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12 Sep 2016

Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

by James Holliday, posted in Florida Auto Accident, Personal Injuries in the News

Do I need a personal injury lawyer? Following an accident in which you sustain injuries, you may wonder whether you need the help of a personal injury lawyer. In fact, many cases require the expertise and knowledge that reliable legal counsel can bring.

If you are considering hiring a personal injury lawyer to handle your case, this blog will help you make the right decision. For more information, reach out to a Florida personal injury lawyer.

When Should You Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Under certain circumstances, hiring a personal injury attorney to handle cases after an accident and subsequent damages makes sense. The following are some specific situations when hiring an attorney might be in your best interest.

Your Injuries Are Severe

While you may not need to consult with an attorney if your injuries are minor and the damages are not serious, your case may benefit from legal counsel if you sustained more serious injuries and the potential costs are steep.

Even if your injuries appear minor initially, it is important to remember that superficially minor injuries can develop into more serious conditions later. This risk is why you should seek a formal examination and diagnosis from a medical professional following any accident.

Depending on the severity of your injuries, you could wind up paying thousands or even millions of dollars in ongoing care throughout your life. In addition, traumatic injuries and disability may prevent a person from returning to work in the same capacity as before the accident. Some individuals may even be unable to work entirely after their accidents.

Serious injuries can also lead to significant pain and suffering, for which injury victims can also recover compensation in a personal injury case.

Ultimately, you are better off consulting with an attorney if your injuries are more serious and the financial stakes are higher.

You Disagree Over Liability

Before you can recover compensation from liable parties for a personal injury accident of any kind, you must be able to prove that these parties are liable. Whether you are involved in a slip-and-fall accident, car accident, or another type of incident, you will need to show that other parties engaged in some form of improper conduct that caused the accident.

In some cases, liability will be clear, and the responsible party will admit fault, but others may dispute liability. If you find that the other party is claiming that they are not liable or that you are liable for the accident, you may need to hire a personal injury attorney who can help prove liability. An experienced lawyer can identify any and all liable parties and help collect sufficient evidence to prove that they are responsible.

Multiple Parties Caused the Accident

Certain cases may also involve multiple potentially liable parties. For example, a car accident could involve several drivers and pedestrians, making it harder to determine who caused the accident. Trucking and other vehicle accidents may also involve liable drivers, the companies that hired them, mechanics, and manufacturers, among others.

When there are so many parties in a case, it adds to the case’s complexity. An attorney with experience handling these types of cases will be able to identify all of those involved and determine liability. The lawyer can then build a case proving liability and maximizing potential compensation.

You Don’t Feel Confident When Negotiating With Insurers

Depending on the complexity of your case and the amount of compensation involved, it can be challenging to negotiate with insurance carriers. Insurance adjusters may seem to be on your side during negotiations, but the fact is that they are looking out for the insurer. They want to reach the lowest settlement amount possible or find a reason to deny your claim and dismiss your case entirely. These mistakes could compromise negotiations if you make the wrong statement or fail to gather sufficient evidence to support your case.

Even if an initial settlement offer appears high, it could be far lower than what your case is worth. This is why it is important to avoid accepting the first offer an insurer makes. Instead, you should find out how much compensation you deserve before negotiating a settlement.

Also, there is no guarantee that an insurance company will act in good faith. In some cases, insurers may act in bad faith to avoid paying any settlement amount.

Some examples of bad faith include:

  • Holding off on settling a claim until the case reaches the statute of limitations and the claimant can no longer file a lawsuit
  • Refusing to pay out any settlement amount for a valid claim
  • Neglecting to investigate a claim
  • Falsely accusing the claimant of contributory negligence
  • Requiring the claimant to complete unnecessary paperwork
  • Failing to properly inform claimants of their rights

Unless your case is relatively simple and does not involve a potentially high settlement, you may want to hire a personal injury lawyer to help with negotiations. An attorney can prepare statements on your behalf, communicate with adjusters to negotiate a fair settlement, and prevent acts of bad faith from compromising your case.

You Need More Support

Generally, working with a personal injury lawyer lends additional support for you and your case.

For example, you need reliable medical professionals to help with treatment and serve as potential witnesses in court if needed. A personal injury attorney may be able to connect you with the right experts who will provide you with the treatment you need, along with strong evidence to support your case.

Some personal injury law firms may also be able to put you in touch with medical personnel who can determine your specific claim type. These professionals could also help explain medical records and further help ensure you are receiving the treatment you require to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI).

Additionally, a personal injury lawyer can help you collect and organize evidence that builds a solid case in your favor. Doing so would help maximize your chances of succeeding with a claim or lawsuit.

What to Ask When Interviewing a Personal Injury Attorney

Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?If you decide that you need a personal injury lawyer to help with your case, it is important to find the right match for you. Not all personal injury lawyers are alike—they have different experience levels, focus areas, and resources that make it necessary to look around for the ideal attorney.

When searching for a lawyer, it is in your best interest to find two or more attorneys and interview them during a free initial consultation. While attorneys will consult with you to learn about your case and determine if you are a good fit for them, you can take this time to determine whether the attorney is right for you. You can then compare each attorney to narrow your selection or make a final decision.

When talking with an attorney, the following are some specific questions to ask that can help gauge whether an attorney is a good fit.

“How much experience do you have with my case type?”

While your first instinct after an accident is to seek a personal injury attorney, it is important to remember that several types of cases fall under the category of personal injury.

For instance, personal injury could refer to cases involving:

Depending on the type of case you want to build, you must find an attorney with experience handling similar cases. Before selecting a lawyer, you can look on the firm’s website to determine what kind of experience its attorneys have. Then, during a consultation, you can ask more about the firm’s experience with your case type.

“How long have you practiced personal injury law?”

You should also look for a seasoned attorney with plenty of general experience in personal injury law. If an attorney is relatively new to personal injury law, he or she may not be able to lend the experience or knowledge needed to build a successful case.

Ask about how long the attorney has been practicing personal injury law in addition to experience with your specific case type.

“How much will it cost to have you represent me?”

One potential red flag with a personal injury attorney is the cost of legal services. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee, which prevents the client from paying attorney’s fees unless the lawyer settles the case and recovers compensation for the client. This payment model helps ensure that attorneys work for the client and do not provide representation simply in hopes of getting paid. However, working on a contingency fee basis will also lead attorneys to be more selective about the cases they handle.

You will want to look elsewhere for representation if the attorney does not charge a contingency fee. On the other hand, if the attorney does charge a contingency fee, you should ask about the specific percentage of a settlement that will go toward legal fees.

“Who will handle my case?”

Another consideration is who will handle your case if the firm chooses to represent you. Because senior attorneys work with many cases at once, they may have others help them handle individual cases.

Some attorneys may assign the case to paralegals or secretaries to help prepare various legal paperwork. Other firms may have junior attorneys handle the bulk of the case.

The larger the firm is, the less likely the main attorney will handle your entire case. However, your attorney should be honest about who will likely do most of the legal work when representing you.

“How big of a settlement can I expect to get with my case?”

You may also want to know exactly how much compensation you will receive for your case. This is where your lawyer should be entirely honest and not build any unrealistic expectations.

The amount of compensation in personal injury cases will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. A good personal injury lawyer will not be able to gauge precisely how much compensation you can seek in an initial consultation. Circumstances could also change throughout a case, further influencing the amount of money in a potential settlement.

Generally, an attorney should never mention a specific dollar amount in a consultation. Instead, the consultation will be about learning the ins and outs of your case. If the lawyer decides to provide representation, he or she can begin looking at the situation in greater depth and provide a more accurate estimate for compensation.

At the same time, the attorney should be able to provide a rough estimate for compensation during your consultation based on your case and situation.

“What kind of experience do you have with cases that go to trial?”

Not all personal injury cases go to court. In fact, the majority of these cases settle during the claims process. While your case may not go to trial, it is possible if the claims process does not result in a settlement, in which case you should have an attorney with trial experience.

Ask about the type of experience the attorney has with trial cases, which can give you a better idea about the lawyer’s ability to take your case to court if needed.

When consulting with attorneys, you can bring a list of these and other questions you would like to ask your attorney. You can also take note of each attorney’s responses to compare and contrast them later.

Find the Right Personal Injury Attorney to Handle Your Case

If you decide to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you in a personal injury case, you should look for a reliable attorney who has plenty of experience and resources to help you. Hiring the right attorney may significantly increase your chances of succeeding with your case.

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