After getting injured due to someone else’s negligence, it is entirely possible to pursue a compensation claim by yourself. In theory, you would simply get in touch with the at-fault party’s insurance company, agree on the amount they will cover, and receive the appropriate payout.
Reality, however, is less straightforward. Many injured claimants soon realize that it is almost impossible to obtain a fair insurance settlement if they go it alone. Having a personal injury attorney is vital, and these are the biggest reasons why.
Leveling The Playing Field With The Insurer
In our decades of practice handling injury claims, we’ve learned something we hope injured individuals will recognize, too. It’s that regardless of their intellect, most people simply don’t have the practical experience and knowledge to advocate for themselves effectively in the face of an insurance company.
Like any other business, insurance companies are driven by profits. It would be nice if they had your best interests at heart, but their real-world practice is collecting as much money as possible in premiums, then paying out as little as possible in claims. This is not to say that these companies are greedy or immoral, but it is important to acknowledge this reality when you’re about to make a claim.
Delay, Deny, Defend
To limit their payouts, insurance companies often employ methods called “delay, deny, defend” tactics. They could prolong your negotiation to the point where deadlines are missed or you finally give up. They could deny liability altogether. And they could defend their questionable tactics even in court, with the help of high-priced lawyers on their payroll.
This is the most important reason to hire an injury lawyer: to protect your rights and best interests from unjust insurance practices. With your attorney, you can level the playing field, putting you at a better position for compensation.
Is Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer Worth The Money?
Many people are reluctant to approach an attorney because of costs. You often hear of exorbitant lawyer fees plus other expenses for the paperwork.
However, this should not be a concern in an injury case, as most personal injury lawyers charge on a contingency fee basis. You would only be billed a certain percentage of your settlement, if or when you obtain your money. This percentage is fairly standard across the industry, so personal injury attorney rates across the field are more or less within the same range.
What this means is that you don’t risk a significant amount of money when you work with a personal injury lawyer. Even more, this gives your lawyer a bigger incentive to handle your claim successfully, as they would only be paid from the amount you win.
This is probably one of the reasons why injury claimants with lawyers get bigger settlements. A study found that claimants represented by attorneys received about two to three times more than unrepresented plaintiffs did. This alone should tell you that hiring a personal injury lawyer is worth it.
What Percentage Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Take?
In Illinois the standard fee for a personal injury lawyer is 33% of the recovery amount plus any costs such as medical records, police reports, expert witness fees, court filing fees etc. If there is no recovery in the case some firms will absorb these costs, others will charge you for all or a portion of these expenses. Some firms charge a higher percentage if the case goes to trial like 40%, others charge on a “sliding scale” and your fee percentage depends on the stage at which your case is resolved. It’s important to note that Under Illinois Law the maximum fee for a medical malpractice case is 33% and 20% for a workers’ compensation case.
Does The Kind Of Lawyer Make A Difference in a Personal Injury Case?
We must emphasize that we are talking not just about attorneys in general but specifically about personal injury attorneys. It’s a good idea to turn to a lawyer you already know if you need assistance. Perhaps you’ll call a friend who is an attorney or contact a lawyer who has helped you in the past with a different matter. But when it comes to an injury case, you don’t want to waste your money and time with lawyers who are not specialized in this area of the law.
A recent experience at our firm illustrates this. We’re acquainted with a lawyer who is a general practitioner but primarily takes divorce cases. He recently referred a case to us – a car accident case that he had been handling for a while. This referral occurred after his negotiations with the insurance adjuster had reached a stalemate.
The insurer’s last offer was $50,000 while the lawyer’s last demand was $65,000. When our firm looked at the case, we saw that the damages and liability were pretty clear. The claimant’s shoulder injury was bad enough to require surgery. In our opinion, the $65,000 demand was low. And we were ready to take the right steps to maximize the case value. This is the kind of work we have done for two decades now. We aggressively litigated the case and obtained $150,000 for the client.
Should You Sue After A Car Accident?
Hiring a lawyer does not automatically mean you intend to file a lawsuit. For many accident claimants, the question really comes down to: Can I just settle this, or do I need to sue?
Most people – including us lawyers – would rather avoid a lawsuit. It can be expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. If you have just been in the hospital after a serious injury, it’s even more understandable that you would want to avoid this kind of strain in your life. At the end of the day, it is you who gets to decide whether you want to pursue your case in court.
In many instances, however, the only way that the insurance company would give you any real attention is if they see a jury trial looming on the horizon.
Typically, they would only send a low-level insurance representative to deal with you – an employee who does not have much authority outside of “delay and deny.” But if the company realizes that you are willing to bring the case to court, you get the attention of the high-level decision-makers – the ones who can decide whether to settle or go to trial, the ones who have the power to write the bigger checks you deserve.
The truth is that your lawsuit may not have to go to trial. A vast majority of injury lawsuits are settled favorably outside the court. Insurance companies almost always choose to settle rather than deal with the expense and hassle of a jury trial.
Let’s look again at our shoulder injury case as an example. Remember that discussions with the insurance adjuster had come to a stalemate. We took proactive action by filing suit. We received a trial date from the judge. The insurance company noticed the threat of a trial, and that’s when the “real” negotiations began. That gave us the avenue to push the settlement to a full $150,000 – more than double the previous amount.
Looking at it from experience, we can say that filing a lawsuit is necessary because otherwise, you would be waiting endlessly for the insurance company to do the right thing.
We understand that suing is scary. We work hard to make it less intimidating and more sensible for you. While our lawyers aggressively deal with the other party, while they pour in hours to build a robust case, our whole team makes it a point to treat you with professionalism and compassion. You should not have to get lost in legalese or wonder about how your case is doing. You and your lawyer should be side by side in steering your case.
With this competent and thoughtful legal service, hiring a personal injury lawyer is definitely worth it.
How Do I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Picking a personal injury lawyer is a very important decision. Here are few tips.
- Hire a lawyer who focuses his or her practice solely on personal injury claims.
- Hire a lawyer who has experience on both sides of the aisle (ie: they have experience working on the defense side, or have experience working for an insurance company).
- Hire a lawyer who has proven results.
- Hire a lawyer who has real trial experience and is not afraid to take a case to trial if needed.
- Be careful hiring a “celebrity lawyer” or a “big law firm” or a law firm that advertises heavily on TV, as the reality is many of these firms churn through thousands of cases every year… as a result they often pawn off all but the most serious cases to more green associate attorneys who just don’t have enough experience to get the true maximum compensation for your case.
If you live in Illinois then consider hiring Willens Law Offices for your case. Both Matthew Willens and David Baez are top rated Illinois personal injury attorneys who have the experience and skill to get you full and fair compensation for your injuries. Both came from the “other side” and have intimate knowledge of how the insurance companies think, act and negotiate.