Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
If you’re involved in a motorcycle, bicycle, auto or trucking accident, you may be asking yourself whether it’s necessary to hire a lawyer. This is a very good question and the answer depends on a number of factors.
Whether you are dealing with your insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company, it is important to remember that insurance companies are for-profit businesses who are more concerned with their bottom line than they are with making sure you are properly compensated. It is in the insurance company’s best interest to settle with you for as little as possible.
Often, insurance companies will offer you a settlement for a very low amount near the outset of the case, hoping you will cash the check and go away. The problem with settling too soon or for too little is that you may have serious, lasting injuries that are not apparent at the beginning of your case. If you accept this low offer, you will not have the opportunity to come back later and ask for more money. The law bars you from any further recovery after you sign a release or settlement agreement.
Everyone is entitled to settle a claim without hiring a lawyer. Sometimes this makes sense. Other times it is a very, very bad idea. Ask yourself the following questions in order to help you decide whether hiring a lawyer is the smart choice. (This list does not cover every situation, but it provides a basic checklist):
1. How serious is my accident?
The starting point is deciding whether the accident is a minor one or something more serious. If the property damage to any vehicles involved is low, the impact was at a low speed, and you have no soreness or injuries of any kind, this can be deemed minor. In these instances, the insurance company will not pay out major compensation and it may make sense to settle the claim on your own. However, you should ALWAYS at least consult with an accident attorney before deciding whether to represent yourself.
2. Who is at fault?
The issue of liability is often complex. Insurance companies will attempt to find any excuse to deny your claim. If you have lasting or serious injuries and there is any question whether you may be even partially at-fault for the accident, you should consult a lawyer who understands the law. Always at least consult with an attorney prior to giving any insurance company a written or recorded statement of any kind.
3. Is there money available to pay for my injuries?
One of the issues to consider is the amount of insurance coverage available for your injuries. In California, non-commercial drivers are only required to carry a minimum of $15,000 of liability coverage. This means if another driver is responsible for your injuries, their insurance company may only be obligated to pay you up to this amount for your injuries. In other instances, the driver may have an insurance policy in excess of $1,000,000. Hiring an attorney early on who will investigate the amount of coverage available is essential if you have any injuries.
If the person responsible for the accident is uninsured, or if they have, for example, California minimum liability policy limits of $15,000, the next area of investigation concerns your own auto liability policy. Many drivers carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Your uninsured motorist coverage kicks in when the driver who injures you carries no insurance at all. Underinsured motorist coverage applies when the at-fault party’s insurance policy does not adequately compensate you for all of your damages.
Other areas to consider are whether the person who injured you was working for an employer at the time of the accident. In these instances, a commercial policy may cover your injuries. Lastly, an investigation into the at-fault driver’s assets may become necessary if insurance coverage is inadequate.
For these reasons, if you have injuries, it makes sense to hire an attorney who conduct a thorough investigation into the types and amounts of coverage available to you.
4. Are the facts of my case complex?
If you have any pre-existing injuries that may be impacted by the current auto accident you should consult an attorney. Also, if you have a loss of wages claim, or if the accident is interfering with your ability to have a normal social life or your ability to care for your family, you should speak with an attorney.
5. Do I have the time to handle on my own?
Even in minor auto cases, the claims process is time consuming and frustrating. In order to get compensated for even minor impact accidents, you must be committed to doing a lot of work. If you can’t commit the time and energy necessary for a successful outcome, it is a good idea to turn the matter over to an attorney who will work hard on your behalf.
6. Am I okay with attorney fees?
Most personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles work on what is called a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not have to pay the lawyer out-of-pocket to represent you. Instead, the attorney receives a portion of the final settlement proceeds. The attorney fee is often between 30% and 40% percent depending on the stage at which the case settles. If the case settles before the filing of a lawsuit, the fee is often lower. Whereas, if the attorney takes your case all the way to trial or arbitration, the fee is often higher.
I am often asked if it’s worth giving up a large percentage of the settlement proceeds to a lawyer. My answer is: it depends! If the injury is very minor and the amount of possible settlement is low, it often does not make sense. However, if the issues are complex or the injuries are significant, you must hire a lawyer to protect your interests. Regardless, you should always at least consult with a lawyer prior to making this decision.
7. Am I confident my lawyer will do a good job?
As a final note, if you decide to hire a lawyer, it is important to know that not all law firms are created equal. Big mill law firms are often assembly lines who try to settle cases quickly without doing a lot of work. Some of the items to consider when hiring a lawyer are: (1) The lawyers experience; (2) Whether the attorney has the ability to work hard on your case, giving it individual attention, gathering all the evidence, and staying on top of all the issues; (3) Whether they attorney will regularly communicate with you throughout the process; (4) Whether the lawyer is prepared to take your case all the way to trial if necessary to protect your rights and get you maximum compensation.
The bottom line is this: Even if you decide to handle the claim on your own, you should always consult with a lawyer prior to making your decision. Don’t risk losing the money you are entitled to by representing yourself.
The Law Office of Craig Charles, located in the West Hollywood, on the Sunset Strip, gives each client the personalized attention they deserve. Whether you have been involved in a car, truck, motorcycle or bicycle accident, The Law office of Craig Charles will fight to get you max compensation for your injuries and we will be with you every step of the way. For a free, no-cost, no obligation consultation, give my office a call today at 424-343-0660.