able to help you obtain discounts on some of your medical bills, which means you will pay them less than if you had just paid them on your own.
If, for any reason, you do not keep up with the treatment plan recommended by your healthcare providers or you go substantial amounts of time in between treatments. The insurance company might decide to discount or eliminate specific medical bills from your compensation. By hiring an attorney right from the start, you can be sure that you are getting the treatments you are supposed to according to your medical team.
If you do not take the time and care to protect valuable evidence such as witness statements, pictures, or videos of the accident scene as well as the vehicles and injuries when the accident is fresh. You could unintentionally devalue your claim. Injured individuals who obtain an attorney from the start will have an advocate to gather or help them gather the crucial evidence needed to maximize their claim.
Most insurance companies will put aside a set amount of money for each claim. These funds are known as a reserve and are calculated using the information they receive about your case early in the process. If they set the reserve too low, it can be challenging to get them to increase it to compensate you fairly. If you have a personal injury attorney representing your claim, they can ensure that the insurance company sets the reserve high enough right from the start.
Waiting too long to seek compensation for your claim gives the defendant time to disappear or even move. If you lose track of the person whom your claim is against, resolving your case will cost more money and take more time. When you hire an attorney ASAP after your accident, they will keep track of the defendant. If they disappear, they even have the tools and resources to track them down.
If other claims will be made on the same policy and the third-party insurance company is unaware of your claim, other claimants could be paid all of the money available for this case. Doing this could leave you with zero compensation.
It’s also possible that you could get busy living your life and not remember to file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, losing your right to any compensation. If you hire a personal injury attorney, they can assert and protect your claim immediately so that even if you get busy with life, you can receive what is rightfully yours for compensation.
Injured individuals who attempt to handle their claim alone tend to give the insurance company too much information if their claim is anything other than simple. They might say the wrong things, forget to provide correct documentation, seek the wrong medical treatment, and generally fail to create the case as solidly as it can be. With a well-versed personal injury attorney on your side from the beginning, you can avoid all of these case-damaging pitfalls.
Don’t Make Your Lawyers Job Challenging by Hiring Them Too Late
You may start your personal injury claim by yourself and keep trying to handle it until you make a critical mistake or hit a wall. This action could lead you to realize that managing your case on your own is more complicated than you thought it would be.
At this point, many personal injury attorneys don’t want to risk obtaining a less than ideal settlement for you as it will impact how much they make from your case. If you find one who is willing to take on your case after it has been compromised, it might be an inexperienced one. Sometimes, injured individuals can find the right attorney who is able and willing to save their case.
It’s understandable to want to save money by not hiring an attorney, especially if you face financial difficulties as a result of your injuries. However, in the end, you might receive far less compensation and experience a lot more stress than if you had just sought the assistance of a qualified attorney from the beginning of your claim.
Do You Have What It Takes to Handle Your Own Claim?
If you are giving serious thought to managing your own personal injury claim instead of getting help from an attorney, this is the question you should focus on. Do you have the skills, energy, and time to handle your personal injury claim? The answer will come from balancing the intricacies of your case with the resources you have available. Take some time to explore the skills, time, and energy that goes into handling a personal injury claim to help you determine if you should hire a lawyer or not.
Do You Have the Time Necessary to Manage Your Case?
Perhaps you are done with medical treatment for your injuries, not having any pain, and are back at work. If so, you might have the time to handle your claim. Nearly everyone can find the time to make a few calls and send a few emails to resolve a claim. However, if you claim necessitates investigating, drafting legal documents, and digging deeper, do you have time for that?
If you are still healing and recovering from your injuries, you might have some additional free time, especially if you are still off of work. It’s important to ask yourself if your time is better spent learning new skills so that you can be your own personal injury lawyer or focusing on your healing by resting and attending medical appointments? Managing a personal injury claim that is anything more than basic requires a large commitment of time and is stressful for even the most relaxed person.
You will need to take on tasks that will need your constant attention, such as:
- Frequent phone calls
- Sending and receiving emails, faxes, legal documents, medical records, and bills
- Handling offensive bill collectors, argumentative insurance adjusters, edgy negotiations.
These tasks are not even an exhaustive list of what you would need to do to represent yourself. Each of these tasks takes attention and energy away from your recovery and adds further stress to your mind and body.
If you are not ready to handle all of this, it might be time to hand it off to an experienced personal injury attorney. However, if your claim is minor and can be settled with a few emails or phone calls and may only take a few hours of your time, you may want to be the one in charge. To determine if this is the type of case you have, you will need to evaluate the complexity of your case as soon as possible.
Do You Have the Energy to Handle Your Personal Injury Claim?
Maybe you do have the energy, or at least the motivation to take care of your claim on your own. You want justice after being injured. You know you deserve compensation and are ready to do what it takes to receive it. Nevertheless, your physical injuries are weighing you down physically, mentally, and emotionally. You lack energy. Is your motivation enough to float you through this often-lengthy process?
Injured individuals are vulnerable after an accident. While still recovering from their injuries, they may be required to juggle body pain, headaches, mobility issues, work stress, family obligations, and medical appointments. Do you want to add playing the role of your own personal injury attorney to this mix? Having a legal expert on your side who can help with all the logistics of having a successful injury claim is invaluable in these situations.
That is unless you want to quickly settle your claim for less than it is likely worth. Insurance companies are known for offering less than a fair settlement for injury compensation or sometimes for offering nothing at all and denying your claim. There is a process that must be followed for them to pay on a claim. Throughout this process,
the insurance company will do everything they can to delay or deny your claim, no matter how valid it is. Be prepared to jump through their hoops and carefully document everything to get your claim paid.
During this process, you will need to provide the insurance carrier with, among other things, lots of evidence, recorded statements, and witness declarations. You must weigh your energy and resources against the complexity of your legal issues and injuries to determine if you need a lawyer to handle your claim.
You can increase your resources by:
- Getting a team on your side
- Finding someone who knows the law
- Delegating the management of your medical bills to another person
Your resources will be taxed by:
- Stress from handling your claim
- Taking on more than you can handle
- Being mistreated and taken advantage of by insurance companies and their defense attorneys
A Personal Injury Law Firm Can Substantially Increase Your Resources
When you decide to hire a personal injury lawyer, you get much more than just an attorney. You get an entire team on your side to help you in every aspect of your claim.
The majority of personal injury law firms have people on staff who can:
- Assess your accident and injuries to tell you the type and value of personal injury claim you have
- Discover the facts of your accident and collect valuable evidence to prove your claim
- Investigate the individual who caused your accident
- Understand your medical file and be a middleman between you and your healthcare providers
- Confirm that you are getting the best possible medical care for your injuries.
- Defend your legal rights and options
- Help you with any outstanding property damage problems from the accident
- Analyze your financial losses from the accident
- Maximize the total value of your injury case
Do You Have What It Takes to Manage Your Own Injury Case?
While it is true that basic injury claims are usually better to handle without legal help, other personal injury cases can quickly become overwhelming to handle.
Even though you are not a personal injury lawyer, you know you are smart, motivated, and capable. You have some experience negotiating, and you can undoubtedly make calls and reply to emails.
However, if your claim is complicated in any way, you may require the specific experience of a personal injury attorney to ensure you get a fair settlement. To successfully advocate for yourself, you will need the following skills:
Investigation and Evidence Collection Skills
You can’t adequately prove your case unless you investigate the facts and collect documentary evidence.
To do this, you will need to:
- Obtain a copy of the police, sheriff, or highway patrol’s accident report
- Discover the identity of every person, company, or governmental entity that could be liable for your accident
- Collect statements from any eyewitnesses to the accident
- Request medical records from every medical provider and medical biller involved in your care
- Ask for loss of earnings documentation from your employer
- Investigate the third party for any existing insurance coverage or personal/business assets
- Collect estimates and photos of any property damage that occurred because of your accident
- Generate a timeline of pictures of your injuries starting from immediately after the accident until they are healed
- Keep records all out of pocket expenses linked to the accident
Depending on your case’s type and specific details, there may be several other investigative steps and pieces of evidence that you will need to gather. If your list is this long or even longer, it’s time to think about hiring a personal injury attorney.
Be a Convincing Advocate and Storyteller
Perhaps you have done the investigative work for your claim and collected all the necessary evidence. Your next task in the process is to write a persuasive demand letter. This critical letter is your opportunity to tell the insurance company your side of the story and convince them that you need a fair settlement from them. With this letter, you will need to itemize your losses and request a lump sum settlement.
This demand should include detailed and documented proof of:
- How the accident occurred
- Every injury you sustained and the medical care you received for them
- The economic effect your injuries had on you and your family
- The emotional and mental impact your injuries and recovery have had on you and your family
- How the accident impacted your ability to your work
- All other evidence that supports your claims
- An exact dollar amount you will accept to settle your claim
- A deadline for the insurance company to respond to your demand letter
Keep in mind that demand letters are not short letters that accompany your medical records. Some are more than 20 pages long and are incredibly detailed as to how the accident happened, the impacts it has had on you, and of course, what you expect for a settlement.
Be an Aggressive Negotiator
You will need to deal with the insurance company before they even respond to your demand letter. When you deal with them, you can be nothing less than an aggressive negotiator. Insurance adjusters and attorneys for the insurance company do this every day. They are experienced, but this is likely new territory for you. Even if you are tempted to do so, don’t ever take the first settlement offer they provide to you. This first offering is likely a far cry from the amount they are willing to pay, and it is never what your injuries are truly worth. They want to see if they can get you to settle for less and save them money. Not all negotiations are horrible. Some are handled with only a few phone calls or emails between you and the adjuster.
Keep these tips in mind when negotiating your claim:
- Whatever you do, do not let your insurance adjuster know the bare minimum for which you are willing to settle. If they do, they will take the opportunity to give you a lowball offer, or they might give you your bottom line, but only after you fight for it.
- Balance your fierceness with being realistic. Sometimes injuries are not worth as much as the injured individual thinks. Fight for as much as you think you should recover but be realistic. A minor accident will not garner a considerable settlement.
- Keep your break-even number at the front of your mind. This number is when aggressively negotiating for additional compensation is more effort on your part than it is worth. Your priority should be obtaining enough compensation to pay your bills and get your life back on track. Going back and forth with the insurance company for months over a mere thousand dollars isn’t going to be worth it.
It’s possible that you can handle your own personal injury claim with the energy, time, and motivation you have. However, it’s also possible that hiring a personal injury attorney is the best route to take. If your claim is a complicated one, hiring a personal injury attorney who has a whole team dedicated to helping you in every aspect of your case is in your best interest and nearly guaranteed to maximize your claim.
Are You Willing to Take Your Claim to Court if Necessary?
The majority of personal injury claims are settled with negotiations that take place before filing a lawsuit and proceeding to court. This process takes positioning yourself to negotiate a successful settlement to avoid going to go court. In essence, this amounts to preparing your case as if you are headed to court even though you will most likely never end up at trial. To file a personal injury lawsuit, you need expertise in personal injury laws and familiarity with the court system where the lawsuit will be filed. If you attempt to file a claim on your own in court, you could end up making your situation worse than your accident and the resulting damages.
Going to trial is not always avoidable. Since you don’t know how your case will end up, you should still be prepared to go to trial to get the compensation you need for your losses if you represent yourself. Since you will need to prepare yourself for trial, either way, you need to know what this will entail. At trial, you will need to provide proof of your case. Proving your case will most likely involve using expert witnesses to testify about how your accident happened and the extent and treatment of your injuries. Be prepared to provide documentation to prove your injuries, medical expenses, and other financial losses.
You should also be prepared to:
- Understand the Rules of Evidence
- Present motions
- Examine witnesses (both friendly and hostile)
- Make evidentiary objections
- Communicate with the judge and jury
This list may or may not sound overwhelming to you. Either way, the insurance companies and their attorneys will assume that it is. Without legal representation, the insurance company will attempt to take advantage of you during negotiations and in court.
Insurance companies automatically assume that you will not be able to bring your case to trial without a personal injury attorney’s help. As such, there will be no incentive to provide you with a fair settlement before trial. The insurance companies know that if you don’t have a lawyer, going to trial isn’t usually an option unless the injured party wants to take on another full-time job.
With a Personal Injury Attorney on Your Side, You Can Reduce the Chances of Going to Trial
No matter how counter-intuitive it might seem, hiring an attorney early on in your case will reduce the chances that you will end up in court and at trial. A personal injury attorney has the knowledge and experience to maximize the value of your claim and negotiate a fair settlement. Hiring an attorney will decrease the likelihood that your case will not be filed before the statute of limitations ends, having to file a lawsuit or end in a trial.
Do You Want to Get a Reasonable Settlement for Your Damages?
If your personal injury claim is relatively simple and likely not worth much, getting a fair settlement without an attorney is entirely possible. However, injured parties who have even a moderately complex personal injury claim will want a personal injury attorney on their side to ensure they receive a fair settlement.
It is the job of an insurance adjuster to use all different kinds of tricks to prevent you from getting the settlement that is fair based on your losses. They have lots of practice convincing claimants that they offer them a fair settlement, even though it is much less than what they know would be reasonable compensation for your injuries.
You can fix this power imbalance by hiring a personal injury lawyer to work on your case. When an insurance company finds out that a claimant has retained an attorney, they know right away that their job will be more difficult. They prefer to contact injured parties before they even have a chance to hire an attorney because they know once you do, you will know what is or isn’t a fair settlement.
With legal representation, the insurance adjuster knows that there is a higher likelihood that the case will end up in court or a trial if they do not take your claim seriously and offer you a reasonable settlement amount. They know better than to push around an attorney like they would an unrepresented claimant.
Still not sure why you need a personal injury lawyer to level the playing field? Consider these facts:
- Insurance companies, their adjusters, and their attorneys deal with claims day in and day out. They are masters of their craft. On the other hand, most injured people have little or no previous experience with the insurance or legal industry.
- Insurance companies’ bottom line is their profit, not treating you fairly, and doing the right thing. They are in business to collect premiums from policyholders and not letting go of them. Each penny they don’t pay you for compensation is more profitable for them.
- People who are represented by attorneys are paid 85 percent of the monies paid for bodily injury claims. In other words, people who do not retain an attorney only account for 15 percent of all insurance payouts.
Is Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney Worth It?
If you are still reading after answering the first ten questions, the chances are probably pretty good that you have determined that you need to hire a personal injury attorney. To find out if hiring a lawyer is worth it, you need to answer a few more questions. In some cases, it is very evident that obtaining an attorney is not at all worth it. For instance, if you have a minor claim that is likely only worth a few hundred dollars. In other cases, getting a personal injury lawyer can be the only way to pursue compensation for your injuries. These cases can be so complicated that the injured party doesn’t even know where to begin to sort it all out.
However, it’s not always as evident as to whether you need an attorney or not. Most cases lay somewhere in between these two extremes. Your claim likely falls into this category. Assuming your case isn’t small but isn’t large either, how do you know if an injury lawyer is worth it? To answer this question, let’s look at several different factors.
Receiving a Consultation Does Not Mean You are Committed
Instead of trying to guess at whether you should hire a personal injury lawyer or not, it’s simply best to just meet with one. Most will offer free, no-obligation consultations. This fact means it costs you nothing to find out if you have a viable claim. Receiving a consultation does not obligate you to hire a lawyer. Typically, you have nothing to lose by meeting with an attorney to determine where your case stands. If you met with a trustworthy attorney, they would let you know whether it is plausible to handle your claim on your own or not.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Give You Peace of Mind
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, hiring a personal injury attorney can give you peace of mind during this often-stressful time of life.
You can have peace of mind knowing that:
- You will likely recover more money than you would have if you represented yourself
- You don’t have the burden of doing the work
- You can focus again on your healing and not all the details of your legal claim
You Can Avoid Further Out-of-Pocket Expenses with a Personal Injury Attorney
Your involvement in an accident can have an immediate and substantial effect on your finances. There may be a period that you cannot go to work; you have medical bills, co-pays, and more transportation costs, to name a few. When you hire an attorney, you can alleviate the immediate legal costs of filing and pursuing a claim.
Most personal injury law firms will front costs such as:
- Ordering copies of records
- Hiring investigators
- Hiring medical experts and expert witnesses
- Court filing fees
These costs can equate to hundreds or even thousands of dollars that you will not be expected to pay at the beginning of your case. Most injured individuals are enduring financial hardships and will not want or be able to pay out of pocket to even get their case off the ground.
How Will I Know if I Really Don’t Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
It’s worth repeating that you should never decide on your own if you should hire a personal injury lawyer or not. Instead, schedule a free consultation with at least one reputable attorney before you make this critical decision. Otherwise, you might regret not doing so.
You likely don’t need a personal injury lawyer if:
You did not have any injuries or only received minor injuries in the accident—In these situations, it usually makes more sense to handle your claim on your own since it will be small and straightforward. For example, you are involved in a minor car accident and have some pain. You visit your doctor once about your pain, and then you have no further complications or treatments.
This type of case, you can handle without the assistance of a personal injury attorney. You might recover a few hundred or thousand dollars and be able to move on with your life. Most small to medium law firms won’t handle a case of this type as it doesn’t add up financially. However, it should be noted that some personal injury lawyers will represent clients in these circumstances. They are usually the ones that are large and advertise on buses and billboards. These firms take on a high volume of minor injury or soft tissue injury claims. You could become a number to them or take care of your claim on your own.
You should be aware, however, that some injuries are not immediately recognizable. You may not experience any pain or symptoms until a few days after your accident. You may want to wait until those days pass to be examined by your doctor. Before entering into any type of settlement agreement with the insurance company, be sure you know the full extent of your injuries. After you sign a settlement release with them, you no longer have the right to pursue additional compensation.
The at-fault party’s insurance carrier has already offered you the full amount of the policy limits—The party who injured you should carry liability coverage to cover some or all of your damages. When you file a personal injury claim, you are only entitled to receive up to what is available under their policy limits. If your damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, exceed the insurance policy limits, you might be out of luck to receive any further compensation.
If the insurance company is willing to give you the full policy limits, hiring a lawyer to help you with your claim probably won’t do much good. For instance, if the person who injured you has a policy limit of $20,000 and their insurance company offers you $20,000, there isn’t much a lawyer can do for you.
If you want to collect anything over the $20,000, you will need to pursue getting it directly from the at-fault party in the accident. Unless that person has significant assets, such as real estate, businesses, or large savings accounts, you won’t get anything more than the policy limit of $20,000.
However, it can still be worth meeting with an attorney who can help you determine if there are other ways to collect compensation from the person who caused your injuries. There could be other insurance policies to draw from, an employer if the other driver was working at the time of the accident, or even a government entity. Drivers in California are legally required to have a minimum of $5,000 coverage for property damage, mainly for vehicle repairs, $15,000 in bodily injury coverage to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, and $30,000 for bodily injury coverage when the accident involves multiple injured parties.
You Reside in a No-Fault State
In no-fault states, the law prohibits injured individuals from making a claim against the at-fault party unless their injuries are deemed to be serious. Seriousness is determined by the severity of injuries or the cost of your medical care, depending on the individual laws of the state where the accident occurred. In these states, you are limited to recovery from your own personal injury protection (or “PIP”) coverage for your damages.
As such, hiring a personal injury attorney would be futile. If your injuries end up being severe, you may not need to abide by the no-fault system. Be sure you are examined by a doctor and have the appropriate tests run to diagnose your condition. If your claim does fall outside of the no-fault system, you more than likely have significant damages and would benefit from having a lawyer represent your claim.
Bonus Question: How Do I Select the Best Personal Injury Attorney?
Once you’ve decided to hire or meet with a reputable personal injury attorney, you might be wondering how you select the best one for your case. Here is what you should look for when hiring a personal injury attorney:
One that focuses on personal injury—With hundreds of different legal niches, such as divorce law and tax law, you want to make sure that you hire a lawyer who focuses solely on personal injury claims. You can even take this another step and select one who concentrates mainly on the type of personal injury claim you have, such as car accidents.
For example, suppose you were injured in a car accident. In that case, you might want to stay away from law firms that serve mostly medical malpractice or work-related injury clients. A reliable reputation and good reviews—These days, it is quick and easy to learn more about an attorney’s reputation and performance with a Google search.
When looking, search out real client reviews and not just badges that attorneys can pay for to put on their websites. The reviews you find should paint a picture of what the client experience is like with the attorney. You want to see more than just their achievements on a virtual wall. You will place a lot of trust in your personal injury attorney, and you want to be assured they will take care of you.
Adequate time and resources to handle your case—When you interview a lawyer, don’t forget to ask them about their current caseload. Ask them directly if they have time to work on your case now. Some law firms take on hundreds of small cases, passing them off to non-lawyer staff while having their attorneys focus on the more significant cases.
No matter the circumstance, you need to feel confident that your attorney and law firm have the time and resources to make your case successful from the beginning. Has good communication—The biggest and most frequent complaint expressed by legal clients is that their attorney never returns their calls, texts, or emails. When you are researching attorneys to hire, look specifically at client reviews that mention if the lawyer was responsive when they reached out.
Did the lawyer or law firm staff keep them updated on their case and promptly answer their questions, or did they leave them in the dark? You will likely want a personal injury attorney who will stay in touch and communicate with you through the entire process. Is trustworthy—If nothing else, focus on hiring a lawyer, you can trust.
What kind of feeling did you get when you first visited their website, talked to them, or watched one of their ads? Are your values reflected in their statements? Do you feel like you can trust them with your medical information, financial issues, and personal details of your life? You will need to share these private things with them for them to work for fair compensation in your case.
By now, you should have a solid understanding of when you need help from a personal injury attorney and when you don’t. You also probably know if you need to meet with or hire an attorney and what you should look for when deciding whom you will hire.
Injured in a Personal Injury Accident? Arash Law Can Help
At Arash Law, our reputable and compassionate California personal injury attorneys have recovered $150 million in damage compensation for our previous personal injury clients, many of whom are car accident victims. For two decades, car accident claimants have relied on us to aggressively pursue their claims so that they can start living again.
We help personal injury clients in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California. We even have multilingual staff available to help those who do not speak English. Call Arash Law today at (888) 488-1391 or use the online form on our website to schedule a free personal injury accident case consultation. With our No Win, No Fee Guarantee, you can receive a free consultation, and you owe us nothing unless we settle your case against the individual who injured you, or you receive a court award at trial. If you recently sustained a personal injury, you have a lot at stake but nothing to lose by booking your case review today.