If you’ve been injured by the actions of another person, either as a result of medical malpractice, car accident, dog bite or intentional tort, you have the legal right to seek compensation. Compensation can be had either by settling a claim outside of court or through a traditional, court-based lawsuit. If you have to make a personal injury claim, you might be wondering whether you should hire a lawyer or not.
When is a lawyer optional?
There are a number of cases that you can handle on your own, without using the services of a lawyer.
No-Fault State Laws. Depending on where you live, state rules will not allow you to sue unless your injuries have reached a certain level – determined by the nature of the injuries and the cost of treating them. No-fault claims limit you from recovering more than what your insurance for personal injury covers. In such cases, hiring a lawyer makes sense only if the injuries are serious enough that they step outside the no-fault system.
Reaching Insurance Policy Maximums. If the defendant who injured you has an insurance policy maximum of $100,000 and you get an offer to settle for $100,000, vying for a larger verdict won’t always provide the compensation you seek. If you seek a bigger compensation, the additional amount will have to be collected from the defendant directly. If the defendant has other assets and/or money, you may receive it. If he doesn’t, the chances of you getting the extra that you seek are slim to none.
What if my injuries are minor?
Many people shy away from hiring a lawyer, especially if their injuries are not so serious. A few small bruises or scrapes as a result of a car accident may not be reason enough to hire a personal injury attorney. If the other driver’s insurance company offers to pay your medical bills and throws a couple hundred on top, hiring a lawyer may prove to be more hassle than benefit.
But sometimes a few minor, inconsequential bruises can turn into bigger health complications. In such cases consultation with a personal injury attorney can lead to filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Minor injuries can turn into bigger ones. An experienced attorney will advise you to wait before you accept a settlement offer, at least until you know the full extent of your injuries. If your injuries get worse after you’ve settled, you won’t be able to do anything because the moment you sign the settlement agreement you give up any current and future claims related to the case.
“Pain and Suffering” Damages. If your case goes to court, the jury will take into consideration, pain, suffering and emotional distress damages. A settlement that does not include these damages might not be considered valid. A personal injury attorney will explain all the damages that you’re entitled to, even if your injuries are minor, and will state your case on your behalf, helping you get the compensation you deserve.
If you suffer from serious injuries you must get a lawyer. A lawyer will help you:
- Obtain the compensation you deserve, making sure that you get the full spectrum of damages you’re entitled to.
- An attorney will negotiate on your behalf to best maximize your recovery.
- Being represented by an attorney will signal to the defendants and insurers that you mean business.
Doesn’t insurance cover the damages?
Many people choose not to sue, thinking that having their or the defendant’s insurance company cover the damages is enough. However you should consider the fact that, although an insurance company will cover damages as set out in the insurance policy, an insurance company is looking out for itself first and their customers second. This is because your goals and your (or the defendant’s) insurance company’s goals are directly at odds:
- An insurance company looks to maximize its profits by paying out as little as possible.
- You are looking to get as big of damage award as possible to cover all the damages that you have suffered.
Personal Injury Attorneys – What are the legal fees?
Perhaps you’re cautious of hiring an attorney because you’re afraid of paying the hefty legal fees that almost all attorneys ask upfront. However, almost all personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means that you only have to pay the lawyer’s fees only if you win the case or you settle out-of-court.
A contingency fee means that the lawyer will take his fees directly out of your settlement. Percentage fees structured on the amount of money you receive are common. As an example, there could be a 10% fee for the lawyer if a settlement is reached before the lawsuit is filed, 15% for settling during the discovery process or 30% if you go to trial and win the case with the jury awarding the necessary damages.
As you can see, sometimes a problem can be solved without getting a lawyer involved and in other cases you can get more benefits if you go the traditional way of hiring a lawyer. As with all personal injury claims, it will depend on a case by case basis whether you need to hire an attorney or if you can get the compensation through your insurance company.