For a few specific reasons, you're hesitant to call a personal injury attorney about the possibility of obtaining a better settlement offer. However, if you are dealing with financial and other problems because of an injury caused by someone else's carelessness or recklessness, you may deserve more financial compensation than the insurance company is offering. Don't let these concerns stop you from at least having a free consultation with a lawyer.
What If You're Partly to Blame?
Insurance companies often make lowball settlement offers or refuse to make any payment altogether, citing the injured person's fault in the incident. However, most states follow the rule of comparative negligence for personal injury matters. That means if you are partly to blame, you still deserve financial compensation.
An example that might be useful would involve a business owner who didn't take care of an icy parking lot. A customer slipped and fell on this property and experienced a bone fracture. The business owner is considered legally negligent because a property owner is responsible for keeping the area safe.
However, if the customer was looking at a cell phone instead of where he or she was walking -- and witnesses verify this -- the customer is considered partly to blame.
If this sounds similar to your situation, tell the attorney about it during your initial consultation. A lawyer can make a counter offer to a low settlement offer from an insurance company, using the rule of comparative negligence.
If you don't bother to mention it and you do hire the lawyer, that information will catch your attorney off guard if it ever surfaces. That can hurt your case.
What Will People Think?
You may worry about what people will think of you if you hire a lawyer to get you more money.
Nobody has to know about your consultation with a lawyer. Even if you do hire the attorney, nobody has to know unless your attorney actually files a lawsuit, at which time it becomes public record. But typically -- especially in relatively small personal injury cases -- the attorneys negotiate a settlement without a lawsuit ever being filed.
You may have images of personal injury cases proceeding to trial and receiving a lot of publicity. In the real world, it's unusual for personal injury cases to proceed to court. Insurance companies would rather settle than deal with an unpredictable trial.
Aren't Lawyers Expensive?
Your attorney can tell you the amount of money you may expect to receive in a higher settlement. Experienced injury lawyers are good at estimating the amount because they've seen firsthand how insurance companies operate. You'll need to decide whether that additional amount is worthwhile, considering your attorney fees and the delay in your payment while the matter is resolved.
Personal injury lawyers usually do not charge upfront fees, but rather are paid on a contingency basis. You can expect to pay an attorney at least one-third of your final settlement; some states allow contingency fees of up to 40 percent. By doing the math, you can decide whether it makes sense to hire the lawyer.
An injured person's current settlement offer might be $5,000, for example. The lawyer believes the client will be able to obtain $15,000. With a one-third contingency fee, the client would now receive around $10,000 after paying the lawyer about $5,000.
What Can You Do Now?
Contact a personal injury attorney, from a firm like Daniels Long & Pinsel, for a free consultation. Feel free to ask about all your concerns. It's good to get the answers you need before making a decision about whether to hire a lawyer, and it's difficult to do that unless you speak with one. No matter what decision you make, feel confident that you did the right thing for your own needs.