It is a common misconception among people that hiring a lawyer in the event of an accident can increase their settlement, if they are not at fault. However, this is far from the truth. In fact, you may even stand to lose money if you hire lawyers unnecessarily. This is because a number of lawyers may require you to sign an agreement that pays them a share, say 10%, of the settlement amount you receive. So, if they do not bring any added value to your side, in contrast to your expectation, you just lost at least 10% of the money. This does not mean that you should not hire a personal injury lawyer. Instead, this guide is to help you understand when to hire lawyers and when not to.
Maximum Amount Available
The insurance companies with which your injurer has a policy, will only pay the maximum amount of the policy. If the person who injured you has a $200,000 maximum insurance policy, and you have been offered a settlement of $200,000, then it is best to accept the offer under normal circumstances. If your expenses due to damages and injuries exceed the maximum covered by the defendant’s policies, then you have two choices before you. You can either hire an attorney to try and claim more money, or accept the offer. Hiring an attorney might work if the defendant has properties and assets of sizeable value. If not, then the settlement amount will not increase and involving an attorney will only divide that amount in favor of the attorney.
If the defendant’s insurance policies do not cover the extent of your injuries, then the insurance adjuster of the defendant will contact you. The adjuster will be responsible for paying the amount in excess of the defender’s policy amounts. The adjuster will seek information from you regarding your injuries, claims, medical bills, and so on. Generally, cooperating with them will end up in a good settlement for you. Most cases do not even require an attorney for the settlement to take place.
However, remember that your interests and the interests of insurance adjusters are not exactly the same. While you are trying to increase the settlement amount, they benefit from keeping it as low as possible. So there are always incidences where the insurance representative will construe your statements to mean what they want you to mean. This can seriously undermine your interests. Therefore, you would be rather better off seeking the assistance of a personal injury attorney to know what to share and what not to share with the insurance companies.
Some states have laws that do not allow you to seek any legal compensation, unless your injuries are beyond a certain level of seriousness. If your injuries are in the no-fault category, you may claim them under your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. Hiring a lawyer in such cases is futile. However, if your injuries are beyond the no-fault category, then a good attorney can help you maximize your injury claims.
Sometimes, you will have suffered only minor injuries such as bruises or scrapes. In such cases, if the injurer’s insurance company offers to pay for your treatment and even top it off with a few hundred dollars, it is a good deal and you can take it.
But some injuries have long term effects that may take a considerable time to surface. Therefore, it is best to undergo a complete checkup by a physician to know the full extent of damages. If you happen to accept the offer from the insurance company, and then face bigger medical expenses, there is no way your expenses can be protected. An attorney will tell you how long to wait before you accept the offer made by the insurance company. Moreover, a good attorney can ensure that you receive compensation for pain, suffering and emotional distress as well. Juries, generally tend to consider such damages, so even out-of-court settlements assisted by a good attorney can help you obtain compensation for it.
Multiple Policy Protection
The person who has injured you may have multiple policies. It is not easy to obtain information regarding how many policies and the total coverage that the injurer is sitting on. Firstly, attorneys are highly resourceful and have the means of obtaining such information. Secondly, the attorneys will obtain affidavits from the insurance companies and the defendant, which will protect your interest in the long run. Thanks to these affidavits, if more policies of the defendant are discovered in the future, your injuries will be protected by these insurance companies.
Special Cases When Attorneys Become Very Useful
1. A number of times an injury may leave a person disabled to an extent that he is unable to work or deliver his financial obligations. Most of the time, people care caught off-guard by such situations. During such circumstances, lawyers can help you postpone your liabilities. They will notify all the creditors of the situation and advise them to suspend your payments until such time when you are capable of joining work.
If you have Credit Disability Insurance, the attorneys will see to it that the insurance pays your loan payments when you are disabled.
2. An attorney can build your case. Whether the case goes to court or not, if you feel that your injurer or his insurance company is hostile and trying to give you a bad settlement, then you will need an attorney to build a strong case. The attorney will collect the photographs, official reports, eyewitness statements, and other evidence, which will help you implicate your injurer.
If the case does reach the court, an attorney can help you through every step of the proceedings and prepare you for the case. Also, an attorney can help you produce the extent of your damages more easily. Employers, hospitals, automobile repair services, and so on, may not respond to your requests in an expedite manner. When a lawyer is involved, things begin to move a lot faster. This works with insurance companies too. Involvement of an attorney can certainly help get the attention of the insurance companies faster.
If the insurance companies or the injurer are not ready to pay all your claims, or not honor the settlement amount, then the presence of an attorney adds a great amount of seriousness to the negotiations. Attorneys are generally excellent negotiators as they make their living on it. So, having one by your side pushes the discussion significantly in your favor.
Attorneys are not always needed in an accident. But when they are, it would not be unwise to seek one’s services. Most attorneys do not charge for basic consultation. They do it free of charge. Even when you hire them for seeking settlement via court, or outside it, they ask you to enter into a “settlement sharing” agreement. Under such agreements, you will pay them only if you win the case or get the settlement in your favor.