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When to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been involved in an accident, you should consider hiring a personal injury lawyer to handle your case. If you’ve suffered severe injuries, medical expenses or loss of wages, a lawyer who’s familiar with these sorts of cases could help you receive more compensation than you would get without a lawyer, even after accounting for legal fees. Here are some factors to consider when thinking about hiring a personal injury lawyer.

Car accidents are the most common type of personal injury claim, followed by medical malpractice, slip-and-fall accidents, work-related injuries, premise liability and dog bites. We’ll primarily consider injuries due to car accidents here, but many of these points apply to all personal injury claims.

Minor accidents that cause minimal and temporary injury probably don’t warrant hiring a personal injury lawyer. In these cases, the settlement offered by the liable party or their insurance company may be fair. If you go this route, you may receive your settlement in a matter of days. If you end up going to court, however, reaching a verdict may take much longer than that.

If you end up disputing with the negligent party, that’s a strong signal that you should at least consult with a lawyer. Find a lawyer who practices in the area personal injury law, which is also known as tort law, and specifically one who specializes in your type of claim, such as car accidents.

It’s a sad fact, but the insurance company for the other driver probably won’t immediately pay for your medical treatment, and in the meantime you’ll need to go through your own health insurance carrier. Also, according to the American Bar Association, your own car insurance plan may include Medical Payments coverage for this purpose. Finally, if you hire a lawyer, he or she can send your medical provider a Letter of Protection that promises to pay your bills when your legal case finalizes.

Be careful when you talk to insurance companies, and try to get everything in writing. Claims adjusters will try to work out the best deal for the liable party’s insurance company, so make sure you’re looking out for your best interests. Don’t immediately accept their first offer, and take this time to assess whether or not you’ll need a lawyer. You’ll need to cover your health care expenses as well as property damage claims and any loss of income.

Sometimes multiple factors may contribute to an injury, like a defective tire with tread separation that leads to a car accident. Liable parties may include a driver, a product maker, a third-party supplier to that maker, a service provider (mechanic) or anyone who performed work related to causing your injury. Figuring out all the liable parties in your case is one important job for a lawyer to undertake.

Lawyers are experts and employ a team of experts. The insurance company fighting your claim has experts, and so should you. Get a lawyer who is equipped to properly investigate the incident. “We may turn to survey teams, crash reconstruction experts, industry engineers, and other specialists to help us build a strong case on your behalf,” says Rich Newsome, a personal injury lawyer in Orlando. Also, when seeking medical care for your injuries, try to find medical staff who are familiar with personal injury cases and willing to testify in court.

Personal injury lawyers often take compensation on a contingency basis, meaning that you won’t need to pay the legal fees if you lose your case. A lawyer will take a cut somewhere between 25% and 40%, depending on the complexity of the case and whether you settle or take the case to court. Keep in mind that you may still be responsible for paying ancillary fees for outside services hired by your lawyer, regardless of the outcome of your case.

To boil it down, you should ask a personal injury lawyer if you need his or her services. Most lawyers will be willing to give you free advice, so there’s no risk in seeking consultation from an experienced personal injury lawyer as a first step. Seek a lawyer you can trust to advise you to either settle with the insurance company directly, use their services to negotiate a better settlement or take your case to court.

 


Mitchell Collins, law school student and freelance writer