I am a full time critical care nurse. I am not a litigious person, but I'm having irretractable back pain now, which is very scary, since my back is so important for me to accomplish my job tasks. So, I am wondering if I should hire an attorney; I have heard they bill you up to 30% of your settlement, and that it can cause settlement to take years longer than without. Thoughts?
Are there any respectable resources for a pro se person to use to understand a fair amount to ask for after a whiplash injury?
You are a nurse, are you sure you only have a "whiplash injury" that will resolve? As you said, a healthy back is important to you. All personal injury attorneys I know do not charge for a consultation. What better source of information could there be? If you have no herniation and are really moving on in life normally, maybe you can and should settle on your own, but if your back is really bothering you, you should get a good diagnosis before you do anything else. And talk to a good attorney who handles cases like this all the time. Find one on Avvo, it easy.
If you want to understand what to expect to receive as a pro se litigant, you can contact the Jury Verdict Reporter and determine what cases like yours customarily bring when they go to court. Then, when you talk to the insurance adjuster, understand that they will discount that figure significantly because it will be clear to them that you are not in any position to actually litigate the matter on your own and that there is no reason for them to pay the full value of your injury. Since you are unwilling to litigate and don't want to even hire an attorney to represent you, you need to understand that any decent insurance adjuster will take these facts into account and pay you accordingly.
Alternatively, you can hire an attorney who is capable of getting the insurance company to pay full value for your injury.
Have you spoke with the insurance for the other driver? Many times the insurance will have you gather your medical records and bills to help establish what they will pay to settle the case. Unfortunately, if you are concerned about your back being a problem for your job in the future, an attorney would likely be able to help you recover for future medicals and potential loss of earning capacity.
If you are concerned about the percentage of the settlement the attorney takes, talk to the attorney and negotiate a lower percentage. Many lawyers are willing to lower their fee agreement if you ask and if your case has a strong likelihood of getting a good recovery.
When someone else's negligent act impairs your ability to work and causes consistent pain--as has happened to you--there's nothing wrong with seeking a monetary recovery that will compensate you for what you've lost. You're not trying to get something for nothing; instead, you're being set back in the position that you would have occupied if the other person had never hit you. In other words, it isn't just "litigious" people who file lawsuits--it's innocent people who have been hurt through no fault of their own.
I'd absolutely recommend that you hire a lawyer. Most lawyers charge, as their fee, 33-40% of any eventual recovery (whether it's through settlement, or through a verdict and judgment). For your case, 33% is probably reasonable. Assuming you hire a good lawyer, the amount you personally recover with a lawyer's assistance will exceed the amount you'd recover if you went after the insurance company alone, even after you deduct the fee. Plus, you don't have to worry about your claim on a day-to-day basis, and hiring a lawyer should expedite--rather than delay--your recovery.
I agree with Jeff Wertz. Like, Jeff, lawyers in our firm represent injury victims all the time. Insurance companies will not fully compensate someone without an attorney. Often, it does take longer to settle a case or even to get a just result at trial. But, that's simple economics. If the insurance company can throw a little money out on the table and have an injury victim snatch it up, then they will pay that quickly. But they will have done their homework and will not offer nearly as much as it would take to make the injured person whole.
Call a few lawyers and sit down with them to learn about their firms and how they can help.
The reason most often found for "Pro Se" cases taking shorter time to end than if a lawyer was involved, is because the Pro Se claimant does not know the law, or valuses of claims, and the insurance adjuster succesfully "raped" the victim with an extremely low settlement. Lawyers do not protract cases just for sake of delay - a personal injury attorney does not get paid unless the client is successful in getting a settlement or verdict, so there is no benefit to not settling IF THE RIGHT OFFER WAS MADE. However, a case can take longer with the attorney because an unreasonable offer, or position, was made or taken and the attorney is fighting for your rights to get you the best results possible. Even with a 30% attorney's fee (which is only paid if you are successful) the client with an attorney generally obtains a greater amount of money in his/her pocket than if the claim is handled without an attorney. Frankly, it is somewhat surprising that a professional such as yourself is blind to the potential adverse realities when a client or patient decides to be their own "caretaker".
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