When is it necessary to hire an attorney after a car accident?

Asked about 1 year ago - Joppa, MD

My husband's car was rear ended and totaled. He woke the next day with severe head, back and neck pain. The ER doc gave him meds, told him to stay home, rest and follow up with our doc. On day 4 his pain is even worse. Doc says that's common for soft tissue damage from this type accident. so, more meds and no work at least 2 more days. The other driver was found 100% liable. Everyone is telling us to get a lawyer. Sadly, we are already struggling financially, barely making it pay check to paycheck. We need a fair settlement as soon as possible. Our state allows for pain and suffering damages on top our other losses. We detest the rampant abuse of our legal system and hate ambulance chasers. Can we actually calculate a fair settlement by ourselves and can we negotiate it without a lawyer?

Attorney answers (9)

  1. Andrew Timothy Burnett

    Contributor Level 4

    13

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Any reputable attorney will handle this case on a contingency fee basis. In other words, you will not have to pay the attorney to help you but the attorney will get a percentage of the total settlement.

    It is important to hire an attorney to advocate on your behalf because the insurance company will try to settle as soon as possible. However, injuries in these types of cases can be severe requiring treatment for extended periods of time. As such, even if you think the insurance company offers what you believe to be a "fair" settlement today does not mean it will cover all future medical costs if the injuries are lingering. Once you have settled with the insurance company you do not get a second chance.

    Your best bet is to meet with an attorney (at no cost to you) to explore your options. If you feel you do not need an attorney you can make that determination after you are fully informed.

  2. Lawrence Roger Holzman

    Contributor Level 12

    13

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You cannot get a "fair" settlement from an insurance company without representation. The reason is that without counsel you do not present a credible threat of litigation. So, you can get a settlement fast -- but not a fair one.

    There are other reasons that speed will not work in your favor right now --- the biggest thing is that your husband hasnt even finished treating yet -- what if he winds up needing a surgery etc?

    The collision and the negligence that caused it should really not be in your mind as a quick fix to your financial issues -- you're likely to wind up hurting yourself worse if you wind up settling for a low number, and too so too early; and wind up later with medical bills and lost wages that you can no longer recoup.

    In my office, we handle real claims where negligence was involved and people are actually entitled to be reimbursed for the pain and suffering as well as medical expenses, lost wages and property damage that they suffer at the hands of others.

    Please feel free to give me a call if you just even want to chat about your options and ways to think about going.

    But my free advice is this -- pick a lawyer to help -- and pick one who does these kinds of cases.

    Also note - an attorney can help you with other parts of the claim (organizing your PIP -- assisting you with your property damage issues etc.)

    Larry Holzman
    301.742.5344 (cell) (use this any time)
    301.875.4393 (office)

  3. Brandy Ann Peeples

    Pro

    Contributor Level 19

    12

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Unfortunately, insurance companies prey on people like yourselves -- with no understanding of how to navigate the negotiations. Without an attorney, insureds almost always get less than they would with an attorney. Things you need to account for are the fact that your husband's injuries could be with him for some time -- if you take a quick settlement now, then you might preclude yourselves from collecting later if these injuries persist and your husband requires future medical care. Not all attorneys are ambulance chasers and not all personal injury cases are an abuse of the legal system -- sure, there are some, but there are also legitimate cases which do require an attorney to navigate.

    Another consideration is the fact that your medical insurance provider may also have a lien on any funds you collect as part of a settlement. Experienced personal injury attorneys can negotiate medical liens more favorable to you (usually for a fraction of what the lien amount actually is).

    A good personal injury attorney will take your case on a contingency fee basis.

    DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided... more
  4. Scott R. Scherr

    Contributor Level 18

    10

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . It is up to you as to whether to hire an attorney. If your husband represents himself, he should not settle his case any time soon if he is still symptomatic. Once he settles his case, it is over forever and the insurance company will make him sign a Release. Many insurance companies will offer settlements early undervaluing the claim to get the Release signed and they are unlikely to offer a fair settlement without legal representation.

    He also can file for PIP benefits against his own insurance company which will pay medical bills and reimburse him for 85% of his lost wages up to the amount of his PIP limit (unless PIP benefits have been waived). These same bills and wages can still be submitted to the liability carrier even though they have been paid under the "collateral source rule."

    He should be sure to get prompt follow up medical treatment for his injuries so that he can begin to feel better. This will also document his injuries. Insurance companies will offer less money if there is little treatment or a "gap" in treatment since they feel that if someone has a lot of pain they will seek follow up care.

    Attorneys handle cases like this on a contingency fee which means that there is no fee due unless they win or settle the case. The fee is usually 1/3 of the settlement. Most insurance companies will take the case more seriously if your husband is represented by an attorney since they know that a lawsuit can be filed and the case prepared for trial if an inadequate offer is made.

    There could also be liens from medical providers, Medical Assistance, Medicare, and/or a health insurer that an attorney will know how to handle.

    Your husband would be best served to consult with an attorney to explore his options. Almost all attorneys will offer a free consultation in a case like this.

    I hope your husband begins to feel better soon.

  5. David Raymond Mahood

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18

    7

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . In addition to all the fine counsel you have already received, I would add that if you have negative thoughts about attorneys and believe that they are ambulance chasers, and abuse the legal system, then you will create an unnecessary tension between yourself and your husband's attorney, if you choose to hire one. This tension could cause the attorney to believe you and your husband do not trust your attorney, and this could make it more difficult for your own attorney to negotiate on your husband's behalf for the highest amounts possible. So I suggest you hire an attorney you can truly trust, and then try to make sure you avoid any negative interactions with your own attorney. I make these comments from years of experience, and from seeing some clients sabotage their own legitimate cases, just because they do not know how to treat professionals (attorneys) with the respect they deserve. If you can follow this advice, you will maximize the emotional and mental abilities of the attorney you and your husband hire. Just a word to the wise.

    Office: (410) 381-1656. This is NOT legal advice, is GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY, and does NOT establish an Attorney/... more
  6. Grant Andrew Posner

    Contributor Level 7

    6

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I understand that you need a fair settlment as soon as possible, but oftentimes those two ideas do not work together. Whats most important is that your Husband gets the treatment he needs to physically recover. Oftentime insurance companies offer quick settlment figures to non-represented injured parties in order to get the injured to waive future damages. This is a very risky move on the injureds behalf. Although it may take more time than you would prefer, getting an attorny to maximize the value of this case and make sure your husband recovers for both his physical and emotional damages should be tantamount to the urgency of the situation. We offer free evluations and contingent fee agreements where no money upfront is expected. 443-388-4777

  7. Christian K. Lassen II

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    7

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You don't need to pay cash up front. A personal injury lawyer will take it on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they only deduct their fee when they recover money for you. Find a top-rated Avvo lawyer with a low contingency fee, and get maximum compensation

  8. Philip Anthony Fabiano

    Contributor Level 20

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I'm not quite sure what "rampant abuse of the legal system" you are referring to. It's an absolute myth that you have bought into. The number of personal injury lawsuits have been dropping for many years and the amount of the verdicts have not kept pace with inflation. I have to fight attitudes like yours every day, until someone like you needs help from an insurance company that I guess you think has your best interest at heart and tries to pay as little as possible.
    Let me give you some numbers. The National Institute of Health, one of the most distinguished medical groups in the world, estimates that each year 95,000 people die in hospitals because of malpractice. This does not count patients that are forever maimed in hospitals or patients that are hurt outside of hospitals by malpractice. Other studies suggest this figure is too low and the number is closer to 200,000 people. Suppose the 95k is correct. That's the equivalent of a jumbo jet full with passengers dropping out of the sky every day. But suppose it's wrong and it's only half that. That's the equivalent of a jumbo jet dropping out of the sky every other day. We don't have a lawsuit problem in this country we have a negligence problem. If jets were dropping out of the sky everyday I imagine you would say we have to stop these lawsuits. I think maybe we should fix the planes.
    When my son was a little boy and someone would ask him what does your father do, he would say "he helps people who are hurt." That's what I do and if you want to call me an AMBULANCE CHASER I couldn't be more proud!

    If you feel this is the "best" answer or is "helpful," please indicate. Since I am limited to the information you... more
  9. Patrick S. Mintzer

    Contributor Level 7

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You can, but a lawyer will assure that you get a fair settlement, at NO cost to you.

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