Personal Injury — When to Hire a Lawyer or See a Doctor

Posted on April 25, 2011 in Personal Injury, Personal Representation

Do I really need a lawyer to help me or can I handle my personal injury case myself?

There may be cases in which the insurance carrier for the person who caused your accident and injuries will treat you fairly. In cases where you have minor injuries you may be ahead of the game to resolve the case yourself. However if you incur significant medical bills it becomes more difficult to get a fair settlement for your claim. An additional consideration is the fact that often the insurance company wants to settle very quickly. This may be a mistake also. You should wait a minimum of 6 months after you feel you are well to make sure no further problems come up. Because once you accept a settlement and sign the release, you can never go back and reopen your claim. I regularly field questions from people who want information on whether they should settle. They want to know if the offer is fair. I am happy to meet and discuss these cases and if it is a fair offer I say so. Many times the offer is not fair and the person will benefit from the expertise of our firm.

When should I hire a lawyer to handle my personal injury case?

In short, sooner is better. There are things that need to be done very soon after an accident in order to properly prepare and pursue a personal injury claim — key things that if done will increase the recovery for the client. It is important to properly investigate the circumstances which led to the accident while the evidence is fresh. We find that the ability to interview the witnesses as soon as possible after the accident can be crucial. Over time witnesses move and are difficult to locate. Their memory fades. Police officers misplace their notes. Evidence is lost or no longer available. The vehicles are disposed of and not available for pictures. Pictures of the vehicles are very important to show the severity of the collision and in some cases critical to proving how the accident occurred.

When Should I Seek Medical Treatment?

One of the things I see affecting the recovery in some personal injury cases is the stoic attitude of the injured person. Many people don’t want to keep running back to the doctor. They also feel that I will get better and really don’t need to see the doctor. However the insurance companies will use gaps in treatment to discount the value of the claim, both in negotiations and at trial. I have often worked with clients who were in constant pain for many months but did not seek treatment. The argument is made that if you were in that much pain you would have gone to the doctor. Another problem occurs from the delay in seeking treatment. There are times when the client’s doctor cannot say his or her treatment was a result of the accident because the client had not been seen for a long period of time. The client had been in constant pain but the constant pain had not been documented. We always recommend that our clients continue to get treatment while they are suffering pain and disability from their injury.