Were you injured in an accident? Whether your accident just happened or occurred a few weeks ago, you’re likely wondering whether you should consult a personal injury lawyer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, about 29.2 million people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for unintentional injuries. Many accidents are the result of another person’s negligence or misconduct.
Accident and injury law is commonly known as personal injury law. The goal of personal injury law is to make the injured person “whole.” Victims may suffer all kinds of injuries, including catastrophic injuries or even death. Courts cannot undo what has happened, but by providing financial compensation, they try to put the injured person back in the position that he or she would have been in had the accident not occurred.
People are injured in all kinds of ways, including:
- Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Being struck by an object
- Dog bites
- Medical mistakes
- Nursing home abuse
- Workplace accidents
- Dangerous or defective products
Accidental injuries are traumatizing. They happen so fast and so unexpectedly. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, the victim often does know what to do or who to turn to for help. If you have been injured in an accident, you’re probably wondering when you should consult a personal injury attorney.
Injured individuals often believe that the other person is clearly at fault and owes them compensation. But a legal matter that seems so simple at first can quickly become formidable.
Your attorney can investigate the facts and determine what happened and who is at fault. Whether your claim arises from a negligent act or an intentional one, it has two important elements: liability and damages. Did the other party cause your injuries? If so, based on the nature and severity of your damages, how much compensation should you receive? You can receive compensation for your physical injuries. But you may also receive compensation for monetary losses, such as lost wages, and mental or emotional pain, loss of companionship, or reduced quality of life.
If you have been in an accident, you probably have many questions, so it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer for your peace of mind. But you should also obtain legal help in the following situations.
When You Have Suffered a Serious Injury
The amount of compensation you receive is mostly dependent on the severity of your injuries. If your injuries are minor, you may not need a lawyer. However, some injuries affect your health, ability to function, and ability to return to work. You may have to deal with the consequences of your injury for a long time or even permanently. Calculating the right compensation for serious injuries is complex, and then convincing a court to award you that amount is even more difficult.
There is no simple definition of a serious injury, but such injuries as fractures, loss of an organ, or spinal injuries are serious. If there is no obvious damage, such as paralysis or scarring, it may be difficult to prove your serious injury. People sometimes downplay their injuries because they don’t want to worry anyone or be a nuisance. Others fail to obtain prompt medical care. In some cases, the symptoms of an injury do not appear until well after the accident.
If you are seeking compensation, just saying that you are in pain doesn’t mean much. You need documentation, such as diagnostic tests or X-rays, to prove your injury is causing the pain. Your attorney can help you assemble all of the relevant documentation needed to prove your injuries. They also have access to experts who can testify about your injuries and their consequences. If your injuries are catastrophic, your life may never be the same, but damages can help you pay for your care.
When Your Injuries Are Caused by Medical Providers or by Defective Products
People make mistakes. Doctors may incorrectly diagnose and treat an illness. Products are often designed or manufactured incorrectly, causing dangerous defects. You may sustain an injury and not understand how or why it happened. If your injuries were the result of medical malpractice or due to a dangerous or defective product, you should retain a personal injury lawyer. These claims involve highly complex and technical issues. Lawyers representing defendants will aggressively defend their clients against your claims.
When You Are Partially at Fault for the Accident
If someone fails to act with reasonable care, he or she may have acted negligently and bear liable for your injuries. However, there is often more than one factor involved in an incident. What if you are partly to blame for the accident? Nevada law employs a doctrine known as modified contributory negligence. This means that a court will distribute liability proportionately according to each party’s percentage of fault. It permits proportional recovery only if the claimant is less than 50 percent responsible for an accident or injury. So if you were more than half to blame for an accident, the law prevents you from recovering any damages.
When You Are Hit with the Financial Consequences
People often assume that insurance will cover all of the costs of an accident. But as you review the stacks of bills, you may start to realize that you need help. Even with insurance, your medical bills can quickly mount. There are doctor visits, prescription drugs, medical equipment, therapy, and other ongoing care. You may be unable to work, unable to pay for car repairs, and your bills may continue to pile up.
When You Have to Deal with the Insurance Company
Remember that the main goal of insurance companies is to minimize the amounts they have to pay out in claims. They may contact you and ask for statements about the accident, medical records, releases, and other information. These requests may seem harmless; however, for example, they can use a medical release to obtain information that they will then use to minimize your claim. If an insurance company representative contacts you and asks you to provide information or sign documents, you can politely decline and tell them that you have retained an attorney. Your lawyer’s job is to defend your rights and get you the best possible settlement. He or she will deal with the insurance company for you, so you don’t have to worry about agreeing to an inadequate settlement.
When You Feel Overwhelmed
Being in an accident is emotionally draining. You have to make statements, fill out reports, and keep track of claim numbers. People ask questions about the incident, and you may feel too upset or in too much pain to think straight. Other people will give you unsolicited, and often inaccurate, advice. Retaining a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible can relieve a great deal of stress.
When You Are Not Prepared to Handle Your Personal Injury Claim Alone
There are countless issues, laws, and rules involved in every personal injury matter. Before proceeding without the help of a lawyer, ask yourself whether you are prepared to handle the situation alone. Consider questions such as:
- Do I know and understand what statutes of limitations apply to my case?
- Do I know the applicable laws?
- Do I understand the provisions of my car insurance and other insurance policies?
- Do I have sufficient financial resources to cover all my expenses, including the costs of preparing a lawsuit, until my case settles?
- What if I cannot settle my case?
- Can I accurately assess my losses, including present and future medical expenses, loss of present and future income earning potential, and emotional pain and suffering?
When Should You Call a Lawyer?
Every accident case is unique. Many of them settle at some point before the conclusion of a trial. However, as soon as you realize that you might need the help of a personal injury lawyer, you should act right away. All states have time limits for filing lawsuits. Waiting too long to act may render it impossible to file your case. Other types of claims also involve strict time limits.
Furthermore, the evidence that you need to prove your case may not be available forever. Witnesses may forget or confuse the details of the accident. Defendants or third parties may destroy relevant evidence. Therefore, you should retain an attorney as soon as possible so that he or she can begin collecting and preserving evidence immediately.
If you have been injured, it is always a good idea to consult an experienced attorney.