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Do I Need an Attorney to Handle My Personal Injury Claim?

Do I Need an Attorney to Handle My Personal Injury Case?

If you are injured as a result of another person or company’s negligence, Georgia law allows you to recover compensation for your injuries.  Personal injury cases can vary drastically from a simple car accident to a complex products liability case against a medical device manufacturer.  Although generally, it is always much wiser to have any attorney represent you when you have any legal issue, the question of whether you need an attorney to handle your case depends on several factors, including:

•    The extent or seriousness of your injuries;

•    The type of personal injury case you have (car accident, medical malpractice, slip & fall, or products liability are just some examples);

•    The amount of medical bills you have incurred;

•    The amount of insurance (or lack thereof) available to cover your injury;

•    The time that has passed between the injury and the time you decide to make a claim;

•    The legal complexity of your case.

Seriousness of Injuries

When deciding whether to hire an attorney, if you have a serious injury, such as a brain injury, broken bone or a fracture, or any type of injury requiring surgery, it would probably be in your best interest to retain an attorney to assist you.  First, showing that another party’s negligence, whether it be a truck driver who ran a red light and hit you or a doctor that botched a procedure, caused your injury, can be a difficult task.  Sometimes, causation is simple because it is easily recognized under the circumstances.  For example, you break your leg immediately upon the impact of a car accident is a situation where the cause of the broken leg is obvious.  On the other hand, showing that a medical device injured you likely requires an expert to testify that the injury was not caused by some other factor.  Second, if your injury is serious, it is likely that you’ll need to recover a significant amount of money in order to compensate you for past and future medical expenses.  An attorney’s knowledge of the complex tort and insurance law is essential for obtaining a sufficient amount of money to take care of future medical needs where an injury is permanent.  On the other hand, where the injury is small, such as whiplash requiring physical therapy, there is probably plenty of insurance to pay for your medical expenses, and you may be able to successfully negotiate a settlement in such a situation.

Type of Personal Injury Case

The type of personal injury case you have is a key factor in deciding whether you should retain an attorney to assist you with your case.  As discussed above, a simple car accident may be the type of case where you could negotiate your own settlement, if you have a small injury.  On the other hand, cases involving defective products, medical malpractice, brain injuries, medically complex injuries, or commercial trucking accidents, require an understanding and working knowledge of complex legal concepts, rules and regulation and even medicine.  Further, these complex cases are extremely expensive to bring before a court.   Litigation costs include court expenses, deposition expenses, and expert fees.  Further, when your case involves complicated issues, investigating the circumstances of the case can be time-consuming and involve expert-level knowledge about medicine or road design or specific defective products.

Medical Bills Incurred

When your case involves extensive amount of medical treatment and bills, you will probably need an attorney to ensure that all of the available resources for recovery for your expenses are found and that the insurance company properly compensates you.  Further, if you do not have health insurance to cover your medical expenses, you may need to find alternative methods of obtaining proper medical treatment.

The Amount of Insurance Available

When there is little insurance available, you may want an attorney to assist you in exploring all avenues for recovery.  For example, let’s say you have $50,000.00 in medical bills that you incurred from a car accident.  The other driver, who was drunk at the time of the wreck, only has $25,000.00 in insurance.  An attorney would be able to assist you with finding additional insurance coverage, whether it be through your uninsured motorist policy or perhaps via the third party that served alcohol to the at-fault driver.  On the other hand, if it is quite apparent that there is only a limited amount of insurance available to compensate you for your injuries, and your injuries are big, then the insurance company may pay you without an attorney.  For example, if your medical bills are $25,000.00 and the at-fault party only has $25,000.00 in insurance available to cover your injuries, then an insurance company would be wise to pay you the $25,000.00 to avoid being held liable for any excess damages, and you may not need an attorney to convince the insurance company to do so.

The Amount of Time That Passed Since Your Injury

Generally, the statute of limitations in Georgia is two years from the date of the injury.  If a lot of time has passed since your injury, you may need a lawyer to help you file a lawsuit as soon as possible.  Many lawyers hesitate to file cases shortly before a statute expires.  Further, the more time that passes from the date of the injury to the time you seek treatment could negatively impact your case, meaning that if you have a viable claim but failed to seek medical attention immediately after the injury occurred, you may need an attorney to help you prove what caused your injuries.

Legal Complexity of Your Case

As discussed above, many personal injury cases involve issues of complex medicine and law.  For example, a medical malpractice case requires expert testimony as to how the medical professional breached the standard of care and caused your injury.  The standard of care is what a reasonable medical professional under the same circumstances would have done; if the medical professional who caused your injury did not do anything below the standard of care, you may not have a case at all, regardless of the seriousness of your injury.  An evaluation that complex definitely requires an attorney.  Similarly, a products liability case could involve the expertise of, say, an engineer, to testify as to how the product could have been safer.  Even an automobile wreck may require an engineer to examine how the wreck occurred, what speed the vehicles were traveling, or whether the road was designed in a defective manner.  In sum, many personal injury cases are so complex that an attorney is absolutely necessary.

Whatever your case may involve, we are always happy to speak to you about it and offer free consultations.  If you think you need an attorney, call the Law Offices of Betty Nguyen Davis at 404-593-2620 to set up an appointment with an attorney in our Hapeville office.