I am surprised at the number of people who do not immediately contact a personal injury attorney after a car accident.
As many clients are aware, a personal injury attorney works on a contingency fee basis – the attorney collects a percentage of the gross settlement (33.3% pre-suit / 40% if a lawsuit is filed) instead of a flat or hourly fee.
Finding a personal injury attorney that wins
The attorney accepts all the risk and only collects if a settlement or verdict is reached.
The client bears no upfront expenses or fees.
Some potential clients are skeptical of the benefits of hiring an attorney on a contingency fee basis and ask (or think to themselves), “Why should I “pay” a personal injury attorney a percentage of my settlement as I can just as easily negotiate with the insurance company myself and get the same amount of money”.
Although this reason has merit (at least theoretically), it is flawed as I will explain below.
While reading this article, the baseline question should be, “Does hiring a personal injury attorney add enough value (i.e. additional monies) to offset the percentage of the fees the attorney will collect should they reach a settlement?”
The answer is almost always yes.
Still skeptical – We cannot blame you
Imagine for example that you were about to get into a fight outside bar.
You’re 6’3”, 250 lbs, and have a black belt in karate. You are not told your opponents’ height, weight, age or gender. All things being equal, odds are that you would have a very good chance of prevailing in a fight. Assuming the cards were not stacked in against you, however.
You soon find out that your opponent is not one person, but thousands of people. All armed with handguns and body-armor.
The fact that you are of ideal proportions means nothing against the mass of armed individuals who are now standing in front of you.
Now imagine that you just got into a car accident. You’re an avid businessman and have a degree in business from Harvard.
You are not told your opponent’s background, business acumen, or age. All things being equal, odds are that you would have a good chance of prevailing in a negotiation.
Again, assuming the cards weren’t stacked against you.
The at-fault insurance adjuster is not your friend either
You soon find out that your opponent is not one person, but thousands of people.
All armed with years of legal experience and handling nothing but car accident cases for the likes of Allstate, State Farm, and Progressive. Your opponent does not play fair, and will do anything they can to minimize their payout to your disadvantage.
Unlike you, your opponent is familiar with terms such as spinal stenosis, retrolisthesis, osteophytes, RSD, 3.0 Tesla MRI, NCV/EMG, Boecher interrogatories, and transforaminal injection. They use this information to their advantage to convince you to accept minimal settlements.
Many times, insurance companies offer unrepresented clients their out of pocket medical expenses ONLY, without any consideration given for future medical bills or pain and suffering.
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Pain and suffering is oftentimes the highest value component of a personal injury case.
As a result of you lack of understanding of the personal injury landscape and you inability to file a lawsuit, your opponent can take a hard line approach in the negotiations and stonewall you with (embarrassingly) low settlement offers.
Why should you hire a personal injury attorney after a car accident?
Some specific examples of where a personal injury attorney is at a significant advantage over a non-attorney negotiating on their own.
- Is in a unique position to evaluate the value of your case and present how this accident affected you.
- Is able to ascertain that the insurance benefits available.
- Fronts the cost of records, reports, investigators, accident reconstructionist, deposition transcripts, mediators, etc.
- Has intimate knowledge of medical providers. A personal injury attorney bird-dogs your case to make sure you are being treated by the appropriate doctors (i.e. chiropractor, physiatrist, imaging centers, orthopedic surgeon, neurologist, neurosurgeon, etc.) and at appropriate times. Potential clients grossly underestimate the importance of treating with the appropriate doctors.
- Speaks to the insurance adjusters (Bodily Injury and Uninsured Motorist) on your behalf. Once you are represented by a personal injury attorney, the insurance adjusters are no longer permitted to communicate with you – all communications go through the personal injury attorney.
- CAN FILE A LAWSUIT. Insurance companies are scared on one thing, and one thing only – risk. Personal injury attorneys are able to file lawsuits. A lawsuit is a risky proposition as a jury could come back with a very low OR very high verdict. We have seen cases where an insurance company made a pre-suit offer of $10,000.00 only to be hit with a $1,000,000.00 verdict at trial. Without the ability to file suit, the insurance company has no incentive to make you a fair settlement offer as their risk is minimized. Again, many unrepresented clients are offered nothing more than recovery of their out-of-pockets medical bills.
- Negotiate outstanding liens, PIP adjustments or medical bills. This value ALONE could equal or exceed a personal injury attorneys’ fees.
We are happy to explain how our services can increase the value of your case to more than offset our fee.