You see commercials by strong guy lawyers and billboards talking about getting millions for their clients, but do you really need a lawyer to handle your auto crash case? There is an old saying that “He who represents himself, has a fool for a client.” So, does everyone that is in an auto crash need to hire a lawyer. The answer is simply “no”. If the crash was your fault and you are being sued by the other driver, you should read my article entitled “My Insurance Company is paying for my lawyer, so do I need to hire a lawyer?”.
What if the crash was not your fault and you were seriously injured, do you need a lawyer? Everyone has a right to represent themselves. But should they? There is no simple answer and no “one size fits all” answer, so let’s go through it.
Most any competent personal injury attorney will tell you that they can get more money on your case than you can. However, that is not the question you should be asking. The insurance companies are more afraid of competent personal injury attorneys than they are of the injured victims. The attorneys know the rules of procedure. Most injured victims don’t. The attorneys know how to file a lawsuit, conduct statutory discovery and have experience in taking a case to trial. Most injured victims don’t. Therefore, if you have a valid case (regardless of whether it is a great case or a not-so-great case), virtually any insurance company is going to be willing to pay more on the case if you have an attorney. Whether the attorney can get the insurance company to pay more on your case than you can get isn’t really what is important. What should be important to you is whether the competent personal injury attorney can get more money on your case after deducting the attorney’s fees, than you can without having to pay for an attorney. For example, if you can get the insurance company to pay $2,500 for your case but an attorney can get the insurance company to pay $3,500 on your case, should you hire the attorney? The answer is: only if the attorney is charging you $1,000 or less for handling your case. If you can get the insurance company to pay $3,500 on your case and the attorney can get the insurance company to pay $10,000 on your case, hiring the attorney is a good idea.
Of course, there is also the “comfort factor”. The comfort factor is where you simply don’t want to deal with all of the details, hassles, arguing, and so forth that representing yourself entails. It also includes not having the risk that you don’t follow the law and mess your case up. For example, Oklahoma has what are called Statutes of Limitations. Those laws say that you must file a lawsuit by a certain deadline or your case is forever dead. There are numerous Statutes of Limitations with different deadlines. For example, if you are in a car crash with an Oklahoma Highway Patrol car while on duty that ran a stop sign and hit you, the Statute of Limitation is substantially shorter than if you were hit by a high school student driving to class when the stop sign was run. Knowing the legal technicalities in that situation can be the difference between receiving just compensation for your injuries and receiving nothing at all.
As a general rule, it is better to consult with a competent personal injury attorney before you pursue your claim. There are many things that people do that horribly damage their case before they seek the advice of an attorney. Most reputable personal injury law firms, such as the Scott Ray Law Firm, do not charge for initial consultations on personal injury cases. The initial consultation allows the attorney to determine if you have a valid case and whether it is the type of case the attorney wants to handle. It also gives the injured victim the opportunity to determine if the attorney is the right fit for them and if not, who might be a better fit to handle their case. It also allows you to decide if you need to hire an attorney for your case before you do anything that could inadvertently jeopardize your case. I have had numerous people meet with me only to learn that they had destroyed their case when they thought they were helping their case. Lawyers can fix many things but there are some things that just can’t be undone. For example, I had a client whose nurse committed malpractice. Thinking he was doing the right thing; he mailed a letter to the hospital’s administrator complaining about the nurse and asked the hospital to write-off his hospital bill. Unfortunately, the client did not realize that he had triggered a statute that shortened his deadline to file a claim and the deadline had already passed before he contacted me. His case was dead. Tragic.
Another good rule of thumb is that if your injuries are serious, you probably need an attorney. If you had to have surgery or had a broken bone or sustained a permanent injury or similar injuries, you would be wise to seek the advice of a experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible and certainly before you try to handle the claim yourself. Therefore, if you or a loved one has sustained serious injuries in an auto crash or some other cause, please call the Scott Ray Law Firm at (580)248-5557. We will be happy to discuss your case with you and we will let you know if we feel you don’t need to hire us. If we feel you need an attorney, we will let you know that too.