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DR GADALLA BLOG

Should You Handle Your Own Personal Injury Claim or Hire a Lawyer?

Aly Gadalla

Should You Handle Your Own Personal Injury Claim or Hire a Lawyer?

Many people handle simple injury claims on their own, and save on legal fees, but serious cases often benefit from a lawyers experience and expertise.

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Personal injury claims cover a wide variety of situations and different types of accidents. You may have been injured in a car accident, by slipping and falling on someone’s property, or bitten by a neighbor’s dog. All these things are considered personal injury and the level of your injury can make big a difference in processing your claim.

In some situations, you may be capable of handling a claim through insurance or Small Claims Court against the other party on your own. Other times, you may want to seek the advice and assistance of a qualified legal professional. It all depends on the severity of your injuries and the legal elements of the accident.

Managing Your Own Case

Attempting to handle a claim on your own only to hire a lawyer later may complicate the claim process, so it’s important to understand what you’re capable of and what’s at stake if you mishandle your case. It is similar to trying to treat a medical condition on your own before you go to the doctor – actions you think might help the injury or illness could actually make things worse, and it may be a more difficult recovery once you finally seek medical treatment. If you are unsure about what to do or how to handle a claim, you may consider contacting an attorney immediately after your injury for a consultation to find out if a lawyer is worth the cost.

Car Accidents With No (Or Very Minor) Injuries

One of the most common types of case involves injuries caused in auto accidents. Someone might rear-end you at a low speed and cause minor damage to your vehicle. The injuries to yourself or your passengers might result in a few visits to the doctor’s office. Filing a claim with your insurance, or the other person’s, will often be efficient and enough compensation to cover the costs of the repair to your car and the medical expenses incurred because of the accident. If this is the case, and you are satisfied with the coverage and service you receive from the insurance claim, there could be no need to call an attorney or seek further legal advice.

Negotiate Effectively With an Adjuster

You wouldn’t necessarily need to seek a lawyer’s advice if you are confident and comfortable enough to negotiate with the insurance agent on your own to reach a settlement amount which you consider fair. In the case that your situation is something where you decide to take the other party to Small Claims Court, you can represent yourself if you feel confident in the evidence you have gathered and your knowledge of the legal process.

Researching the Law and Settlement Process

If you come across obstacles along the way, a lot of information can be found in AllLaw’s Personal Injury and Car Accident sections. Make sure you learn about the most important issues, including fault and legal liabilitystate laws that affect your case, and compensation available for different types of damages.

This can involve a lot of time and research in order to understand the particulars of the law. Many people do not have the energy to put into this research and there are professionals who have already undergone that training and have intimate knowledge of the law: attorneys. If you find yourself spending more time than it’s worth, and getting frustrated by the complications of the details, it could be time to consider consulting a legal professional.

When You Might Consider Hiring A Lawyer

The insurance company you are making the claim against will have attorneys representing and fighting for them. Lawyers are professionals who spend years and countless hours studying the particulars of the law and gathering knowledge to represent their clients to the best of their abilities. If the insurance company or the party you are taking to Small Claims Court has legal representation, it may be something for you to consider as well.

How Much Will a Car Accident Lawyer Cost You?

Aly Gadalla

How Much Will a Car Accident Lawyer Cost You?

If you're involved in a car accident, and another party is at fault, you'll be able to hire an attorney on a contingency basis. Find out when it's worth the cost.

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If you’ve been in a car accident, and someone else is to blame, you’ll be looking for a plaintiff’s car accident lawyer. We all know lawyers are expensive, but how much will you need to pay?

Most car accident attorneys charge clients in a fairly unique way -- as opposed to the hourly fee that many firms charge in other types of cases. The typical auto accident lawyer will charge a "contingency fee" to take an injury case. A contingency fee means that the firm will not get paid any attorney’s fees unless you recover money in your case. The lawyer or law firm will get paid a percentage of money received from any insurance settlement  or jury verdict.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at how contingency fees work and what you can expect if you decide to hire a lawyer to handle your car accident case.

The Contingency Percentage

The percentage that a lawyer can receive in a contingency fee agreement varies from state to state. The percentage typically ranges from 25 to 40 percent, and 33.33 percent (or one-third) is pretty standard. If you have a 33.33% contingency fee arrangement and you recover $90,000 in your car accident case, your attorney will receive $30,000.

Some states have shifting percentages based on the stage of your case and the amount of money recovered in your case.

A contingency fee may depend on whether or not the wrongdoer (defendant) in your case has responded or answered your legal complaint in court yet. If the case settles before there is an answer to your complaint in court, the allowed percentage is typically lower.

However, if settlement occurs after the defendant serves a formal answer to your complaint or if the case proceeds to trial and a jury verdict is reached, the allowed percentage may increase.

As an example, suppose you sent a  demand letter  to the wrongdoer in your case and you quickly reached a settlement agreement for $90,000. In this situation, the attorney would again receive $30,000 (33%). However, suppose that the case instead ended in a jury verdict of $90,000 and your state allows an attorney to receive 40% of a recovery after the complaint is answered. In this situation, the attorney can recover $36,000.

It is always important to speak with your attorney about the contingency fee and to carefully review the contract for legal services. If you do not understand the fee arrangement stated in the contract, ask your attorney to explain it to you.

Also, just like everything in a contract, the fee is negotiable. If yours is a "cut and dry" case - liability and damages are clear, the defendant is well insured or has "deep pockets", and there's plenty of evidence backing up your claims - you can certainly negotiate a lower contingency percentage. You don't need to give up a third of your compensation simply because you need the leverage of "lawyering up."

Fees and Expenses

Depending on the lawyer and your contract for legal services, you may or may not be responsible for upfront court fees and other litigation expenses.

These fees and expenses include court filing fees, cost of serving summonses and subpoenas, costs of obtaining medical records and police reports, court reporter fees, and expert witness fees.

Many personal injury firms require the client to pay the above-mentioned fees as they become due. If your contract states that you are responsible for these costs, you can expect a personal injury firm to call you and seek payment as the fees become due. If you cannot pay these fees, your case will likely not proceed until there is a payment.

Other personal injury firms (typically large firms), will cover all fees and expenses. However, the fees and expenses will be deducted from your settlement or final judgment. Let’s say that you settled your car accident case for $100,000. This time, your contract stated that costs and expenses would be deducted from the settlement. Your attorney incurred $10,000 in costs and expenses. In this situation, your attorney would receive $10,000 as reimbursement for the costs and expenses, and $30,000 for legal services. You would end up receiving $60,000 as a final recovery ($100,000 - $10,000 - $30,000 = $60,000).

Make sure that your lawyer takes their fee out of the "net settlement" - that is, the amount left after case expenses are deducted. This arrangement is typical. However, some law firms may try to increase their pay by taking their money out first. Let them know that you won't accept that, and if it becomes a deal breaker, it's probably best to find another lawyer.

Other Fee Arrangements  

Not all cases will involve a pure contingency fee arrangement. Lawyers may collect an initial retainer to begin your case and also collect a contingency fee at the end of your case. However, if you recover money in your case, the amount already paid to the attorney should be subtracted from the percentage that is due to the attorney at the end of the case. For example, if you paid $2,000 to the attorney as a retainer and recover $90,000 in a settlement, the attorney will receive $28,000 from the settlement ($30,000-$2,000 = $28,000).

Most car accident cases will not involve a flat fee payment for legal services. Flat fee arrangements are typically reserved for less-complex cases. A law firm may charge a flat fee where the legal representation is limited to drafting and responding to a demand letter. In that case, the fee may range from $300 to $1,000.

Is a Car Accident Lawyer Worth The Cost?

The general rule is this: The more serious the injuries, the greater the value of hiring a lawyer. If you were in a minor fender bender with little or no injury, you can probably negotiate an acceptable settlement yourself. You would be doing yourself a disservice to pay a lawyer a third of a simple -- and almost guaranteed -- settlement.

On the other hand, if you were injured and needed any significant medical treatment, the settlement value of your case rises quickly. This means the insurance adjuster will work to minimize your damages and try to get you to accept a very low settlement offer – they are in the business of making money, not spending it. This fact is evidenced by a 1999 study by the Insurance Research Council who concluded that, on average, claimants represented by a lawyer received 3

When an Attorney Can Help in a Car Accident Case

Aly Gadalla

When an Attorney Can Help in a Car Accident Case

Usually, car accidents involving serious or long-term injuries require an attorney to get the most desirable outcome.

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An automobile accident brings with it a host of questions. Who is at fault? Who pays for damage to my car? Who will pay for my medical bills? Should I be compensated for pain and suffering? Can I ask the insurance company to reimburse me for lost wages? An experienced injury attorney can be extremely helpful in negotiating the often chaotic and confusing world of insurance claims and settlements.

Because most injury attorneys work on a contingent-fee basis, and only get paid if there is a successful resolution to your claim, there is often little incentive to try to handle these types of claims on your own - especially when significant injuries are involved.

Knowledge of Law and Procedural Rules

Hiring a personal injury attorney to represent you after a car accident means you will have a professional working for you -- one who is extremely knowledgeable about the relevant laws and procedural rules that may affect your case.

An attorney can advise you of any time limits (called statutes of limitations) that can bar you from filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. For instance, in many states you must file your lawsuit within two years of your car accident or be forever prohibited from filing your lawsuit. An attorney will also be able to inform you about any special exceptions to the statute of limitations -- for minors, for example.

Your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf and will know how best to mitigate any possible defenses raised by the other side. In addition, once your case gets under way, your lawyer will play an invaluable role in preparing your case for trial -- and even going to trial if your case doesn't settle.

Even though a lawsuit is rarely necessary, the threat of legal action offers strong leverage when negotiating a fair settlement.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, having an attorney who is knowledgeable about the law evens the playing field, especially when you are going up against the experience and vast resources of a large insurance company.

Lawyers Do The Legwork

There is a lot of work that goes into negotiating an insurance settlement and trying a personal injury lawsuit. After you have been in a car accident, taking on this time-consuming work may be the last thing you want to do, assuming you're able. An attorney can do it all for you.

Whereas this may be your first time dealing with the ins and outs of an accident claim, injury attorneys have dealt with all manner of claims and a variety of insurance companies. They have experience obtaining the necessary evidence to support your claim, including gathering police reports, witness statements, medical records and bills, and employment and lost wage information.

Your attorney will also be able to organize the evidence and prepare a settlement demand letter for the insurance company. If you are unable to settle your accident case, your attorney can take care of filing the necessary paperwork to start a court case and can deal with the defense attorneys on your behalf. Having someone knowledgeable handling the hard work of your case eases the burden on you, which is especially important if you have been seriously injured and are trying to recover from your injuries.

An Attorney Advocates for You

Perhaps the most important way an attorney can help you with your car accident case is by being your advocate. This means that your attorney acts on your behalf and for your benefit throughout the entire claims process (negotiating with the automobile insurance company) and even in court if a lawsuit becomes necessary. He or she will be your champion before the judge, jury and other attorneys, making sure that your side of the story is heard and that you are compensated for all of your losses.

Having an experienced and articulate advocate working for you is essential in obtaining a reasonable and fair resolution in your car accident case.

The Top 5 things you need to know if you have been in an accident and are injured!

Brett Curfman

1) If you do not have health insurance, you have Personal Protection Injury coverage (PIP) on your auto insurance policy

2) Your health insurance may not take care of injuries sustained in an auto or personal injury accident.

3) You do not need to have an attorney to be treated.

4) You have the right to be treated for your injuries, even if you are at fault.  You are still covered.


5) The majority of primary care physicians do not provide comprehensive injury care for auto, sports, or personal injuries.