If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may be wondering what your legal options are concerning paying for your medical bills and recouping lost wages. You can go through your own car insurance company and the insurance of the person who hit you, assuming that person has car insurance. Or, you can find a personal injury attorney to take your case and fight for any monetary award you may be owed.
There are advantages to both routes, but with an experienced car accident attorney on your side, you can rest assured the amount awarded is likely to be higher with legal representation. You will have to pay a significant portion of your settlement to your attorney, assuming you win, and that amount is usually in the ballpark of 33-40% of the money you’re awarded. However, even with the attorneys’ fee, plaintiff’s typically receive far more compensation then when going it alone.
Whether or not you have to go to court will be determined by the complexity of your case and the cooperation of the “other side.” About 95-96% of all personal injury cases are settled before making it into the courtroom, so even if the threat of going to court exists, you likely will not have to go that far in the personal injury process.
Many people choose to settle a personal injury lawsuit, such as a car accident for one or more of these reasons:
- Compensation is typically received more quickly
- No court appearances are necessary
- Unpredictable jury decisions are avoided
For many people, the fear of losing at trial is incentive enough to get them to settle, but settling without the assistance of an attorney almost always means a smaller settlement. In fact, the amount of money that insurance companies try to get away with offering accident victims is very, very low in most cases. Without the guidance of a personal injury attorney, many people have no idea how much compensation they should have received for their injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
What to Expect As You Contemplate Settling or Suing
While some personal injury cases can be very long and drawn out, there are times when proving fault is quite easy, and both parties quickly agree on a fair settlement. Regardless of how long your case may take, the first step in the personal injury claim process is to find a lawyer you trust and one you feel will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve. Experience is crucial in these cases, so be on the lookout for an accident attorney who has more than a few successful cases on his record.
You need to trust your lawyer, and your lawyer must trust you. There may be some difficult questions asked during the early stages of the personal injury process. If you are not completely honest with your lawyer, you risk potential harm to your case.
During the discovery phase, both sides will gather evidence to support their claims. Your attorney will get all the pertinent information he needs from all parties involved. After all information is gathered and both sides have made discovery, you will then decide with your lawyer the best course of action to take: to file a claim or accept a settlement.
Since most personal injury cases are settled pre-trial, your case may be settled by your lawyer negotiating with insurance companies. Regardless of the type of personal injury claim, insurance companies are always involved. If the insurance companies cannot agree on a settlement after the negotiation process is complete, a personal injury lawsuit may be filed.
If a settlement can’t be reached between the parties involved, then a personal injury lawsuit will be filed on your behalf. A formal complaint will be filed with the court system, and the other side has a certain amount of time to answer. Lawsuits can go on for months and years (depending on the losses suffered). A good personal injury attorney will try to give you an idea of what to expect regarding how long the entire process may take.
Personal injury claims can be settled at any time throughout the process, even the day before court or the day of being heard of in court. If one side feels they cannot win, a settlement will be offered, usually at the last minute.
Schedule a Consultation
If you’ve been in an accident and don’t know whether to contact a lawyer or go it alone, scheduling a no-cost consultation with a personal injury attorney will help you make that difficult decision. If you meet with an accident attorney and feel you don’t need his help, then you can pursue compensation by working with the insurance companies yourself. The personal injury attorney you meet with just may provide some insight into your case that will make you see having legal counsel is in your best interest.