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If your accident or injury sounds like any of these, you might need a lawyer
One of the most common questions that a person has after they have been injured is “Do I need a lawyer? Or should I just handle details myself?”
The answer to this question is not always simple. Add to that the many common misconceptions about personal injury lawsuits, and it’s completely understandable you may not be sure what to do.
However, there are situations where it will be in your best interests to call a lawyer.
It is always important to call a lawyer about your accident as soon as possible after the event has occurred, especially if any of the following conditions apply.
If any of these apply, you may need a lawyer
1. Broken bones, hospital stay, long-term health affected
2. Someone died in the accident
3. Medical treatment costing more than a couple thousand $$
4. Missing more than a couple days work, school, or normal activities
5. Non-economic losses like emotional trauma, pain and suffering, loss of companionship
6. There is dispute over whose fault the accident was
7. Multiple people were harmed in the accident
8. The accident took place in a construction zone or other questionable area
9. The paperwork does not look accurate (police report, insurance communications)
10. Details are complicated (technical, legal, medical)
11. Insurance is not playing nice
I was injured at work. Do I need a lawyer?
If you were injured at work, it's likely your accident would be handled through workers' compensation. There may or may not be a reason to involve a lawyer. To explore whether or not you need a workers' comp or personal injury attorney, see Workers Compensation: A Complete Guide.
Health concerns arising from the accident or injury
The accident involves serious injuries or requires a hospital stay
When serious injuries occur as the result of an accident, you may be facing extended medical care or even life-time care.
The cost for this type of medical care will be very high.
To make it worse, the insurance company will try to avoid paying for this type of care because it is very costly. Having an attorney represent you case increases the likelihood that you receive compensation for all your current and future medical costs related to the injury.
The injuries are anticipated to have long term effects on your health
If there are going to be long term effects from your injury, your lifestyle will change. This may include the inability to return to your current job or profession, the need for special renovations to your home and vehicle, and loss of income for the rest of your life.
Each of these issues must be addressed when the insurance company is determining a settlement for the accident.
You have missed several days of work, school, or activities
Loss of income, missing school, or being unable to participate in activities that you do on a regular basis are all serious side effects from an accident.
Under the law, you have the right to seek compensation for your financial losses that incurred as the result of the accident.
Your medical costs are very high
Even if your injuries are not life threatening or long term, the medical costs associated with treating your injuries may be expensive. It is your right to seek compensation for these costs.
You are facing emotional trauma, pain and suffering, or loss of companionship
Many injuries also cause serious emotional trauma.
This is especially true in children and in accidents that resulted in catastrophic injuries.
Most states allow injury victims to seek compensation for this emotional trauma.
Pain and suffering is also allowed in several states. You will want to speak to an attorney to determine if you can seek damages for pain and suffering.
Loss of companionship is available for both the injured party and their spouse.
If your insurance company is not complying with their policy terms
Insurance companies will have their own best interests in mind when they are authorizing medical treatments, paying for losses and offering compensation.
They may “forget” different terms of their policies and effectively shortchange the injury victim in terms of compensation.
Other companies routinely deny medical care options in an effort to save money.
Working with an accident attorney ensures that the insurance company complies with all the terms of their insurance policy and state laws for injury compensation.
Confusion in accident report, police report, or medical records
Any type of conflicting information in police reports, medical reports, or insurance reports can lead to a significantly lower offer of compensation or denial of claims.
If there is any conflicting information at all, you should immediately speak to an attorney.
Multiple people injured in the accident
When multiple people are injured in an accident, even if they are from the same family, it is crucial to speak with an attorney. Multiple injured parties can quickly complicate the compensation process.
Accident occurred in construction zone or other questionable road area
Accidents which occur in construction zones or as a result of dangerous road conditions may have more than one responsible party for the accident.
If the road conditions were a contributing factor to the accident, other entities may also be held responsible for the event. It is important to speak to an attorney very soon after an accident that occurs under these conditions.
There is a dispute about who is at fault for the accident
Many states are considered at-fault states.
This means that the injured party must not be more than 49 percent responsible for the accident if they want to seek compensation for the injuries they received.
In some states, the injured party cannot share any of the fault for the accident.
Death of a family member
If the accident resulted in the death of your family member, you may have certain rights under the law to seek compensation for wrongful death.
You will need to speak with an attorney to see if you qualify for this type of case under the laws of your state.
In most cases, direct family members, spouse and dependent children qualify for wrongful death.
However, there are some instances where parents of minor children who died in an accident or as a result of an injury can sue for wrongful death.
The most important thing to remember after an accident
When you have been injured in any type of accident, you should immediately seek medical care for your injuries.
It does not matter if it is a vehicle accident, slip and fall, or work accident.
Taking care of the injury is the most important thing for you to do – even if you're unsure whether you've actually been injured or not.
Once your injury has been stabilized, it will be in your best interest to speak to an attorney. (See when to walk and when to run to a lawyer.)
Insurance company representatives must watch their bottom line, and if that means denying treatment or refusing to pay fair and complete compensation for your losses, they will attempt to make that happen. Having an attorney on your side allows you to avoid these pitfalls because the attorney will make the insurer comply with state laws and all of the terms of their policy.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.