Some states require advisory language to appear in lawyer advertisements that reads “the hiring of a lawyer is an important decision”. Nothing could be closer to the truth. Hiring the right attorney is perhaps the most important decision that one will make with regards to a personal injury claim. The question as to which lawyer is not always an easy one. However if a matter is important to you, then one would think that it would be important enough to seek experienced legal counsel to guide you through that process. I would think that certainly anyone accused or going on trial for a criminal offense would either hire a lawyer or utilize the services of the public defender's office to obtain legal counsel if they were not financially able to hire one.
One of the interesting dynamics of a personal injury case is that every personal injury victim can afford to hire lawyer.
The reason for that is a simple one. Every personal injury victim will be able to locate one if not 100 lawyers who will handle their case on what is known as a contingency fee basis. The contingency fee is one in which there must be a financial recovery in order for attorneys fees to be due and owing. Every personal injury case I've ever handled has been handled on a contingency fee basis.
My firm also offers a reduced attorney fee program where the contingency fee percentages are lower than those typically charged in the community. If there is no financial recovery at the conclusion of a case under a contingency fee arrangement, the client owes no fee. If there is a financial recovery then a percentage of that recovery is held out and applied on account of attorneys fees.
The bottom line is that every personal injury victim can afford to hire a personal injury lawyer because that injury victim pays nothing out of pocket.
Another consideration relating to finances is the idea of costs. Many lawyers will advance the costs associated with the case and in particular the costs associated with the litigation. Minimally, a personal injury case would entail several hundred dollars in up-front costs. If a case goes into litigation the costs can easily escalate into the thousands very quickly. Once expert witnesses are retained, issue reports, and testify whether at trial or a deposition, those fees add up very quick. It is not uncommon in even a routine personal injury case to have $5,000 in costs. Many injury victims - in particular due to their status as someone who has recently been injured and perhaps lost work- simply cannot afford to pay and finance those upfront costs.
So the answer to the question do I have to hire a lawyer to handle a personal injury case is ultimately: “NO” There is no law statute or regulation that I'm aware of that would require a personal injury plaintiff to be represented by counsel. While the answer is no, there are numerous reasons as to why a lawyer should be retained. There is no upfront cost for a personal injury case. Secondly, if your case is going into or likely to go into litigation, the hiring of a personal injury attorney is imperative. I am aware of cases where a pro se non-lawyer litigant has prevailed over a lawyer in a courtroom. I can assure you those cases are the exceptions and not the rule. A client with a lawyer is going to have a distinct advantage in litigation. In the same way as I would never suggest to my accountant how a tax return should be prepared, or suggest to my doctor how my medical care should be managed, a non-lawyer is going to lack an understanding of legal procedure and rules. There are additional reasons to consider for the hiring of a lawyer. The prosecution and litigation of a personal injury case is time-consuming. A good personal injury lawyer will spend hours researching investigating, negotiating ultimately litigating a claim. Many individuals simply don't have that type of time in addition to careers and families. Another consideration in the hiring of a lawyer is that of an endgame. Lawyers and non-lawyers alike are certainly capable of submitting documentation to an insurance company and demanding a settlement. What happens when that process breaks down? What happens when there is no offer. Or what happens when that offer is a mere fraction of the value of the case. Here the lawyer possesses a distinct advantage over the non-lawyer. The lawyer's position at the conclusion of an unsuccessful negotiation is that he or she will be filing a lawsuit. The non -awyer while presented with that same option may find the procedural requirements, drafting requirements, and monetary requirements for the filing of a lawsuit to be daunting.
At the end of the day the decision really comes down to how important your case is to you.
Of course people are capable of working on their own car -but maybe that's not always the best idea. People are capable of doing their own taxes- but perhaps that's not always the best idea. People are capable of doing home repair, plumbing work, maybe even electrical work -but perhaps that's not always the best idea. In many instances the best idea, the soundest course of action, is going to be to hire a seasoned professional with years of experience, with a license to do the work, with solid credentials that one can research online, and let that seasoned individual do the work. The analysis is really no different with the hiring of a lawyer than with the hiring of any professional.