If you ask a personal injury lawyer, they will almost universally tell you that you need a lawyer. Do you really? Probably, but it depends on the individual facts of the case.
The Problem with Hiring a Lawyer: Fees
There is only one reason not to retain a lawyer: you do not want to pay the lawyer’s fees. It is a good reason. It can be a significant amount of money because attorneys’ fees are often 33% of the total recovery and usually more if a lawsuit is filed.
Also, despite what many lawyers will tell you, there certainly are personal injury cases where the client would have been better served by not having a lawyer in the first place.
There Are Cases Where Hiring a Lawyer Is a Must
First, before we talk about why you might not need a lawyer, let’s discuss why, in most cases, you are better off having a lawyer, even if your ultimate goal is to settle the case. There are several reasons for this. First, an experienced personal injury lawyer can evaluate the offer for you so that you can know whether you are getting fair compensation.
The insurance companies’ goal is not to mete out justice but to pay you as little as possible. Without knowledge of the case’s fair value, you are in the dark about the settlement and trial value of cases similar to yours. Is $400,000 a fair value for your case? It sure is a lot of money. But is it what your case is worth?
Unless, you have seen hundreds of these cases and have had the opportunity to take similar cases to a jury, you really have no idea if you are hitting a home run or if the insurance company is taking advantage of you. Insurance companies are more likely to settle your case for a bargain when you represent yourself because they know you do not know the case’s value.
Second, when an attorney does not represent you, the insurance companies also know you do not have a hammer if your case does not settle. The leverage a personal injury lawyer has, particularly a lawyer who has a proven track record with insurance companies, is that a lawsuit will be the response to an unreasonable offer.
Make no mistake: Insurance companies know who the severe lawyers are who are willing to try cases; they also know which lawyers settle almost all of their cases. Your settlement offer typically reflects this.
Third, more work must often be done to put your personal injury case in the position to receive a reasonable offer. Many cases require additional work to prepare a demand package beyond collecting the medical bills. You might need, just to name a few examples, an additional report from a doctor concerning the scope of your injuries or future required medical care, an economist’s report to calculate your real damages, or a vocational rehabilitation expert to assist in determining your economic loss. A quality advocate can provide the expertise to determine what you need and how to get it.
The fourth reason to hire an attorney is that a lawyer who is a skilled advocate and negotiator can often make a meaningful impact on your case. You need someone to explain why your case deserves more money than the insurance company thinks it is worth. The insurance companies will construe every fact where reasonable minds could differ against you unless you have someone advocating your case.
You might think you can advocate your own case to the insurance company. Who is more qualified than you to discuss your own injuries? In some ways, you will be able to advocate for your own case better than anyone because you experienced the pain and suffering you are discussing with the claims adjuster. The biggest problem with doing this is that you often say things that end up hurting your case when you handle your own claim.
This leads to the final major problem with handling your own case: that you will screw it up. So many people handling their own personal injury cases miss a filing deadline, fail to understand their rights or say something to the insurance company that they should not have said, which gets used against them later.
Okay, so it is clearly the safer play to hire a lawyer for any case. And this is not by any means a complete laundry list of why hiring a lawyer is generally the smartest thing to do. But if you loathe the idea of paying attorneys’ fees and don’t mind taking a risk of doing something to destroy or harm your case, there are some cases where there is less risk than others.
When You Can Handle Your Own Case
Tips for Handling Your Own Case
- Advice on handling your own motor Tort Case (tips if you go it alone)
- Is it better to go to trial or settle your case? (thoughts on this choice and statistical analysis of settlement offers and verdicts)
- The secrets the insurance companies don’t want you to know
- Valuing personal injury cases: figure out the settlement range for your case
The best cases to handle by yourself are soft tissue injury cases whose value is less than $5,000. The reason is that the value of these car accident claims is typically more static if you are not interested in filing a lawsuit. The value a lawyer can add to your case increases exponentially with the degree of injury.
This is because, in most jurisdictions, smaller cases are decided by judges where there are less likely to be the highs and lows you get with jury awards. If you ask 20 people what the value of a crushed ankle or a fractured leg is for a 23-year-old girl who makes a living on her feet, you will get 20 different answers. This is where quality advocacy matters. If you ask 20 judges what the value of a soft tissue injury claim with a totaled vehicle, an emergency room visit, and six weeks of physical therapy, the standard deviation from the average will be a small fraction of what it would be for the crushed ankle or fractured leg example.
We would rather you hire a lawyer to handle your personal injury case. But some people are going to ignore that advice. If instead you want to talk to an experienced advocate, call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free case evaluation online.