In my last article I discussed appropriate steps to take after a person has been injured in a motor vehicle accident. The steps that needed to be taken apply to a personal injury accident and a wrongful death accident. In this article, I will discuss the considerations when deciding whether to hire an attorney or whether to try to settle a case by yourself.
I often get calls from people who have been injured in accidents and wonder whether they should hire an attorney or whether they should settle the case with the insurance company by themselves. There is no "blanket" answer for this question that is always correct. This issue is an important one and should be answered on a case-by-case basis. I will provide some issues for you to consider:
If the injury is a serious one, an experienced attorney can negotiate better than a lay person because the attorney has resolved hundreds of serious injury cases and has a good idea as to value.
Will the injury last for 1-2 months, or is this a long-lasting injury? If the injury will last for 1-2 months—for example, a bruise or a minor injury—then an attorney may not be able to negotiate a higher settlement than a lay person might be able to negotiate. Furthermore, the attorney will have to get paid for his or her time, and that takes money away from the injured person.
As a general rule, and there are exceptions, if an injury lasts 6 months or longer, if the injury causes 1-2 months off work, and if the medical bills are thousands of dollars; then this is a case in which a consultation with an attorney is necessary. Most capable personal injury or wrongful death lawyers give free consultations; therefore, the injured person has nothing to lose by discussing their case with an attorney.
In my opinion, most wrongful death cases require an attorney's review. Experienced wrongful death lawyers have resolved hundreds of death cases in their careers. They also have tried dozens of wrongful death cases in their careers. This background gives them experience to determine the value of the wrongful death case given the person's medical bills, funeral expenses, and income loss. As I said earlier, most wrongful death lawyers give free consultations. For example, if a family calls me because a family member has been killed in an accident, I will meet with them and discuss whether I can help them or whether it would be better for them to represent themselves. Usually, wrongful death cases are so complex that a wrongful death attorney is often needed by the grieving family.