Personal Injury

Why It's a Good Idea to Have a Personal Injury Lawyer

Reviewed By David Goguen, J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

Do you always need a lawyer if you're making a personal injury claim? What are the advantages to having a lawyer on your side? Read on to learn more.

You May Not Always Need a Personal Injury Lawyer

After a relatively minor accident, or in cases where there is insurance coverage and the at-fault party admits liability, you may not need to hire a personal injury attorney, especially if you are comfortable handling the matter on your own.

For example, after a car accident, if the claim is primarily one for property damage to your car, you can probably work out an arrangement with the other party’s insurance carrier. The same holds true if you have some minor injuries, such as soft tissue injuries like neck sprain, and you have a good medical outcome.

...But It's Almost Always a Good Idea to Hire One

With injury cases, things can get tricky pretty fast. You may not know what the other party's available liability insurance coverage is, and the adjuster may not reveal those limits. In some states, you cannot obtain this information without filing a lawsuit and making a formal request for it. The insurance coverage may not be enough to pay for your injuries and losses.

Or, your injuries may be of the type that is often questioned by insurance carriers. For example, car accident claims where there is little vehicle damage and "only" soft issue injuries are often vigorously contested by insurance adjusters. Note: Soft tissue injuries are difficult to "prove up" in an objective medical sense before a jury. The patient complains of pain but there are no broken bones on an x-ray and no torn ligaments that will show up on an imaging scan. A jury can be persuaded that the plaintiff’s complaints of neck or back pain are contrived to take advantage of the accident and “get something for nothing.” In these cases, which are by no means infrequent, it makes sense to get a personal injury attorney to make sure you get a fair resolution.

Beyond the routine cases that are hard to settle, a vast range of cases present complexities that are far beyond the abilities of a non-lawyer. For example, medical malpractice cases are extremely complex in terms of both evidence and procedure (many states require medical malpractice plaintiffs to jump through a number of special procedural hoops). The same goes for products liability cases, burn cases, seat belt cases, and virtually any case that requires expert opinion.

Many Attorneys Specialize in Specific Type of Accidents

Think of any area of personal injury, from trucking accidents to airplane disasters, and it's a safe bet that a number of attorneys in your area specialize in that field and know which experts to hire and how to optimize the outcome -- get the best settlement, or try the best case.

Aside from the issue of expertise, the very practical question of costs must be considered. Where the stakes are high, a plaintiff may need the services of accident reconstruction experts, forensic accountants, civil engineers or a whole host of other trained professionals in order to prove liability and establish damages. These services do not come cheap.

A personal injury firm that specializes in a particular field will know not only which experts to engage but also how to engage them on an economical basis, so far as possible. The firm will usually advance these costs for you, even if the outcome of the case is not clear. Most plaintiffs would be unable to find, much less afford, the services of the experts needed to prove up liability in a case and also make a convincing case for calculation of damages.

Reputation Can Go a Long Way

When you hire a good personal injury firm, you're also acquiring the advantage of that firm’s reputation when dealing with insurance adjusters. For example, if the firm regularly litigates personal injury claims, when your attorney raises the threat of litigation during settlement negotiations, there will be little chance of the other side seeing that as a mere bluff tactic.

Since most personal injury firms will provide a free consultation, there is little in the way of downside if you decide to sit down and discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.

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