Not every small injury case requires an attorney. For cases involving very minor injuries requiring only a visit or two to the doctor, it may not be cost-effective for you to use an attorney. After paying an attorney’s fee and covering your medical expenses, you may be left with very little or nothing. This wouldn’t be fair to you.
However, properly pursuing a serious and legitimate personal injury claim is serious business, requiring hard work by a highly experienced and qualified personal injury attorney.
But how do you know when you actually need to retain an injury attorney?
If you are like most people, being injured in an accident can be overwhelming. You have questions. You are dealing with the disruption to your life and routine caused by the accident and injury itself. Then there are medical visits and bills, perhaps resulting lost time from work and other daily obligations. If in a motor vehicle accident, you may now be without transportation as well.
Meanwhile, an insurance company representative may be calling and asking you to give a recorded statement, sign a few forms, or enter into a quick settlement for a full release of all claims. Do not trust the insurance adjuster! His sole allegiance is to his employer – the insurance company – not you!
You have questions, and family, friends or co-workers may have offered advice or recommended an attorney, but you’re not really sure if you really need one. But you also don’t want to make costly mistakes when dealing with the insurance company without an attorney.
Meanwhile, the insurance adjuster keeps calling.
One critical thought to keep in mind is that the victim of an accidental injury must file suit within a certain legal deadline, called the statute of limitations, following the date of accident against the proper defendants in the proper court or jurisdiction or their claims will be forfeited in their entirety. This deadline varies from state to state, with most states being one or two years. But you should consider hiring an attorney early in the process to be more confident in a fair result for an injury that lingers for more than a very short period of time, and you think there’s reason that the accident is someone else’s fault.
1) The insurance companies employ very knowledgeable and talented adjusters whose job it is to minimize what the insurer will pay to settle your claim.
2) The insurance companies can, and often will, take advantage of legitimately injured accident victims who have not yet hired an attorney, are usually unfamiliar with the claims process, are vulnerable to mistakes that can hurt their claims, and have lots of questions they need answered.
3) The insurance companies’ one primary goal, to minimize what they pay you in order to obtain a full release, is the same regardless of whether the claim is fraudulent or legitimate.
4.) People who have suffered personal injury in accidents deserve good, accurate and useful information about the claims and litigation process, and how to deal with the insurance company to get a fair shake.
5.) The process is simply too complicated to try to navigate without the guidance of an experienced attorney. The decision to hire an attorney is an important one, and will make a big difference in the outcome of your case.
For serious injuries, injured accident victims will usually benefit from hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. That is, you will likely recover more with the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney than without one, even after subtracting the attorney’s fee. The reason for this is that an experienced attorney will have a better understanding of what your claim is worth. He or she will also be better able to effectively gather and present the proper evidence to support your demand and communicate the value of your claim to the insurance company.
An experienced accident and injury attorney also has the knowledge and legal authority to effectively utilize the court system. This forces the insurance company to hire an attorney and consider the cost of paying its own attorney when deciding whether to continue fighting rather than reasonably settling the claim. An insurer will still often negotiate reasonably only with an approaching trial date, actually set on the court’s calendar, and a victim’s lawyer it knows is truly prepared for trial. An experienced personal injury attorney can effectively prepare the case for trial, and try your case to a judge or jury if need be.
Before you decide whether or not to hire an attorney… Most people are not aware of a 1999 study performed by the Insurance Research Council, a non-profit organization supported by major insurance companies around the United States. The IRC’s mission is to advance the insurance industry’s view on matters crucial to insurance companies. The IRC’s study found that injured people who used an attorney received, on average, three and a half times more in settlement money than those who settled without hiring an attorney.
If injuries are serious enough to warrant the involvement of an attorney, it is preferable to hire one early in the claim. In many cases, an experienced personal injury attorney can spot potential problems or anticipate defenses the insurance company will likely raise very early in the claim process, taking efforts to avoid or minimize their impact. If the injured accident victim waits for weeks, or even months after the accident to hire a lawyer, he or she may make irreversible costly mistakes that could decrease the settlement value of the claim by tens of thousands of dollars.