As attorneys, we usually take for granted knowing when a person needs a lawyer. We fail to understand the common misperceptions that many people have when it comes to looking for a lawyer. Many people may think it costs money to speak with a personal injury lawyer—it does not. Many may be frightened to pick up the phone and call. They may not know what to say, how to say it or have some sort or shame or guilt about what happened to them. There really is no easy way to approach contacting a lawyer. The first step should always be just that—take the first step by reaching out. The lawyers you contact should be able to explain everything you need to know and let you know if you need their services or not. Below is a quick primer on deciding whether you need a lawyer after a certain incident. These are things you should consider when looking to meet with an attorney.
- Has insurance contacted you? If an insurance company has contacted you, that usually means they have some responsibility to cover your injuries. Normally, they will call you or send an adjuster to your home to ask you questions. That will be followed up with a request for you to release all your medical records to them and give them a recorded statement of the events. We need to make one thing clear—if an insurance company asks you for anything at all, you have the absolute right to say “I’d like to check with a lawyer before I do this.” There is no law or requirement that you immediately speak to the insurance adjuster and give a recorded statement. If they push you, hang up on them. We always say that if an insurance company has contacted you, you need to contact a lawyer. If you feel like you can handle an injury claim against a billion dollar company, against an adjuster who has handled thousands of cases, who has been trained to settle claims fast and cheap and still get what you deserve, by all means try it. You will not get what you deserve from them. That is a promise.
- Are you unaware of the party who is responsible? If you have been injured by someone else’s actions, there is a good chance that you likely do not know all the parties involved. For example, in a trucking case, do you know that there can be two or more owners of the truck and trailer who will share responsibility? What about the company that brokered the load? Do you know how to find all that information out? Do you know how to contact them to open a claim? These questions are just a sampling of what needs to be done to track down all the parties responsible. There may be additional insurance coverage that can be made available to you but you have to know where to look. The old adage is true, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
- Are you missing work because of the injury? If you are unable to work because of what has happened to you, the injuries may be more severe than you recognize. Many injuries take a lot of time before the true healing can begin. A herniated disc in your back can take months to become so symptomatic that it is debilitating. Trying to handle the claim alone is only going to cost you time and money. It will cause headaches and will not move nearly as fast as an attorney can move the case.
- What are you going to do if you don’t like the offer? If the insurance company makes you an offer and you don’t like it, what’s your recourse? You’ve likely already spent months on the whole ordeal and now just want to get it over with. The insurance industry knows that. They know you’ll take less to just put it behind you if they just drag it out. Your only option if you don’t like the offer is to hire a lawyer. Do you really trust the insurance company to make you a fair offer on your case when you cannot force them to do anything? A civil lawsuit is the ONLY way to force the insurance company to act. Remember, the insurance industry doesn’t make billions, have several commercials on every single television break and buy almost every sports stadium naming rights by fairly paying every single claim. One thing we always hear is the following: “I’ve been paying my premiums for 25 years and I can’t believe they are treating me this way.” Guess what? They don’t care. It is ALWAYS about the bottom line for the insurance industry. It is NEVER about fairly paying out claims.
There are certain times when you may not need a lawyer. That is always a possibility. If that is the case, we wish you the best. We have met with plenty of clients where we have told them we don’t feel it is in their best interest or ours to engage in representation. There are a variety of reasons outside of what is listed here in evaluating whether you need a lawyer or not. The preceding should help get you going to see if speaking with an attorney is something that will benefit you. After all, that is what we are here for—for your benefit.