One of the first questions people have when legal questions become involved is whether or not they need to hire a lawyer to represent them or if they can represent themselves. Whether you need an attorney to handle your case, of course, comes down to the specifics of your individual claim. In the U.S., roughly 95 percent of personal injury cases are settled without a trial and while this statistic does not necessarily mean none of these require a lawyer, there are many cases where you would be fine handling your own injury claim.
When you are determining whether or not you need a lawyer to handle your personal injury claim in Chicago, here are some things to keep in mind.
Classification of Injuries
Most personal injury cases involve relatively minor soft tissue injuries, making it possible to reach a settlement without needing to go to trial. Typically, these are the type of injury cases that a person would be able to handle on their own. Some examples of accidents that frequently result in soft tissue injuries include:
- Relatively minor car, motorcycle, and boat accidents;
- Bicycle accidents;
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents; and
- Minor dog or other animal bites.
While injury claims with minor soft tissue injuries can usually be handled by the individual claimant, for serious accidents or injuries it is best to hire an attorney. Serious injury cases are ones requiring extensive hospitalization and medical treatment, which may include anything from broken bones to herniated disks or traumatic spinal cord injury. Examples of type of cases an attorney is absolutely necessary would be:
- Traumatic brain or spinal cord injury;
- Medical malpractice cases;
- Wrongful death;
- Severe burns; and
- Injuries resulting in permanent damage.
These serious cases involve many legal complications and have the potential for much larger final settlements. Only those with legal experience in this type of law are prepared to handle these cases.
When A Claim Requires No Attorney
Many people are deceived into thinking that the claims process is complicated; however, it can actually be quite simple in many circumstances. Often times it involves little more than relating the facts to an insurance adjuster through letters and phone calls. You could safely handle your own claim if the following were true:
- The claim involves only minor soft tissue injuries;
- There are no questions regarding liability, only how much the compensation should be;
- You have the time, energy, and dedication to handle the claim yourself; and
- An attorney has already turned down your case.
If your claim is more complicated than these and there is a need for litigation, technical expertise, or extensive upfront costs, hiring an attorney is the best if you wish to be awarded a settlement.
How To Handle Negotiations of a Claim Yourself
Once you have determined that you could handle your personal injury claim on your own, you should develop a strategy for how you will handle the claim. Handling the claim will take both time and energy and it is important to be thorough in your process.
Before heading into any negotiations, you need to have a settlement figure in mind – so begin your preparations by fully assessing the extent of your losses. Come up with a minimum figure that you would be willing to accept. This is purely for your benefit and the number should not be shared with the adjuster, but used rather to save yourself from having to make a snap decision.
As you enter the negotiations with the figure in mind, make sure to do the following:
- Do Not Immediately Accept the First Offer – Insurance companies typically do their best to minimize the amount they need to pay out so chances are the first offer could be low. If the offer does seem reasonable, you can slightly reduce your demand and wait for the adjuster to raise their offer.
- Ask the Adjuster to Justify Low Offers – When the adjuster’s offer is low, make sure to have them give you the reason why. This will give you the best idea of how to counteract them.
- Stress The Strong Points of Your Claim – Throughout your negotiations you should stress all important points of your claim. This includes not only the evidence of injuries, medical care, and the circumstances of the injury, but also any emotional pains you had to deal with.
- Be Patient, Wait For a Response – Waiting can be torture, but it is important to allow time for the adjuster to give you a response. Do not lower your demand twice before waiting for a counter offer from the adjuster. If they are taking an unreasonable amount of time to get back to you, they may be acting in “bad faith” and it might be prudent to bring in an attorney.
- Know When To Talk To An Attorney – Finally, when handling a case on your own and handling negotiations, it is crucial that you know when an attorney is necessary. Although a claim may have initially been okay for you to handle, complications can arise while trying to arrive at a settlement.
If your accident was in Chicago contact our Chicago law firm to speak to a Chicago personal injury lawyer today for a free consultation.