Do you really need an attorney for your injury claim?
Lawyers get a bad rap because they appear when a person is at their worst and most vulnerable.
A personal injury lawyer attempts to help people recover compensation after they have been through accidents. This money is needed to pay for medical treatments or take the place of lost wages. And yeah, sometimes you just want some money after you’ve been hit by a car.
Every state has specific laws, and Florida is no exception. A lawyer in Florida will know every car accident law and how it pertains to your case. He or she will know the proper county and court in which to file; which counties will likely offer better jury awards; and how likely it is your case will go to trial.
What does a personal injury lawyer really do?
People make fun of attorneys, but they do that when they don’t understand something. A personal injury lawyer actually has many important duties, and if that court jester got hurt, he would really need an attorney.
These common functions include:
- Providing advice: An attorney can help a client through the legal system with finesse and style. One common piece of advice? Keep your mouth shut. Your lawyer will act as your mouthpiece.
- Explaining your rights: Your lawyer will explain how an accident affects your rights and how you actually have to pay for being hit. Different states have different laws, of course, depending on whether you’re in a no-fault or fault state, but you will still have to take action.
- Representing you in court: Your lawyer will stand in as your representative and speak for you in front of the judge, since he or she knows exactly what to say and what to reference. While the vast majority of cases are settled before even reaching court, it’s possible that the only way to recover a settlement will be a full civil trial. Litigation is complex and requires that one closely follow the proper rules and procedures of rules and evidence. This is best handled by a professional.
What Does a Personal Injury
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How else can my lawyer help me?
Lawyers have completed three years of intense, grueling and occasionally insane professional schooling. At times they even go on to specialize in something like taxation or immigration, generally for another two years. At the end of these tenures they are gray-haired and have deep lines on their faces; they are silent at parties and ravaged by the intense education they have endured. (The writer of this article is an attorney, and she’s joking. Mostly.)
So they have a wealth of education at their disposal. How else can they help?
- Professional investigations: Personal injury firms usually have their own investigators document the scene of an accident, interview witnesses and develop independent theories about how incidents occurred. These might be professional investigators or retired cops who are working new jobs.Outside experts such as accident reconstruction experts might be necessary if the cause of the accident is in dispute. Your attorney will have a dedicated roster of professionals he or she normally uses and will know who can best assist in the investigation.
- Better assesses damages: Accident victims usually think about the immediate aftermath of an accident. And with good reason! After all, they could be receiving harassing phone calls from bill collectors or making up funds from being off work. They might also be repairing their car to get it back on the road.However, the attorney who’s working the case can use a crystal ball and see into the future, identifying a more accurate estimate of the long-term effect of injuries, such as a loss of earning capacity if the accident left the victim disabled. He or she can also ask an economist or actuary for help in assessing that as well.
Damages worksheet to track expenses for your injury claim (medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, prescriptions)
Download in PDF format
- Connects with medical providers: A personal injury attorney might have a solid business relationship with a medical professional who may agree to provide medical services in favor of a lien on any future settlement. He may also have greater experience in understanding serious injuries, which would have a greater impact on your case.
- Works through a variety of legal processes: Personal injury attorneys know their way around various judicial forums. For example, he or she may help with informal negotiation with the insurance company before the case is filed in court.If working with the insurance company fails, the court may require you to attempt alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration. Arbitration is when a neutral arbitrator listens to both sides and then makes a binding decision himself; mediation is when a neutral party listens to both sides and tries to help them come to a solution outside of court.
Other things a lawyer can do
There are many other things a lawyer does too, such as:
- File motions
- Prepare interrogatories
- Conduct depositions
- Analyze insurance policies
- Obtain and review medical records
- File any necessary claim forms
- Analyze and address the validity of any liens against the client’s settlement
- Conduct negotiations with the insurance company
- Prepare and draft the summons and complaint
- Create exhibits for trial
- Negotiate medical bills for the client
- Prepare the witnesses and client for trial
- Analyze the verdict and prepare the appeal, if necessary
When do I not need a lawyer?
If the damages are minimal, if there are no serious injuries or if the settlement offer from the insurance company seems to be reasonable, then you might not need a lawyer. (Why give an attorney a third of a reasonable settlement offer you’ve already received?)
However, if your claim was denied, multiple parties were involved, there were injuries or the settlement number may be larger than you anticipated, then it might be time to consult an attorney.
If you need help, check out Enjuris’ Florida law firm listings and our articles on how to find and interview attorneys.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.