Periodically, at Clark and Steinhorn, LLC we are asked if the victim of an auto accident needs an attorney or not?
One would think that we would emphatically endorse getting an attorney but the fact is we don't always do so. For smaller clear liability cases, where the injured victim gets a minimal amount of medical treatment and where the lost wages are unarguable, it may be better to go it alone!
The fact is that lawyers who do car crash cases charge a percentage of the settlement from the at fault insurance company sometimes as high as 40%. Thus, in smaller cases it would be necessary to get 40% more in settlement to net the same amount of money.
As an example, a $2,000.00 settlement would net the injured person $1200.00 if they hired a lawyer who charges 40% (Clark and Steinhorn, LLC typically work on 33% fee basis). Obviously, the same person would net $2,000.00 if they had no lawyer.
We meet with clients and sometimes suggest this precise avenue. It is helpful even if you aren't hiring an attorney to speak to one and gain some insight into the process.
However, the overwhelming majority of cases require a lawyer in order to enhance the likelihood of obtaining fair compensation. The reasons for this are many. First, if the case involves any complexity regarding who is at fault the absence of a lawyer may prove disasterous. Quite simply experienced lawyers know the applicable laws and won't be bamboozled by insurance adjusters making specious arguments. Similarly, if the case goes to trial the rules of court and the rules of evidence are complicated and not easily understood or applied by non-lawyers.
Second, serious cases necessarily involve significant injuries, substantial medical bills, lost income and complex issues that need to be properly investigated and framed for presentation which is tricky than it sounds. Insurance companies also often do not take people representing themselves seriously and make grossly inadequate offers to settle.
Finally, experienced personal injury lawyers are able to evaluate what a case is worth and enable their clients to make the crucial decision of whether to take an offer or take a case to trial.