Not sure whether you need a personal injury lawyer? Maybe you’re thinking of trying to go it alone in small claims court instead. Below, we’ll explain all the benefits you’ll only get from having an experienced personal injury lawyer handle your case.
Benefit #1: Understanding Local, State and Federal Laws That May Help Your Case
Some states and even municipalities have unusual laws on the books that make you more likely to win damages. No matter how much research you do, there’s no way you’ll compare to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Why risk it?
Benefit #2: Ability to Calculate Current & Future Damages
Most people don’t think about future medical costs they haven’t incurred yet. Or about intangible costs, like pain and suffering or lost wages from missing work. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to calculate amounts for these things. For example: Let’s say you slipped on a wet floor in a restaurant and broke your leg. No sign warned you the floor was wet, so the restaurant offers to pay your medical bills. A personal injury lawyer knows how to assess your risk factors for post-traumatic osteoarthritis. If you have four or more, that lawyer knows you have a 70% chance for developing OA in 18 years. Things like this make a huge difference when calculating how much money you think you’re owed for your injury.
Benefit #3: Improves Your Odds of Winning a Significant Settlement
Let’s say a neighbor’s dog bites your face. You need stitches to close the wound, but once it heals, you also need plastic surgery. The doctor tells you it’s an elective procedure and insurance won’t cover it. Your neighbor offers you a thousand dollars, which barely puts a dent in the total cost. Can you take him to small claims court to recoup your surgery costs? It depends on where you live. If you’re in Tennessee, the small claims court settlement limit maxes out at $25,000 for winning cases. But in Kentucky, you can’t win more than $2,500 in small claims court. That’s why we recommend talking to a local, experienced personal injury lawyer before you move forward.
Benefit #4: Can Negotiate an Out-of-Court Settlement OR Take Your Case to Trial
Statistically, most personal injury cases never make it to trial. That’s because both parties often prefer to settle and avoid additional litigation costs. But in some cases, you definitely need a lawyer to show you’re prepared to take your case to trial. For example: Let’s say you’re suing your doctor for medical malpractice after your child suffered a birth injury. If your baby suffers a life-changing birth injury, you may need a significant settlement to pay for ongoing medical treatments. An experienced personal injury lawyer shows you’re serious about pleading your case in front of a jury. You’ll get a more equitable settlement offer paid promptly with a good lawyer fighting for you.
Benefit #5: No Legal Fees Unless Your Case Wins
Personal injury lawyers always work on contingency, which means you’ll pay no legal fees up front. In fact, no personal injury attorney will accept you as a client unless you have a strong case. If you decide to keep that lawyer after your consultation, you’ll sign several documents. These typically include a retainer and fee agreement. The fee agreement explains what percentage of your settlement amount the lawyer can keep for payment. You won’t pay anything out of your own pocket for legal assistance. And if your case doesn’t win, your lawyer cannot charge you any legal fees.
How to Find a Qualified Personal Injury Lawyer Near You
Of course, you can Google this yourself and do some online research. But will that instill confidence that this is the right personal injury lawyer for you? We recommend asking a few questions during your initial free consultation, such as:
- How many cases like mine have you personally handled, and what were the outcomes? Imagine you’re suing your landlord because you slipped on a broken stair. You want an attorney who’s won similar cases before. In addition, ask how much the average settlement pays.
- What evidence best proves my case? You’ll need convincing proof another person’s legally liable for your injury.
- How long does it typically take to resolve claims? Ask how long the negotiating process takes for out-of-court settlements as well as trial hearings. The right lawyer will set realistic expectations for resolving your claim.
- What’s your standard fee agreement? Since PI attorneys work on contingency, it’s typically a percentage of your settlement award.
- How long do I have to file my claim? Ask how long you have before the deadline passes to take any legal action. This is also known as the “statute of limitations.”
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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.