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Should I Hire an Attorney for My Personal Injury Claim

When people are involved in a car wreck or other accident, they often wonder if they should hire a personal injury attorney to help them, or if they should try to handle their claim with the insurance company themselves.  The first thing to keep in mind is that an insurance company is not trying to help you.  Insurance companies will often try to take advantage of people who do not have lawyers.  Many of our clients tried to handle their insurance claims themselves, and then hired our firm after getting frustrated dealing with the insurance company.  If you have been in an accident, there are two main factors that should guide whether or not you should hire a car accident attorney.  Keep in mind that there are a bunch of different things that affect how much a personal injury claim settles for, but these two factors will help you determine if you need to hire a personal injury attorney to help you with your claim.     

Who caused the accident?

The first factor that will determine whether or not you need to hire a personal injury attorney is who was at fault in causing the accident.  Generally, a person can only recover for their injuries suffered in an accident if someone else caused the accident.  Car insurance companies are only required to pay for a person’s injuries if their insured was at fault in causing the wreck.  For example, if someone runs a red light and hits you, then they are at fault and their insurance company would be required to pay for your damages up to the policy limits.  However, if you run a red light and hit someone else, then you are at fault, and your insurance company would be required to pay for any injuries to the person you hit.  If you were not at fault in causing a car accident, then you should consider hiring a car accident attorney.  If you were at fault in causing a car accident, then your insurance company will have to hire an attorney to represent you if the person you hit files a lawsuit against you.   

Sometimes, it is clear who is at fault such as in the example of running a red light that I gave above.  However, the question of who was at fault isn’t always so clear cut.  If you think that the other driver caused the wreck, even if you were marked at fault, then you should contact a car accident attorney.  For example, what if the other driver runs a red light and hits you, but then lies to law enforcement and says that you ran a red light and caused the accident? 

Unfortunately, things like this happen all the time.  This type of scenario is all too common in wrecks involving pedestrians and bicyclists.  Often, when there’s a wreck involving a pedestrian or a bicyclist and a car, the pedestrian or bicyclist is going to be badly injured, while the driver of the car is unhurt.  While the pedestrian/bicyclist is being attended to by paramedics and taken to the hospital, the driver of the car will tell the responding law enforcement their version of what happened.  Pedestrians and bicyclist are frequently marked at fault in accidents, when they were not the ones acting negligently.  

South Carolina follows modified comparative negligence, meaning that, even if you were partially at fault for causing an accident, you can still recover against another person if their fault is greater than yours.  This means that you should consult a personal injury attorney if you were partially at fault, as you may still be able to recover for your injuries.    

Injuries

The second factor that will determine if you should hire a personal injury attorney is how badly you were injured in the accident.  If you were severely injured, then you should hire a personal injury attorney.  If you were not injured in the accident, then you probably do not need to hire a personal injury attorney.  The more difficult decision is when you were injured in an accident, but it does not appear to be very severe.  Normally, if you are slightly injured in an accident and only have one or two doctors visits and $2,000 or less in medical bills, and you are fully healed within a couple of days of the wreck, then the at fault driver’s insurance company should offer to pay your medical bills and give you some money for your pain and suffering.  In a case like that, a personal injury attorney is normally not going to do much better for you than what the insurance company is offering.  On the other hand, if you are severely injured, or if your injuries do not heal up in a few days, and you have to keep treating with medical providers for several weeks or months, then you will normally come out better if you hire a personal injury attorney to represent you.  

Depending on your injuries, it may take some time before you know how bad they are.  For example, a broken leg is normally going to be diagnosed in the emergency room right after it happens.  In that case, you will know that your injuries are severe and you need to hire a personal injury attorney.  Some injuries are harder to diagnose and take time to discover.  For example, a neck injury may be whiplash, or it may be a herniated disc that requires surgery.  More often than not, a herniated disc will not be diagnosed in the emergency room.  Doctors will often attempt rest and conservative treatment for months before ordering an MRI to see if a person has a herniated disc.  Even though the injury doesn’t seem bad at first, it can turn out to be much more severe than you initially thought. 

The insurance company will try to settle the claim as quickly and cheaply as impossible, so make sure you know how bad your injuries are and what treatment you will need before you settle.  Once you settle your injury claim with the insurance company, you can’t go back and get more money if it turns out you need more medical treatment or that your injury was more severe than you thought.  If you are not sure how bad your injuries are, it’s best to consult with a personal injury attorney.  

Keep in mind that each case is different.  For instance, if your injuries are not as severe, but you were hit by a drunk driver, then you will probably come out much better if you hire a personal injury attorney.  Or you may be partially at fault for causing an accident, but your injuries are very severe- then a personal injury attorney can probably help you reach a more favorable result.  If you are not sure whether you should hire a personal injury attorney, it’s best to consult with a personal injury attorney and see.     

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