Knowing when to see a personal injury lawyer could influence the course of your claim. Understandably, given that such injuries usually happen unexpectedly, it is not common to have a personal injury lawyer's number on speed dial. So if you are wondering “When should I see a personal injury lawyer?” — we'll cover everything you need to know.
Generally, it is always advisable to contact a personal injury lawyer right after an injury or recovery. However, some victims of personal injury choose to delay hiring an attorney, especially if they have reason to believe that the insurance company will approve the claim and compensate them for the injury. This works sometimes but not all the time.
Insurance companies are difficult to deal with. They will employ different tactics to frustrate the plaintiff in their pursuit of compensation for the injuries caused by their negligent insured. So even if you believe that the delay in approving compensation is normal, it is not uncommon to discover that the insurance company will not approve your claim, citing different reasons.
For example, they may send their claims adjusters to investigate the claim. Remember, claims adjusters serve the insurance company's interests and will always try to find a way to dismiss your claim. And, in cases where their client is clearly responsible for the injury, claims adjusters will still find a way to reduce the settlement amount, helping the insurance company save money in the process.
Even if the claims adjusters manage to convince you or the court that the injury occurred partly due to your fault, it could mean that they will only take care of part of the settlement. In some states, the comparative fault law applies. So, for example, when it has been established that you are 40 percent to blame for the injury, the insurance company will only settle 60 percent of the claim.
And that is not the only frustrating thing about dealing with insurance companies. Assuming they decide to settle only 60 percent of the claim, chances are they will still come up with a lowball offer and then only pay 60 percent of the total amount.
So if your claim was originally worth $1,000,000, the insurance company might cite various issues and slash it down to $400,000. Out of the $400,000, they will only pay 60 percent they are responsible for based on their client's negligence, which amounts to $240,000.
Bear in mind that your claim could be worth millions. But, because you do not have an attorney fighting for your rights, insurance companies will take advantage of the assumption that you are not familiar with personal injury laws.
Speaking of personal injury attorneys, you also need to remember that insurance companies will always have attorneys on standby when there is a dispute regarding a claim. These companies make millions of dollars every year and have access to some of the best attorneys in the country.
The bottom line is, it is never a good idea to deal with insurance companies without an attorney, especially under the circumstances discussed below.
When Your Injury Requires Medical Attention
Let's face it; medical treatment in the United States is not cheap. Even if you have health insurance, it may not cover some treatments. This can be frustrating, especially if you need urgent medical attention following an injury caused by someone else's negligence. And given that insurance companies may intentionally delay your claim to frustrate you and hopefully force you to accept a lowball offer, you may end up spending money from your own pocket to settle your medical bills.
A personal injury attorney can help you recover all the monies spent on medical treatment and other expenses resulting from the injury. For instance, you can be compensated for transportation costs to and from the medical facility, including counseling and therapy sessions, etc.
However, to prove such expenses, you will need to keep a receipt every time you spend money out of your own pocket to cover an expense arising from the injury. An attorney will then use these receipts and a host of other types of evidence to file a claim with the insurance company.
The same also applies when you visit a doctor to treat the injuries suffered. It is always advisable to keep copies of receipts and doctors reports. An experienced attorney will review this paperwork and calculate the amount of compensation you deserve. With such undeniable facts and the presence of an attorney by your side, insurance companies will most likely settle the requested amount.
And if they refuse to, an attorney can take the issue to court, which could also potentially increase the settlement amount you are entitled to. This is because court cases are expensive, and if the defendant is proven to be responsible for your compensation, they will have to settle some or even all of the expenses involved in taking the claim to court.
When the Insurance Company Disputes Your Claim
This is very typical of insurance companies, especially when they realize you do not have an attorney. Even if they know their client is responsible for your injury, they will do everything they can to dismiss or even dispute your claim. And, sometimes, given that victims of personal injury are usually in need of money to settle expenses deriving from the injury, they may be forced to accept a low settlement offer just to pay their bills.
Here's an example:
You slip and fall at a grocery store and hurt your back. As a result of constant back pain, you cannot continue fulfilling your duties and responsibility at your workplace. You take a break from work to seek medical attention, and your doctor recommends surgery, which could take weeks or even months to recover.
This means that you may not have money to pay for the surgery, and even if you have paid medical leave, most employers will only cover a certain number of hours. At the same time, just because you are injured or undergoing surgery does not mean that your landlord will let you live at his property rent-free until you recover, or the bank will let you drive your car for months without making payments.
That is where a personal injury attorney comes in to help evaluate your injury and calculate the amount you are entitled to as compensation. While most people only know about medical expenses, the list of damages you may be entitled to is broad. For example, an experienced car accident attorney can help you recover damages such as:
- Medical bills: This includes the medical costs deriving from the accident. It could also include the cost of purchasing medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, or anything in between.
- Loss of earning capacity: This settles part if not all of the money you would have earned in the absence of the injury. So, for example, you had a monthly salary of $4,000, and you cannot go to work as you recover from the injury as per the doctor's instructions. A personal injury attorney can help recover your current and future lost wages.
- Pain and suffering: Personal injury lawyers consider several factors when calculating the compensation for pain and suffering. For example, they may calculate the amount by multiplying your medical bills by a certain number, usually between 1 and 5, depending on the nature of your injury.
- Loss of consortium: This covers lifestyle changes, such as deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship, including sexual relations.
- Household expenses: You may be compensated for household expenses linked to the injury.
The damages for personal injury vary depending on the severity of the injury. For instance, funeral and burial expenses may be included in the list of damages eligible for compensation when filing a claim on behalf of a dead victim of the injury.
When the Insurance Company Refuses to Negotiate
Some insurance companies may offer a particular settlement amount and refuse to negotiate for various reasons. This is usually a take-it-or-leave-it situation, meaning the victim is basically at the mercy of the insurance company.
The sad truth is some companies do this because they know you do not have an attorney representing you. For this reason, they assume you do not know the exact value of your case and that you are desperately in need of money.
This also happens when you provide the insurance company with too much information about you, including your salary. Such companies will use this information to draft an estimate of what they believe is 'sufficient' for you in terms of compensation. They will bank on the assumption that your desperate need for money to settle your bills arising from the injury will drive you to accept a lowball offer without negotiation.
However, insurance companies will have limited options to deny what you are entitled to when you have an attorney. This is because such attorneys are familiar with personal injury laws and will factor in everything when calculating the final amount you are entitled to as compensation. And if the insurance company still refuses to negotiate, they may proceed to file a lawsuit in court, which could potentially increase the settlement amount.
For example, Morgan & Morgan personal injury attorneys have a solid record of winning lawsuits worth up to 20 times more than the initial offer!
When the Insurance Company Delays Payment for Your Injury
Suppose you accepted payment from the insurance company without an attorney. In that case, you expect the insurance company to honor their part of the deal by delivering the payment to you.
The delay can be disappointing, especially if you have bills piling up due to the injury. However, having an attorney can help pile more pressure on insurance companies to release the payment. And this could also mean getting compensation for expenses incurred due to the delayed payment, especially if the delay is unreasonable.
When Your Claim Is Time Barred
It may take years to experience some effects of an injury caused by a negligent party. For example, it could take up to years to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after an accident, but that does not mean you are not eligible for compensation.
Each state in the US has its own deadline for filing personal injury claims. So if the deadline for your claim has expired or you are unsure whether it is still valid, it is always advisable to contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your options. This article can navigate the complex personal injury laws and determine whether you can still file a claim with the insurance company.
When You Need an Accident Investigated
Sometimes part of the reason an insurance company may reject or dispute your claim is that there is insufficient evidence to prove that their client was at fault for the injury. But this does not necessarily mean that their insured is free from blame; an experienced personal injury attorney can help investigate the accident and determine the cause of the injury and to what extent.
Many victims of personal injuries cannot conduct their own independent investigations because they lack enough resources. Such investigations are usually expensive - they involve interviewing witnesses, accessing surveillance footage, traveling, and so forth.
Insurance companies know that you may not conduct your own independent investigation without an attorney. They will bank on this assumption to dispute the claim or offer to settle it for less than what you deserve.
How Morgan & Morgan Can Help
Even though you need a personal injury lawyer to fight for your rights when you come up against an insurance company, not every personal injury attorney out there suits your case. You need an attorney with experience and more than enough resources to withstand the different tactics insurance companies use to dodge their financial responsibility for their client's negligence.
Morgan & Morgan is the best and largest personal injury law firm in the United States to contact whenever you need such an attorney. Our law firm consists of over 800 injury attorneys specializing in different aspects of personal injury. From car accidents, slip and falls, premises liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death, you name it!
Call us today at 877 582 9041 for a free, no-obligation case evaluation!