When To Hire A Personal Injury Attorney
Many people choose to hire an accident lawyer after they've been involved in a car crash that results in personal injury and monetary losses.
Why Should You Hire a Lawyer?
Technically, you can file a personal injury claim against an insurance company by yourself. Some people choose this route when they've suffered only mild injuries and have the time to research the legal claims process themselves. Also, skipping an attorney will save you some money in legal fees.
However, an accident attorney— especially a personal injury attorney—can help you go up against big auto insurance companies and their team of lawyers. Your attorney already knows the personal injury laws and procedural rules and can effectively handle all the legwork for you. He or she will act as your advocate throughout the entire case.
Because an insurance company's lawyers have the knowledge to reduce compensation and even deny the claim altogether, hiring an accident attorney is the best option for people who:
- Have suffered severe injuries.
- Are faced with expensive medical bills.
- Have experienced a significant loss of wages due to their injuries.
Reasons to Consult an Accident Attorney
Consider hiring an accident attorney if any of the following apply to you.
Auto Accident Injuries
Generally, the severity of your personal injuries is measured by the:
- Type of injury (or injuries) you've sustained.
- Length of time it takes (or will take) for you to recover.
- Cost of medical bills (and any other therapeutic procedures) you've incurred.
- This also can include the estimated cost of future medical procedures.
Long-Term or Permanently Disabling Injuries
Generally speaking, a long-term injury is one that lasts for around a year or longer, while a permanent injury is one that disables you for life. These types of personal injuries seriously affect your ability to become and stay employed—not to mention the quality of your life.
Proving long-term and permanently disabling injuries can be tricky business, and your personal injury attorney probably will consult with each medical professional you've seen. He or she even might request the presence of your medical professionals during any legal proceedings.
When an insurance company disputes its policyholder's liability for the car crash, the company is basically saying that the policyholder is not at fault (or is at least claiming you don't have enough proof of fault) and, therefore, the insurance company is not responsible for paying for your damages.
An accident attorney will help you provide this proof and show that the other party was indeed at fault.
Refusal to Pay
Refusal to pay (which can but doesn't necessarily stem from a disputed liability) or refusal to pay a fair amount is when an insurance company outright won't make a fair settlement offer—or any offer at all.
Tips for Hiring an Accident Lawyer
Because of possible situations such as statutes of limitations (which can vary by state), it's important to hire a personal injury attorney and get the claims process going as quickly as possible; however, you don't want to hire the first attorney for whom you see a billboard on the highway.
Consider these tips as you look for the right accident lawyer.
Personal Injury Focus
Just as there are many different doctors who focus on many different areas of medicine, there is a wide range of lawyers from which to choose.
As you choose your accident lawyer, make sure he or she focuses on personal injury accidents.
NOTE: Some states' State Bar websites have directories of attorneys organized by their areas of practice.
Car Accident Experience
Not all personal injury attorneys have experience with cases that deal with personal injury caused by a car accident. Some focus more on slip-and-fall accidents, others on work-related injuries, and others still on premise liability cases.
Make sure the attorney you choose has represented individuals who've suffered personal injuries specifically related to car crashes.
Perhaps nothing spreads reputation more powerfully than word of mouth, and in this day and age you can go beyond just talking to people about their own personal injury attorney experiences to actually researching these attorneys yourself. Simply hop online, search the attorneys' names, and see what others have to say about him or her.
Dedication to Your Case
Here, you'll want to consider a couple of factors.
First, take a look at the attorney's current caseload. While it's not impossible for a skilled lawyer to juggle multiple cases at one time (actually, it's pretty normal), you probably don't want to put your trust in the hands of an attorney whose focus is spread uncomfortably thin.
Second, consider how the attorney treats you and your case. Sure, you probably won't communicate every day, but does your lawyer regularly update you on your claim's status? Make him- or herself available to answer your questions? Return your phone calls in a timely fashion?
Finally, evaluate your comfort level with the attorney.
You can start gauging your comfort level from the beginning (for example, how do you feel about the attorney's success rate with car accident cases?) and continue beyond the time you hire him or her.
Sometimes, evaluating your comfort level can prevent you from hiring a personal injury attorney who isn't well suited for your case; other times, it might convince you it's time to change course with a new attorney.
Just remember, you suffered personal injury and monetary loss due to a car crash you believe someone else caused. Use these tips—and trust your gut—as you search for the right accident lawyer.