If You Were Injured in an Accident: The Sacajawea of the Law
You were seriously hurt in an accident. You are about to embark on a journey of recovery – physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. In addition to your medical treatment, this journey may take you through the insurance claims process and possibly the court system. These can be treacherous waters.
You face a decision – do I hire an attorney to deal with the insurance company, or go it alone?
You’re hurt the same whether you hire an attorney to represent you or you don’t. A legitimate claim for compensation should have equal value regardless, right? So why bother hiring and paying for an attorney? Experience, insight and strategy – and the earlier you hire one, the better.
If the insurance claims process was simple and transparent, you probably wouldn’t need to hire an attorney. But it isn’t, and neither is the court system.
The insurance companies and the courts don’t readily forgive people for mistakes or omissions. For a variety of reasons, an insurance company pays the injured as little as it can to settle or otherwise get rid of claims. Similarly, courts must clear their dockets – and there are lots of rules to ensure they do so in an orderly manner, sometimes to the detriment of the very folks who need their help.
How do you ensure your case is given the care it deserves and stays on track? Hire an experienced personal injury attorney.
Why Should I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
A personal injury attorney is like a knowledgeable guide who can interpret the law and direct you to a fair settlement while simultaneously preparing your case for trial. Hiring a qualified attorney soon after you’re injured can make a huge difference in the value of your case.
The attorney understands the legal framework of “compensable fault”
- who is legally responsible for the wrongdoing
- what defenses are valid
- who are the proper parties to a lawsuit
- how to obtain insurance coverage
- what bars there are to your claims
- how to gather and present evidence to a court to prove your total damages.
In other words, how best to pack and plan for the many challenges you’ll encounter on the journey.
Because serious injury to any one person is a rare event, an injured person hasn’t otherwise had the misfortune to learn to navigate the system. When injured, he or she only gets one shot to do it right; mistakes can be disastrous to a legal case.
The insurance companies, on the other hand, have lots of attorneys.
The adjusters who process thousands of claims receive a tremendous amount of training on insurance policies that are written by expert attorneys. Needless to say, few of their policies or practices are designed to benefit the injured.
What to Expect From Your Attorney
From your very first client meeting, an attorney representing a personal injury victim will start preparing for the challenging journey on which you are about to embark. The attorney will instruct you on the law, give you advice about your options, file suit when and where it is to your advantage, point out and disarm the traps along the way – essentially clear a path for you to reach a fair resolution.
Communications with your attorney are privileged and confidential, which means they are protected from discovery by the other side. Your attorney should instruct you to maintain a confidential journal detailing the way that your job and day-to-day life have become more difficult; the importance of following through with all of your medical care and getting medical providers to thoroughly and accurately document your injuries, treatment, and recovery.
Your attorney will undertake many tasks on your behalf: they will investigate the accident, take depositions (of the defendants, the treating doctors and key witnesses), prepare for and defend your deposition and cross-examination at trial, hire the necessary expert witnesses – all to prove your case in a way that a judge, jury and the insurance company will find persuasive.
If the insurance company isn’t convinced that you can beat them at trial, you are unlikely to get a fair settlement offer before filing suit, at mediation, or at trial.
Your personal injury attorney’s success is tied to your success. You will work together as a team – and the attorney has the knowledge, incentive and ethical obligation to see that you do well.
The legal wilderness isn’t kind to the greenhorn. It is your claim, but the attorney can help guide you to your destination along the surest path – substantially increasing your likelihood of a positive outcome.
Okay, let’s assume you’ve accepted a fair financial settlement or been awarded an amount of money by a jury, your attorney will continue to work on your case even after you’ve arrived at your legal destination.
Since you’ve recovered money damages, your medical insurance company will then demand repayment of the money it spent on your medical treatment (known as a “subrogation lien”). Your attorney will then negotiate with that company to reduce your medical bills in order for you to keep as much of your recovery as possible.