One of the most common questions we hear from potential clients is “I was in an accident.  Do I need a lawyer?”

Not every personal injury case needs a lawyer or warrants filing a lawsuit.  Here are some guidelines for when you do and do not need a lawyer.

You Should Consult With a Lawyer If:

  • The accident involved a DUI or hit and run driver
  • The case involves an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Claim
  • You were seriously injured, broke a bone or had surgery
  • The accident injured a pre-existing condition
  • The accident involved a tractor-trailer

You probably don’t need a lawyer if:

  • Only your car was damaged
  • Your injuries didn’t require medical treatment
  • You have a small amount of medical bills

Read more below about whether you should consult with an attorney about your case.

You Should Consult With A Lawyer If:

The accident involved a DUI or hit and run driver

If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver or someone that fled the scene after hitting you, the law allows you to seek punitive damages, which can add significant value to your case. Juries also tend to award larger verdicts in cases involving drunk drivers or hit and run drivers, even if they don’t award punitive damages.  Insurance companies will not adequately compensate you without a lawyer to present your case for you.

The case involves an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Claim

Many accidents are caused by drivers who don’t have enough insurance to cover your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.  In this situation, you’ll need to make a claim with your car insurance’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist claims can be complex and require you to jump through a series of legal hoops to make sure that you are preserving your right to make an uninsured motorist claim. A lawyer will determine whether and how much uninsured motorist coverage you have, notify the insurance company of a potential claim and take the necessary legal steps to prosecute the claim if your insurance company refuses to make a fair settlement offer.

You were seriously injured, broke a bone or had surgery

In cases involving serious injuries, broken bones or surgery, insurance companies will make a settlement offer that may seem fair but is much lower than a jury verdict would be or than the insurance company would offer to someone with an attorney.  An attorney will make sure that any jury verdict or settlement offer takes into account your past and future medical treatment and bills, pain and suffering and any permanent disability you suffered as a result of the accident.

The Accident Injured A Pre-Existing Condition

Many people have arthritis, degenerative conditions or bulging and herniated discs in their neck and back that aren’t causing them any pain or discomfort.  Then they’re involved in an accident which aggravates the degenerative condition or bulging disc, causing it to become symptomatic, painful and require medical treatment.  This is called aggravation of a pre-existing condition and the law allows you to be compensated for the medical treatment and pain and suffering caused by it.  Insurance companies will typically claim that since you had a pre-existing condition they are not required to pay for any treatment it requires – despite what the law says and that you weren’t having any problems with the pre-existing condition before the accident.

The Accident Involved A Tractor-Trailer

Tractor-trailer accidents can be tough and complicated cases.  Since they usually result in very serious injuries or deaths and there are often millions of dollars in insurance policies at stake, they are defended by very good and experienced defense lawyers who will do their best to minimize the amount the insurance company has to pay you.  Tractor-trailer accidents involve federal safety regulations that govern tractor-trailer drivers and trucking companies, often require hiring an expert in accident reconstruction to help determine what happened and much more extensive litigation than a typical car accident case usually requires.

You Probably Do Not Need A Lawyer If:

Only Your Car Was Damaged

You typically don’t need a lawyer to handle the damage to your car.  if the other driver was at fault and was cited for the accident, their insurance company will usually pay for the damage to your car.  If the other driver’s insurance is refusing to pay or being difficult and you have collision coverage on your car insurance policy, have your insurance company pay for the repairs. Your insurance company will seek reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance company.

Your injuries didn’t require medical treatment

Many people get bumps, bruises and soreness from car accidents that go away after a couple of days or a week and don’t require a doctor visit.  If you got better without going to the doctor, you don’t need a lawyer for your case.

You have a small amount of medical bills

Remember that a lawyer gets paid by taking a percentage of the settlement or jury verdict.  If you have $3,000 to $4,000 in medical bills it typically means that you were hurt but got better relatively quickly without a lot of medical treatment.  This usually means you don’t have a case that’s going to result in a large settlement or jury verdict.  A lawyer is typically not going to be able to get a large enough settlement or verdict to justify the percentage that they’re charging you.  However, if the insurance company refuses to make you a settlement offer or makes a lowball offer, it may be worthwhile to talk to a lawyer.  Our firm limits its practice to cases involving serious injuries and deaths but we would be happy to refer you to a good lawyer for your case.