If you or a loved one have received severe injuries in a personal injury accident such as a slip and fall, a botched surgery, or other similar incident, you will soon find yourself faced with a myriad of decisions. Where should you go for emergency treatment? Who is qualified to handle your follow-up care and treatment? When should you return to work? What steps should you take to provide for your family and loved ones while you recover? These are all critical questions that you will have to consider and resolve, but there is a more fundamental question you should also ask: Will you need the services of a professional personal injury lawyer?
This question is more difficult than it might appear at first blush. Retaining the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer comes with specific benefits and drawbacks, not the least of which is the anticipated cost involved in hiring such a professional.
Is It Time for You to Seek Legal Counsel?
There is nothing that compels or requires you to seek legal counsel or hire an attorney to assist you with your injury case. It is theoretically possible and permissible for you to decide to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation and to act as your own attorney – and succeed. In order to determine whether you are ready and willing to represent yourself, you should ask yourself the following questions:
(1) Am I willing to put extra time into studying the applicable law? When you choose to act as your own attorney, the court will indeed treat you as your own lawyer. This means you will be expected to know the relevant laws – the statutes, the regulations, and the case law – that apply to your case. Neither the court nor any court personnel will be able to inform you of recent developments in the law or whether you are correctly applying the law and meeting your obligations. This involves an incredible investment of time and energy: if you are not willing to make such an investment, then you may wish to consider hiring an attorney.
(2) Must I retain control of all decisions about my case? When you hire an attorney, that lawyer will make some decisions about your case such as the witnesses that are needed, the experts that should be retained, and how best to present your claims and allegations. Unfortunately, this is where some fights develop, and communication deteriorates between attorneys and their clients. If you are not willing to trust your attorney to make some decisions about your case in order to keep your case moving, then you may wish to consider whether retaining an attorney will be the best decision for you.
(3) Am I comfortable sacrificing some of my monetary damages award in order to increase my chances of recovering an award in the first place? Do not be deceived: hiring an attorney to help you with your personal injury case is not a 100 percent guarantee that your claim will succeed. Nonetheless, statistically speaking those personal injury victims who have legal representation tend to fare better, and their claims are more likely to result in a damages award for them through trial or settlement. The trade-off for this increased chance at a financial recovery of damages is that the attorney will likely claim a portion or percentage of any recovery as his or her fee. In other words, if you represent yourself you may (for example) be entitled to receive $100,000 in damages; however, if you are represented by an attorney, you may only recover $75,000, and the remaining $25,000 will go to the attorney to compensate him or her for his or her fees. Only you can decide whether this trade-off makes hiring an attorney a worthwhile decision for you.
(4) Do I have the resources to investigate and prepare my claim? Your personal injury case will not succeed if you do not have the witnesses, reports, photographs, expert opinions, and other evidence necessary to back up your allegations. Tools and methods are available for compelling witnesses to attend court hearings and testify as well as to direct those in possession of evidence to preserve and produce such evidence for you. Do you know about these tools and methods and, equally as important, do you know how to employ them? Like learning the underlying law applicable to your case, learning how to use preservation orders and subpoenas takes time – something you may not have much of in the wake of a personal injury accident. Therefore, you may want to consider engaging a personal injury attorney who has experience in gathering and presenting evidence if this task seems too intimidating for you.
(5) Can I trust an attorney to look out for my best interests? You may be someone who is slow to trust others, especially when it comes to protecting and advancing essential rights you have such as the right to receive compensation for your injuries. Individuals such as this who hire attorneys may find it difficult to believe their attorneys have their best interests at heart and want their claims to succeed. As a result, these injury victims will second-guess advice and decisions by their attorneys and will (in many cases) unwittingly sabotage their personal injury cases. This results in even greater frustration and anger for the injury victim. If trusting others is difficult for you, you may have to find ways to manage your disposition to not trust others in order to work effectively with an attorney.
The Benefits of a Personal Injury Attorney Outweigh the Drawbacks
Objectively speaking, the increased chance of recovering compensation and the ability to entrust complicated legal research and tasks to those familiar with them outweigh the potential drawbacks of having part of your damages award go to your attorney’s fees and having to allow your attorney the freedom to make some decisions about your case.
Call Parker Waichman LLP at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) and let us show you how our assistance and advice can make a positive difference in your personal injury case.
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