Does anyone ever get in the car thinking that they’ll be in a life-altering accident? Sure, in the back of our minds, we all know the risk is there every time we get on the road. But ultimately, we move forward with our daily routines, driving to school, work, etc. with the “it won’t happen to me” mentality. But it can… and it might.
Insurance companies have an extensive network of adjusters who start working on your insurance claim right away. They also have high-powered legal teams, ready to protect their interests. To level the playing field, you need an experienced personal injury attorney who is ready to fight for you. One who has your best interests in mind.
For instance, did you know that In the state of Florida, you have 14 days after an accident to seek medical attention? If you fail to seek medical care within this timeframe, you lose the right to file a personal injury protection (PIP) claim.
If you’re ever involved in an accident that’s not your fault, you may find that it’s worth contacting a personal injury attorney to discuss your case. And we’re not just saying that because we’re personal injury attorneys.
We’ve worked with a group of 10 other personal injury attorneys to provide a comprehensive look at when to hire a personal injury lawyer & why hiring an attorney is such an important thing to do when you’re the victim of negligence.
The respondents cover Florida, California, Colorado, Idaho, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Canada. Collectively, they have over 100 years of experience with personal injury law.
In addition to their responses, you’ll also get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we come across, like:
- Do you need a personal injury attorney?
- How much does a personal injury lawyer cost?
- How long do I have to contact a personal injury lawyer?
When Managing Your Case May Be Possible
There are a couple of situations where handling a claim on your own may be possible. Just remember, if you start a claim process without a lawyer and hire one later, it can complicate things.
You may be able to manage your own case if:
- The car accident caused no severe injuries.
- You’re in a no-fault state. This means you cannot sue unless your injuries reach a certain level. The level is determined either by the nature of the injuries or the cost to treat them, depending on where you live.
- You’re receiving the maximum available. Insurance companies only pay to the policy limits, so if you’re getting the maximum, it may not be possible to get a larger settlement. Anything over the insurance maximum comes from the defendant’s assets.
When to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
You can generally get a free consultation with a law firm to discuss the details of your case. Even if you don’t hire an attorney, consulting with one will help you make your decision.
Personal injury laws are complex and every case is different. The right personal injury lawyer will guide you through the entire process. And if the insurance company refuses to pay on your injury claim, you’ll need a lawyer in your corner.
Your Minor Injuries Are Worse Than You Thought
If at the scene of the accident, you don’t feel like you’ve been hurt, you should still seek medical attention. Even seemingly minor injuries can have long-term effects on your quality of life. And with those long-term effects, come more medical bills.
“If your injury is serious you need a personal injury lawyer. To recover compensation for your injuries you have to participate in the fault system where there are rules. Your lawyer will know the rules. Some of the rules help the defendant, who caused your injuries.
For example, there is the rule of proximate cause, the rule gauging the defendant’s conduct, the rule of contributory negligence, the rule of measure of damages, the rule of temporary vs permanent disability, and many more. The lawyer knows how to play within these rules, the client does not,”
You’ve Suffered Serious Injury
You pay a monthly premium for your car insurance coverage, to protect you in the event of an accident. Whether that accident is your fault or not, it’s the insurance company’s job to payout according to the terms of your coverage. But the simple fact is, insurance companies aren’t out to help you – they’re out to maximize profits.
“Insurance companies profit by taking in premium dollars, not by paying out claims. They hire experts to avoid paying fair compensation when their insured recklessly or negligently hurts you.If you have been hurt by someone else, you should hire personal injury attorney.
This practice, though much maligned, is the only way to expose the full extent of the wrongdoing, and hold the wrongdoers accountable. If you try to do it alone, you will likely come up short. Would you do your own plumbing? Would you perform your own surgery? The practice of law is specialized. Don’t do it without a professional.”
“When people ask me why they should hire a personal injury attorney after a car accident, I ask them whether they would prefer to be treated like a person or a claim?
Insurance companies look at accidents and injuries as claims. Claims are case files that need to be resolved by either convincing people to take little or nothing or by reducing the payout as much as possible to improve the bottom line and they need to be processed as quickly as possible.”
Not all car accidents cause serious injury, but if you sustain serious injuries as a result of an accident, you need an attorney. You may be entitled to pain and suffering damages. Going against the insurance company on your own will reduce the likelihood of receiving the compensation you deserve.
You Feel Overwhelmed by Dealing with the Insurance Company
When you’ve been injured in a car accident, even a minor one, you’ll be stressed. You have to deal with your injuries and lost wages while recovering. You’ll have to deal with the insurance companies and your lender if your car was financed. If your car is totaled and you didn’t have GAP insurance to cover the difference between what you owed on the vehicle and what the insurance company is willing to pay for it, you’ll have to negotiate with your lender while still getting another car.
“It is hard for an injured party to know what fair justice is when making an insurance claim.
The injured person gets hurt. He or she has medical bills. Maybe lost wages. He or she can add these up.
But the medical bills keep mounting. What about future medical bills? How much will that cost?
We find that many injured parties do not recognize that, in our system of justice, a person injured by the fault of another is entitled to non-economic damages as well. We call these human damages. These are money damages for what has wrongfully been taken from a person, often called ‘pain and suffering.’
For example, the injured party who must sit in a medical office for half of the day and misses a kid sporting event. Or the injured party who used to run marathons but because of a spinal injury can only walk on a treadmill. Or the injured party who used to love to garden but because of injury cannot do the thing she used to love dearly.
These are human damages. Florida law does not give a formula to determine these damages. When you hire the best personal injury attorneys you get a person who knows how to put value to things that are priceless.
We often say our job is to be appraisers of human losses. We have found that most people discount the human damages and then settle their claim for a fraction of true justice.
Hire a personal injury attorney when you have been injured to make sure you get equal trade value for what you have gone through.”
“You need a personal injury attorney to look out for you. When you’ve been injured, your number one job is to heal and put your life back together. Let your attorney deal with the insurance company.
Let your attorney gather medical records, bills, and other documents. You won’t get a fair settlement without an attorney to defeat the insurance company’s tactics. And if your case goes to court, your attorney tells your story to the jury, so you get the full measure of justice.”
“A personal injury lawyer is in your corner. When you need help the most to help put your life back together after injury, death, or denial of insurance benefits, an experienced and dedicated personal injury lawyer is your best chance of fighting for your rights against large and uncaring insurance companies and corporations. A personal injury lawyer is there when you need them most.”
Insurance companies have their own legal teams. And you can bet you’ll see those lawyers if you take your case to court. Attempting to represent yourself against those insurance company corporate lawyers isn’t likely to end well for you.
“As a former insurance adjuster and defense attorney, you need a personal injury attorney to receive anything close to fair compensation for the harm and damages you suffer in an accident. I know firsthand that the insurance system is designed and rigged against you, and having your own attorney is the best and only way to even the odds.”
“The middle class and the indigent are largely unrepresented in our democracy… They don’t employ lobbyists…. nor do they have the financial resources to prosecute their claims in the civil justice system. Yet there exists one group with parallel interests: the plaintiffs’ lawyers representing them in the courtroom and in the legislatures around the country.”
Why Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
If you’re not sure whether you should hire a personal injury lawyer to help your case, remember: attorneys know details of the law that your average person misses. And, lawyers aren’t just going to fight for you in the courtroom. There’s a lot of work that goes on before a case ever makes it that far. The attorney-client relationship keeps you protected throughout the entire process.
Attorneys Know the Law
When you’re injured, the number one thing you should focus on is getting better, and taking steps to resume a normal life. Trying to handle that with everything else you’ve got going on is overwhelming. You may know the basics of how filing a claim with your insurance company works, but attorneys know the law. And they know a lot of things the average person doesn’t. They can put that knowledge to work for you, to make sure you get all the compensation you deserve.
You may have minor injuries and not think much of it, but that still doesn’t mean you can’t get help from a lawyer. If you’ve been injured at all, through no fault of your own, it’s worth making a call.
“Going against an insurance company without a lawyer is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Insurance companies have studied how attorneys affect case settlement value. The results are clear: Injured parties with attorneys settle their claims for significantly more money than their unrepresented counterparts.
That is why big insurance companies like Progressive proactively call claimants and offer a tiny settlement in exchange for a full release. If the injured party cashes a check for “bodily injury”, then the injured party may lose the right to recover a fair value for his or her injuries.
But why do attorneys settle the average claim for so much more than the unrepresented party?
Insurance companies are in the business of making money. They make money from their insureds and invest the money to make even more money.
Insurance companies want to pay you as little as possible. That way they make as much money as possible. They do not want to pay you the fair and just value of your claim.
And so, they actively train their insurance adjusters how to try and get you to settle your claim for the least amount possible. Of course, they still do not roll over when an attorney gets involved. Insurance companies know which personal injury attorneys go to trial, and which ones fold. The attorneys that build cases and go to trial often settle claims for much more than the attorneys who fold. “
Seeking fair value in settlement claims is not the only reason to hire a personal injury lawyer.
A Personal Injury law firm also helps an injured party by:
- Making sure the injured party is getting the best medical treatment to minimize injury and facilitate healing.
- Protecting the injured party from the stressful insurance company.
- Determining the insurance money available.
- Doing the lawyer stuff of building the claim, which includes interviewing witnesses and hiring experts.
- Determining the fair and just value of the claim.
- Fighting to try to secure the fair and just value of the claim.
The nice thing is that most injury lawyers take cases on a contingency fee basis. That means the injury lawyer takes a percentage of the claim settlement value. The interests of the attorney and the client are aligned: Both want to get the best financial result possible. This minimizes the risk for the client.
“There are almost an unlimited number of situations in which harm can occur such that a personal injury attorney is needed, but at its core: If you have been injured by either a person or a company’s wrongdoing, you must hire a personal injury attorney. Overall, there are a few big reasons to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer.
First, the simple truth is, when an injured person represents themselves, they are losing compensation. Countless studies show time and time again that a victim of wrongdoing will be forced to accept far less compensation when they are not represented by a personal injury attorney.
Insurance companies and defense lawyers regularly minimize or eliminate the compensation given to a victim that is not represented by a personal injury attorney. Even if a victim of wrongdoing can settle with a defense attorney or an insurance company without hiring an attorney, unrepresented victims regularly leave tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table, without ever knowing it. That money can be the difference between a victim having the financial freedom to enjoy their life again, and a victim drowning in medical debt or struggling to pay bills each month.
Second, it is important to recognize that an unrepresented victim will be dealing with technical legal issues, and will be facing a defense attorney, or insurance attorney. Once a claim is filed, the defendant will hire an attorney, or their insurance company will provide an attorney. These attorneys are professionals who literally make a living off their ability to minimize or eliminate the compensation given to victims.
If dealing with a professional attorney sounds unfair, also keep in mind a victim who chooses not to hire a personal injury attorney will face an array of obstacles like: how to value the compensation owed to them; the technical legal process of dealing with a claim; how to interpret liability; and, the strategy that goes into negotiating compensation and minimizing medical bills. An experienced attorney will have navigated these obstacles many times before, and will know how to get the best outcomes in each situation.”
Lawyers Do More Than Negotiate and Settle Claims
From the moment the lawyer takes your case, they go to work for you. It’s not just about dealing with the insurance company and fighting in court for settlement negotiation. There’s a lot that goes into it that many people don’t think about, including working with medical professionals to show the true extent of your injuries and recovery.
Even if you don’t think you have a claim, you should still consult with an attorney.
“Personal Injury claims, even simple ones – require an experienced lawyer to analyze the facts and advocate for the full value of the case.
Insurance companies and cruise lines have armies of lawyers, paralegals, investigators, and doctors who are hired and paid to make sure that the innocently injured are deprived of the full measure of justice they deserve.
It’s always best to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after being injured in an accident.”
Legal Representation Tends to Increase Settlement Amounts
Industry studies show that the average settlement is 3.5x more money when the victim has legal representation. With a personal injury settlement, this can mean the difference between having all your medical bills paid and having to file bankruptcy because you can’t pay all the bills.
FAQs About Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers to help you. Whether your personal injury claim is the result of:
- Medical malpractice
- Automobile accidents (with or without drunk driving)
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bus accidents
- Boating accident
- Or some other form of negligence…
We are here to help.
Do you need a personal injury attorney?
Yes! Even if you don’t have significant injuries, you’ll still have an insurance claim and medical bills to contend with. It’s never a good idea to handle your own settlement negotiation.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. They may try to act like they have your best interests in mind, but, at the end of the day, they’re only concerned about their bottom line. They want to pay as little as possible for your case. They may present a settlement offer without much of a fight, but the truth is, this settlement is often much less than your claim is actually worth. Without legal representation, you may not even recover enough funds to pay for your medical expenses.
That’s why you should never speak to the insurance company or sign any paperwork without first consulting an attorney. You may waive your right to seek further damages, even if you’re told that’s not the case.
How much does a personal injury lawyer cost?
Law firms don’t typically require any kind of upfront payment for personal injury cases. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations to determine if you have a case. If you choose to hire that attorney to represent you, they will take the case on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay upon winning your case. The contingency fees are usually a percentage of the total settlement amount.
Most attorneys disclose their fee percentage during the initial consultation. The fee is set at the time of the consult, and will not increase no matter how long the case takes to settle.
How long do I have to contact a personal injury lawyer?
The length of time you have to contact an attorney about a personal injury case is determined by state law. Known as the statute of limitations, this law sets the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit.
What can I expect from the claim process?
As soon as you file a claim with your insurance company, you’ll need to keep a record of everything – from the medical expenses to the lost wages from work. You’ll even need to track the mileage as you go to and from medical appointments.
The insurance adjuster will likely settle your property claim long before your injury claim is finished, simply because medical care may be ongoing for months after an accident.
If you’re ever unsure of how to handle the red tape with the insurance company, don’t answer or sign anything. Have them talk to your lawyer.
What can I expect from the litigation process?
Anything you share with your attorney is protected by the attorney-client privilege. Many cases will settle out of court because the parties involved don’t want a lot of negative publicity. After examining the facts of your case, we’ll send a demand letter.
These cases can get quite complex. If the case does go to trial, you can expect both sides to bring about expert witnesses. These witnesses will testify to the extent of injuries, the circumstances around what caused the injuries, and so on. As the victim, you don’t have to do or say anything without first obtaining legal advice.
When you’ve been involved in an accident where an injury occurred as a result of another party’s negligence, you have certain legal rights. As an accident victim, you can seek compensation on your own, but legal counsel ensures you have the best chance of success.