Often times, I am asked: “Do I need to hire an attorney to handle my personal injury claim or car accident?” My usual response: “You wake up one morning with a nasty tooth ache. Now, you can go to your garage, pick up a pair of pliers and yank that tooth out, or you can call a dentist. Which one would you choose?” The same concept applies when it comes to handling a personal injury claim or a car accident.
Why? Depending on the facts of the case, handling a car accident or any other type of personal injury claim such as slip and fall, dog bite. There are many factors (aside from the laws themselves) that come into play and can affect your claim – factors that a lay person will simply not know about.
For example, how do you go about gathering evidence to prove your case and your damages? Do you negotiate with the insurance company or do you file a lawsuit? What do you disclose and (just as important) what do you NOT disclose to the insurance adjuster assigned to the claim? Should you give a recorded statement to the adjuster? Should you sign authorization forms given to you by the adverse insurance company? What happens if the other party involved in the accident does not have insurance?
If you negotiate with the insurance company, how do you go about it? What do you ask for? What items (i.e. damages) are recoverable? What is a reasonable recovery and what does a proposed settlement cover?
What if the case does not settle? Should you file a lawsuit? If so, how do you go about it? What causes of action do you incorporate in the Complaint? Have you named all appropriate parties in the lawsuit? If the defendant (i.e. other side) files a demurrer or motion to strike, can you handle it?
Once the lawsuit is filed, served and answered, the discovery process starts. But, what is discovery? How do you respond to it? How do you propound it? What questions do you ask and what documents do you request from the other side? What about depositions?
This is just a glimpse of what litigating a case is like. This does not take into account all the strategies that go into negotiating cases, which varies from insurance company to insurance company and from adjuster to adjuster, strategies into dealing with the attorney(s) hired by the insurance company to defend against your case, strategies into proving your case and damages, etc.
Going back to my prior example, you wouldn’t pull your own tooth if you had a tooth ache. So why would you represent yourself in a personal injury case (such as a car accident, slip and fall, dog bite) against a seasoned adjuster and/or an experienced defense attorney who are paid by the adverse insurance company not to pay you for your damages?
Most, if not all, personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingency basis, meaning that the attorney gets paid a percentage of the settlement or the judgment in the case and if there is no settlement or judgment, then the attorney does not charge a fee. So, if you are not paying anything out of your pocket for the attorney, why wouldn’t you then utilize the expertise of an experienced attorney? Maybe the question that should be asked is : “How can I afford not to hire a lawyer to handle my personal injury claim?”
It is also extremely important that you hire an attorney as soon as possible in the case, and preferably before you start dealing with the adverse insurance company. The longer you wait in contacting an attorney, the more harm you can cause to your case.
I have been practicing personal injury litigation since 1997. I have worked on the defense and the plaintiff’s side. Hence, I am very familiar with both sides of litigation.
If you have a personal injury case, such as an accident, slip and fall, dog bite, etc., and want to get an honest assessment of your case and be educated as to your options, please give us a call. There is never a fee unless there is recovery in the case. Please contact us at (661) 362-0805 or (818) 700-8422, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free case evaluation.