After an accident, you might wonder, “Do I need a personal injury lawyer?” Truthfully, each case is different. However, unless you know your way around personal injury laws, understand how to negotiate with the insurance company, and are prepared to potentially go to court, it may be in your best interest to hire a personal injury attorney.
When to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
Once an accident happens, the resulting injuries can create hefty medical expenses, lost wages, and a lot of confusion. In the aftermath, you may wonder what steps to take next, and if you’ll need an experienced personal injury attorney to guide you through the process.
If you’ve never worked with an attorney before, you might be hesitant. Chances are you weren’t expecting to become injured and likely haven’t paid much thought to different types of legal representation. So, let’s take a look at when you should definitely hire a personal injury law firm.
1. If You Were in a Personal Injury Accident
To claim financial compensation, you must have been injured in a personal injury accident. While that might seem obvious, legally, a personal injury accident has a very specific definition.
A personal injury accident is defined as:
- The accident was the result of someone else’s negligence: According to Arizona law, you have the right to recover monetary compensation when injuries were the result of another person’s negligent action or inaction. This means that they failed to take proper care in doing something, which resulted in your injury. An example of this would be a distracted driver who hit your car while texting and driving. The car accident and the injuries incurred would be the result of the other driver’s negligence.
- You suffered an actual injury as a direct result of the incident: A valid personal injury claim requires the injured party to have suffered “actual physical injury” as a direct result of the accident. This doesn’t mean you have to be wheeled away in an ambulance, rather, you must visit a doctor for confirmation that the injuries will require medical care.
2. If You Suffered a Serious Injury
We understand that any injury that puts you out of work or limits your lifestyle feels serious. However, legally, injuries are only considered “serious” if they require immediate medical treatment and will affect you for longer than just a few weeks after the accident.
Minor bruising or mild scratches likely do not warrant the help of a personal injury attorney. Other serious injuries, though, are not as cut and dry.
Minor injuries include cuts that require stitches, as well as whiplash and other back and neck pain. These are typically injuries that can be treated right away and heal within a couple of weeks. In these cases, the insurance company will likely provide a modest settlement offer early on.
If pain has lessened after a few doctor visits, chances are you do not need a personal injury lawyer and can take the settlement. However, if the pain has not decreased after treatment, consider seeking a free consultation from an experienced lawyer.
Severe injuries include broken bones and injuries which require surgery to mend. Because these injuries are more complicated, they will likely require more medical treatment. This means they will also require more detailed evidence for the insurance company to evaluate.
Not to mention, severe injuries can create pain and suffering, lost wages, and an inability to complete basic responsibilities. All of these factors are compensable, though it requires an experienced attorney to build a claim.
A long-term injury will significantly impact your ability to function normally for a long period of time. A common example of this is a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which can create long-term physical and cognitive consequences, including difficulty with speech, vision loss, trouble hearing, concentration problems, and more.
Additional consequences of long-term injuries include future medical care, extended pain and suffering, and a prolonged inability to work, just to name a few. An experienced personal injury attorney is necessary to review medical records and properly quantify these elements for you.
Permanent injuries may cause you to become disabled or restricted indefinitely. Placing a value on lifelong injuries can be difficult, and it requires the skill of a trusted attorney. Bear in mind that the settlement offer is meant to cover the lifelong fees related to your injury and should be calculated accordingly.
Once you’ve determined the severity of your injuries, it’s time to look at who was at fault.
3. If Someone Else Was At Fault for Your Injuries
When someone is deemed “at-fault” for your injuries, it means they take responsibility for causing the accident. In legalese, we refer to this as being found liable. Liability is a tricky matter, as you, the other party, the insurance company, witnesses, and the police can all have different versions of the same story.
There are three different types of liability:
- Clear liability: The other party claims full responsibility for causing the accident.
- Shared liability: Both you and the other party contributed to the cause of the accident.
- Disputed liability: The other party, or their insurance company, completely denies liability or denies your claim.
If you share liability for the accident or the other party denies responsibility, you could be barred from restitution completely. Even with clear liability, arguments from the at-fault party can potentially decrease your settlement. It’s imperative to contact an experienced lawyer to discuss legal advice and ensure your rights are protected.
4. If There is Compensation Available
The purpose of a personal injury case is to collect money to compensate for your injuries. So, you want to be sure there are avenues for you to receive restitution. It’s worth it to complete a free consultation with an attorney to confirm there are viable funds from which you can collect.
Possible sources of money from which you can recover compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and property damage include:
- Third-party insurance policy, such as the at-fault driver’s insurance in an auto accident.
- Your own insurance policy, such as health or underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance.
- Third-party personal or business assets, such as the at-fault driver’s money or property.
5. If Your Personal Injury Case is Complex or Involves Multiple Parties
Factors such as pre-existing injuries or having multiple injured people involved in the accident can complicate a personal injury case.
Without proper representation, it can even put you at risk of being unable to claim compensation for your injuries.
Factors that can complicate a case include:
- The seriousness of the injury, such as a long-term or permanent injuries
- Pre-existing conditions potentially worsening the injury, such as a herniated disc
- Unclear liability, such as a multi-car pileup
- Multiple parties involved in the accident, such as a car accident involving a pedestrian
- Multiple parties injured in the accident, such a multi-car crash
Is It Worth Hiring a Personal Injury Law Firm?
In most cases, you want a knowledgeable personal injury attorney by your side. Opting to handle your personal injury claim on your own can result in several unwanted consequences, including lower or even no compensation. This is because navigating the legal system can be tricky—a large amount of evidence and proper knowledge of personal injury law is necessary to convince an insurance adjuster of a viable claim, let alone a judge or jury if the case goes to trial.
Speaking of trial, having an accident lawyer also saves you the stress of needing to manage the court system by yourself. Chances are the at-fault party will seek persona, and without a reliable attorney, you’ll be vulnerable to receiving minimal compensation.
However, there are a handful of instances when you may question the worth of hiring an attorney:
- You have only suffered minor property damage and no injuries
- Your injuries are mild or not applicable for compensation
- Your claim is minor, so it’s not financially wise to hire an attorney and pay the contingency fee
- You have the necessary time, resources, and knowledge to complete a personal injury lawsuit yourself
Though, as the average person is not equipped with the extensive expertise owned by personal injury law firms, you’ll most likely want to at least consult with an accident lawyer before taking any action.
How Can an Attorney Help with a Personal Injury Claim?
After suffering injuries due to the negligence of another, the last thing you want to do is stress about medical bills or lost wages. Personal injury attorneys give you time to heal and provide peace of mind that your case is confidently being handled. Additionally, personal injury attorneys offer the best chance of receiving the maximum settlement possible.
1. Negotiate with the Insurance Company for Injury Victims
Insurance companies have a track record of low-balling the injured party. More often than not, they will offer an insurance claim worth far less than the actual cost of your injuries. Without legal representation, it can be difficult to negotiate the settlement, or even tell if you received a fair settlement in the first place.
In comparison, lawyers will negotiate with an insurance adjuster to secure the fair compensation you deserve. From settlement in Arizona to handling all communication and phone calls regarding your insurance claim, your attorney will do the hard work so you don’t have to.
2. Compile All Medical Expenses and Pain and Suffering Charges
Far too often, our clients assume that only medical treatment is compensable. Realistically, fair compensation consists of all past, current, and future medical bills as well as traveling costs to appointments, medications or surgeries, and lost wages. Additionally, you can file a suit for pain and suffering resulting from your accident.
These amounts are difficult to quantify without experience, and, when done unprofessionally, they can result in your claim being denied. In comparison, a personal injury attorney will properly compile all bills and approximate your cost of pain and suffering, including the price of psychological trauma and any unforeseen changes in lifestyle.
3. Fight for More Compensation After an Accident
Lastly, a personal injury attorney fights for you to receive more compensation from your personal injury claim. The Insurance Research Council found that people who have an attorney receive an average of 3.5 times more for their settlement than those who are unrepresented in a personal injury lawsuit.
While you’re waiting to receive a settlement check, you can rest assured your attorney is exploring all avenues possible to reach a fair settlement.
How to Find an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
If you move forward with a personal injury attorney, you’ll want to hire a reliable lawyer, who is fit to argue your case. When choosing an attorney, opt for a law firm that has a track record of proper attorney communication. Lawyers who don’t communicate are indicative of a too-full workload or a poor understanding of ethics. Also, be aware of the statute of limitations surrounding personal injury claims; it’s always better to contact a lawyer sooner rather than later.
Other elements of a trustworthy attorney include:
- Experience practicing personal injury law
- Hands-on experience arguing personal injury claims
- The bandwidth to take on your case
- Positive reviews and recommendations
- Track record of a positive attorney-client relationship
- Upfront contingency fee
Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Hiring a personal injury attorney grants you the best chance of receiving compensation with the least amount of stress and effort while you heal. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you should hire a personal injury lawyer, consider trying a free consultation.
During an initial consultation at SGP Law, our attorneys meet with you free of charge to discuss the details of your accident and determine if you can seek compensation. Contact us today for the legal advice you’ve been searching for.