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The truth about personal injury lawsuits and accident lawyers – are ambulance chasing attorneys clogging up the courts? And other commonly held ideas about this branch of law
When you're injured in an accident, the last thing that you might want to do is go through a personal injury claim, even if you are indeed entitled to compensation for your injuries.
Many stigmas and myths abound concerning personal injury cases, many of which are false.
That's why if you've been injured in any type of accident and have sustained personal injuries, it's a good idea to learn all the facts concerning the reality of personal injury cases before you decide whether or not you're going to seek the assistance of a personal injury lawyer.
1. Personal injury cases are long, drawn-out cases
People who've just been involved in accidents and have suffered traumatic injuries sometimes put off seeking out a personal injury attorney because they are under the impression that personal injury cases are always long, drawn-out affairs.
However, the truth about personal injury cases is that in most instances, the cases never even make it all the way to the courtroom: most of them result in settlements being reached outside of court.
While it is true that in some situations, it can take years for settlements to be reached, oftentimes resolutions can be made relatively quickly within weeks or months.
2. Minor injuries don't warrant a personal injury lawyer
This is certainly false - just because your injuries are minor doesn't mean that you aren't entitled to having your medical expenses covered.
In fact, these types of cases are the ones to look out for because oftentimes insurance companies attempt to offer the lowest amount for minor injuries, and these amounts oftentimes aren't enough to cover the most basic medical expenses for the injuries. Personal injury attorneys can help you secure fairer settlements for your injuries.
3. The party at fault will have to pay out-of-pocket
Some people also hesitate to file a personal injury claim because they believe that the party at fault for the incident will have to pay the settlement out of their own pockets, and they don't want to be responsible for making the other party's life miserable.
However, in most cases, the other person's insurance company is the one who ends up paying any settlement you're awarded.
4. People with insurance don't need personal injury lawyers
Just because you have insurance to cover any medical costs or other expenses that you incur doesn't mean that you don't need an attorney to help you in arriving at a settlement.
Lawyers are oftentimes much better at negotiating settlements for you than you are yourself because insurance companies are out to make a profit, and they oftentimes offer you much less than your coverage actually covers in a first settlement offer.
Attorneys who have experience with dealing with insurance companies are usually better equipped to secure you the best settlement, even from your own insurance company.
5. I can file a personal injury case anytime
Most states have statutes of limitation that have set a time limit on how long you have to seek compensation for your injuries after you've been involved in an accident.
The specific amount of time that you have to file depends upon the state you live in as well as the type of accident you were involved in.
6. I’m pretty much guaranteed compensation to cover my losses
Although many personal injury cases result in some type of settlement, plaintiffs are not guaranteed compensation.
Contrary to popular belief, personal injury cases don't result in "easy money," and because judges are different and each case is different, the rulings for each case is different.
There is no guarantee that just because you file a personal injury case you will receive compensation.
7. Plaintiffs only have one opportunity to be compensated for their claims
This is actually true. After a personal injury claim has already been heard and a decision has been reached, the result is typically final.
Likewise, if you come to a settlement with an insurance company, you're waiving your right to seek further compensation.
8. Holding out results in larger settlements
Another myth about personal injury cases is that holding out for results in a larger settlement. While holding out for bigger settlement offers is sometimes the best strategy for some cases, finding a competent personal injury attorney to negotiate you the best settlement is more effective than simply holding out.
9. People who file personal injury lawsuits are frivolous
The media has created a stigma that many people who file personal injury lawsuits are filing frivolous lawsuits. Therefore, many people fear filing personal injury claims because they don't want to have this image attached to them or because they might feel guilty for filing the lawsuit.
However, most of the people who file personal injury lawsuits are legitimately injured in accidents and are honest people seeking compensation.
Therefore, you shouldn't refuse to file a personal injury lawsuit for fear of how the media portrays such lawsuits.
10. The courts are bogged down with personal injury cases
Some people are also under the impression that the courts are bogged down with personal injury cases, so it might take forever for a case to go before the court if it goes that far.
However, according to the National Center for State Courts, this is not the case at all. Instead, personal injury cases have declined by 25 percent since 1999.
Only 7% of civil cases are torts (p. 17), which is the area of law concerned with personal injury cases such as car accident liability, medical malpractice, defective product claims, etc. (Civil law includes contract disputes, real property and small claims cases, apart from personal injury.)
More personal injury lawsuit myths
See the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association’s article on myths for a discussion of these commonly held – yet completely false - beliefs:
- The number of lawsuits filed is skyrocketing,
- Health care costs are rising and doctors are unable to practice due to litigation.
- Legal reform is needed because lawsuits hurt small businesses.
- My insurance rates are skyrocketing because of lawsuits.
- And more!
While there are plenty of myths surrounding personal injury cases, many of them are false, and ones that many people might have believed to be false are indeed true.
Familiarizing yourself with which myths are true and which ones are false can provide you with what you need to know so that you can make a more informed decision when it comes time for you to decide whether or not to file a personal injury claim.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.