THE VALUE OF HAVING A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER
If you get in an accident and want to make a claim, one of the first things you have to decide is whether to use a lawyer or whether to make a claim against the wrongdoer and his or her insurance company. If you were injured in the accident, see a doctor immediately. For many reasons, if you are hurt in an accident, you should get a lawyer's help rather than try to handle the matter yourself. Here are some of the main reasons:
- Attorneys normally offer a free consultation to discuss and evaluate your case. An experienced personal injury lawyer can tell you how strong your case is. Also, because a lawyer knows the many different things that accident victims can recover damages for, a lawyer can give you the prospects for a full recovery.
- Your lawyer can help you on related matters. For example, your lawyer can recommend doctors who are specialists for treating your injuries and refer you to car repair facilities.
- You need someone on your side who is experienced in dealing with insurance companies. Insurance companies have many people working for them. Often, they will try to avoid or delay paying claims, or offer unfairly low amounts to settle claims. Accident victims need someone to assert their rights to recover what they are legally entitled to. An experienced personal injury lawyer who knows how insurance companies work is the best person to do this.
- You pay only if you win. A key benefit of using a lawyer for personal injury claims is the contingency fee. A contingency fee is a fee that is paid only if you win. It is typically paid out of the recovery. Contingency fees are great for clients because they allow anyone who has a good case to get legal help. Because of contingency fees, accident victims who are not in a position to pay for legal fees and legal expenses up front, can still win claims against insurance companies.
- You will likely get more money by allowing an attorney to handle your case. For most accident victims, this is the main reason for using a lawyer. A study was done which shows that auto accident victims who use lawyers receive about 25% more money than those who do not use lawyers - even after deducting all costs.
If you needed surgery, you would not operate on yourself. The same concept holds true in law - if you are hurt in an accident, you should seek a professional's help. Not only will a lawyer make the process of recovering damages a lot easier, but you will have a better chance of obtaining a larger recovery.
DO YOU HAVE A CASE?
People who have been in an accident, injured by a product or hurt in some other way must decide whether to make a claim or sue. The decision is usually difficult. However, considering a few key factors can make it easier.
Fault - For you to win your case, a person or a business must be at fault. They must have done something wrong or failed to do something. In many states, a suit can be brought even if you are partly to blame for your injuries. For you to win your suit, the other side must be partly or mostly at fault. Many states let you recover damages even if you are partly to blame for your injuries. Generally, your damages are reduced by the amount you are at fault.
Damages - In addition to someone else being at fault, you must have suffered damages. "Actual damages" pay for money you lost, such as medical bills you paid or wages lost because you missed work.
In most states, if the party you sue acted intentionally or was grossly negligent, you may be able to recover "punitive damages" which punish the other party. In many cases, "punitive damages" can exceed "actual damages."
Collecting Your Award - Even if someone else caused you damage, your victory will be valuable only if the "at-fault" party pays you. Thus, before you make a claim or sue, make sure that if you win, the other party has the money, other assets or insurance to pay you.
Deciding whether to make a claim or sue is hard, but with an attorney's help and by evaluating the above factors, people with claims can often find out in advance if they may have a winning case.
IF YOU HAVE AN INJURY CLAIM, DO NOT DELAY.
If you have been in an automobile or other kind of accident and intend to make a claim, there are several reasons why you need to consult an attorney as soon as possible.
Reason #1 - There are time limits (called "statutes of limitations") for making claims. If you wait too long and the statue of limitations passes, you will be prevented from bringing your claim. Courts strictly follow statutes of limitations. There have been incidents of claimants attempting to file legitimate claims in as little as one day after the statute of limitations has expired and the Courts have dismissed the claims because of the violation of the statute of limitations.
Reason #2 - Delay can hurt your case. As time passes, it becomes harder to gather evidence and to find and interview the witnesses who may have moved or have forgotten the details of your accident.
Since waiting too long can cause your claim to be dismissed or may hurt your chances of getting the maximum recovery you are legally entitled to, seek legal help as soon after an accident as possible.
MOST LEGAL DISPUTES ARE SETTLED OUT-OF-COURT
A surprisingly large number of people have valid and valuable legal claims which they do not pursue. Why? Many people fear that making a claim means going to court. Others do not know if their claim is valid. Still others drop their claim to avoid upsetting the other party.
Ignoring a valid claim can mean losing valuable damages you are entitled to. Most legal disputes - over 90% - are settled out-of-court. Many claims are paid not by the wrongdoers, but by an insurer, so making a claim usually does not mean there will be a trial or that the other party must pay.
If you have a possible claim, seek legal assistance. Along with easing the process of recovering damages, legal assistance helps result in receiving full compensation for your injuries.
WHEN YOU ARE ENTITLED TO DAMAGES
If you are injured due to someone else's wrongful conduct, you are usually entitled to damages. Damages are the money compensation awarded to make up for the loss or injury you suffered. There are three main kinds of damages: compensatory, nominal and punitive. Here is a brief explanation of each.
Compensatory damages are designed to put you in the position you would be in if there was no injury. Thus, compensatory damages can cover a variety of losses, including medical expenses, wages lost due to missed work and even increased living costs due to the injury.
Along with medical expenses and lost wages, accident victims often have physical pain from the injury and from the medical treatment. Compensatory damages may be sought for pain and suffering, and these are usually computed separately from other kinds of compensatory damages.
Nominal damages are awarded when a wrong has been committed, but its value is hard to put into dollars. For example, suppose someone trespasses on your property, but does not damage it. A court may rule that you were injured, but award you only a symbolic, nominal sum - often $1.
Punitive damages punish the wrongdoer and deter others from doing the same thing. They are awarded when the wrongdoer's conduct was intentional or grossly negligent. The amount of punitive damages can exceed compensatory damages. Some states do not allow punitive damages.
For people injured by someone else's wrongful conduct, estimating how much money may be received is a key factor in deciding whether to make a claim. Many factors go into figuring damages, so legal help should be obtained in performing this estimate.
WHAT "NEGLIGENCE" MEANS
At one time or another, everyone thinks of making a claim against somebody for "negligence." Usually, this happens after being in an accident. What exactly is "negligence?"
The legal concept called "negligence" has evolved over many centuries. Depending on the case, it can be easy or hard to apply. Here is a summary of the many elements courts consider to decide if someone was "negligent."
Breach of Duty and Damage
In short, negligence exists when someone causes damage by failing to perform a duty owed to someone else. For example, everyone has a duty to be careful when driving a car. A driver who is careless and gets in an accident may be "negligent."
"Damage" is the legal word for injuries suffered because someone was careless. Damages include physical harm, emotional distress, damage to property, and lost wages. Damage would also involve proving the damage was caused by the accident.
One more aspect of negligence is "foreseeability." A person is liable for negligence only if the resulting damage was a foreseeable result of his or her actions.
How Courts Decide
To decide if someone breached a duty in a particular case, a court or jury looks at all the facts to find out what happened. Then it asks what a "reasonable person" would have done in the same situation. If the person accused of being negligent did what an ordinary person would have done in the same situation, there is no liability. But if the person's actions were not what a reasonable person would do, then he or she will probably be found liable for acting negligently.
If you are hurt in an accident where the other party may have been negligent, seek legal help to find out about your right to recover damages. Act quickly, since there are time limits for making claims.
WHEN INSURANCE COMPANIES DO THE WRONG THING
Insurance companies often claim that with them, you're in "good hands," or that they are on your side, "like a good neighbor." but when you need to make a claim, the opposite is sometimes the case, and it is therefore very important for accident victims to get legal help.
Many times insurance companies try to avoid or delay paying valid claims, and offer unfairly low amounts to settle claims. Because of the way some insurance companies operate, accident victims should get legal help immediately. They should not speak to the insurance company, but rather refer the insurance company to their lawyer. Their lawyer will deal with the insurance company and make sure the accident victim receives full and prompt payment for injuries and losses.
USING A LAWYER MEANS BETTER INSURANCE SETTLEMENTS
There have been reports recently of insurance companies contacting accident victims immediately after an accident. The companies tell victims they want to help and ask them to quickly settle their claim. If you are in an accident and this happens to you, ask yourself who the insurance company is really trying to help.
Why are some insurance companies going to such lengths to persuade accident victims to not get a lawyer's help before settling a claim? Simply because they can settle claims for less money if the accident victim is not represented by a lawyer.
Lawyers help clients get all the money they are entitled to after an accident. Most accident victims do not know all of their legal rights or all they are entitled to under the small print of an insurance policy. Because of this, getting a lawyer's advice before settling a claim is critical for an accident victim.
Insurance companies that try to disrupt this process sometimes suggest that using a lawyer will not help the accident victim get more money. But the insurance industry's own research proves the opposite is true. For car accidents, insurance industry research shows that the average accident victim receives more money for economic damages (like lost wages and medical expenses) when represented by a lawyer, even after deducting all costs. And when recoveries for pain and suffering are considered, the larger recoveries by accident victims using lawyers is significantly higher.
If you are in an accident, seek legal help immediately. A lawyer can advise you about all your rights as well as advise you about all insurance benefits you may be entitled to receive. Insurance industry research and common sense show that it is wise to consult a lawyer after an accident and before settling an accident claim.