If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries in an accident, whether it’s a traumatic brain injury following a motorcycle accident or a broken hip in a slip and fall, you may not fully understand your right to pursue compensation. You may already know, however, that a personal injury attorney can help streamline the claim process, seek to maximize your compensation, and reduce your overall stress. You may also worry that retaining a personal injury attorney is expensive and beyond your budget.
Hiring an attorney to handle your personal injury claim likely won’t cost as much as you think, and you won’t have to pay anything upfront. In fact, you will only have to pay if your attorney successfully recovers compensation on your behalf. If you qualify to pursue a personal injury claim, you can likely start working with an attorney for free.
Start With a Free Consultation
Most personal injury lawyers will start with a free consultation and case review. This free consultation will cost you nothing. During the free consultation, several things will take place.
1. The attorney will review your claim.
When you begin your free consultation, the attorney will take a look at your claim to get a better idea of how you suffered those injuries.
You may go over factors like:
- Who caused your accident? In some cases, you may already know exactly who caused your accident. In an auto accident, for example, you might know that a drunk driver bears liability for the accident and for your injuries. If you suffered injuries on a construction site due to a malfunctioning piece of equipment, you might already know that the equipment manufacturer bears liability for your accident. On the other hand, in some cases, extenuating circumstances might contribute to your accident. You may need an attorney to fully review your claim and help you understand who caused your accident.
- What type of accident took place? Were you involved in an auto accident? Do you have a product liability claim? Your attorney will consider what type of accident you suffered and how that has impacted your injuries.
- What injuries did you suffer? Your injuries offer an important foundation for your personal injury claim. The more severe your injuries, the more compensation you may need to claim in your personal injury claim. If you suffer relatively minor injuries, your claim may take less negotiation. On the other hand, if you suffer serious injuries, especially those that may have lifelong impacts on your life, you may need to pursue a high compensation amount.
2. The attorney will decide whether to take your case.
When deciding whether to take your personal injury case, the attorney will want to first establish that you have a strong claim, which usually means that you suffered serious injuries and that someone else clearly caused your injuries. Some personal injury attorneys specialize in certain types of claims; others may prefer to work with specific types of high-dollar claims. This case review will give your attorney a chance to determine whether your claim fits the specific needs of the firm.
3. You will have a chance to determine whether the attorney is a good fit for you.
You may have specific considerations when you decide whether you want to work with an attorney. During your free initial consultation, you will have a chance to determine whether the attorney meets your needs.
You should consider:
- How much does the attorney think he or she can recover for you? Some clients go through initial consultations and meetings with more than one attorney before deciding on the attorney to retain for the claim. You do not necessarily want to choose the attorney that offers the highest level of compensation for your claim, since some attorneys may artificially inflate your potential compensation to convince you to retain them. You do, however, want to choose an attorney who gives you an honest assessment of your claim’s value, including compensation for your medical bills, lost wages because of your claim, and pain and suffering related to your accident and injuries.
- How does the attorney communicate with his or her clients? Does the attorney get in touch via email, text, or over the phone? How often does the attorney check in with his or her clients? Understanding the attorney’s communication style can prove vital in deciding whether you want a specific attorney to work on your claim, since you want to retain an attorney whose communication style fits you.
- Does the attorney seem respectful and compassionate? You want an attorney who seems respectful of your time—one who does not leave you waiting unnecessarily, who listens to what you have to say, and who keeps your needs at the forefront.
A free initial consultation offers an excellent tool for you to determine the overall value of your personal injury claim, how long it will take to settle your claim, and even whether you want to choose to pursue a personal injury claim. An attorney can also offer you a better idea of when to accept a settlement agreement, especially if you have a relatively simple claim.
Contingency Fee Claims
In most personal injury claims, the attorney understands that you may not have the funds needed to pay for legal services upfront. In fact, you may have substantial bills piling up and no income to help pay for those bills, since your injuries may prevent you from going back to work immediately.
Thanks to that knowledge, many personal injury attorneys will accept their claims on a contingent fee basis: instead of needing to pay for legal services upfront, injured individuals will pay for their attorney out of the settlement or award that they receive. Attorneys usually determine contingent fees as a percentage of the final settlement or award.
- What happens if the attorney accepts my case on a contingent fee basis, and I don’t successfully recover any compensation? If you do not win a claim, your attorney will likely not receive any compensation for the legal services offered throughout the claim. You will not have to worry about expensive legal fees if you lose your claim, which can prove a potent relief to many accident victims.
- What legal services does an attorney expect when taking a claim on a contingent fee basis? Talk to your attorney to learn more about what payment he or she will expect at the end of your claim. Contingent fee claims generally include all the same legal services you would get if you paid the attorney upfront. You can expect the attorney to investigate your claim, negotiate with the insurance company, and represent you in court if needed, all without additional or immediate costs.
A contingent fee claim can provide immense peace of mind during a difficult period in your life. You will not have to worry about coming up with the money for legal fees or making regular payments while you work to recover from your injuries. For many accident victims, this offers an effective way to receive much-needed legal services.
How Much Does It Cost Not to Have an Attorney for a Personal Injury Claim?
Many people worry so much about the potential cost of hiring a lawyer that they forget to consider the potential cost of not having legal representation as they manage their personal injury claims.
In many cases, people who need to file a personal injury claim will find that having an attorney on their side can increase the compensation that they ultimately receive, even when considering their legal fees. An attorney also offers multiple valuable services that can change the outcome of a claim. Your personal injury claim does not just represent the compensation you’re seeking after a serious accident due to the negligence of another party, but it may also determine what many aspects of your life will look like once your claim ends.
An Attorney Can Help Investigate Your Claim.
In some cases, you can clearly show who caused your accident. You suffered serious injuries in an auto accident clearly caused by another party’s negligence, and both the police report and the evidence from the scene clearly show that the other driver caused your accident. In other cases, however, you may need a more in-depth investigation of your accident to fully understand all of the elements that contributed to it. Suppose, for example, that you suffered an electrocution accident on a construction site. You may need to know who bore responsibility for those electrical wires, why they ended up left unattended, and who should have posted signs or other information that would have kept you out of that area.
In some cases, the liable party may try to prove that you caused or contributed to your own accident—that distracted driving caused you to end up involved in an auto accident, for example, or that you entered an area not accessible to customers at a store and suffered an accident due to that negligence on your part. If the liable party or its insurance company proves that you caused or contributed to your accident, it may eliminate or significantly reduce the compensation you ultimately receive for your injuries.
How does an attorney investigate your claim?
Depending on the type of accident you suffered, this may include several critical elements, such as:
- Evaluating photos of the accident scene. Did you take pictures at the scene of the accident? Photographic evidence can help clearly establish the factors that contributed to your accident—a spill on the floor or a broken handrail that led to a fall, for example. An attorney can review those pictures and help determine who may have caused or contributed to your accident.
- Visiting the scene of the accident. Sometimes, your attorney may choose to visit the scene of the accident himself or to send someone else to check out the scene of the accident. Your attorney may need to observe the features that led to the accident in person to get a better idea of all factors that may have contributed and who bears liability.
- Talking to witnesses. If someone else saw your accident, whether it was another driver on the road or someone with you at the time of the accident, that person’s testimony can prove vital in showing how your accident occurred and determining who bears liability. Witness testimony can grow more unreliable with time, which means you should contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible so that he or she can start the process of collecting evidence and building a case.
- Going over driving records. Did the driver that caused your accident, especially a commercial driver, have a long accident history? Did the driver’s employer continue to retain the driver even though the employer knew of the risk? An attorney can go over an employee’s driving records and see what factors may have influenced the accident.
- Looking into a company’s background. Did a corporate entity cause your accident, including a slip and fall on company property or an accident with a commercial driver? An attorney can help review all of the information related to that company’s background, including seeking out vital information about past accidents and the individuals impacted by them. An attorney may, for example, discover that a certain trucking company has a habit of sending its drivers out with very limited timelines in which to deliver their goods, or that the trucking company does not properly maintain its vehicles, leading to significant risk to others who share the road with those truck drivers. An attorney may also conduct deeper investigations into a company’s past accident history. Does the company have an unusual number of accidents? Does it often fail to take care of its employees or require them to work in dangerous situations? The attorney can delve deeper into the company’s background and determine what factors in its operations may have contributed to the accident. Sometimes, the attorney may reveal factors that show that a company knew about the potential hazard, but continued with normal operations anyway to push to deadlines or cut costs.
- Bringing in an expert witness. Sometimes, an expert witness can provide vital evidence in a personal injury claim. Some experts, for example, can testify about how an auto accident occurred based just on the damage to the two vehicles. Other experts may establish how specific types of circumstances could have impacted you and your decisions. A medical witness can establish how your injuries impact every area of your life. These expert witnesses can provide incredibly valuable testimony that can help show exactly how your accident occurred and how it has affected your life.
- Reviewing damage reports. How much damage did your vehicle sustain in the accident? Did outside factors influence that damage? The more damage your vehicle sustained, the greater the injuries you may have suffered in the accident and the more impact it may have on your overall life. Damage reports can also help establish who caused an accident.
What factors does an attorney investigate in your accident?
You may know for sure who caused your accident. For example, if you suffered injuries in an accident with a drunk driver, you may know that driver bears a great deal of liability for your injuries. On the other hand, in many cases, multiple parties may share liability for your accident, which can make personal injury claims more complex and difficult to navigate.
Consider, for example, an auto accident with a commercial truck driver. If you note drunken behavior on the road, and the police establish that the driver chose to drive while inebriated, you may know that the commercial truck driver bears primary liability for that accident. Further investigation, however, may reveal additional factors.
Suppose, for example, that a truck driver knew that he or she had consumed too much alcohol to get back behind the wheel safely, but the trucker’s employer insisted that the trucker get back on the road anyway. In that case, the truck driver’s company may share liability for any accident caused by that insistence.
Likewise, factors that had nothing to do with the driver’s inebriation may have contributed to your truck accident. Suppose that the driver suffered brake failure, making it impossible for him or her to bring the truck to a safe stop. While this inebriation might have contributed to poor decision-making skills behind the wheel, the driver may have lacked the ability to stop his vehicle at all due to that failure. In this case, a mechanic who recently worked on the vehicle, but replaced the brakes improperly, may share liability for the accident.
The trucking company might also share liability for an accident caused by brake failure. For example, the company might have failed to conduct proper maintenance on the vehicle, despite regular warnings that the brakes no longer provided the service necessary. If brakes failed despite fresh, proper installation, the brake manufacturer might share liability for the accident.
Identifying multiple factors that contributed to your accident can help your case.
- First, by ensuring that you identify all liable parties, you can increase the odds that all of them will face liability for the accident. You do not want someone’s negligence to go unnoticed, especially since future negligence may lead to future accidents that impact other people’s lives.
- Second, in many cases, identifying multiple parties who share liability can increase the compensation you ultimately receive for your accident. Following serious injuries, you may need all the compensation you can get as you work to pay your medical bills and recover as much as possible.
An Attorney Can Provide You With a Better Assessment of Your Legal Rights After a Serious Accident.
Do you know your legal rights, including how much compensation you really deserve following a serious accident? Many people do not. After an auto accident, for example, you might choose to go through your auto insurance company to seek compensation for your losses. Your auto insurance company often will not negotiate on your behalf, which means that you may end up stuck with the liable party’s initial offer.
Unfortunately, many insurance companies and big companies will try to take advantage of victims’ lack of legal knowledge. In many cases, they will issue fast settlement offers. Frequently, these offers come immediately after the accident, before you have a chance to determine the full extent of your injuries or how they will ultimately impact your life.
Many victims accept those offers to get the funds they need quickly. Sometimes, injured individuals may even accept those offers before consulting with an attorney, often because the insurance company pressures the individuals into believing that they need to accept the offer quickly or have it disappear. Initial settlement offers, however, rarely reflect the full value of a victim’s injuries following an accident.
An attorney will help go over your claim and give you a better idea of how much compensation you should seek for your injuries. The process includes a full evaluation of your medical expenses and your other financial losses, as well as an assessment of the pain and suffering you faced as a result of your accident. Your personal injury claim should include:
Compensation for the medical bills you received as a result of your injuries. Serious injuries require in-depth medical treatment. You may need immediate emergency treatment for your injuries. Then, you may need to spend a long time in the hospital while you recover. Burn victims, for example, may need to spend time in a special burn unit, where they receive less overall exposure to bacteria and viruses that could cause serious infections. Since burns strip away the skin’s protective layer, burn victims with severe burns may need to spend a long time in burn units.
You may also need to go through several surgeries and procedures to help increase your odds of making a full recovery after your injuries. If you have severe burn injuries, for example, you may need to go through multiple skin grafts to treat your injuries. If you suffered spinal cord injuries, you may need to go through several surgeries, including repairing herniated discs or installing bars in your back to help support the spine. If you suffer a hip injury, you may need a full hip replacement surgery.
In addition, many victims need to go through considerable therapy to help regain strength and mobility after an accident. Injured individuals may also need to go through occupational therapy to help them relearn how to perform the activities that they enjoyed before their accidents or to improve their overall independence.
Victims with traumatic brain injury, for example, may need occupational therapy to help them learn how to cope with gaps in short-term memory or challenges associated with a lack of emotional regulation. Amputees may need to learn how to work on a prosthesis or how to perform tasks that usually take two hands with just one. These therapies can considerably improve an injured individual’s odds of making a full recovery, but they can also add a great deal to overall medical costs throughout recovery.
Accident victims may also need to invest in a great deal of durable medical equipment to make it easier for them to get around and increase their independence after the accident. Amputees, for example, often choose to use prosthetics for a variety of reasons: to improve function and mobility, to improve overall appearance, or to increase overall independence, for example.
Those prosthetic devices can help amputees live more normal lives, but they can also represent ongoing expenses throughout the rest of the amputee’s life. Spinal cord injury victims may need to use wheelchairs to get around. You may also need to install other types of durable medical equipment in your home: for example, you may need to use a hospital bed to aid in mobility, especially in the early days after your accident.
You can include all those medical expenses as part of your personal injury claim after a severe accident. An attorney can help you track and calculate those medical expenses so that you produce an accurate claim.
Compensation for the wages you lose when you cannot work after your accident. With severe injuries, most victims cannot complete their usual job responsibilities. Focusing on work often proves difficult when recovering from traumatic brain injury or severe burns in the hospital. Likewise, you may not have the capacity to complete your usual work duties even immediately after you return home, whether it’s because you must take substantial pain medications or spend a great deal of time dealing with appointments and therapies.
Some victims can return to work soon after their accidents. Some employers may allow their employees to work from home as they can or provide them with modifications that will make it possible for them to come back to the office. Others, however, may not ever return to their previous jobs.
Not only that, but also individuals may find that, even once they return to work, that they cannot work at their usual capacity. For example, following a serious accident, you may not have the ability to spend hours sitting behind your desk. If you go back to work shortly after your accident, you may still need time to focus on your recovery. You may need to leave early due to increasing pain, or you might need to miss work due to appointments or further procedures to aid in your recovery.
These lost wages may represent a substantial financial loss at a time when you need every penny to help cover your medical bills and other expenses. You may also find yourself burning through sick time and vacation time, leaving you without the time off you had planned to save for other reasons.
An attorney can help you calculate the wages lost as a result of your accident and provide a full assessment of the compensation you should seek for that lost time.
Compensation for any other financial losses you faced as a result of your accident. Did you need to make substantial modifications to your home as a result of your injuries, such as installing a ramp or remodeling your bathroom to accommodate a wheelchair? Did you face other severe financial losses, including damage to your property, due to your accident? An attorney can help you evaluate all of the factors stemming from your accident and determine how they will influence your claim.
Compensation for pain and suffering. Your financial losses due to the accident usually form the basis of your claim. Some of the losses you faced, however, may have nothing to do with their financial worth. For example, you may have missed out on important events while recovering from your injuries: a much-anticipated vacation, important birthdays, or milestone events in the lives of loved ones. You might have faced the loss of your favorite leisure activities: if you faced spinal cord injuries, for example, you might lose the ability to participate in athletic endeavors.
Many accident victims also suffer from severe social isolation during and even after their recoveries. Traumatic brain injury victims, who often experience personality changes as a result of their accidents, may have trouble maintaining relationships. Victims who must spend a long time in recovery may find that they cannot connect with friends and loved ones after the accident.
An attorney can help look at these intangible losses and give you a better idea of how they may impact your compensation.
An Attorney Can Help Provide Valuable Peace of Mind and Reduce Your Overall Stress During Your Claim.
Recovering from serious injuries leaves you with more than enough stress and more than enough to juggle all on its own. Dealing with your personal injury claim can add even more stress.
When you work closely with a personal injury attorney, on the other hand, you can reduce much of that stress and free yourself up to focus on your recovery. An attorney can take over negotiations on your behalf, giving you confidence in your claim.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
If you suffered serious injuries in an accident due to the negligence of another party, do not wait to seek assistance with your claim. Instead, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon after your accident as possible.