Personal Injury Claims: When You Need a Lawyer
For certain personal injury claims -- such as those for severe injuries, malpractice, or toxic exposure -- you'll want to consult a lawyer.
Sometimes, the skills of an experienced personal injury lawyer -- or at least the threat to an insurance company that such a lawyer may present -- are worth the money you must pay that lawyer to represent you. You may need a lawyer because of complex legal rules involved in your particular claim, or because the severity of your injuries might cause your compensation to vary greatly from the norm -- or simply because an insurance company refuses to settle a matter in good faith. The following types of injuries and accidents almost certainly require a lawyer's help.
Long-Term or Permanently Disabling Injuries
Some accidents result in injuries that significantly affect your physical capabilities or appearance for a long time -- over a year -- or even permanently. Figuring out how much such a serious injury is worth can be a difficult business. You'll probably require some assistance from an experienced lawyer to get the most out of your claim.
The amount of your accident compensation is mostly determined by how severe your injuries were. And the severity of your injuries is measured by the amount of your medical bills, the type of injuries you have, and the length of time it takes for you to recover. As the amount of your potential compensation increases, the range within which that compensation may fall becomes wider. In such cases, it may be worth the expense to have a lawyer handle your claim and make sure you receive compensation at the highest end of the range.
If you have suffered an injury or illness due to careless, unprofessional, or incompetent treatment at the hands of a doctor, nurse, hospital, clinic, laboratory, or other medical provider, both the medical questions and the legal rules involved are complex. They almost certainly require that you hire a lawyer experienced in medical malpractice cases. See Nolo's section on Medical Malpractice for more detail on these complicated cases.
In the increasingly chemical world, we sometimes become ill because of exposure to contaminants in the air, soil, or water, in products, or in food. Claims based on such exposure are difficult to prove, however, and often require complex scientific data. And because the chemical and other industries have erected a huge wall to protect themselves from legal exposure while they continue to expose us to potentially harmful chemicals, the required evidence is very hard to come by. Get expert help.
(To learn more, see Nolo's section on Chemical Exposure Injuries & Lawsuits).
When an Insurance Company Refuses to Pay
In some instances, regardless of the nature of your injury or the amount of your medical bills and lost income, you will want to hire a lawyer because an insurance company or government agency simply refuses to make any fair settlement offer at all. In these cases, something -- what the lawyer can get minus the fee charged to get it -- is better than nothing.
Finding a Good Personal Injury Lawyer
One good way to find a lawyer is to ask friends, acquaintances, or other lawyers for referrals -- and then interview the candidates. In addition, Nolo provides a personalized Lawyer Directory with information about each lawyer's experience, education, and fees, and perhaps most importantly, the lawyer's general philosophy of practicing law. By using Nolo's directory you can narrow down candidates before calling them for a phone or face-to-face interview. For more details on locating and selecting a good personal injury lawyer, read Nolo's article on Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer.
To Learn More
For a complete guide to the personal injury claim process, including staying on top of your case if you hire a lawyer, see How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim, by Joseph Matthews (Nolo).