WHEN SHOULD I HIRE A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY?
If you have been in an auto accident in which you have sustained injuries, or you have suffered another type of personal injury that was the fault of another person or party, you may be wondering whether or not you should hire a personal injury attorney.
There are many situations when it is a very good idea to obtain strong legal counsel. In particular, if you believe you may need to sue the other party in order to recover just compensation, you should never do this without a lawyer. Aside from that, there are several other instances in which you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer.
At the very least, it never hurts to at least speak with an attorney about your case. Most reputable personal injury attorneys provide free and confidential initial consultations, so you can find out your legal rights and options and make the most informed decision on how you wish to proceed.
When to Consider Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
Here are some questions to ask to help determine whether or not you need a lawyer to handle your personal injury claim:
How Serious are Your Injuries?
One of the most important factors in deciding whether or not you need a lawyer is the extent of the injuries you suffered. If your injuries were only minor and you were just a little banged up by the accident, you might have no problem settling the claim on your own. This is especially true if you have no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) with your auto insurance policy. In Virginia, this coverage is available as an add-on option, and it means your own insurance company will cover your injuries up to the policy maximums regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
If, on the other hand, you suffered severe and possibly long-term debilitating injuries, you should talk to a lawyer right away. In the case of serious injuries, you will be entitled to a wide range of damages if the other party was at fault; which may include not only direct monetary losses such as medical bills and lost wages, but also non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life. It should also be noted that some injuries that are seemingly minor later turn out to be major injuries. This is why you should always get an immediate medical examination and talk to a lawyer early on and after the accident to discuss your case.
Have you Already been Offered the Maximum Amount of Compensation Available?
If you of sustain more moderate to severe injuries but the insurance company has already offered you the maximum available from the responsible driver’s policy, and you have already exhausted any uninsured motorist coverage you had, then it may not be worthwhile to hire an attorney. For example, in Virginia, drivers are required to carry $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person. If you get into an accident with a driver who has these coverage limits and you only have an additional $25,000 in underinsured motorist coverage, then the most you will be able to recover is $50,000.
If you are already been offered what is available through insurance and your losses exceed that amount, you can still sue the responsible party, but it may not be worthwhile. Any damages you are awarded beyond insurance policy limits would have to be collected directly from the defendant. And if the defendant does not have any valuable assets or property, then there will be nothing available to collect. This is another instance when it would be good to speak with a lawyer to help determine whether or not it would be a good idea to file a lawsuit against the other party.
Were there Multiple Parties Involved or other Complications that Make Liability Unclear?
Some accidents and other personal injury cases are fairly straightforward, while others can be more complex. For example, some accidents involve three or four drivers, and there are major questions about which driver caused the accident. There are other instances when multiple parties could be at fault, such as an accident with a commercial truck. With these types of cases, it may be possible to hold responsible not only the driver, but also the trucking company, shipping company that loaded the cargo, the owner or lessor of the truck, the party responsible for maintaining the truck, or a manufacturer or distributor of a faulty vehicle or vehicle part.
When there are complications like these, you will need a lawyer to thoroughly investigate the facts and pieces of evidence to get to the bottom of who was to blame. Also be sure to work with a lawyer who not only practices personal injury, but also has extensive experience and a successful track record with more complex cases. A skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney will be able to find out exactly what happened and explore every potential legal avenue toward recovering full and fair compensation.
How Comfortable do you Feel Working with the Insurance Adjuster?
Getting full and fair compensation from the insurance company will generally require a series of back and forth negotiations. They might present you with a quick settlement offer early on in the process, but unless your injuries are very minor, this offer is usually for far less than what your claim is worth. If you feel comfortable with the injury claims process and you believe you know enough about the law to effectively deal with the insurance adjuster, then you may be able to handle the claim on your own.
Keep in mind, however, that insurance adjusters are trained professionals. They handle claims like yours day in and day out, and it is their job to settle these claims for as little as possible. The insurance adjuster may be very kind and courteous to you, but that is also part of their job – to build rapport and earn your trust. At the end of the day, the insurance company is not really on your side, and there are many potential pitfalls that can trip you up during the claims process. This is why it often makes sense to get an attorney involved. A seasoned personal injury attorney can help ensure that your legal rights to recover maximum compensation are protected and preserved.