Sometimes I get calls from clients who have called 5 or 6 attorneys before. They don’t understand why a lawyer doesn’t want to represent them. They keep "fishing" for a lawyer who will accept their case. As a general rule, a lawyer won’t take your case unless there is a reason to do so.
One reason is being able to help the client in some way. Several times, clients have called me and I’ve told them they are better off without a lawyer because getting a lawyer won’t be much help. In fact, in some cases getting a lawyer isn’t a good idea at all. Therefore, if I can't bring some "value" to a client's case, then I probably should not be getting involved.
Another reason is that lawyers are running a business. They simply can’t accept every case that walks through the door. It has to have merit and be potentially profitable. Therefore, if a case is going to cost the lawyer more than he/she will possibly make on the case, they can't really accept the case unless it's a "pro bono" matter.
Therefore, the lawyer has to be able to help you and be able to make money since they are running a business. If a lawyer cannot take your personal injury case, it doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't pursue your case. You might simply be better off trying to handle your case on your own.
Here are some reasons to hire a personal injury lawyer:
There is really no definitive way to evaluate a personal injury case. However, one thing you should know is that no one will ever see the case through your eyes. No one will ever really appreciate the pain you feel from the accident or how the accident may have affected your life. The trouble is that if you are unable to view your case from an “objective” standpoint, it will probably be very difficult to settle your case. (By the way, insurance adjusters can also be guilty of being unable to separate their biases from an objective analysis).
Yes, there is no magic formula to figuring out what your case is worth (even objectively). You can't simply focus on one aspect of your case. A good lawyer should give you an "overall" picture of your case. A good lawyer will stand "far enough" from your matter to be able to see it from a distance and help you understand how others will judge your case. In your eyes, it might be the most dramatic accident in the world. You might aches and pains like never before. However, I reiterate that you can't evaluate your case from your point of view. Unless your jury is full of family and friends who are really fond of you, juries are generally not very generous. They will view your case very differently from you in most cases.
If you've chosen a good attorney to help you, then let them do just that. If they've been doing this type of law long enough, then they should be able to give you an honest assessment of your personal injury case. I tell clients I have a "bank" of thousands of injury cases in my mind, based on experiences as a defense lawyer and plaintiff lawyer. I try to compare and contrast their case against the many others I've seen. I try to help the client set realistic expectations.
I’ve recently been handling two personal injury cases that involved fairly serious injuries. The problem is that in both cases, the party responsible for the injury did not have enough insurance. In fact, in both cases, the responsible party had $25,000 in car insurance. Needless to say, my clients were not very happy about this fact but in both cases, they luckily had “uninsured” motorist (UM) coverage. In most cases, that also means “underinsured” motorist (when the other party doesn't have ENOUGH insurance). In fact, they had $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. That means if the other party doesn’t have “enough” you can turn to your own insurance company for additional coverage.
However, that probably still isn't enough to compensate them for their injuries. My clients were upset about this. However, the amount of UM coverage one has is completely within your control. Therefore, while you can’t control the amount of insurance the other party has, you can control the outcome to some extent by carrying a large UM policy. There are so many people driving out there without insurance or in some cases, not enough insurance, to it behooves you to explore adequate UM coverage. Ask your insurance company or broker about it. It’s probably the single most important piece of auto insurance coverage you can get.
You don’t have to use the other party’s insurance company to pay for your property damage. Some insurance companies are actually telling clients to do that. You might call your company and they will tell you that you have to use the company of the responsible party to fix your car.
However, if you have your own insurance company’s comprehensive and collision coverage, you should be able to turn to your own insurance company and have them fix your vehicle. In fact, this is usually the best way to go. I’m not sure why the insurance companies are doing this (passing the buck), but I’ve been hearing this story more often than not. You have every right turn to your own company to fix your own vehicle. You will incur a deductible, but your insurance company will reimburse that to you eventually in most cases. There might be some rare cases where your insurance company won't impose the deductible. Just ask them if they'd consider waiving the deductible, especially when it's pretty certain they're going to recover the money from the opposing insurance company.
After they fix your car, they will demand repayment from the other party's insurance company. If they can't resolve their claim, they might enter into arbitration - this is the process by which insurance companies resolve their property damage disputes. Suffice it to say that when they get repaid, they should reimburse your deductible to you at that time. You might have to check with them every so often about that. Believe it or not, sometimes they forget but they usually do remember to reimburse you.
Be wary of inconsistent behavior after an automobile accident. I recently had a client who claimed to be very injured from an auto accident but was subsequently seen dancing at a party about a week after the accident! Not a good idea! She certainly didn’t look hurt to anyone attending the party.
If there were any witnesses or others who saw you doing the inconsistent behavior, they can potentially testify against you. You don’t want your inconsistent activity showing up on the social media websites either! I always encourage my clients to be truthful.
Inconsistent behavior such as dancing at a party a few days after an accident that allegedly provided great injury to you is not going to help your case. Also, some insurance companies are very aggressive and hire investigators to film you going to the supermarket, going to the gym, hanging out with your friends and going to a party, playing with your children in the park, and many other activities that may prove to be inconsistent with your allegation of injury. If they want to get very zealous about it, they can bring an action against you for insurance fraud if they can prove you were faking your allegations. Again, candor is the best policy.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.