Dealing with an unexpected injury can be troublesome enough, without even considering the legal issues you may need to face. Nevertheless, delaying your resolution of legal issues beyond a certain point can come back to haunt you later.
While you don’t need a personal injury attorney for every injury, your odds are better with a lawyer if your case involves certain factors.
Signs That You Should Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
Below is a list of some, but not all, of the case complications that should alert you that you might need an injury attorney.
Your Injuries Are Serious or Long-Term
Suppose, for example, that you suffer traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a motorcycle accident. If you haven’t fully recovered by the time it comes to settle your claim, you will have to estimate your future losses and add them to your claim.
This might include your estimated future medical expenses, for example, or diminished earning capacity. These amounts, especially diminished earning capacity, can be immense.
Liability Is in Dispute
Some cases are open and shut–one party was at fault, and the only remaining issue is the amount of compensation. In other cases, the parties fight it out to see who will bear liability. If your case involves disputed liability, you almost certainly need a lawyer.
Comparative negligence is a way of distributing compensation if more than one party was at fault. Under comparative negligence principles, compensation will be distributed according to each party’s percentage of fault (15% for you, 85% for the other party, for example). A lawyer can greatly influence how these percentages come out.
The Insurance Company Is Giving You Trouble
Unlike you and your lawyer, who win and lose together, the insurance company only wins if you lose. You can be sure that the insurance company is your adversary. If they dispute your claim, you will almost certainly need an accident injury attorney. Following is a rundown of some of their most common tactics:
- The lullaby strategy: Endless small delays designed to lull you into missing the statute of limitations deadline to file a lawsuit.
- Stonewalling: Simply ignoring your attempts to communicate.
- Social media espionage: Spying on your social media accounts for information they can use against you.
- The interview strategy: Pressuring you into giving a recorded statement–again, with the goal of finding something they can use against you.
- The fishing expedition: Seeking unlimited access to your medical records so that they can find a “preexisting condition” to blame your injuries on.
- Word games: Creative interpretation of insurance policy language to your disadvantage.
- Playing doctor: The insurance adjuster “plays doctor” by purporting to evaluate your injuries and blame them on something other than the accident.
If you find that your dealings with the insurance company are a constant barrage of the foregoing tactics and others like it, you probably need to hire a lawyer.
Complex Legal or Scientific Issues Emerge
The more complex your claim becomes, the more you will need a lawyer. Medical malpractice claims, for example, are notorious for their complexity. A good rule of thumb is that if you need an expert witness, you probably need a lawyer.
You’re Claiming Damages for “Pain and “Suffering”
How much is your physical pain and suffering worth? With a good lawyer, it could be worth a lot more than your medical expenses. On your own, however, it could be difficult to negotiate such an intangible element of compensation.
This reality also applies to other non-economic damages such as mental anguish, loss of enjoyment or life, and disfigurement. The more intangible the nature of your loss, the more you need a lawyer to help you claim its full value.
You’re Seeking Punitive Damages
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for particularly culpable behavior, not to compensate you. Nevertheless, if you win them, the money still goes to you. It is almost impossible to win punitive damages at the settlement table. Courts only sometimes award them—after an extreme DUI accident, for example.
The Victim Dies of Their Injuries
If the victim dies from their injuries, a wrongful death claim arises. Since wrongful death claims are typically worth a lot of money, you can expect the defendant to fight back hard against one. Wrongful death compensation typically includes non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, loss of love and affection, and more.
You Don’t Know the Value of Your Claim
Even a lawyer cannot give you an exact value until your case is over. Nevertheless, you should have a ballpark estimate of the value of your claim before you begin negotiating or litigating. If you can’t provide such an estimate, you will need a lawyer to help you calculate it.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
A personal injury lawyer can help you in a myriad of different ways, including:
- Investigating your claim: Personal injury lawyers are typically experienced investigators, or they hire investigators as part of their support team.
- Gathering admissible evidence: Your lawyer will understand the state evidence code inside and out, and they will recognize inadmissible evidence immediately. Did you know, for example, that a police report is useful in settlement negotiations but inadmissible in court?
- Advising you against common errors: There are a hundred or more claim-damaging errors that you might not think twice about making. Talking about your case on social media could hurt you, for example, as could signing the wrong document.
- Estimating the value of your claim: You can’t obtain the full value of your claim if you don’t know how much it’s worth. Leave that calculation to your lawyer.
- Finding the right expert witness: Some claims, such as medical malpractice claims and catastrophic injury claims, routinely require the use of expert witnesses. Some witnesses are better than others, and your lawyer should know the difference.
- Negotiating with the other side: The “other side” is likely to be an insurance adjuster, who will certainly be a skilled negotiator. Don’t worry: personal injury lawyers are also skilled negotiators.
- Representing you at trial: This is especially important if your claim is too large for small claims court, as many formal requirements apply.
- Filing an appeal: Your attorney can help you with an appeal, should you choose to file one.
This is only a small sampling of the ways in which an accident injury attorney can help you.
Affording a Lawyer: The Contingency Fee System
Is it worth hiring a personal injury attorney if you have a strong claim, but you’re broke? Yes! Your attorney will front all expenses to you, even case administration expenses, and deduct them from your eventual compensation. If you don’t get a monetary award or settlement for your case, you don’t have to pay the attorney legal fees.
You Have Little To Lose by Scheduling a Free Initial Consultation With an Attorney
The contingency fee system leaves a lawyer with little incentive to exaggerate your chances of winning your claim. If a personal injury lawyer offers to represent you, you can be fairly sure they believe they can win it.