Why You Should Hire An Attorney For Your Car Wreck Case
Many people who have been in a car wreck feel they can handle their own case. In some cases, and for some people, this is true. Typically, this would involve cases where the wreck was relatively minor, the injuries required only emergency room treatment, and the case involved no minor children. Anything bigger than that, though, and you will do much better hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. The following is a discussion of why you will be better off with an attorney.
YOU DON’T KNOW THE SYSTEM
Handling car wreck cases has become a complicated endeavor requiring knowledge of case law, statutory law, and evidentiary rules, as well as medical knowledge, including terminology, conditions, procedures, and costs. Adjusters receive hundreds of hours of classroom instruction, hours of on-the-job training, and must pass a licensing exam before they can handle claims. They must also take continuing education courses throughout their career. This is what you are up against.
You don’t know what an adjuster can and cannot legally do. You don’t know what information she should provide you and what she can withhold from you. You don’t know whether a particular delay is acceptable or whether the adjuster is just putting up an unnecessary road block. You don’t know what kind of information you should share with the adjuster, let alone what kind is beneficial and what is detrimental. What information in the give-and-take between you and the adjuster is legally required, legally protected, customarily exchanged, or never shared? Should you give a taped statement? Are you required by law to give one? Should you reveal your health insurance information, your Medicare number, Medicaid number, social security number, or your spouse’s name? What if the adjuster asks you about prior injuries or prior accidents? Should you give the adjuster permission to request your medical bills and records on your behalf? Is she allowed to ask you what medications you are on? Do you know what kinds of information add value to your claim and what detracts from it? All of these issues can be critically important and making the wrong choice can cause irreparable damage to your claim.
YOU DON’T KNOW IF YOU ARE GETTING APPROPRIATE MEDICAL CARE
Some of the biggest mistakes people make in handling their own claims is ignoring their own medical care. Sometimes this is because of ignorance, sometimes it is because of fear, or sometimes it is because of lack of funds. Whatever the reason, ignoring your medical care can result in delays in diagnoses, delays in treatment, time gaps in your medical records, failing to find the right specialist, or just simply following the wrong advice from a doctor who is too busy or too disinterested to provide proper care in soft tissue injury cases. All of these mistakes are damaging to your case and cost you money. An experienced personal injury attorney can monitor your care to insure you are seeing the right doctor for your injury, keeping your appointments, receiving treatment appropriate for your type of injury, getting the proper diagnostics, getting the proper therapy, and finding the right specialists. This will not only insure you recover from your injuries quickly and fully, but it also provides proper documentation so the adjuster can justify a making a higher settlement offer. Retaining an attorney early in the process (within 2 weeks after the accident is a good rule of thumb) helps get you on the right track, and keep you on the right track, medically, thus helping you recover better and faster while also helping add value to your claim. Waiting too long to retain an attorney, on the other hand, can not only delay your recovery, but can cause a loss in your claim’s value that no attorney can undo.
MEDICAL LIENS AND SUBROGATIONS
Personal injury cases frequently involve liens and subrogation claims and resolving them requires a specialized knowledge that most people do not have. Would you know how to handle a Medicare lien? A Medicaid lien? Can Medicare/ Medicaid take all of your settlement? Do you know how to determine if the lien the hospital is claiming is valid? Do you know where the definition and requirements of a valid hospital lien are found? Do you know the difference between a health insurance subrogation claim and an ERISA subrogation claim? Do you even know what a subrogation claim is? What about a med-pay lien filed by your own car insurance company? I have defeated those by showing that my client did not properly waive PIP insurance. Most importantly, can the entity claiming a lien or subrogation collect it from a UM/UIM claim? All of this takes expertise and knowledge that the average person does not have. (Some of the answers to these questions can be found in my article titled “Hospital Liens in Texas” in the “Articles” tab on my web site.)
REASONS MOST PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO RETAIN AN ATTORNEY
There are various reasons why someone hurt in a car wreck might not want to retain an attorney. Some people think there is a stigma attached to retaining an attorney and that it means they are greedy. Some people assume the process is burdensome and/or unpleasant simply because they have never retained an attorney before. Many people do not know any attorneys and the search for a good attorney can be daunting. Most people, though, don’t want to go to court or have anything to do with the legal system. They are afraid of getting the third degree from the insurance company’s attorney, they don’t want to lose time from work, and certainly do not want to drive to the courthouse and spend days sitting in front of a judge and jury.
This is what I tell my clients: I tell them that ALL of my clients are just like them. They did not want to have to come into an attorney’s office and talk to an attorney. They did not want to seem greedy. They did not want to get involved in the legal system and have to attend depositions and court proceedings. But, they found they had no choice because the adjuster was ignoring them, disrespecting them, or making them seem like they were lying. The good news is that almost all of our cases settle without even having to file suit. This is so because we know what the adjuster is looking for and we know how to present our demand letters in such a way as to give the adjuster the proper documentation she needs to make a good offer. Of the few cases in which we have to file suit, well over 95% of those are settled without a trial.
WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO SHARE MY SETTLEMENT MONEY WITH AN ATTORNEY
Many people don’t retain an attorney because they feel they can make more money from their case if they don’t have to share it with an attorney. There are, in fact, some cases in which I advise the client that they are better off handling their own case. This is usually limited to cases in which the only treatment consisted of a routine ER visit, or in cases where they waited to call me until after they had begun the negotiation process with the adjuster. In the first instance, the case is too small and in the second instance, it is too late to repair all the damage the client has done to his case and the additional money I could get him would not be enough to cover my fee. In all other cases, when you retain an attorney you will get better medical treatment, pay out less in subrogation and/or lien claims, and come out with more money. (For more details on what an attorney can do for you, refer to my article titled
“Do I Need to Go Hire a Lawyer after an Auto Accident” and found in the “Articles” tab in my web site.)
If you are faced with the decision of whether to retain an attorney in your car wreck case, it is best to call 2-3 attorneys who practice personal injury law and get some advice. The call won’t cost you anything and most attorneys are happy to discuss your case and give you an honest opinion of whether you may be better off with an attorney. Good Luck.