Not everybody needs a personal injury lawyer to resolve their claim. Some cases just aren’t worth it, and some are so simple that the victims can handle matters themselves. And then, there are other kinds of claims that require legal expertise.
Yes, you might “win” such a claim, but you will probably end up with only a fraction of your claim’s true value. Hiring a seasoned personal injury lawyer makes sense under these circumstances because you will likely come out way ahead even after you pay your legal fees.
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What Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Do For You?
A personal injury attorney can perform many services for you, some of which you might not have even realized you need.
Here are some examples of how a lawyer can help you with your personal injury claim:
- Investigating your claim: This process starts with the initial consultation and might continue throughout settlement or trial.
- Gathering admissible evidence: Your lawyer will understand the Florida Evidence Code, and they will know which evidence is not admissible in court. Evidence is important even in settlement negotiations because negotiating parties fear what might happen in court.
- Advising you against mistakes that could damage your claim: An example includes agreeing with an insurance company to give a recorded statement.
- Determining the actual value of your claim: If your case is complex or you suffered long-term injuries, valuing your claim can be surprisingly difficult.
- Finding an expert witness, should your claim require one: Experienced personal injury lawyers maintain close relationships with leading expert witnesses, and they know which ones to trust.
- Negotiating with the opposing party: The opposing party is likely to be an insurance adjuster – in other words, a professional negotiator. Experienced personal injury lawyers are also skilled negotiators.
- Representing you at trial: This includes drafting and filing all necessary documentation, such as a formal complaint. Many rules of evidence and civil procedure apply to trials.
- Filing an appeal: If you go to trial and the decision is adverse to you, your attorney will help you throughout the appeals process.
Depending on the facts of your case, a lawyer can provide many other services.
When You May Need To Hire a Personal Injury Attorney for Help
Below are some examples of a few red flags that should alert you that you might need a lawyer.
You Were Injured By a Defective Product
If you suffered an injury from a defective product (anything from prescription medication to an auto part), you need to establish that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous.
This task will likely require expert witness testimony and considerable scientific and legal expertise. You might also sue several defendants (e.g., the manufacturer, wholesaler, and retailer).
You Were Injured in a Car Accident
Florida is a challenging environment for filing car accident claims, in part because of its “no-fault” auto insurance system.
To exit Florida’s no-fault system, your injuries must satisfy Florida’s legal definition of serious injuries:
- The loss of an important bodily function
- A permanent injury
- Significant scarring
- Significant disfigurement
Two problems await you. The first problem is ambiguity. What is an “important” bodily function? What is “significant” scarring? The resolution of this problem depends partly on the persuasiveness of your lawyer.
The second problem is that Florida does not require its drivers to purchase bodily injury liability insurance. If the driver is uninsured, your lawyer might have to look for another defendant.
Following is a partial list of possible second defendants:
- The at-fault party’s employer, under certain circumstances
- A nightclub that served alcohol to the at-fault party immediately prior to a DUI accident with you
- Someone else who contributed to the accident (a city government that failed to properly maintain a traffic light, for example)
Since Florida is a major tourist draw, another problem you might face is an out-of-state defendant.
The Insurance Company is Playing Games With You
Insurance companies have many excuses for denying a claim and many tactics for reducing its value.
Here are a few examples:
- Looking at your social media accounts or hiring a private investigator.
- Asking you trick questions in an interview.
- Seeking your consent to release your entire medical history. They will then search for evidence they can use to claim your injuries were pre-existing (in other words, not caused by the accident).
- Providing you with dubious interpretations of policy language that conveniently exclude your claim.
If the insurance company steps over a certain line, your lawyer can file a bad faith claim. This is a separate claim from your personal injury matter.
Your Injuries Are Long-Term
Long-term injuries are difficult to place a value on. Suppose, for example, that you suffer a traumatic brain injury in a slip and fall accident. If your injury is serious enough, you might never return to work. That means that your lost earnings will continue to accumulate until you would otherwise have retired. If you are 64, this might not matter so much. If you are 25, however, you might have 40 years of lost wages to recover.
Likewise, certain injuries might require long-term medical treatment or rehabilitation. You must calculate your long-term damages accurately. If you underestimate them and claim too little, you won’t be able to ask for more money later. The consequences could be catastrophic. The problem is that calculating long-term damages is a difficult task that often requires a personal injury lawyer working with an expert witness.
The Other Party Is Blaming You for the Accident
Florida applies a pure comparative negligence system, where a court will determine your percentage of fault and subtract the same percentage from your damages. Insurance companies know this, and they will try to chip away at your claim in settlement negotiations. You might need a lawyer to help you refute accusations of unfair blame.
Your Case is Complex
If your case is complex, you almost certainly need a lawyer to help you through the legal maze that your claim will become. Some claims are scientifically or technologically complex. Others are complex because they include numerous defendants. Whatever the reason, the complexity of your case is a good reason to consider hiring a lawyer.
Most Tampa Personal Injury Lawyers Offer a Free Initial Consultation To Discuss Your Claim
There is no “bright line” rule that can tell you when you should and should not seek a lawyer. Nevertheless, you can always schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer who will help you answer this question. A personal injury attorney receives no fees unless they win your claim, so they have no incentive to represent you if they think your claim will be unsuccessful. Contact our law office at Winters and Yonker, P.A. to schedule a free consultation.