For serious injury cases, you need expert help to get the right compensation. Here’s how hiring an attorney can help with your injury claim.
When you or a loved one have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you have a right to expect fair compensation.
Some kinds of injury claims can be settled directly with the at-fault person’s insurance company.
With a little coaching about claim values and settlement negotiations, you can successfully resolve your minor injury claim without hiring an attorney.
For severe injuries or complicated injury claims, hiring an attorney is essential and can significantly boost your compensation.
Ways an Attorney Can Help Your Claim
Most personal injury attorneys don’t charge for the initial consultation. You can meet with as many attorneys as you like to find the right attorney to fight for you. Here’s what a good attorney will bring to the table:
Experience: Skilled personal injury attorneys have spent years negotiating claims with insurance companies, and often get the maximum compensation for their clients without going to trial. Some injury attorneys specialize in malpractice, product liability, defective medical devices, and other types of high-dollar injury claims.
Case Value: If an attorney accepts your case, it’s probably a good case. The attorney can estimate the value of your potential settlement to help you decide if it will be worth the cost of attorney fees. If not, then at least you had an independent and highly trained professional review your case for free.
Gathering Evidence: Your attorney can contact witnesses for sworn statements, file subpoenas to obtain surveillance camera footage, run asset checks on the at-fault party, and much more that you would have a hard time doing on your own.
Finding Money: Your attorney can uncover sources of compensation that aren’t easily discovered without legal help. For example, the teen driver who left you crippled may have auto insurance coverage under both divorced parents’ policies.
Identifying All Parties: More than one person or business can be responsible for your injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one. For example, a malpractice case may involve a surgeon, the hospital, and the anesthesiologist, whom each have separate liability and insurance.
Attorneys Will Pay Legal Costs Upfront
Personal injury attorneys will advance the costs of handling your claim, then deduct those costs from your final settlement.
Attorneys who specialize in complex litigation like medical malpractice, catastrophic workplace injuries, defective product claims, and class actions usually advance the costs of preparing for trial.
Legal costs can include:
- Medical expert fees
- Accident reconstruction
- Engineering experts
- Travel for depositions
- Document review and related discovery expenses
In addition to attorney fees, some costs may have to be repaid out of your settlement or court verdict. However, specialized injury attorneys often win verdicts of hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes millions of dollars for their clients.
When Hiring an Attorney is Essential
Serious and complicated injury cases require an attorney. Class actions, medical malpractice, and toxic exposure cases require a lot of time, money, and legal expertise to win.
Doctors and hospitals are represented by high-powered defense attorneys, skilled in complex and prolonged litigation, so malpractice cases rarely settle out of court.
You definitely need an attorney when:
- You are sued, or multiple parties share liability
- You’re the victim of medical malpractice or toxic exposure
- Your injury involved a defective product related to a class action
- A death, permanent disability, or permanent scarring occurred
If you’re not sure whether to hire an attorney or handle the claim yourself, get a free consultation before deciding. Most law firms won’t charge for an initial office visit to review your case. It’s okay to tell the attorney you’re not sure whether to handle the claim yourself or hire someone to represent you.
Payment Arrangements with Your Attorney
Most attorneys represent injury victims like you on a contingency fee basis, meaning the attorney won’t be paid any fees unless your claim is settled or you win a verdict in court.
Before retaining your attorney, be sure you understand how fees are calculated. For example, some attorneys will take a lower percentage if the claim settles and a higher percentage if your case goes to trial. It’s also possible in some circumstance to negotiate your attorney’s fees.
Handling Your Own Injury Claim
Most minor personal injury claims are straightforward. Often, a claim can be settled with a few telephone calls and letters. Claims adjusters aren’t lawyers, so your discussions won’t include many complex legal terms or concepts.
By using your own gifts of persuasion and a little common sense, you should be able to negotiate a fair settlement.
If you live in a no-fault insurance state, minor auto injury claims will be paid through your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, no matter who caused the accident.
You can handle your own claim when:
- Your injuries are minor and require minimal treatment, such as strained or torn muscles
- The at-fault driver’s (or property owner’s) negligence is clear and uncontested
- You have no permanent disabilities or disfigurement
- Your medical bills, medication costs, and lost wages are easily proven
- Your injuries are not related to a previous injury
Types of claims you can handle on your own include:
- Car, motorcycle, or bicycle accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Minor injuries that occur on private, public, or business property
- Some minor defective product accidents
Claims adjusters follow a structured process set out by the company they work for. If you’re prepared and know what your injuries are worth, you may be able to settle for as much as an attorney could – without having to pay legal fees.
You can consult a personal injury attorney about your claim at any time in the negotiation process.
Two points to keep in mind:
1. Preparing a claim is work. When representing yourself, you are responsible for gathering evidence such as police reports, witness statements, medical records, photographs, repair estimates, lost wages verification, and more. You also have to organize your paperwork and write an effective demand letter.
You have to set aside time to prepare your claim. If you’re not willing or able to put in the time and work necessary, consider hiring an attorney.
2. Negotiating is a skill. You will likely have several back-and-forth exchanges with the insurance adjuster throughout the settlement process. Even if you’re a good negotiator, you won’t have years of experience specific to injury claim negotiations – a personal injury attorney will.
In daily life, most people regularly make deals and agreements with others. You can take your every-day negotiating skills and apply them to your claim. Remember, no one knows your case better than you. But if things get complex or you get overwhelmed, consider consulting an attorney.
If you are thinking about handling your own claim, this site can help you through the entire injury claim process. Learn more about communicating and negotiating with the insurance adjuster, valuing your pain and suffering, and mistakes to avoid. You’ll be glad you did.
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