Not every personal injury claim requires the attention of a personal injury lawyer, but most do. Even if you can win without one, how much can you win? Generally speaking, hiring a lawyer will increase the value of your claim, even after legal fees are deducted. Continue reading this article to learn more about when you should hire a personal injury lawyer.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You
A lawyer can help you in more ways than you can count. Below is a very abbreviated list of the services that a personal injury lawyer can provide:
- Investigate your claim and offer an estimate of its value.
- Advise you of your rights and obligations.
- Warn you against mistakes that could damage your claim, such as talking about your case on social media.
- Take over all correspondence with the opposing party.
- Negotiate your claim for you.
- File a lawsuit if doing so makes strategic sense.
- Engage in the pretrial discovery process.
- Draft a settlement agreement, or go to trial.
- Appeal an adverse judgment.
Your lawyer will probably charge you about a third of your compensation in legal fees – but never fear. A good lawyer might be able to double, triple, or even quadruple the amount of money you win.
Red Flags That Indicate You Should Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
Following are a dozen red flags that, if present in your case, should clue you in that you might need to hire a lawyer.
You Are Suing on Behalf of Your Child
A minor under 18 years old cannot file a lawsuit. An adult parent or legal guardian must file on the child’s behalf. If your child was injured, you may be too emotionally involved in the claim to make unbiased decisions. Hiring a lawyer is a way to recruit an objective third party to help you win the claim for your child.
Liability Isn’t Clear
Whose fault was the accident that injured you? Was it you? The other side? A little bit of both? Missouri’s comparative fault system for apportioning liability among the parties when more than one party is at fault could put you in over your head. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you minimize your liability.
You Have a Medical Malpractice Claim
Medical malpractice claims tend to be technically complex. Moreover, doctors and hospitals tend to fight hard against malpractice claims because they consider them to be attacks on their reputations. Additionally, it is almost a necessity to hire an expert witness. A lawyer can help you find a reputable expert witness, and they can also help unravel the technical complexities of your claim.
You Have a Product Liability Claim
Were you injured by a defective product such as a failed brake drum, poisonous prescription medication, or a malfunctioning medical implant? Like medical malpractice claims, product liability claims tend to be technically complex, and they generally require the assistance of an expert witness. Hire an experienced product liability lawyer to avoid any surprises.
Your Suffered Catastrophic, Long-Term Injuries
Serious injuries greatly complicate a personal injury claim if you cannot fully recover by when you file your lawsuit. The problem is that many of your losses—your medical treatment and your diminished earning capacity—still lie in your future. How do you calculate your medical expenses and lost earnings for next year or for ten years down the road? This is a difficult and complex undertaking that you simply have to get right the first time.
Your Non-Economic Damages Claim Is High
Non-economic damages include compensation for intangible losses such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost quality of life, and more. Many people are surprised to hear that these nebulous damages typically amount to more than medical expenses and lost earnings. You need a lawyer because these damages are difficult to quantify. Is your emotional distress worth $1,000 or $50,000? This is where a lawyer can make a huge difference.
You Are Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
In Missouri, certain relatives of the deceased victim of an accident can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Missouri law limits who can file a lawsuit, and the victim’s surviving spouse (if any) is generally given the option first. Because wrongful death claims are so large, you need a lawyer whether you are filing a lawsuit or seeking an out-of-court settlement.
Multiple Parties Are Involved
The more parties involved in your claim, the more complex your claim will be. Instead of technical complexity, as in a medical malpractice case, you will be dealing with legal complexity. Legal complexity can become a particular problem in, say, a freeway automobile pileup where every driver is blaming every other driver. Aggressively seek legal assistance if this happens.
You’re Claiming Damages Against the Government
The ancient legal principle of respondeat superior prevents you from suing the government without its permission. This makes sense when you think about it. Since taxpayers fund the government, when you sue the government for monetary damages, you are basically suing the taxpayers.
Fortunately for you, just about any government (federal, state, and local) will allow you to sue for personal injury. Nevertheless, the process is more complex, and the deadlines are stricter. This is why you need a lawyer.
Most of the Evidence Is in the Hands of the Defendant or a Third Party
In law, the truth doesn’t matter unless you can prove it with admissible evidence. The problem is that in many personal injury claims, all you have is a hunch or suspicion – most of the evidence is in someone else’s hands.
The best way to obtain this evidence is to file a lawsuit and engage in the pretrial discovery process. This way, you can demand evidence from the defendant or a third party, such as a bank. If your target refuses to cooperate, you can appeal to the court for sanctions. Once you obtain the evidence you need, you can return to the negotiating table and settle before the trial date.
The Insurance Company Is Not Cooperative
Insurance companies are businesses whose purpose is to make money, not to make life easier for you. As such, insurance adjusters have a thousand tricks up their sleeves. Some are legal, some may be illegal, and some or in a legal gray zone.
If you hire a skilled personal injury lawyer, the insurance company is likely to abandon any further shenanigans, fearful that your new lawyer will file an insurance bad faith lawsuit against them. If you file this claim and win, it will add to your compensation.
The Statute of Limitations Deadline Is Looming
The statute of limitations sets the absolute deadline for you to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, your claim will die. A court will dismiss an expired claim, and the defendant will have no incentive to negotiate with you.
If the deadline is looming, you need to act quickly to either settle your case or file a lawsuit. Fortunately, the Missouri personal injury statute of limitations doesn’t usually expire until five years after the accident.
The Earlier You Contact a St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyer, the Better Your Chances Will Be
The sooner you involve a lawyer in your personal injury case, the better your results are likely to be. Don’t worry that you can’t afford one. If your claim is strong, your lawyer will work for you based on a contingency fee arrangement. This means legal representation will cost you nothing in attorney’s fees until you win your claim and your compensation arrives.