When Should I Call a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Experiencing a personal injury is never expected, and it always seems to happen at the worst time. Even though others may brush your injuries off as minor, any injury can cause substantial turmoil and upset your life. People that try to minimize your damages are often the ones that caused the incident that led to them, or they may be liable for paying you compensation.
Still, you may not be sure when to call a personal injury lawyer. Suppose someone else's negligent actions have negatively disrupted your life. In that case, you should know you have the legal right to pursue them for reimbursement for your losses through civil action. While no hard deadlines dictate when you should get legal counsel, a personal injury lawyer is often a critical factor in your ability to secure a successful resolution.
In our more than 35 years of experience at Morgan and Morgan, we have found that engaging a lawyer promptly after an accident increases your chances of winning meaningful compensation for various reasons. Many of our clients also express relief that they no longer have to shoulder the burden of dealing with the insurance process on their own as well.
While not all accidents require the help of an attorney, it can be productive to gain insight from someone with knowledge of the laws that pertain to your specific issue. We understand that no two cases are identical. Still, someone with experience in personal injury law can explain your rights, options, and if they believe they can help with your case. That's why we offer free case evaluations. Here are some situations where hiring a personal injury lawyer for your legal matter may prove valuable.
Is liability for the accident in question?
Liability is a fancy word for being responsible for something. You are probably most familiar with the term as it relates to car accidents. However, liability applies to all kinds of legal issues, like medical malpractice, dog bites, and defective products. In most instances, the individual who suffered a personal injury must prove the other party was somehow negligent, in error, or engaged in some wrongdoing that led to their injuries. For example, in a slip and fall accident, you must prove that the property owner created a dangerous condition, knew about it, and did nothing to fix it, and subsequently, you suffered an injury and financial loss. You must prove all of these elements to recover compensation. Those are the requirements for a slip and fall claim under premises liability law in many states, but state laws vary.
Suppose the other party argues they are not responsible for your injuries. In that case, you have a problem that may require the skill of personal injury to resolve. A lawyer can work on your behalf to compile the evidence needed and craft a legal theory to overcome the other party's objections that lives up to the standards required to succeed in court.
Is the other party arguing that you contributed to your injury?
While the other party may admit to being involved in causing your injury, they may try to minimize their financial obligations by arguing that you also played a role. Legally speaking, this is known as comparative negligence, which is a principle used in court cases to reduce payment for damages. If successfully argued, the other party may only be responsible for a percentage of the damages. For example, if you're found to be 30% responsible for the accident, and the other side is 70% responsible, whatever judgment you received would be reduced by 30% rather than the initial total amount.
Where you live matters, as each state follows its own rules concerning comparative negligence, here is an explanation:
Pure comparative negligence - In states that follow the pure comparative negligence rule, even if you are 99% at fault for your injuries, you can still make a claim for 1% of damages against a party that shared some blame. The following states use pure comparative negligence:
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
Modified comparative negligence - In states that follow this rule, you could be barred from recovering compensation if you're found to be 50% or 51% responsible for your own injuries (depending on the state.) For example, under the 50% rule, you cannot recover damages if a jury finds your 50% or more at fault. Under the 51% rule, you aren't allowed to recover damages if you're found to be 51% or more at fault. The following states follow the modified comparative negligence rule:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Contributory negligence - A few states bar individuals from compensation recovery if they bear any responsibility for their injuries, even as little as 1%. These states are:
- North Carolina
As you may have come to realize, if the party responsible for your injuries is arguing that you share in the blame, it can be crucial to have a knowledgeable expert on your side to dispute their argument and minimize your culpability. It can make all the difference.
Is there more than one party involved in the accident?
When you're wondering when to call a personal injury lawyer, the involvement of more than one party in your accident is a valid reason. Frequently issues like product liability, medical malpractice, and multi-vehicle accidents will involve more than one other party besides yourself. Here are some examples of different parties that could be involved using the cases just mentioned.
Product liability - In a product liability claim, everyone involved in the product's design, manufacturing, distribution, resale, and advertising could play a role in negligence.
Medical malpractice - In a medical malpractice claim, the liable parties could include the doctor, hospital, administrative staff, the medical team that assisted, and even your medical insurance provider.
Multi-vehicle accident - If you were hurt in a motor vehicle accident that involved more than one party, there might be multiple insurance claims to pursue. Likewise, if one of the drivers was performing their job in a commercial capacity, like driving a commercial load in an 18-wheeler, their employer, the trucking company, and whoever loads the cargo could be part of the claim. Additionally, if a faulty vehicle part had something to do with the accident, the vehicle or part manufacturer may be included in the parties in which to pursue a claim.
It's not always apparent how many parties may be involved and who should be held accountable. A personal injury lawyer can help to sort it out and protect you. Furthermore, multiple parties can mean a higher settlement amount. However, it takes someone who is knowledgeable in these matters to ensure you get the maximum from each responsible participant.
Did the accident cause a traumatic injury or result in permanent disability?
Severe injuries frequently require ongoing care, which isn't a common factor in many cases. Accounting for future expenses is crucial for victims of traumatic or disabling injuries. For example, you may need a series of reconstructive surgeries for a traumatic injury which can be very costly. A personal injury lawyer can ensure that your future care expenses are covered in your compensation. Likewise, a disabling injury can impact your ability to work and provide for your family. When you have experienced legal representation like the personal injury lawyers at Morgan and Morgan provide, you can be assured that all possible future expenses and losses will be examined and included in your claim.
Because these costs can easily escalate into millions of dollars over the course of years, insurance companies fight vigorously to underplay the value of your damages to minimize their losses. It pays to have an aggressive and battle-inclined advocate to fight for your rights. Morgan and Morgan can provide you with the qualified assistance you'll need.
Is an insurance company acting in bad faith?
While strict laws govern how insurance companies conduct business, that doesn't stop some unethical companies from using unlawful tactics to avoid paying out on insurance claims. Still, it's essential to understand that while the insurance claim process can be frustrating, it doesn't automatically qualify as acting in bad faith. Here are some legitimate red flags to look for:
- The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit is approaching, and your claim still hasn't been resolved
- The company failed to investigate your claim
- The company refuses to pay for a valid claim
- They've presented false statements alleging contributory negligence
- The terms of the insurance policy have been misrepresented
- They've intentionally misled you concerning your rights
- The company has denied your claim and won't give a reason
- The company won't return your calls, emails, and other forms of communication
Suppose you feel an insurance company is engaging in bad faith practices. In that case, it's important to document everything you can and understand when to call a personal injury lawyer. You're far less likely to encounter issues like the ones described above when you have an attorney looking out for your interests.
Does your issue involve the city, state, or federal entities?
The procedures and processes are substantially more complicated when a government entity has personally injured you. In some instances, the government is protected against liability for damages. However, that doesn't mean you're barred unilaterally. For example, victims of public transportation, like bus, train, or subway accidents, are generally allowed to seek compensation. Still, the statute of limitations for claims against government entities is significantly shorter than ordinary civil claims, so we recommend you contact us immediately following an accident that involves any of these bodies.
What Are Other Considerations for When to Call a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Whenever you make a claim, especially for a sizable amount, the other party will have a dedicated team of lawyers that will fight to avoid paying you. This is true even of your own insurance company if you're making a claim for an uninsured motorist, for example. They'll likewise have access to extensive resources to help them, such as investigators and expert witnesses whose goal is to undermine the legitimacy of your claim.
We believe everyone who is the victim of someone else's negligence should have access to the same resources and legal know-how as insurance giants. Morgan and Morgan Law Firm have grown to be one of the most influential law firms in the country, yet it still fights for regular people like yourself. You deserve a fair chance at reasonable compensation for your injury. It doesn't matter what area your legal case involves. We handle all manner of issues like wage theft, fraudulent contracts, defamation, boating accidents, and personal injury cases that are more commonplace, like car accidents. Morgan and Morgan are here to help with experts specializing in specific personal injury law areas. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.