When should I hire a personal injury attorney?

Clayton T. Hasbrook

Written by Clayton T. Hasbrook. Last modified on November 27, 2023

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Timing plays a critical role in personal injury cases. State laws establish strict statutes of limitations dictating deadlines for taking legal action. Waiting too long jeopardizes the entire claim.

It also becomes more challenging to prove liability and document losses as time passes after the injury. Witnesses forget details, and evidence disappears. Insurance companies use delays to lower settlement offers.

Consulting a personal injury lawyer immediately gives you the best chance of “not wrecking your case.” 

You may not need a lawyer, but consulting with one early on can help ensure you are not undervaluing your case and can help you make sure you are documenting everything you need related to your claim. 

Interview Questions for Injury Lawyers

Choosing the right personal injury attorney can significantly affect your case outcome. Use an initial consultation to assess qualifications, experience, and skillset. The initial consultation is a chance for you and the attorney to evaluate if working together will be a good fit. You don’t have to hire the first lawyer you talk to. Feel free to go elsewhere if the attorney doesn’t want to answer questions. Ask the attorneys:

  • How many years have you practiced personal injury law?
  • What percentage of your caseload focuses exclusively on personal injury litigation?
  • What types of cases and injuries are you most experienced in handling?
  • What is your track record of securing settlements and jury awards?
  • Are you prepared to take the case to trial if a settlement cannot be negotiated?
  • How do you keep clients informed about case progress?
  • Have you handled a similar case to mine?
  • What do you think my case is worth?

Common Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury law covers various cases where a victim suffers harm due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful actions. Some of the most common claims include:

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents – Car crashes remain a leading cause of severe personal injury and wrongful death. Victims may be entitled to compensation for medical treatment, lost earnings, property damage, and pain and suffering.
  • Slip and Fall Accidents – Property owners are responsible for maintaining safe conditions for people on their premises. Victims of slip and falls may be able to pursue damages if negligence, such as failure to fix a hazard, contributed to the accident.
  • Medical Malpractice – When medical professionals fail to meet the standard of care and cause harm to patients, victims have the right to take legal action and recover compensation for additional medical costs, lost income, and other damages.
  • Dangerous Products – Manufacturers and distributors can be held liable when a defective product causes injury to consumers and the public.

Key Reasons to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

The attorney’s job is to get the most money available for your claim. This is accomplished by:

  1. Make sure all of the “case value drivers” are adequately documented.
  2. Negotiating with the insurance company.
  3. Filing a lawsuit if the insurance company is unreasonable.
  4. Willing and capable of going to trial. Trials hold insurance companies accountable.

Other Benefits of hiring a personal injury attorney include:

  • While the attorney builds your case, you focus on your medical treatment and health.
  • Knowing what a reasonable settlement offer is.
  • A trial date creates deadlines for the insurance company to settle the case or prepare for court.

Evaluating the Need for Legal Representation

Not every personal injury case requires an attorney. Factors that indicate hiring a lawyer represents an intelligent move include:

Severity of Injuries and Impact

The more serious the injuries and life disruptions, the greater the financial compensation at stake. Insurance companies are less likely to pay a large settlement without the risk of going to trial.

Negligence Disputes

Insurance companies are more likely to undervalue cases if there is a chance that the plaintiff was partially at fault. Evidence clearly showing the other party’s negligent or reckless actions caused the accident strengthens the case for hiring a lawyer. Police reports, eyewitness statements, and other documentation help prove liability.

Early Denial of an Insurance Claim

Sometimes, adjusters deny a claim without fully evaluating it. The only way to get the case reevaluated fairly is to file a lawsuit.

Steps in the Legal Process

While every personal injury case follows its unique trajectory, common steps often include the following:

1. Initial Consultation and Case Review

Meeting with a lawyer begins the attorney-client relationship. This provides an opportunity to give a detailed account of the accident and injuries. The lawyer assesses the case’s merit and answers any questions the potential client has.

2. Investigation and Evidence Collection

Building a case starts with thorough evidence gathering. The lawyer to secure documentation before details fade. Witness statements are most accurate the closer in time to the event.

3. Demand Letter to Insurance Company

The attorney presents a demand packet to the insurance provider requesting compensation for medical costs, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other applicable damages.

4. Negotiation

The lawyer handles all direct communication with the insurance company, fighting for the maximum settlement. Discussions continue until the insurer presents an adequate offer.

5. File a Lawsuit if the Negotiations Fail

6. Litigation Starts

Note that a settlement can be reached at any point during the litigation.

7. Mediation

8. Jury Trial

Most personal injury trials are before a jury. If both parties agree to a “trial by judge,” a “bench trial” will occur.

Fact-Checked

This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Clayton T. Hasbrook who has years of legal experience as a personal injury lawyer. Our last modified date shows when this page was last reviewed.