We all have seen plenty of advertisements on television for car accident lawyers. But does that mean that you should get one for your car accident? Why not just handle it yourself, and save the money that would go to your lawyer?
What Does the Lawyer Do?
Personal injury lawyers handle car accident cases when someone has been hurt as a result of another driver’s negligence. They are familiar with the entire claim process, as well as the tactics of the insurance companies to pay out as little as possible.
One helpful part is that the lawyer is familiar with the best doctors in the area. If you are having pain problems, they can refer you to a doctor to examine you and if necessary, set up a treatment plan for your injuries.
In short, your lawyer collects the proper evidence and presents your case to the insurance company of the negligent driver. And if you and the insurance company can’t agree on settlement, then your lawyer files your case in court and handles the court process. If your case needs to be filed, it will take months, if not years, longer to resolve. However, many cases need to be filed because the insurance company refuses to make you a reasonable offer for your case.
Some personal injury cases do not need the courts involved.
If You Don’t Need to File
Your lawyer sends out letters to the insurance companies (both yours and the other driver’s) to let them know that you are initiating a claim. After you have finished medical treatment, he/she collects all the bills and records from each of your providers. The lawyer will also request the police report, camera footage, property damage estimates and reports, and anything else that may be helpful in presenting your claim.
The lawyer puts all of these pieces of evidence into what is called a demand package. On top of the demand package, the attorney will write a detailed cover letter to the insurance company, explaining what happened, whose fault it was, and what the damages were. In addition to the medical bills, these damages may include your lost wages, pain and suffering, and any permanent damage to your body. At the end of the demand package, the lawyer makes a demand on what the insurance company should pay.
After the insurance company receives the demand package, an insurance adjuster will call your lawyer and make an offer to settle the case. Usually this offer is very low. Your lawyer and the adjuster will negotiate back and forth, where the lawyer will reduce his demand and the adjuster will increase his/her offer. Eventually the adjuster will reach a point where he is not authorized to offer any more money.
What Makes a Good Offer?
It is at this point that you can decide whether or not you want to accept the offer. The lawyer will give his recommendation, but you should know that the ultimate decision to accept or reject an offer is yours. Some lawyers may pressure their clients into accepting a low offer because the lawyer does not want to do the work required when have filed a case in court.
A good/bad offer is subjective, but many lawyers base the quality of the offer on what a local jury is likely to award. If a jury is likely to award much more for a similar case, then the right choice is likely to reject the offer and file the case in court.
But if the offer is in the range of what a jury is likely to award, then it is likely a smart decision to accept the offer at this point.
Filing your case in your requires close attention to the state rules.
If you Need to File Your Case in Court
Civil litigation is a complicated process with many different stages, documents to file, and deadlines. The full rules and procedures can be found in the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, but let’s talk about the highlights:
The lawyer begins the process by filing a petition with the court. The petition clearly explained what happened in the crash, who is responsible, and what kind of damages there were. The Defense will respond in their Answer, usually denying everything that the Plaintiff is alleging happened, including the damages.
In the next stage, discovery, the parties give all the evidence they each have to the other side. Each side sends over a number of questions (interrogatories) for the other side to answer. They also ask for the other side to produce documents that they may have. If any request is improper, the party being requested may object and refuse to respond.
The parties may also conduct an oral question and answer session of the other party, known as a deposition.
After discovery ends, the parties are ready for trial. They pick a jury, each present their evidence, and let either a judge or jury decide whose fault it was and what the damages are. The judge enters the final judgment, which details if the Defendant (usually through their insurance company) owes the Plaintiff money. The Plaintiff will use that judgment to enforce payment from the Defendant.
Can I Do This Myself?
The short answer is yes. You can do everything yourself, including represent yourself in court. Even if you don’t need to file the case, it is still a substantial amount of work. A mistake or failure to collect particular evidence could prevent you from receiving any offer at all. Nonetheless, if you understand the process, you could handle your case on your own.
In many cases, the insurance company may make you an offer even before you are finished treating. They may offer to pay for all of your medical bills and throw a few hundred dollars on top. All you have to do it sign on the dotted line and forfeit your ability to sue later.
If you’ve received an offer, it’s hard to know if it’s a good offer without the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer. That’s why Lone Star Injury Attorneys offers free consultations to potential clients, even ones who already have offers from the insurance company.
A reputable attorney will only take on a client if they believe they can add value to their case. In other words, they will take a case only if the client will likely end up with more money after it’s over. If the client has already received a decent offer, and the attorney can’t add more value to make up for the attorney’s fees, then the attorney should not take the case. He/she should advise the potential client to accept the offer.
What If I Have More Questions?
We at Lone Star Injury Attorneys believe that the more the potential client knows about the process, the better. If you have any questions about your potential personal injury case, please feel free to reach out to our office to schedule a free consultation.