Absolutely! Well, not absolutely, but
probably. You see a lawyer about money; that is how the
system works. It is always about the money,
getting it and holding onto it. So you need a lawyer if
having one will result in you having more money in your pocket
at the end of the case.
You don't need a lawyer if you are
not hurt. Within the universe of accident claims,
a person who is hurt is expected to get medical care
immediately, consistently and until he is better. Soft
tissue injuries from a car crash may not be apparent right away.
At the time of the crash, you are excited and that may mask your
symptoms. You may start to feel stiff and have a headache
later in the day, and the next morning you may wake up feeling
as if someone had attacked you with a baseball bat in your
sleep. However, within this context, if
you do not feel poorly enough to see a doctor within three to
four days after the crash, the other side will have the argument
that you are not hurt.
You need a lawyer if you are hurt but
have no health insurance. If you have pain, you
need to obtain medical treatment, and it is no excuse that you
may not have health insurance. It only matters what you
do. A personal injury attorney can help you locate medical
providers who will treat you with no out-of-pocket cost and who will
wait for payment until your claim is settled.
You need a lawyer if you are hurt and
do have health insurance.
If you have insurance, you want to receive the benefit
of that insurance. In an accident situation, some medical
providers will resist submitting their charges to your health
insurance, believing that they will be able to receive more than
your health insurance will pay them by demanding to be paid from
your accident settlement. Some providers will submit to
your health insurance, but insist that they are entitled to a
lien, taking the amount of your health insurance's contractual
adjustment from your settlement. Some medical
providers will ask you for your auto insurance
information, because you may have coverage that will pay them
The law governing who is allowed to claim a
lien, with which health insurance plans, and what they must do
to establish their lien right is complex. Many medical
providers do not understand the law, but insist that they are
entitled to extra money because you were hurt in an accident.
It comes down to them wanting your money.
A lawyer who practices primarily or solely in the area of
personal injury is equipped to help you keep other people's
hands out of your pocket.
Likewise your health insurance itself may
have a claim for reimbursement of what it paid. This too
is complicated, and the fact that your health insurance provider
may not have a legal right to be reimbursed does not keep it
from wanting your money. A personal injury lawyer can help
you determine whether your health insurance has a reimbursement
right at all, and if it does have a reimbursement right can help
you negotiate with them to possible pay back less.
You need a lawyer if the other side
does not immediately accept liability for the crash.
If the facts of your accident are such that the other side may
have an argument that the crash was partially your fault, or if
it is not clear that there is coverage for the other vehicle,
you will have to make decisions to protect yourself despite the
other side's position. If litigation becomes necessary,
you definitely want a lawyer on your side.
You need a lawyer if you have serious
injuries. The more serious your injuries, the
more complicated your claim becomes. Frequently, if you
are hospitalized, you will not be aware of all the providers who
see you. The greater your bills and the higher the
potential settlement, the more opportunities exist for
a lawyer to help you get a fair settlement and to
negotiate claims against your settlement proceeds. Medical
providers may have liens, which are claims against your
settlement, to try and recover amounts that are written off
under your health insurance. Your health insurance itself
may have a claim against your settlement for reimbursement of
amounts paid to medical providers. These claims are
extremely complicated and a lawyer is much more able to protect
your rights in this regard than are you on your own.
Most of the time when you suffer serious
injury, the greatest concern is that there is insufficient
insurance coverage available to pay your medical bills and to
compensate you for your injuries. Making the available
money go around is a large part of a lawyer's work nowadays.
I was in a relatively minor accident and just need to
see a chiropractor. Will a lawyer get me more money than I
will get on my own? Maybe, maybe not. There
are never any guarantees, but you would tend to expect it
to be that way. First, a lawyer who represents accident
victims all day, every day will tend to not make the same
mistakes you would in proceeding with your claim. Second,
rarely will you be satisfied with the offers you receive.
A personal injury lawyer is in a better position to evaluate the
offers on your claim relative to what other claims settle for.
Third, the insurance companies tend to make better offers to
claimants who are represented, because they know that it is far
easier for a lawyer to follow through with litigation.
You may be able
to benefit from having an
attorney, but find that a large law firm cannot take your case.
There is often confusion between the questions of "Do I have a
case" and "Will you take my case". If you were hurt, it is
the fault of someone else, and there is money somewhere to
compensate you, then you have a case. The issue is whether
your claim is large enough that it makes business sense for the
large law firm to take your case.
If the damage to your vehicle is minor, the
outcome of your claim will be limited. This is the first
rule of accident cases. A juror viewing a photo of a
vehicle with minor damage makes the snap decision that the
person inside should not have been seriously injured.
If the other side has a credible argument
that the accident was partially your fault, the outcome of your
claim will be limited. The fact that the other party
received a citation does not dictate the outcome of the claim.
If there was a delay before you obtained
treatment, or if there were gaps in your treatment, or if you
treated for less than the usual amount of time,
the outcome of your claim will be limited.
As well, if the other side has an argument that you obtained
more treatment than you needed, the settlement offer may not
take all of your treatment into account.
A large law firm spends considerable money
advertising and has high overhead. The factors above may
limit the legal fee that will be earned from your case and make
whether it makes sense for a large law firm to represent you.
At some point, event though you "have a case" a large
law firm may lose money if they agree to represent you.
In contrast, a small, one or two attorney law
firm sees every case as a benefit, and the attorneys are
generally not under the same crushing workload as those in a
large firm, so they can make time to handle your small claim and
will appreciate the opportunity to do so.