A personal injury attorney's first responsibility is to do as much investigation and research about the case as possible and get as much information as he can. The attorney will need to get information about your injury, including how you were injured, your medical bills, the level of handicap you suffer as a result of your injury and how your injury affects your present and future earning capacity. This is essentially the gathering of information to maximize the amount of money that you can ask as compensation in your case. Personal injury attorneys are good people working hard to do a good job helping people in their time of need.
The attorney also photographs the scene of the accident, locates and interviews witnesses, reviews insurance policies, reviews medical records, negotiates settlements or files a lawsuit and litigates the case till it is closed. The right to justice and being made whole again after suffering the financial and physical hardships of an injury should be available to anyone and everyone regardless of your income or ability to pay for an attorney. Because of this, the practice of personal injury developed a contingency fee for attorneys’ fee whereby you don’t pay anything at all out of pocket to hire your attorney.
Why use an Attorney?
A legal case can quickly become too technical or complex for a layman to handle by him or herself. You will need an attorney because an attorney is familiar with the court and how the legal system works. For example, you may not even know how much money you are entitled to in a personal injury case, whereas an attorney will be able to tell you the maximum amount you can ask for as compensation. There are many pitfalls along the way that an experienced attorney can help a client avoid. Even a simple claim can be easily messed up to your detriment if not handled by the appropriate individual who has experience. There are issues of timeliness of filing, Med-pay, property damage, lost wages, medical bills, underinsured and uninsured coverage, and a whole host of other legal and factual issues that there is no reason you should know about, but that an attorney is trained to pay attention to, and to know when and what in your case is relevant and important.
In case the defendants insurance company is refusing to come to a fair settlement because they are arguing with Denial of Liability or Denial of Coverage, you will need to hire a lawyer because he or she will be able to get you a much larger amount of money that will be worth the lawyer and his or her fees. Even if the truth is on your side, the other side can spin evidence to make it look like you are partially at fault. Or that the insured is not at fault at all. Or the insurance company can try to make it look like you weren't even injured or weren’t injured as badly as you say you were. Things can become a lot more challenging than you might expect and that's another reason that you need an attorney to fight for you.
Sometimes a legal claim comes to depend on a specific legal rule; in these cases it is best to hire a lawyer and to consult him often.
Which Cases can you handle without an Attorney?
There are some personal injury cases in which hiring an attorney brings no significant benefit. The first example of such cases is if you received minor injuries while living in a No-Fault State. According to No-Fault rules, you are not allowed to sue until your injuries rise to a certain level of seriousness. However, you can hire a lawyer in case your minor injuries turn out to have serious consequences later on.
If you are already receiving the maximum amount of money the defendant's insurance policy covers, then there is no real point in hiring an attorney. This means if the defendant who injured you has a $100,000 maximum insurance policy and you've been offered a $100,000 settlement, getting a larger verdict will not be of any use to you.
Cost of a Personal Injury Lawyer
A lot of people who are injured don't have the means to hire an attorney and it would be terribly unfair if only people of means could afford to hire an attorney when they got injured. That's why the contingency fee basis was set up. It's the standard for anyone who practices personal injury cases to do it on a contingency fee basis; probably nationwide. There's not a fee for the attorney's time and whether your case takes 2 hours, 20 hours or 200 hours of the attorney’s time, your fee is based on a percentage of the end result. This way you and your attorney are truly working on the same team towards the same end goals. There is also no fee for a consultation, even if you decide not to hire the attorney.
Getting the medical bills negotiated down is part of the attorney's job in some cases. In most cases, an injury attorney is going to be able to get you a better settlement. Anyone who does personal injury work is going to represent their clients on a contingency fee basis. Contingency fee basis means that you are not going to pay the attorney anything until your case is settled to your satisfaction or until your case is tried through a jury. At that point, the attorney's fee is based on how good the settlement is. It's a percentage of the settlement, typically one-third, though there are times when that percentage is less or more. Under a contingency fee arrangement, the attorney is not charging you by the phone call or by the hour or for a particular job.
There will only be a fee if you are able to obtain a settlement that you're satisfied with. Under that circumstance, you will not write a check to the attorney for anything. That's because, out of the settlement, the attorney will pay any medical bills that are outstanding that you want them to pay after negotiating them down (or that have to be paid in the event bills are liens on the case, the attorney will pay the attorneys’ fee and costs out of the settlement check, and you will get your money out of the settlement check, so there is no circumstance in which you have to come out of pocket to pay your attorney.