When someone has been hurt in a traffic accident, the question will often arise as to whether it is necessary or advisable to hire an attorney to resolve any possible claim. Attorneys are frequently willing to represent auto accident clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning the charge for their services will be based on a percentage of how much they recover for you. Still, attorneys cost money, and it is tempting to believe that you could handle your case yourself and save that cost.
However, there are some considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether to hire an attorney for your injury claim.
The primary thing to remember is that insurance companies are represented by professionals. Insurance claims adjusters are trained individuals who are experienced in handling motor vehicle and injury cases. They know how to evaluate your situation, where to find weaknesses in your claim and what advantages or disadvantages the insurance company will have if the case ever goes to court. The loyalty of claims adjusters is to the insurance company. Their job is to keep the insurance company from paying too much for your claim and to resolve your claim for as little money as is possible.
Insurance companies and their adjusters also have access to legal and medical experts to help them in this task.
A personal injury claim is something that is ultimately resolved in court if no settlement is reached. In that sense, it is a legal proceeding from the beginning and is not something you should try to handle on your own.
Since the insurance company has professionals working for it throughout the claims process, you should have legal experts on your side as well.
A qualified and experienced personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case based on your best interests, not the insurance company’s best interests. In addition to giving you a better idea of what your case is worth, an attorney will be able to advise you on how best to prepare your claim for settlement and ultimately for court, if need be. An attorney will have access to other professionals, such as doctors and investigators, who will be able to build a foundation for your case early on.
Further, an attorney will be able to determine other potential defendants and theories of liability. For instance, a construction company or a governmental entity may be liable if the accident was caused by faulty road design, improper traffic control or poor maintenance. If one of the vehicles involved in the accident was defective there may be a products liability claim. If alcohol was a contributing factor to the accident it is possible that a bar or restaurant may also be liable.
What’s more, if the driver at fault for the accident was uninsured or underinsured an attorney may be able to find additional insurance or analyze your own insurance as a possible source of funds to fairly compensate you for your injury.
Friends or family members who have been through the process may be willing to give you advice. But please remember, despite their good intentions, if they are not properly trained attorneys, their advice may not be the best.
Some people might think that they can handle their own personal injury case up to the point where they get an offer from the insurance company and then hire an attorney if the offer is too low. However, there is a downside to this. An insurance company claims adjuster or investigator will be taking statements from you and possible witnesses. The insurance company may require you to be examined by a doctor of their choosing to assess your injuries. This can lead to evidence that may be used in court against you, and in these and other circumstances, there is potential to harm your own case irrevocably. An experienced attorney will be able to guide you through this process in a way that will best protect your interests.
Lawyers are taught how to negotiate, and will be able to get the best possible offer to settle your claim from the insurers involved. Knowing that you have a lawyer on your side may cause the insurance company to reconsider how much it is willing to pay on your claim. And, if the offer is less than what you might get by filing a lawsuit a lawyer will be able to tell you that. Hiring a lawyer does not automatically mean you will be going to court. Most of these types of cases are settled before trial, but, if it necessary to bring your case to court for the best possible outcome, an attorney will know how to do that.
Finally, traffic accident claims are subject to statutes of limitations. This means that, if the claim is not formally presented to a court by the deadline set by law, that claim may be lost forever. It is not advisable to delay consulting with an attorney, as this may result in your claim being barred by the statute of limitations.
It is not a requirement that you hire an attorney to represent you in your personal injury traffic accident claim, and, in fact, you may even know of someone who represented themselves in such a claim. But, since insurance companies have professionals on their side protecting their interests, you should have a professional on your side as well.