When you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another party, you have the right to sue to recover damages. However, simply because you have that right doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to hire an attorney to represent your interests.
The facts surrounding the incident that caused your injuries will dictate whether you have a claim that requires an attorney’s assistance, or whether you can handle a settlement on your own. For example, if you were in a fender-bender type car accident, and no injuries or very minor injuries were sustained, the damages involved will likely amount to several hundred to a few thousand dollars. When damages are minor and do not involve medical treatment, bringing in an attorney would be overkill. You will very likely be able to successfully negotiate a settlement with the insurance company on your own.
Accidents involving minor injuries or property damage will frequently be handled out of court, due to the high cost of bringing suit. Oftentimes, in small cases, the court fees alone would exceed the amount of potential recovery.
Of course, in any situation where an accident has occurred, you should first and foremost get a thorough examination by a physician. What appears to be minor injuries can develop into much more serious injuries if not treated. Simply because you feel your injuries aren’t serious doesn’t mean you don’t need to immediately seek medical treatment. Always make sure that you get cleared medically to help avoid future health complications.
If you have been seriously injured, then you may very well have a legitimate case and should seek the advice of a qualified professional injury attorney. If you are unsure whether you need an attorney, here are a couple of questions that can help you determine if a personal injury attorney is right for your situation.
Is someone at fault for your injuries due to their negligence?
The negligent acts of another need to be proven in order to have a legitimate case. To determine fault, the court must examine two legalities: duty, and breach of duty.
A person’s responsibility to act reasonably to and around other people is the legal requirement called duty. Being aware of right and wrong, there are things you can and should do and things you must not do when dealing with the people that surround you. These duties are widely common-sense based.
When someone knowingly does something they should not be doing (or fails to do something they know they should do), that is called a breach of duty. If their actions or lack thereof result in injury, they are considered to be negligent.
In order to have a case worth pursuing, you must first be able to show evidence that your injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence. If you were completely at fault for your injuries, clearly you have no case. But if you were partially at fault, and someone else was partially at fault, you can still recover partial damages.
How severe are the injuries you have sustained?
Another aspect of a legitimate case is, of course, the injuries you have sustained. If you do not have injuries, you very likely do not have a case worth pursuing because a personal injury case is based on the injuries that have been suffered. The costs involved in being injured are immense, and include obvious costs such as medical treatment, but also include the costs of missing work, the cost of your pain and suffering, and loss of future income if you are unable to perform your normal work duties.
Going to court to seek compensation for your damages is an expensive process. If you have only suffered minor injuries, you may not recover enough in damages to even pay these costs. In a situation like this, you are much better off settling with the insurance company on your own to avoid the high costs of taking the negligent party to court. In fact, when you consult with a personal injury attorney, they will be able to tell you whether your case should go to court, or whether you are better off settling with the insurance company on your own, out of court. Since the attorney is paid out of the settlement or damages, if there aren’t enough potential damages to offset their cost, they will not take your case.
How will you be compensated for your injuries?
If there was someone else at fault (or partially at fault) for the injuries that you have sustained, and those injuries are serious enough to warrant a lawsuit, you will want to explore how you will be compensated for those damages and by whom.
In almost every personal injury case, any damages that are awarded to you will be paid by the insurance companies involved. But what if the negligent party in the case has insufficient insurance or no insurance at all? This unfortunate situation is all too common and is something to be considered before you bring suit. “You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip”, as they say. Oftentimes, if the negligent party doesn’t have insurance or is underinsured, the case isn’t even worth pursuing. If they lack insurance, it’s very likely they also lack any assets that would be able to be liquidated to pay for a judgment against them.
These people are said to be “judgment proof” because they simply do not have anything that would be able to provide for your damages. So even though you might win a case against them in court, you would be destined to spending years attempting to collect on the judgment and may never receive a penny. Your best bet in deciding if you have a valid and worthwhile claim is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney and take advantage of their free consultation. They can assess your unique situation and tell you if you have a claim worth pursuing, or one that you should settle on your own.