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I've been injured in an accident. Do I need a personal injury attorney?

I’m sure you expect a personal injury firm to say, Yes! Every accident resulting in an injury needs an injury attorney!

At McKinney Vos, we’re different.

We know the decision to hire an attorney depends entirely on the details of your case and what you want to achieve in doing so.

All plaintiff firms require the following three things before taking a case:

  1. You’ve been injured in an accident,
  2. The accident must be someone else’s fault, and
  3. There needs to be insurance coverage.

While your recent accident may check all of the boxes, not every injury case needs an injury attorney. Depending on your motivation for getting legal counsel, sometimes hiring an attorney can actually get in the way of achieving those goals. 

The Perfect Car Crash 

For example, let’s say you’re rear ended at a stop light. The impact isn’t hard, in fact, you barely noticed it. You pull over and the other driver immediately apologizes. They offer you their insurance card and call their insurance company while on scene to take responsibility for the crash. The next day, your neck hurts and you take some Tylenol. Eventually, the pain goes away after a few days and you don’t need medical treatment. Or if you do, it’s one brief visit with your family doctor.

The scenario above meets all of the requirements for an injury case – injury, fault, and insurance. However, if you’re goal is to pocket as much money as possible, then it might not be in your best interest to hire an attorney given the costs associated with legal representation.

Attorney fees can rage anywhere from 33.33% – 45% of the recovery from the other side plus legal expenses. After paying attorney fees and costs, you’ll likely end up with less in your pocket than if you handled the claim on your own. To decide whether you need an attorney or not, you should to weigh the expense of an attorney with the complexity of the case.

In Reality, It Is Never That Easy

Full disclosure, the scenario above rarely, rarely happens. More often than not, the other driver admits that the accident is their fault while at the scene but change their mind when they’re speaking with their insurance company. Instead of rear-ending you, they claim that you cut them off without a turn signal and they didn’t have time to stop. All of a sudden, a clear-cut car crash turns into a nightmare.

Keep in mind, even in the “perfect-world scenario”, there is still a benefit to hiring an attorney in the sense that you don’t have to jump through any hoops. For some, it’s worth paying attorney fees and costs just to have someone else deal headaches after a car crash. Again, the decision to hire an attorney depends entirely on what you hope to achieve in doing so.

Regardless, there are specific scenarios that will almost always benefit from attorney involvement:

  1. If you are seriously injured or disabled in accident,
  2. If there are multiple vehicles and other drivers involved,
  3. If you’re not sure who is at fault,
  4. If any of the people involved get aggressive or otherwise show suspicious behavior after the crash,
  5. If an insurance company representative refuses to return your calls, and/or
  6. The insurance company refuses to make an offer or offers an insultingly low amount.

 Seriously Injured or Disabled in the Accident

You’ll notice that in the “perfect world scenario,” the neck pain was fleeting and went away without extended medical treatment. Because the pain went away relatively quickly, the damages associated with it – medical bills and pain and suffering – are manageable.

Injuries that require a visit to the emergency room, hospital admission, extended therapy with a chiropractor or physical therapist, and/or surgery have higher damages associated with them. The medical bills are higher, the recovery time is longer and more painful, the physical impairment and disfigurement may be permanent, etc.

For cases involving serious injuries, the insurance company is motivated to push you to resolve your case as soon as possible. They’ll entice you with a low-ball offer in hopes that you’ll settle before knowing the full extent of your injuries and required medical care.

Once you resolve your claim, you cannot go back to the insurance company and demand more money. Once it’s closed, it’s closed. In order to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of, it’s important to get a personal injury attorney involved as soon as possible if you been seriously injured in an accident.

Something to keep in mind, everybody responds differently to trauma. If you’re in an accident with a friend or a family member and they’re not injured, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be injured. The best thing you can do for yourself is to listen to your body and get the medical care you think is best.

If There are Multiple Vehicles and Other Drivers Involved

You’ll also notice that in the “perfect world scenario,” there was only one other car involved and the facts of the crash were fairly straight forward. You were stopped and they hit you from behind. The waters get a little bit muddy when three or more vehicles are involved.

Everyone has a point of view of what happened. When there are multiple drivers, it is difficult to know who is telling the truth of what happened. You may be sure about what you saw, but did you see the whole thing? More often than not, you only have a piece of the puzzle and that piece needs to be put together with everyone else’s. An experienced attorney can help sort through the mess and identify what actually happened.

Something else to keep in mind is that memories fade as more time passes and it gets harder to prove what actually happened. Hiring an attorney right away will give you an opportunity to record everyone’s statement shortly after the crash. The statements will important as the case progresses to make sure the other drivers don’t try to change their story.

Aggressive or Suspicious Behavior

Drivers that refuse to give you their insurance information, beg you not to call the cops, or have an extreme emotional reaction to an accident should set off all sorts of alarms in your head.

Accidents happen. It’s a part of life.

Drivers that are aggressive or overly emotional are often hiding something more. It could be innocuous, like they took a long lunch break and are now they’re going to be late to work, or it could be something much more nefarious, like they don’t have valid insurance or they’re under the influence.  Regardless of the reason, trust your instinct and call the police as well as an attorney to help sort through the mess. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re not having to deal with that person on your own.

Insurance Adjuster Blows you off 

It never made sense to me why insurance adjusters are rude to people after an accident. You would think that the easiest way to get someone to accept a low-ball offer to treat better. What’s that adage? You get more flies with honey than vinegar.

For whatever reason, that’s not what happens. Instead, they ignore your call, make you jump through hoops to get your car fixed or see a doctor, and downplay your pain when you do manage to get them on the phone. As an injury attorney, I am glad they haven’t changed their ways because it gives you a reason to call an attorney. After a brief conversation, you’ll most certainly find out that they’re trying to sell you on something that only benefits them and their bottom line.

What Are You Looking for With an Attorney? 

The best way to determine if you need an injury attorney is to define what you’re hoping to accomplish in doing so. If you are seriously injured, the other driver is not cooperating, and/or you just need a professional to take this off your plate, then hiring an attorney is the right move.

If you’re not sure either way, call McKinney Vos today for a free, no-commitment consultation. We’ll review the facts of your case and advise if legal representation is right for you.

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