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Do I really need a lawyer?

Filled under Accident, Insurance Claims, Lawsuit, Personal Injury on May 16, 2013 - no comments.

If you need legal help, understanding your choices and the impact they may have is important. You can often avoid costly and complicated issues if you consult a lawyer before you have a legal problem. A lawyer can evaluate your situation and help determine your next steps and possible solutions.

When should I seek professional legal advice?
Every legal situation is unique and requires specific legal analysis. In some cases, the wrong decision may cost you your legal rights.

Here are some examples of when to seek a lawyer’s assistance:

  • Before signing any written contracts with major legal/financial provisions or consequences.
  • Before starting or buying a business.
  • When facing tax problems or questions.
  • When making a will or planning an estate.
  • If you are involved in an accident that results in personal injury or property damage.
  • If you are being investigated for a crime.
  • If you are being sued by someone, or if you want to sue someone.

Why should I consult a lawyer?
Only lawyers can give legal advice in Arizona. Lawyers are trained professionals who must be licensed through the Arizona Supreme Court. In order to be licensed, lawyers must show that they have the education, training, and character necessary to practice law. Lawyers are also required to follow a strict set of ethical rules. If lawyers violate these rules, they may be subject to professional discipline. Therefore, to protect consumers, the law provides that only lawyers may give legal advice.

There are many ways to find a competent and affordable lawyer in Arizona who can assist you with your legal matters.

  • Get recommendations from friends and family members who have had positive experiences with lawyers.
  • Search for lawyers by practice area or location at the State Bar’s online Find a Lawyer feature.
  • Visit the lawyer’s website; see if they will answer some basic questions before you commit to meeting with them. Ask about their experience in handling your particular issues, and their availability to take client phone calls and respond to emails. Some lawyers insist that clients make appointments and will not answer client calls and emails. You will want someone who is accessible when you need them.

But Do I need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

There is really only one reason not to retain a lawyer in a personal injury matter: you do not want to pay the lawyer’s fees.  It is a good reason. Because attorneys’ fees are often a third of the total recovery and sometimes more, it can be a significant amount of money.   And, in spite of what many lawyers will tell you, there certainly are personal injury cases where the client would have been better served by not having a lawyer in the first place.

In most cases, you are better served by having a lawyer, even if your ultimate goal is to settle.  Why?   An experienced personal injury lawyer can evaluate the offer for you so that you can know whether you are getting fair compensation.  The insurance companies’ goal is  to pay you as little as possible.  Without knowledge of what the fair value of the case is, you are in the dark as to what the settlement and trial value is of cases similar to yours.  Is $100,000 a fair value for your case?  It sure is a lot of money.  But is it what your case is worth?  Unless, you have seen hundreds of these cases and have had the opportunity to take similar cases to a jury, you really have no idea if you are hitting a home run or if the insurance company is taking advantage of you.  Insurance companies are more likely to settle your case for a bargain when you represent yourself, because they know you do not know the value of the case.

Also, the leverage a personal injury lawyer has, particularly a lawyer who has a proven track record with the insurance companies, is that a lawsuit will be the response to an unreasonable offer.  Insurance companies know who the serious lawyers are who are willing to try cases; they also know which lawyers settle almost all of their cases.   Your settlement offer typically reflects this.

Often, more work often needs to be done to be able to put your personal injury case in the position to receive a reasonable offer.  Many cases require additional work to prepare a demand package beyond the collection of the medical bills.  You might need, just to name a few examples, an additional report from a doctor with respect to the scope of your injuries or future required medical care, an economist’s report to calculate your real damages, or a vocational rehabilitation expert to assist in determining your economic loss.   A personal injury lawyer can provide the expertise to figure out what you need and how to go about getting it.  You might think you can advocate your own case to the insurance company.  Who is more qualified than you to discuss your own injuries?   In some ways, you will be able to advocate your own case better than anyone because you actually experienced the pain and suffering that you are discussing with the claims adjuster.  The biggest problem with doing this is that you often say things that end up hurting your case when you handle your own claim. 

Do I need a lawyer if my case goes to a hearing or trial?
With a few exceptions, only a lawyer may represent you in court. If you do represent yourself, you will be expected to be familiar with court procedures, comprehend your documents, and understand the law related to your case. Check with the court for the availability of materials that explain how to represent you in that court.

Visit www.AZLawHelp.org to search for information, download court forms, and find the legal agencies that serve Arizonans most in need. Other useful information can be found at www.lawforkids.org and http://www.lawforseniors.org.