Suffering an accident is often life-changing, causing both physical and emotional scars. While dealing with your mental and physical health, there’s the added need to find a personal injury attorney to represent your interests in your personal injury claim. This is a list of what you need to know before you hire a personal injury attorney to make the process less daunting.
What Is Personal Injury?
Personal injury is a legal term for an injury to the body or mind, so a personal injury claim is generally brought when a person suffers actual bodily or emotional harm caused by another party’s negligence, recklessness, or maliciousness.
Examples of personal injury claims include injuries from car accidents, defective products, slip and fall accidents, animal bites, medical malpractice, defamation, and many more.
To successfully claim against a party in a personal injury suit, your case must fulfill the following elements:
- That the party owed you a duty of care. For example, every manufacturer owes its consumers that their product is fit for its intended use.
- That the party breached the duty of care.
- That the breach caused your injury.
- That you suffered economic or non-economic damage as a result.
You’re More Likely To Win If You Hire An Attorney
Some people prefer to represent themselves in an injury claim, and while this is well within your rights, you’re more likely to win your compensation if you’re represented by an attorney.
Research has shown that the average personal injury claimant gets a settlement 3 times larger with professional legal assistance than without it. There are different reasons for this. First, a personal injury lawyer will know better all the damages you’re entitled to and will point out those that may seem minor but are not. For example, a claim without damages for emotional distress is incomplete because you’re entitled to that.
Further, you’ll likely be claiming against an insurance company, and they will have more than one attorney fighting to reduce your monetary claim. Having your own attorney means you’ll have someone with the knowledge and experience to go toe to toe with insurance lawyers to defend you.
Find Out Their Area Of Expertise
Personal injury law is a diverse practice area with everything from medical malpractice to animal bites. Some of these areas require specialized knowledge gained from handling similar cases.
Knowing the attorney’s area of expertise will let you know if they’ve handled cases similar to yours and won. Experience in handling a case like yours means they’ll know how to deal with issues that arise, legal or otherwise, thus increasing the chances of a win.
Contingency Fee Agreement
Contingency fee agreements work by agreeing that the lawyer deducts legal fees straight from your award.
This is commonly how personal injury attorneys preferred to be paid. A phrase they like to use is “no fee if no recovery”. The going rate is estimated at 30% of the total award.
This all depends on the lawyer, of course. The agreement may be that the lawyer gets 30% for an out-of-court settlement, or 40% if the case goes to trial and judgment is in your favor. You must discuss fees before officially hiring the attorney. Remember to get the financial agreement in writing.
Most Personal Injury Claims Don’t Go To Trial
The majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court. Thus, you need a lawyer who is both a skilled negotiator and a cutthroat trial lawyer. You need an attorney who is equipped to handle both eventualities.
The settlement process typically involves filing the appropriate paperwork, after which the injured party’s attorney enters negotiations with an insurance carrier to settle on a figure. If both parties can agree on the figure, the settlement agreement is drafted, often with a provision from the at-fault party precluding the injured party from pursuing the matter further in any capacity. Going to trial happens when negotiations break down and fail.
Time Is Of The Essence
Legal claims have strict time limits known as statutes of limitations after which there’s a great likelihood that you’ll be barred from pursuing your claim. Waiting too long to hire an attorney to go after your claim for damages could very well mean getting nothing and having to pay all those hospital bills with your hard-earned money.
Time runs from the date of injury. While there are exceptions, generally you have two years to make your claim before you are barred forever.
Hiring an attorney to represent you in your personal injury claim is a serious decision that must be taken after careful considerations.