You just got into a car wreck. There’s moderate damage to the vehicles involved, and you’re not yet sure about the extent of your injuries. There’s also some question about how the accident happened in the first place. You report the claim, and a couple days later, you get a call from the other driver’s insurance adjuster. He’s asking you courtesy questions like “how are you doing?” and giving you assurances that you will be “taken care of” and that “everything is going to be okay.”
“The adjuster seems nice,” you think. “Maybe I don’t need to get an attorney. After all, if I hire an attorney, they will take a percentage of my settlement. I guess I can handle the claim on my own”. This is exactly the reaction the insurance adjuster was hoping for.
When someone is injured in an accident, the last thing the insurance company wants is for them to talk to a lawyer. Because once you speak with a lawyer, you will fully understand your legal rights and options, and they will no longer be able to manipulate you and ultimately shortchange you during the claims process.
This is not to say that you always need to hire a personal injury lawyer when you have an injury claim, but it is always a good idea to at least talk with a lawyer before moving forward with your claim. This way, you can make the most informed decision about how you want to handle it.
When Should you Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Before we talk about when to hire a PI lawyer, let’s discuss some circumstances when you may be able to manage your own claim:
You Have no Injuries or your Injuries are Very Minor
Maybe you had a minor collision with another vehicle at a very low speed. There is minimal vehicle damage, and all you have in the way of injuries from it are a few nicks and scratches. You have already been thoroughly examined by a medical professional, and you have already received full treatment for your minor injuries. If this is the case and you either have no-fault insurance to cover your minor injuries or you are satisfied with what the other party’s insurer has paid you, then you might be able to handle the claim without a lawyer.
You are Comfortable with Your Knowledge of the Legal and Settlement Process
This will not be the case for most people, but maybe you are someone who is in the legal profession or you have been through the personal injury settlement process before. You already have extensive knowledge of the process, and you are comfortable handling the injury claim on your own. Even if this is the case, handling your own claim will involve a lot of time, energy, and research, and there are many potential factors that could complicate your case. When you are trying to recover from an injury and get your life back on track, trying to handle a legal claim on your own may not be the best use of your limited resources.
You are Confident that You can Negotiate a Favorable Settlement with the Insurance Company
Insurance adjusters are trained negotiators, and their goal is to pay you as little as possible for your claim. In order to obtain full and fair compensation, you will need to be prepared for a back and forth negotiation that could take several weeks or even months. This may involve preparing a demand letter explaining why you deserve the settlement you are asking for, receiving offers, submitting counteroffers, etc. And at the end of it all, you need to be ready to take your case to trial if the insurance company is not willing to be reasonable. If you are confident you can do all this and secure the most favorable settlement possible, then you can probably handle the claim yourself.
Now that we have discussed some scenarios in which you could potentially handle a claim on your own, here are some instances in which you should strongly consider hiring a personal injury attorney:
You Have Moderate to Severe Injuries
If you suffered long-term and debilitating injuries, you should get in touch with a personal injury lawyer immediately. When an individual sustains serious injuries because of the negligence or recklessness of another person or party, they are entitled to compensation not only for economic losses such as medical bills and lost earnings, but also for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life. An experienced attorney will be able to accurately calculate the damages you are entitled to, which could be substantial.
There are also cases in which seemingly minor injuries can turn out to be more extensive. Sometimes, the symptoms of the injury do not surface for a while – this is particularly common with neck and back injuries due to whiplash and similar types of physical trauma. This is why you should always get a thorough medical exam and talk to a lawyer before accepting any type of settlement offer from an insurance company. There is a reason why insurance companies present lowball settlement offers, because they want to get the claim off the books before you have a chance to find out if your injuries are worse than you originally thought.
Liability is Not Clear
Like the scenario described at the beginning of the article, maybe there is a question about who was at fault for the accident. This could become a major problem for you if the accident occurred in a state like Alabama, where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal standard. Contributory negligence means that if an injured party is found to have “contributed” in any way to the underlying accident (even 1%), they can be barred from recovering damages. If it is not totally clear and accepted by the other side that they are completely at fault for your injury, then you should get an attorney involved as soon as possible in order to ensure that your right to recover compensation is protected.
There are Multiple Parties Involved
There are some injuries in which more than one party may be responsible. This is especially common with commercial trucking accidents. With this type of accident, there could be several responsible parties; which may include the truck driver, the trucking company, the shipping company, the owner or lessor of the truck, the party responsible for maintaining the truck, the designer, manufacturer, or supplier of a faulty vehicle or vehicle part, and the party responsible for maintaining the roads. This type of case can be extremely complex, and it requires a thorough investigation to uncover and identify all of the contributing factors and to ensure that everyone responsible is held fully accountable.
The Insurance Company is Treating you Unfairly
Maybe you thought you could deal with the adjuster for the other party’s insurer, but you found out the hard way that his/her interests were not aligned with yours. Maybe they are jerking you around – making excessive demands, trying to pressure you into accepting a lowball offer, unnecessarily delaying the claim, or simply not communicating with you anymore because you would not “play ball” with them. If any of these things are happening to you, you need strong legal counsel in your corner to effectively push back against these tactics and move your claim toward a favorable outcome.
Need Legal Help After an Injury in Alabama? Contact the Law Offices of Troy King
If you or someone close to you has suffered an injury that someone else was responsible for, you have nothing to lose by speaking with a skilled personal injury lawyer. At the Law Offices of Troy King, we have several years of experience standing up for those who have been injured through no fault of their own. We work closely with our clients, and we fight hard to help ensure that they receive maximum compensation for their injuries.
To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at (334) 215-4440 or message us through our web contact form. You may also visit our Montgomery location in person at your convenience, or we will come to you.