8 August 2016
In the aftermath of a life-altering personal injury, hiring a lawyer might be the last thing on your mind. You might even want to represent yourself, or find yourself tempted to take the first offer the insurance company throws your way. This is inevitably a mistake. You deserve skilled representation regardless of whether your injuries are minor or life-threatening. Here’s why.
You might be tempted to rely on the insurance adjuster, particularly if they’re offering you a large check. But the insurance company has one goal, and one goal only: to minimize how much they have to pay for your injuries. The first offer is almost never as much as your case is worth. Worse still, the information you give to the insurance company, however innocuous that information might seem, could eventually be used against you in court. Even something as simple as a minor inaccuracy in the time line of the accident could eventually harm your case. Thus you should never talk to the insurance company without the assistance of a lawyer.
Think you know how much your injuries are worth? Think again. Numerous factors—including lost wages, lost earning power, short and long-term medical expenses, and pain and suffering—factor into the total value of your injuries. It takes years of experience and training to accurately be able to assess the value of a personal injury victim’s injuries.
When you’re injured in an accident, well-meaning friends and family may try to help by offering advice. Some of them may speak with great authority, asserting their opinions as fact. It doesn’t matter what other people say—even a doctor or someone who has sued an insurance company before. If you listen to the well-meaning advice of people who don’t know what they’re talking about, you might not get the money to which you are entitled. You need a lawyer, and not just any lawyer, but one who specializes in personal injury.
Think you can just Google legal advice and get a reliable answer? You’re dreaming. Local standards, recent court cases, and the letter of the law can all affect the outcome of your case. You need a personal injury lawyer who knows how to read and understand the law, and who has experience litigating claims just like yours. No website can substitute for that, so don’t rely on the useless information you find online about personal injury law.
It doesn’t matter how strong your case is, how unfair the other side is being, or what the law says. If you miss a filing deadline, you will lose your case. A skilled personal injury lawyer knows exactly what needs to be filed and when. Don’t rely on websites, friends, or your own intuition to determine when to file your claim. Only a lawyer can tell you for sure.
Insurance lawyers often take advantage of the legal naiveté of people who opt to represent themselves. They will tell you your claim is worth substantially less than it is, or assert that the law says something it does not. These people are not your friends. Don’t trust them, and don’t let yourself be out-gunned by entering into negotiations with them without a lawyer. Your lawyer’s reputation counts. When the insurance company knows you’re working with a skilled lawyer—and not just someone who occasionally represents personal injury victims—they’re far more likely to offer a fair settlement.
Many personal injury cases settle well before making it to trial. Your case is more likely to settle if your lawyer knows the law and knows how to negotiate with the other side. If your case doesn’t settle and heads to trial, you’ll need a lawyer who can tell a compelling story to the jury, argue a legally strong case in front of the judge, and who will zealously defend your rights—even in the face of aggressive insurance tactics. This requires a skilled personal injury lawyer—not just some random attorney you found on the Internet.