If you’ve been injured in an accident – whether it be a car accident, semi-truck accident, pedestrian accident, boating accident, or even a slip-and-fall – chances are you’ve already gotten a phone call from one or more insurance company representatives. Dealing with insurance companies after being injured by someone else’s negligence can quickly become overwhelming and confusing for people with a limited understanding of the legal system, and it can be difficult to know when or how to look for help.
First of all, it’s a common misconception that every accident case requires the assistance of a lawyer. A majority of the car accidents that occur on a daily basis in Washington state – and throughout the United States – are relatively minor and therefore the level of damages or loss is low. As long as accident victims get the necessary medical treatment to prove their injuries, keep track of the losses they have suffered as a result of the accident, and have a basic understanding of their legal rights, they should be able to negotiate a fair settlement on their own without having to pay an attorney.
There are, however, a number of scenarios where an accident victim may benefit from hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to handle the claim. It is often beneficial to at least consult with a qualified lawyer about whether representation is necessary, and since personal injury attorneys
Some of the important issues that accident victims need to consider when evaluating the costs and benefits of hiring a lawyer include:
- Is fault for the accident contested or has it been agreed upon?
If the other driver and his or her insurance company have admitted fault and responsibility for the crash that injured you, then there is a chance that you may be able to handle the claim on your own. If the other driver and his or her insurance company are attempting to blame you for the accident when you believe you were innocent, then it may be wise to consult with an attorney. A qualified lawyer will be able to assist you in collecting and presenting the necessary evidence to prove fault.
- How badly were you injured as a result of the collision?
If your injuries are serious – such as broken bones, herniated disks in the neck or back, or another type of significant ailment that are likely to require surgery or long-term medical care – then the responsible insurance company is much more likely to put up a fight over fairly compensating you. Serious injury cases are almost always more likely to benefit from at least consulting with a lawyer, as only a qualified attorney can help you identify all of the potential issues and determine the likelihood of a successful outcome.
- How long will it take you to recover from your injuries?
The extent of a person’s injuries will also typically affect the length of time that it takes for them to make a full recovery after an accident. In extreme cases, an accident victim may never truly fully recover and be made whole to the condition they were in prior to an accident. The length of time that it takes for an accident victim to recover from his or her injuries also has a significant impact on the overall value of the personal injury claim. A person with life-changing injuries who require extensive future medical treatment and care deserves to be compensated for the cost of that care. Likewise, serious accident victims sometimes undergo amputations or lose control over a particular body part or function as a result of a collision. Proving the extent and cost of these injuries can be difficult without an attorney and a team of expert witnesses. Hiring an attorney may help ensure that the victim is fairly compensated for the psychological and emotional trauma that the injury causes them.
- What is the value of the damages and losses that you have suffered?
The overall value of a personal injury or wrongful death case is largely dependent upon the damages and losses that a person has suffered as a result of the incident. If an accident victim’s medical bills are less than $5,000 and they are able to make a full recovery from their injuries before the statute of limitations approaches, then hiring an attorney may not make a lot of financial sense due to the cost of hiring a lawyer. But when the stakes are higher and the victim is looking at years of rehabilitation or long-term medical treatment for permanent injuries, the insurance company is much more likely to push back and take advantage of the injured victim. In this case, it may be beneficial for an accident victim to hire a lawyer to handle their case. Even after paying attorney fees, serious injury victims often recover more compensation than they would have if they tried to handle the case on their own.
There are a lot of factors that accident victims should consider when deciding whether or not to hire a lawyer for their personal injury case. As we’ve discussed already, the severity of the victim’s injuries, the length of recovery time, and the cost of medical bills and other damages are just a few of the important pieces that can determine whether a lawyer can truly help your case.
The bottom line is that the decision to hire a lawyer can be one of the most important decisions a person will make in their lifetime, especially after a life-changing accident. We advise victims to do their own research and not be in a rush to hire a lawyer. Many people believe any attorney can handle any personal injury case, but hiring the “right” lawyer can significantly impact your chances of a positive outcome.