There is no federal or California state law stating that you must have an attorney in order to file a personal injury claim. However, unless you are a personal injury lawyer yourself, it is generally in your best interest to enlist one’s assistance. Many people think that they can’t afford an attorney without realizing that most personal injury firms operate on a contingency basis. There are of course, some situations where hiring an attorney is not necessary, such as when the injuries are very minor and do not require medical attention. Larger cases with more paperwork, various medical treatments, and harder negotiations are more likely to benefit from the help of an attorney. After an accident, it is a good idea to seek a consultation to determine if you will benefit from legal counsel.
Can You File a Personal Injury Claim Without a Lawyer?
It is possible to file a personal injury claim on your own, and people certainly do from time to time. Unfortunately, the legal process can be a complicated labyrinth of paperwork, forms, and deadlines. It can be very easy to make a simple mistake that costs you too much. A personal injury law firm can navigate these things every day and they can make the entire process much easier and more efficient.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
There are many ways in which a personal injury attorney can be beneficial to your case, such as:
- Helping you make informed decisions that are in your best interest
- Gathering all types of evidence to prove liability and severity of injuries
- Handling communications with the insurance companies
- Filing paperwork with the DMV
- Retrieving police reports and security footage
- Finding and referring medical professionals
- Determining the appropriate amount of fair compensation
- Negotiating with insurance companies
- Filing a lawsuit and going to court when needed
Common Reasons a Personal Injury Lawyer Is Needed
The legal world can be daunting for people who don’t already work inside of it. It is tiring, stressful, and time consuming. Having a personal injury lawyer allows you to use that energy for healing instead. There are many small and large ways that an attorney may be exactly what you need.
To Navigate the Personal Injury Claims Process
The legal process is a complex and intricate machine that requires things to be done a certain way in a certain order within certain time frames. The smallest mistake has the potential to throw everything off. In personal injury claims, there are many moving parts that are separate but connected such as:
- Different kinds of insurance claims
- DMV forms
- Gathering evidence
- Incident reports
- Property damage estimates and repairs
- Medical tests, treatments, and records
- Letters and notifications
- Witness statements
- Depositions and mediations
- Court documents
An accident attorney can guide you through and help you understand how everything works. They will make sure everything that needs to be done is taken care of correctly and at the right time.
To Help Negotiate a Better Settlement
Studies have shown that people who hire an attorney have considerably higher chances of receiving much larger settlements than people who do not. This is especially true for more complicated cases. More often than not, personal injury claims are settled out of court by negotiating with the other party’s insurance company. Attorneys have the professional knowledge and experience to understand how much a case is worth and what tactics work best in a negotiation.
To Be Ready to Deal with Insurance Companies’ Experts
In order to obtain the best settlement, it is vital to know exactly what that would be. Insurance adjusters tend to underestimate the damages incurred by an accident and will offer what they think is reasonable compensation. Having a lawyer gives you someone who can counter those estimates with proof of the real value of your claim and will fight to get you a fair settlement.
To Ensure You Receive the Proper Medical Care
Personal injury attorneys work with medical providers to get you treatment on a lien basis. This means that you pay the medical bills out of the settlement at the end instead of an out-of-pocket expense at the time of the appointment. Your attorney can ensure that you are seeing the best providers for your injuries as well as negotiate for lower costs. This also has the benefit of your doctor being willing and able to serve as an expert witness if need be.
To Receive the Proper Support When Dealing with a Personal Injury Claim
Dealing with a personal injury claim can be daunting and intimidating for anyone. Hiring a law firm means that you have people on your side to help you through the process every step of the way. They can explain the ins and outs of your situation and go over your options to make sure that you have all of the information you need to make the decisions that are best for you. They can also assist you in finding support such as mental health care.
To Ensure a Speedy Personal Injury Claim Process
Regardless of the type of accident that caused your personal injury, there are likely to be many things that need to be taken care of, each with their own obstacles. Handling all of that alone can make the entire process drag on far longer than it should. With legal professionals handling most of the work, that time is reduced exponentially, getting you closer to receiving compensation and moving on with your life.
To Be Ready to Go to Trial
Most of the time, attorneys and insurance companies alike will agree that they would rather settle out of court than go to trial. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Sometimes, there is no choice but to take the matter to trial. You are legally allowed to represent yourself in court, but it is rarely advisable. Some lawyers will not even represent themselves in matters that are outside of their area of expertise. Not only will having a personal injury lawyer help you inside the courtroom, but they can also help you prepare for trial beforehand.
Common Scenarios When You Should Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
There are many situations where it would be in your best interest to hire a lawyer. This may be due to various things such as the complex nature of the case or the risk of being taken advantage of by the insurance company. Just a few examples of those situations are listed here.
When Liability is Disputed
Much of the time, the defendant or their insurance company will argue that they were not liable for your injury. They may claim that:
- They did not owe you a duty of care
- They were not negligent
- Their negligence did not cause your accident
- The accident was not the cause of your injuries
In these kinds of situations, you will want to have someone on your side who knows the law and is willing and able to fight for you. A personal injury attorney can help you find ways to prove that the other party was liable for your injuries.
When You Are Being Blamed for Contributing to Your Own Injuries
Even if you are able to prove liability, the other party may claim that you were also partially liable. An attorney can help determine if the claim is true. If it is not, they can help defend you against it. If the claim is true, they can help determine and calculate the most accurate percentage of fault on your part. California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that you can still recover damages even if you share some of the blame for what happened, but the maximum amount of compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault you are responsible for.
When Multiple Parties are Involved
The more complex a case is, the more it makes sense to have an attorney on your side. In California, especially in larger cities like Los Angeles, it is not uncommon to see car accidents involving multiple vehicles. The more parties involved in a claim, the more there is to get in order, and the longer the process is going to take. Handling all of that alone while also trying to recuperate from injuries could be too much for anyone. It may be best to hire an experienced professional.
When Catastrophic or Long-Lasting Injuries Were Sustained
Cases that involve extremely severe injuries, especially those that cause temporary or permanent disability, are situations where it makes sense to have an attorney take over. Not only because of the increased complexity of treatments and costs, but also because of long term medical expenses that insurance companies tend to underestimate when making settlement offers. A personal injury attorney can help you find the best medical care and calculate an accurate monetary value of current and future economic and non-economic damages.
When You Are Uncertain of the Severity of Your Injuries
Immediately after an accident, it can be common for people to not realize they have been injured, or not realize the extent of their injuries. This is due to many things such as shock, adrenaline, and injuries that worsen over time in both pain and damage. This is why it is important to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention, as well as speak to a lawyer before agreeing to any settlement offers from the other party. Your injury might require more treatment than you realize, result in more lost wages than you expected, and have a higher level of emotional distress, pain, and suffering.
When Insurance is Acting in Bad Faith
Unfortunately, insurance companies do not always act in ways that are fair and reasonable. They may take action to deliberately pay you less than they should or get out of paying you at all. Some examples of this may include:
- Not investigating a claim properly
- Stalling or prolonging the process
- Trying to shift blame onto you
- Pressuring you to take a small settlement immediately
- Misrepresenting the law, their policies, and your rights
- Denying a legitimate claim
- Severely underestimating the cost of damages
Personal injury attorneys are experienced with these methods and have ways to defend against them.
When You Don’t Know the Value of Your Personal Injury Claim
You may not be sure what the total cost of your damages would be. It may be unclear how much medical treatment you will need, how your ability to work and do daily tasks will be impacted, or what negative effect the ordeal will have on your mental health. This is something that a personal injury lawyer can help sort through and figure out.
When the Personal Injury Claim Is Too Complicated to Navigate
While many personal injury cases might be simple and straightforward, there are just as many that are complex and intricate. Things like auto accident pileups can introduce a number of variables such as multiple parties, business entities, and government agencies. There may be different kinds of claims all involved in one accident such as product liability, wrongful death, and worker’s compensation. Things like liability can become vague and complicated. It may be best in these situations to let your attorney navigate everything and make sure things are done correctly.
When the Claim Involves the Government
Claims against the government are different from claims against private citizens and companies. The statute of limitations is much shorter, generally six months from the date of injury. It is also more difficult to hold government agencies accountable for liability. If your personal injury claim is against any kind of government agency or entity, it is important to speak to a lawyer right away.
When You Might Not Need a Personal Injury Lawyer
Small accidents happen every day. Sometimes they are simple and only require minimal legal action if any that is easy to deal with on your own. It is important to know when you should speak to an attorney and when you may not need to.
When Injuries are Minor and Don’t Require Medical Care
Being injured due to someone else’s negligence is never fair, and you have a right to hold the person in question responsible. However, many accidents result in minor injuries that require no medical treatment or a single visit to urgent care for a tetanus shot and a bandage. Insurance claims for these situations are easy enough to navigate alone or with the help of a few minutes of research.
Only Property Damage was Sustained
Personal injury lawsuits require the existence of an injury. In cities like Los Angeles that sometimes seem to have more cars than people, it is very common for those cars to become damaged without harming their owners. Property damage claims are often very straightforward and better sorted out with the insurance companies directly.
You Were Responsible for Your Own Injuries
There are many situations where someone is owed a duty of care, but their own actions prevent the other person from being able to fulfill that duty. For example:
- A pedestrian running across a busy freeway
- A driver disobeying the rules of the road
- A patient who lies to their doctor about substance use
- A patient who does not follow post-op instructions
- Someone petting an aggressive dog after being told to stay away
- Someone running down an escalator wearing flip flops
- Someone trespassing in a clearly marked dangerous area
- A person handling a product incorrectly and against printed warnings
In these situations, it is unlikely the other party would be held liable for the person’s injuries.
You’re Already Receiving the Maximum Amount Available
Insurance policies have limits. This means that you cannot recover more than that from the insurance company. It is possible to be awarded more than that for your claim, but any amount over the policy limit would be the personal responsibility of the defendant. If a claim is worth much more than the policy limit and the defendant is wealthy enough to pay for it, then it may be worth pursuing. Otherwise, it is likely in your best interest to accept a maximum limit settlement amount.
Contact Mesriani Law If You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer
There are many different types of situations that may result in you being injured due to someone else’s negligence. Navigating these situations can be daunting and add stress to a time when your energy should be going towards healing. A personal injury attorney can take most of the work and the stress involved and help you move forward as easily as possible. Our firm is dedicated to taking care of our clients and working towards the best possible outcome. If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, call Mesriani Law Group today for a free consultation.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer FAQs
Do I need a lawyer for a car accident in California?
If you have been in an accident involving a motor vehicle, there are two important questions you can ask yourself to determine if you should speak to a personal injury lawyer:
• Was the other driver at fault?
• Was I injured?
If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then it may be best to at least call a personal injury law firm and give them the information to get the attorney’s opinion.
What kind of cases do personal injury lawyers handle?
‘Personal Injury’ is a very broad term that encompasses many different categories that have their own types and variables, including but not limited to:
• Motor Vehicle Accidents
• Premise Liability
• Animal Attacks
• Medical Malpractice
• Product Liability
• Wrongful Death
Attorneys are like doctors. They have their own specialties and areas of focus and practice. Saying someone is a personal injury lawyer is like saying someone is a surgeon. If you have stomach cancer, a brain surgeon is not going to be able to help you. However, they might know a general surgeon. That general surgeon might not handle oncology, but they will likely know one who does. Similarly, a personal injury attorney may not be able to handle your specific case, but they may be able to refer you to a colleague at another firm.
What percentage do most personal injury lawyers take?
The majority of personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means that their fees and expenses come out of the final settlement or award they win for you. This is generally a base percentage that will increase if the case has to go to court. The average contingency fee percentage is around 35% and can go up to 55% for litigation. The higher percentage is because of the much higher amount of expenses, labor, and time that goes into taking a case to litigation. This is one of the main reasons why most lawyers prefer to settle cases out of court.