If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may be wondering if you should contact a personal injury attorney. In situations where you believe another party caused your injury, pursuing legal action can help to make things right. In most cases, compensation is paid not by the offending party, but by that person’s insurance company.
Most insurance companies have a significant bankroll to fight cases and employ large legal teams. The goal of these teams is to minimize compensation payments and possibly even deny your claim.
How much is your claim worth, and do you think you have what it takes to tackle this on your own? Here are some of the key things you need to consider when deciding whether to hire a personal injury attorney.
Do You Really Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
In theory, it is possible to file your own personal injury claim against an insurance company. This may seem like a good solution for those who have suffered minor injuries. Going this route will save you from paying attorney’s fees, but is likely not the best option.
Ask yourself if you have the time to research the claims process. Do you understand the complexities of personal injury law? Do you have the expertise to stand up against a big insurance company and all of its lawyers?
Regardless of your answers to the questions above, some situations definitely warrant a consultation with a personal injury attorney. This includes accidents that have resulted in one or more of the following:
- Severe injuries
- High medical bills
- Significant wage losses
A qualified attorney will examine the details of your case and explain your options. If hired, he or she can advocate for you and increase the chances of a proper settlement.
Types of Personal Injury Cases
There are many situations that can result in personal injury. When the actions or negligence of another party contributed to the injury, a personal injury lawsuit may ensue. These are the most common types of personal injury lawsuits.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 52 percent of personal injury cases result from auto accident claims. In the United States, approximately 2.3 million people are injured or disabled in auto accidents each year.
Another 15 percent of personal injury cases result from medical malpractice. The Journal of American Medical Association (AMA) has stated that medical malpractice is the third leading causes of death in the United States.
Medical malpractice is a complex division of personal injury law. These cases should always be left in the hands of a qualified professional.
Approximately five percent of personal injury lawsuits are the result of product liability. Dangerous or defective products cause thousands of injuries every year. This may include drug liability, toxic chemicals or materials, product recalls, and defective medical devices.
The remaining 28 percent of suits were brought about due to a variety of injuries. These include (but are not limited to):
5 Situations When a Personal Injury Attorney is Needed
There are some situations when you should not attempt to take matters into your own hands. Here are five times when a personal injury attorney is needed.
You should consult a personal injury attorney if you experience pain for more than a few days. If your injury resulted in the need for medical treatment, you may be entitled to additional compensation. This includes:
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic treatment
- Cosmetic surgery
Although no amount of money will negate your pain and suffering, a financial settlement can help to cover expensive medical bills. Fair compensation will help to ensure that you are able to get the medical care you need now and in the future.
Long-Term or Permanent Injuries
The severity of an injury depends on the type of injury sustained and the expected recovery time. The cost of current and future medical treatments is also considered.
Injuries that are long-term or permanently disabling may warrant additional compensation. A long-term injury is one that is expected to cause issues for 12-months or more. A permanent injury disables the victim for the rest of their lives.
The extent of these injuries can be difficult to prove. A good attorney will work closely with all of the medical professionals who have provided treatment to make the case. These care providers may even be called to testify during court proceedings.
In some cases, the insurance company may claim that the covered person was not at fault for the accident. In this case, the injured party will be on the hook to prove that the other party is liable. A personal injury attorney can help you to make your case.
Insurance Company Harassment
If insurance company adjusters or legal representatives attempt to contact you directly, you should consult with a personal injury attorney.
Never provide recorded statements, copies of medical records, or a release of information without discussing it with your attorney. Doing so can seriously harm your case.
It’s not uncommon for release documents to cover your entire medical history. Armed with a signed release form, adjustors can dig through your entire file. Their goal is to find a pre-existing condition that could be blamed for your medical problems.
If an insurance company adjuster is contacting you, it may be an indication that they believe you have a valid claim. In some cases, even your own insurance company can use information against you. Don’t make the mistake of falling into their traps.
Refusal to Pay and Other Shady Tactics
Some insurance companies try to minimize their liability by creating unreasonable delays to the claims process. They may also contact you directly to offer an extremely low payout despite extensive injuries.
In some cases, the company may try to deny payment even though there is no dispute over liability. If the insurance company has refused to pay out a reasonable compensation, a personal injury attorney can fight for your rights.
How to Choose a Personal Injury Attorney
Due to state statutes of limitations, it makes sense to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident occurs. Don’t make the mistake of simply choosing the attorney with an ad on the back of the phone book or the nearest billboard.
Take the time to interview potential attorneys and ask intelligent questions. Here are some important things to consider.
Personal Injury Focus
Attorneys specialize in different areas of law, and you want to ensure that the one you hire is an expert in personal injury cases. There are also many different types of personal injury cases including auto accidents, slip-and-fall, and work-related injuries. Dig a little bit deeper and make sure the attorney you are considering has experience in your specific claim type.
Seek out an attorney who has a reputation for winning cases and delivering a positive client experience. Referrals from other trusted professionals, family members, and friends can prove to be valuable. Take the time to do an internet search and see what past clients are saying about their experience.
Statistics indicate that less than five percent of personal injury cases go to trial. The other 95 to 96 percent are settled in pretrial negotiations. Ask your prospective attorney for statistics regarding his or her settlement history.
Also, ask how many cases the attorney has taken to trial. You want to ensure that your attorney is willing to take that step if negotiations are not going as expected. A lawyer with minimal trial experience may be more likely to accept a lower settlement rather than take the case to court.
Pay attention to how the attorney treats you. Do they really listen to you? Do you feel like your questions are answered in terms you can understand?
Consider how much time the attorney will be willing to dedicate to your case. Don’t be afraid to ask prospective attorneys about their current caseload. It’s not uncommon for attorneys to work on multiple cases at once, but don’t want to choose someone who is spread too thin.
Trust Your Gut
Few things are more important than your own gut feelings. Does the attorney make you feel comfortable and confident? If something doesn’t sit right with you, don’t hesitate to keep looking.
What to Expect When Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
Once you have decided to hire a personal injury attorney, it’s important to understand the process. Knowing what to expect can help to minimize your anxiety. Here are the steps that will occur.
Your attorney will begin by analyzing the facts in your case and determining if you have the legal basis to win your case. Generally, the following requirements need to be met:
- You must be able to prove that your injury was caused by a third party’s negligence
- You must show that the accident in question caused the injuries
- The negligent party must have insurance coverage available to pay your compensation
Evidence gathering can be a time-consuming process. The attorney will need to obtain official reports, photographs, and witness statements.
It should be noted that the injury attorney won’t be able to pursue your case until you have recovered from your injuries and been released by your doctor. At a minimum, a physician must be willing to go on record to state that your condition has stabilized.
At this point, the attorney can begin to gather your medical records, reports, and a summary of expenses.
The next step is the creation of a demand package. This is a summary of the evidence in your case that is provided to the insurance company. It’s accompanied by a letter that requests a settlement in a specific dollar amount.
The letter will state that failure to pay the settlement amount within the stated time frame (usually 30 days) will result in a lawsuit. In the best-case scenario, the demand will be accepted by the insurance company and no further action will be required.
In most cases, the insurance company will come back with a counter-offer. You and your attorney will have to decide whether to accept the offer or keep negotiating. If negotiations reach an impasse, the next step is a lawsuit.
Filing a Lawsuit
Once your attorney files suit, subpoenas will be issued. All parties will meet in court and review the information that’s important to the case.
During the process, official statements will need to be made under oath. The defendant’s attorney may also request that your injuries be examined by a medical professional of their choice. In some cases, they may also request a mental health evaluation.
Mediation or Trial
After the discovery process, the judge will generally order mediation in an attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. If this is ineffective, the case will go to trial and be heard in front of a jury.
Other Important Considerations
As you prepare for your personal injury trial, there are a few additional things to consider.
Maintain Proper Medical Care
It’s important to continue seeking proper medical care as long as it’s needed. If you’re covered under your personal health or motor vehicle insurance, it’s advisable to use it. These benefits won’t negatively impact your ultimate settlement.
Refusing to seek medical care can make it far more difficult to prove your case. In addition, injured parties have a legal obligation to mitigate further damage. If you don’t get the proper care or return to work too soon, it can be argued that you have failed to meet this obligation.
Avoid Discussing Your Case
It’s important to avoid discussing your case with anyone other than your physician and your attorney. If anyone asks you about the case, simply tell them that you’ve been advised not to discuss it.
Also be mindful of your social media postings. A recent story by Forbes brought to light the problems that this can cause.
Maintain Proper Communication
It’s critical to keep your attorney in the loop throughout the entire legal process. Here is some advice you need to follow:
- Don’t sign anything without reviewing it with your attorney
- Provide your attorney with copies of all medical bills, even if your insurance covers the cost
- Notify your attorney immediately of doctor’s releases
- Don’t switch doctors without informing your attorney
- Keep your attorney informed about any changes to your contact information
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney? Contact Us Today
If you’ve been injured, Stephen Babcock is standing by to help you.
Your case — and your future will be our top priority. When we meet with you, we will review your case with you for free and after you hire us you will have Stephen’s 100% Client Satisfaction Guarantee.
If you have any questions about this article or want to contact us, call Stephen at (225) 500-5000 or do so here.
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