The aftermath of an accident can be a frustrating and overwhelming experience. If you have been injured in an accident, you are dealing not only with the challenges of rehabilitation but also the impact of the injury on your day-to-day life.
Should you contact an attorney regarding your personal injury case?
When Should You Contact a Personal Injury Attorney?
Immediately following an accident, your full attention will be rightly focused on your injuries. However, it is best to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as you are able.
An accident that was someone else’s fault requires you to work with a number of parties – individual and corporate defendants, insurance companies, and their defense lawyers – all of whose interests compete with yours. Navigating and dealing with these parties while protecting your rights is harder than it appears.
Some factors to consider when making the decision on whether to contact a personal injury attorney include:
- How severe your injuries are
- How long ago your accident happened
- What parties are involved in your personal injury matter
The Severity of Your Injuries
The biggest factor that determines whether you need a personal injury lawyer is how serious your injuries are. For a minor injury – one that requires little or no medical care and doesn’t keep you out of work or otherwise harm you financially – a lawyer isn’t necessary. This is the kind of matter you can handle on your own.
More severe injuries, though, may require prolonged treatment and rehabilitation. They can keep you out of work. The reality is that serious injuries like this often lead to an accumulation of financial consequences, including lost wages and exorbitant medical bills.
It is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible if the accident caused you to sustain an injury serious enough to:
- Require considerable medical treatment, especially if you needed more than an initial examination, and
- Impact your way of life, including your ability to work in your profession, perform necessary tasks in your daily life, and enjoy the hobbies and activities you love
You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and the losses and expenses that have occurred because of your injuries. Hiring a car accident attorney can help you get the maximum amount of money you deserve.
What, exactly, counts as a serious injury? Some examples of accident injuries that might warrant hiring an attorney to pursue a personal injury claim include:
- Whiplash, herniated discs, or other neck and back injuries
- Severe lacerations or broken bones
- Head injuries or traumatic brain injuries
- Injury or damage to your spinal cord
This isn’t an exhaustive list. Any injury that is serious enough to affect your life is worth discussing with an attorney. A personal injury consultation is usually free and confidential, so even if your injury isn’t severe enough for a lawyer to get involved, you have nothing to lose. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options at no charge.
When the Accident Occurred
In personal injury cases, the date when the accident occurred is an important factor. It’s so important, in fact, that if too much time has elapsed, you might not have a valid claim.
Each state has a specific time period in which a personal injury lawsuit can be filed. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations, and missing it can have dire consequences for your claim.
If you wait to get a lawyer involved until it is too close to the statute of limitations – or if that deadline has already passed – then you won’t be able to file a lawsuit. It doesn’t matter how much evidence there is that the defendant caused your injuries or how much experience your attorney has. You can’t pursue a claim once the statute of limitations has expired.
One of the first things a personal injury attorney will do when reviewing your case is consider how much time has passed since the accident and determine the statute of limitations.
Although the statute of limitations for many personal injury matters may be measured in years, there are exceptions that give you a lot less time to take action. Even if you do have plenty of time before any legal deadlines come into play, you shouldn’t wait to seek medical care, report the accident, or hire an attorney.
Failing to seek medical care or alert the insurance company promptly may cause your claim to be denied or its value reduced. Neglecting to hire a lawyer early on can set you up to make mistakes with your legal matter. For these reasons, it is crucial that you contact an attorney as soon as possible following an accident. Your personal injury attorney can make sure you’re taking the right steps for your claim and your physical recovery, as well as taking action to protect your rights from day one.
The Parties Involved
It can be difficult to figure out who is responsible for an accident, especially when multiple parties and factors were involved. Aside from you and your personal injury attorney, the parties involved in your claim may include:
- The individual or company responsible for your injuries
- Their insurance company
- The defense attorney provided by their insurance company
- Your insurance company (which isn’t on your side)
If multiple parties are involved in causing your accident, you will have multiple defendants, each with their own insurance company and defense attorney. The interactions with each of these parties can be stressful, time-consuming, and draining – the last thing you need when you’re trying to focus on getting better. Further, you are likely to make common mistakes handling these interactions that can lower the payout you get for your claim.
The truth of the matter is that the defendants and insurance companies – even your own insurance company – have their best interests, not yours, in mind at all times. While it may appear as though they are trying to help guide you through the process, the reality is that they’re looking for opportunities to save themselves money by paying out less for your claim.
A knowledgeable attorney can help guide you through this process and determine which parties can be held liable for your injuries based on the circumstances of your case. Whether the cause of your accident was relatively straightforward or complex and multifaceted, your attorney will gather evidence through a thorough investigation that includes examining the police report and witness statements. Your lawyer will use that evidence to fight for the settlement you deserve.
Dealing With Insurance Companies in Your Case
The only way anything gets resolved in your claim is by working with the insurance companies involved. However, you need to be careful. Every interaction with the insurance adjuster is full of potential pitfalls that could interfere with your claim.
If you have not yet spoken to the opposing party or insurance company, you’re better off talking to a lawyer first. When you hire legal counsel for a personal injury matter, your attorney handles all communications regarding your case. That’s a win-win, because you don’t have to deal with the hassle of insurance company communications or put your claim at further risk.
If you have already spoken to the insurance company, all is not lost. Unless you’ve already signed a settlement agreement or your statute of limitations is looming, it’s never too late to talk to an attorney about your case. In fact, there are several situations that might arise while trying to settle a personal injury matter yourself that could indicate that it’s time to bring in a professional.
These scenarios include:
- A claim denial
- Lowball settlement offers
- Delay of your legal matter resolution
- A stalemate in negotiations
Each of these instances can alert you that your best interests are not in line with that of the insurance carrier. In any of these situations, you would be better off seeking legal representation or, at least, a free consultation to discuss with a professional your legal options.
Outright Denial of Your Claim
Even if the insurance company denies your claim, that doesn’t mean it’s over.
A lawyer can review your case and determine if the denial was reasonable or if the insurance company is just trying to get out of paying a valid claim. Sometimes insurers try to blame the victim or contest whether the accident was a covered event, even if there’s no legal basis for doing so.
Once you have an attorney on your side, the insurance company knows it can’t get away with this behavior. We have the knowledge to appeal a claim denial and move forward with the claims process.
Low Offers for Settlement
You’ve tried negotiating with the insurance company, but the settlement offers they’re making are clearly insufficient to cover your losses. Although it may feel like your pain is a joke to them, the reality is that making these lowball settlement offers is a serious strategy for insurers. By offering you such small settlement amounts, they are trying to convince you that your claim is worth a lot less than it really is.
You don’t have to waste your time getting frustrated over these ridiculously low settlement offers. A personal injury attorney can take over for you, making it clear that you’re aware that you deserve more and willing to fight to get it. Our attorneys have a history of successfully negotiating settlements that fully compensate our clients for their injuries and losses.
Delays By the Insurance Company
Unless the insurer thinks it can rush you into accepting less money than you deserve, it’s not going to be in a hurry to pay up.
In fact, the longer the insurer delays paying your claim, the more money it continues to bring in through interest and investment gains. To the insurance company, that little bit of extra profit is more important than you being able to afford your medical care or pay your bills while you’re out of work.
Whether it be delays in communication or a lag in the payment of a settlement you have verbally agreed to, attorney representation can help speed things along – and, more importantly, make sure you’re getting what you deserve.
Refusal to Negotiate
If the insurance company is refusing to negotiate with you, it’s time to bring in a professional. Whether the insurer has been uncooperative from the start or negotiations have stalled since you turned down a lowball offer, a lawyer has the knowledge and resources to get negotiations back on track.
Sending a demand letter or commencing litigation may be all that’s needed to bring the insurance company back to the negotiation table. If not, your lawyer can take your personal injury matter to court, if necessary, to get you the compensation you deserve.
If you have been injured as the result of an accident, it is always in your best interest to consult with a personal injury attorney about the specifics of your case and how to proceed. A skilled attorney will deal with the intricacies of fighting for your legal rights and compensation while you focus on recovering from your injuries and regaining your quality of life.