When Should I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
Any time you are injured through no fault of your own, you have a strong motivation to seek a personal injury claim with the help of an experienced lawyer. Your claim can help you repay the costs of your injury, including coverage for your medical bills, compensation for your lost income caused by missed work, and coverage for your other damages.
After you are hurt, you may think you have no case. You may also think that your claim is rather simple and can be handled through the typical insurance process. The truth is that there is no way to predict the outcome of a case, no matter the circumstances. The one thing that is certain is that only an experienced personal injury attorney can completely analyze your situation from the perspective of the law. Without a lawyer’s guidance, you can make critical mistakes when seeking your claim. You may even take the defending side’s word for it and settle for pennies — or accept that you won’t get anything at all.
In every case, it makes sense to at least review your situation with a personal injury lawyer near you. They can point out key case details and explain how claims like yours typically play out. They can offer guidance on specific information to gather and present in order to strengthen your claim. If your case goes to trial, which happens when the other side refuses to settle, then your attorney will provide you with invaluable services as they manage your case and help you prepare for what’s ahead.
Most attorneys work on what’s known as a contingency basis, including the Tampa personal injury lawyers at Darrigo & Diaz. A contingency agreement means that your attorney will not charge you for the services they render unless or until they are able to obtain compensation for you. In other words, you can obtain legal counsel and representation regardless of your income or current financial situation. There’s no risk to you. You pay nothing unless you win.
Darrigo & Diaz can provide you with a free, confidential case evaluation with no obligation for further appointments. Call us today at (813) 774-3341 or contact us online to schedule your free appointment now. You will receive answers to your questions and information on the next steps to take to pursue your possible injury claim.
What Is a Personal Injury Lawyer?
A personal injury lawyer is a licensed attorney who specializes in cases involving personal injury law. Personal injury cases fall under the category of a legal practice known as “tort law”.
A “tort” is a traditional way to refer to a situation where someone has inflicted damages upon someone else through their actions in such a way to make them responsible (liable) for the costs of those damages. A tort can refer to the type of damage a property owner suffers when someone uses their land without permission, for example. The criminal acts of assault and battery are, technically, a form of tort.
Personal injury torts usually involve key specific details:
- Person B (the defendant) had a duty of care, either because of a specific law or because of a general expectation to exercise “ordinary care”
- Person B committed a breach in their duty of care, either by doing something careless, by failing to do something reasonable, or by intentionally breaking that duty
- The breach in Person B’s duty of care caused an injury to Person A (the plaintiff)
- Person A’s injury led to damages, which can be recovered through the legal process
These four points make up the bulk of a personal injury case, whether or not it goes to trial. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to establish each of the four components through evidence combined with knowledge of the law and past case outcomes. Personal injury lawyers also know the processes needed to seek repayment for your injury, including how to deal with insurance companies and what steps are needed to prepare for a trial.
In short, a personal injury lawyer is a legal professional whose background and training uniquely prepares them to help injured clients seek the maximum amount of compensation for their losses.
What Types of Cases Do Personal Injury Lawyers Handle?
Personal injury lawyers can handle any type of case leading to an injury. Not all cases have a clear responsible party, but an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can analyze the case to look for any possibilities.
With that said, a personal injury lawyer is most likely to handle certain types of cases. The following cases represent the most frequent causes of personal injuries:
- Auto accidents
- Defective products
- Wrongful death
- Birth injuries
- Medical malpractice
- Unsafe working conditions
How Does a Conflict of Interest Affect My Lawsuit?
A conflict of interest arises when two parties involved in a case already have a relationship, and that relationship could impact the fair and objective outcome of a case. A common example is that a personal injury attorney representing a client could also have a relationship with the person who allegedly injured the client. The lawyer may represent a company named in a truck accident lawsuit, for instance, or they may go out golfing with the CEO.
Lawyers — and everyone involved in a legal case, for that matter — have an obligation to disclose any potential conflicts of interest early on in the case. If the possible conflict is great, then the lawyer should recommend that their client seeks out someone else.
Clients may sometimes discover that their attorney or others involved in their case have a conflict of interest. If their case has a poor outcome and the client believes the conflict was at least partially to blame, they may be able to seek compensation from their attorney for their losses.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Not every situation requires the services of a personal injury attorney. At the same time, injured persons should know that there are many obstacles that commonly prevent injured people from getting the full and fair compensation they probably deserved.
Insurance companies are a common factor in cases that don’t result in complete financial recovery for the injured party. Insurers have a profit-driven motive to deny coverage for certain areas of the claim, and they will deny the claim in its entirety any time they are able. Insurers will also frequently “low ball” the claimant and send them a pitifully low offer. If the claimant is not aware of their rights or knowledgeable about how to pursue negotiations further, they may agree to the settlement — forcing them to pay the remaining costs out of pocket.
The bottom line is that getting the compensation you need to fully recover and move on from your injury is not always easy. You may not even be aware of all of the types of compensation available to you. It is always beneficial to at very least review your case with a seasoned legal advocate. Speaking to a personal injury attorney during a free consultation allows you to understand your options and to know the full estimated value of your case.
Seeking an attorney out is especially recommended in the following scenarios:
- Your accident involved multiple drivers or other parties with no clear blame
- Your accident involved a business or company
- Your accident was caused by a defective product or dangerous drug
- Your claim was denied in part or in full by insurance
- Insurers are saying that your injuries didn’t come from the alleged incident
- You are being threatened with a counter-suit
- Your injury damages are substantial, costing $10,000 or more
- Your injuries will result in a permanent disability or an inability to perform your old job
- You have an immediate family member who died in an accident
When to Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
The best time to contact a personal injury attorney is immediately after your accident and before reaching out to insurers. Insurance companies will likely attempt to get you to invalidate your own claim by asking leading statements. They may, for example, ask questions about what you were doing immediately prior to a car accident.
Any simple mistake you make on your application or when talking to an insurance representative can quite literally cost you. You may have some or all of your claims denied. For this reason, it is advisable to at least consult with a personal injury lawyer near you during a free case evaluation to understand the Do’s and Don’ts of filing your claim.
You should also strongly consider appointing an attorney if you have already filed a claim that is being denied in part or in full. If the insurer refuses to settle for a reasonable amount, your options at that point are to negotiate further for a settlement or to take the case to trial.
Contacting a personal injury lawyer is also advisable any time you feel like the full details of the case aren’t being revealed. This situation is especially common when you are involved in an accident with a truck or another commercial vehicle. The trucking company may attempt to lie or withhold evidence to avoid liability.
In any case, there is never a bad time to reach out to a personal injury lawyer near you. They can provide you insights into your situation and guidance on what to do next to maximize your chances of retrieving full compensation for your losses.
What Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer
When evaluating your options for a personal injury lawyer to represent your case, it is important to always ask some key questions:
- Have you handled cases like mine before successfully?
- Do you have references from past clients?
- How long have you been practicing law? In general and in this state?
- Are you familiar with the court system my case would likely be handled in?
- Are there any relevant state/federal laws or court cases I should be aware of?
- Do you think my case is likely to result in a settlement?
- Are there any challenging aspects to my case I should be aware of? Such as a history of my sort of injury being hard to document?
- What categories of compensation should I be seeking given my injury and my losses?
- How do you handle payment? Is it a straight percentage, or are there specific fees and other costs I must pay on top of that?
- What common mistakes should I be aware of in the claims filing process or in trial litigation?
What Are the Steps to a Personal Injury Case?
All personal injury cases start with an accident, an incident, or the discovery of a medical condition. Most will then proceed through an insurance claims process filed with the liability insurance provider representing the at-fault party (or parties).
Only rarely will such a case result in a lawsuit. Insurers and injured plaintiffs both typically prefer to come to a settlement in lieu of a trial. Even when a lawsuit (legally known as a complaint) is filed, there is generally the expectation that both sides will be motivated to reach a settlement before the trial date is set. During a trial, either side has the opportunity to end the case and reach a settlement up to the point of jury instruction prior to deliberations.
With this in mind, here are the typical steps to a personal injury claim:
- The claimant gets injured in an accident. They may also instead discover a medical condition related to a defective product, dangerous environmental condition, etc.
- The claimant receives a full medical diagnosis and begins treatment.
- The claimant notifies the insurance carrier representing the liable party (or parties) that they have a possible claim. Note: It is advisable to seek representation from a personal injury lawyer prior to giving this notice so an attorney can guide you through the remaining steps.
- The claimant gathers documentation and waits for more information on their medical condition to determine the estimated full cost of treatment.
- The claimant submits a demand letter to the insurer documenting their damages in full and requesting compensation. This is the point where the claim formally begins.
- The insurer evaluates the claim and responds. They may argue that certain damages aren’t covered, and they may try to deny the claim in full. Commonly, the insurer will make a counteroffer that is much lower than the originally demanded amount.
- The claimant can then respond to this response. They may appeal the insurer’s decision to reduce or deny benefits. They may also instead make a counteroffer closer to their original demand.
- The insurance company and claimant, along with the claimant’s attorney, can continue to negotiate the settlement value. Once a value deemed reasonable by both sides is reached, a settlement is signed and the money is released.
In some cases, either party will determine around step 7 or 8 that they no longer wish to continue negotiations. When this happens, the claimant will then be forced to file a complaint (lawsuit) in the appropriate court. A successful complaint case legally compels the other party to pay for the damages they caused.
The following are the steps taken when an injury case proceeds to a lawsuit and trial:
- Prior to the complaint being filed, the plaintiff and their attorney assemble evidence and documentation of the injury diagnosis as well as the number of damages.
- The complaint is filed, and the named defendant can respond with an “answer” stating whether they assent to the terms of the complaint or wish to instead proceed to litigation.
- The discovery phase begins, allowing both sides to request evidence from one another.
- Motions will likely be filed, including a motion from the defendant to dismiss the case summarily. The plaintiff’s attorney will respond to these motions and argue to have them denied.
- Mediation will likely be ordered before a trial date can be set. Both sides meet with a neutral party — a mediator — to try and come to a settlement agreement.
- If the case proceeds to trial, a jury is then selected. The trial begins with opening statements before moving to the presentation of evidence and the calling of witnesses. After all evidence and testimony is submitted, each side makes a closing argument, and the jury then deliberates.
- The jury renders their verdict. They will often separately weigh whether the defendant is at all liable for the injury in question and what an appropriate award would be for the plaintiff.
- Either side can appeal the verdict by arguing that the law was inappropriately applied, the process was flawed, or an error in judgement affected the outcome.
Compensation for an injury can come either from a settlement agreement or a court verdict. In either case, the terms of the final decree/contract will set out how much is to be paid and on what timeline.
How Much Will My Personal Injury Settlement Be?
The value of your personal injury settlement depends on multiple factors.
Your Claimed Damages
The first and most important factor in determining an injury settlement’s value is the damages suffered themselves. Individuals who suffer more damages will request a higher amount of compensation.
Common costs claimed include:
- Emergency medical transport and treatment
- Hospital stays
- Tests, imaging, and other diagnostics
- Rehabilitation costs
- Medical devices
- Over-the-counter drugs and remedies recommended by the treating physician
- Follow-up appointments
- Lost wages caused by an inability to work while recovering
- Long-term costs caused by a difference in earnings potential after the injury
- Compensation for long-term medical treatments needed
- Compensation for personal pain and suffering
The Severity of Your Injury
More severe injuries have higher medical costs. They are also easier to use to demonstrate losses and hardship after the accident. For example, an injury victim who can no longer walk will have more obvious losses and greater medical costs compared to someone with a minor sprain. Insurers may also recognize that juries could be swayed by the severity of the injury, often increasing their motivation to settle. At the same time, an insurer is more likely to dispute a claim that has a high value compared to one with just a few thousand dollars in damages.
The Available Evidence
Stronger evidence and clearer establishment of liability make an insurer more likely to settle.
Claimable vs. Non-Claimable Costs
Some insurance policies exempt certain medical treatments or costs from coverage. A common example is that the insurer will allege that some of your medical procedures were not “reasonable and necessary” for your recovery.
The Costs of Legal Representation and the Case Itself
Court cases are expensive by nature. They involve many costs related to court fees, administration costs, and so on. Handling a case can also be expensive for an attorney. They dedicate lots of their own time as well as the time of their staff.
Ask your potential attorney whether costs related to the case or their services will be deducted from your settlement value. Personal injury lawyers often instead just charge a set percentage of the final settlement before costs and deductions. This percentage is often around 30%, but it can be higher or lower depending on the attorney’s preferred billing arrangements.
Any such costs will be deducted from the value of your final settlement or jury award.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Near You to Pursue Your Claim Today
If you have been hurt in a car accident, slip and fall accident, or another incident, you are likely scared and feeling pressure. You may have medical bills mounting and other costs. You may be facing seriously diminished income while you miss work. The important thing is to act now and explore your options for pursuing a personal injury claim with the help of an experienced attorney.
Reach out to an attorney at Darrigo & Diaz today to start taking the first crucial steps. We will answer your questions and provide an analysis of your case during a free, no-obligation case evaluation. We can then help you prepare for the next steps of your claim. Start the process today when you call (813) 774-3341 or contact us online to schedule your risk-free, no-cost appointment. Time is of the essence when filing a personal injury claim, so call