If you have been hurt in an accident caused by someone else, do you need a personal injury lawyer? This is a common question that many injured people ask. Below is more information to help you make your decision.
Is a Personal Injury Attorney Required?
No. There is no legal requirement for you to retain an attorney to handle a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Technically, you could file all the paperwork and represent yourself before the insurance company or court. However, your odds of winning the case and receiving a sizeable settlement are nearly always less going it alone.
Depending on your injuries, you may need to have expert witnesses testify about the accident, the nature of your injuries, and how your injuries will affect you financially and for how long. You will also need to prove to the court that you were injured, the accident was caused by the defendant, and they owed you a duty of care and breached that duty.
Outside of a courtroom, you will need to negotiate effectively with the insurance company to receive a decent settlement. But most insurance companies know that lay people are poor negotiators in legal matters and usually undervalue their claims, primarily pain and suffering.
There are cases where an unrepresented injury victim was offered $20,000 to settle. Once he brought in an attorney, everything changed, and the ultimate settlement was nearly five times that amount.
A skilled personal injury attorney will level the playing field and negotiate a fair settlement, navigate the complex pre-trial process, and, if needed, take the case to trial. It also helps if the insurance company knows they are up against a tough attorney that does not fear taking the case to court; this can lead to a better settlement.
Generally, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney if your damages are more than a few thousand dollars, and you have injuries that take more than a week or two to heal. If you were hospitalized, you should call an attorney.
More Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
Suppose you eventually decide to hire an attorney. In that case, they will listen to your side of the story, investigate the accident, review your medical records and the police report, talk to eyewitnesses, and more. Some of the additional work they do includes the following:
- Handling the claim personally, listening to your issues, and responding to questions quickly
- Calculating and documenting
your losses and injuries
- Personal injury attorneys are skilled at valuing pain and suffering and can compare your case to similar ones to arrive at a fair number.
- Ensuring that all legal
documents, insurance claims, and related paperwork are filed correctly
- Anything not filed properly can delay or damage your case.
- Gather all pieces of evidence critical to proving your case and that the other person is liable for your injuries
- Interviewing witnesses who saw the accident and what caused your injury
- Representing your interests aggressively during insurance negotiations
- Fielding settlement offers and pushing for more compensation as needed
Choosing the Right Personal Injury Attorney
When you decide to hire an attorney, you should find an attorney skilled in your type of accident and injuries. If you were hurt in a car accident and broke your hip, it is wise to hire a lawyer with documented success in cases like yours.
As you consider whether or not to hire an attorney, it is essential not to wait too long. Every state has a statute of limitations that states how long you have after an accident to file a claim. The time limit ranges from one to four years in most states. Make sure that you leave plenty of time to file the claim, regardless of whether you use an attorney.