Should I hire a lawyer?
Here are just some of the factors to consider in deciding whether to hire a lawyer:
Affording a lawyer: Most plaintiff's lawyers receive a contingency fee of 33-45 percent of your recovery--contingent meaning they only get paid if you win, so don't fret about hourly payments. By law, you must be ultimately responsible for the costs of litigation, such as filing fees, depositions, mailings, etc. However, costs are typically deducted from a successful settlement, so you don't have to pay out of pocket as the case progresses.
Accountability: The civil system steps in where the criminal system leaves off. Some plaintiffs feel strongly that the defendant deserves real legal accountability and hope to deter the defendant, and others, from similar careless and harmful decisions in the future. This is a major reason why injured people hire an attorney.
Dealing with the details: A simple auto accident typically involves three or more insurance companies, multiple health care providers, and insurance adjusters swooping in to settle your claim quickly (and before you know how hurt you are!). Most people who are not severely injured, but who hire a lawyer, do so because they do not want to deal with all the letters, questionnaires, medical forms, records releases, phone calls, and other paperwork necessary to resolve a claim. If you just want someone else to deal with it and make sure your medical bills get paid, consider hiring a lawyer.
Beware the insurance spiel: Some insurers are famous for developing and rehearsing a spiel to give potential plaintiffs about how they would be better off without an attorney. It could involve misleading statistics, shame tactics, and demands or threats that you make a decision immediately. Remember, you should never settle a claim by yourself before you are certain you are medically stable. Don't buy into the spiel. Instead, do your research. If insurance companies are pressuring you, it's because it benefits their bottom line, and may be to your detriment.
A decent offer: Sometimes insurers will wait for you to finish treating and then make a genuinely decent offer of settlement. If you get a decent offer, why bother paying an attorney, going through litigation, and expending litigation costs? Use that free phone call to talk to an attorney about possible and likely outcomes of your case under representation in comparison to the offer on the table. Remember to consider the attorney fees and litigation costs. Say, for example, the insurer is offering $6,000. A competent attorney you contacted believes the total value of the case is $9,000. After 1/3 deducted for attorney fees and $500 in litigation costs, you're left with $5,500, less than if you had accepted the initial offer. Alternatively, if you feel comfortable negotiating with the insurance company on your own once you have done the research, you may be able to obtain a favorable outcome.
Catharsis and emotion of litigation: Litigation is sometimes as simple collecting medical records, making a demand, and settling a case. Other times it involves depositions, defense-requested medical exams with unfamiliar doctors, and possibly testifying before a jury. While the plaintiff generally has very little actual work to do (that's what lawyers are for, after all), litigation can be emotionally trying. On the other hand, it can also be cathartic to find out what actually happened to cause your injury and prevent similar misconduct in the future (see accountability above).