DO I NEED A LAWYER?
One of the most frequent questions people ask me is whether they "need" a lawyer to handle their personal injury or workers' compensation case. While there are certainly instances when matters can be handled without legal assistance, there are many good reasons why retaining a lawyer is a good idea.
Level The Playing Field
If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, a slip and fall (premises liability), are bitten by a dog, or are injured while working, there is almost always an insurance company handling the matter for the person or entity that caused you harm or employed you.
The insurance carriers spend tons of money training their workforce, teams of adjusters and supervisors, to do everything possible to delay claims, deny claims, and minimize claims. The simple fact is, they do not view you as an injured human being with a right to compensation. Instead, the adjuster may view you as a way to get a bonus by settling the claim below a certain threshold.
If you handle this yourself, you are emotionally involved, AND, to make matters worse, you are unfamiliar with the process, the lingo, and the buzzwords. To put it simply, the insurance adjuster can run circles around you and has a wealth of resources and experience dealing with just this type of claim while this may very well be your first claim ever. Does that seem like a good way to handle things?
Hiring a lawyer for injury and workers' compensation matters costs you NOTHING up front, as we all work on fees contingent upon recovery. We advance costs so you do not have to pay anything out of pocket. The only fee you pay is at the end of your case (verdict or settlement), and that is taken right out of the settlement.
Further, having a lawyer who has years of experience in these types of cases gives you at the advantage over the adjuster. Your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance carrier, but, if negotiations break off, can file a lawsuit and go to trial on your behalf.
Keep Your Mouth Shut
We all love to talk. Adjusters know this. Many are very friendly-seeming on the phone, asking you how you are feeling, seemingly concerned for your well-being. While some are genuinely empathetic people, there is a reason for this apparent concern; they are trying to get you to say things and provide tidbits of information that they will use against you later. For example, if you say you feel "better," that means a lot in negotiations, especially if it turns out months later that was merely a temporary state of improvement.
Insurance adjusters love to take recorded statements. DO NOT LET THEM!
Why can't you give a recorded statement, you say? You'll just tell the truth, right?
The reason is that when we talk, we tend to say things we do not even realize might be harmful. Adjusters are specially trained at extracting information in statements. You may not realize that you've said anything damaging until much later.
Having an attorney combats this head on. The main reason is that lawyers, by and large, will not allow their clients to provide statements to insurance carriers. While there are exceptions, the general rule of do not talk about your case stands as a maxim to follow.
Let Someone Else Handle It
A lawyer will organize your case and explain the process to you, from start to finish, what to expect, what comes next, what you can do now. This removes a great deal of the stress of an injury or workers' compensation claim, since most of the time you are upset enough just having to go to doctors, miss work, deal with repairing or replacing your vehicle, and worrying about how to pay your bills.
Your lawyer handles all of this, from coming up with suggestions on how to pay or defer your bills to dealing directly with the insurer so you do not have this hassle.
It goes without saying that the lawyer will know the law of your case, what has to be proven to maximize your recovery. This lets you focus on your health and recovery.