Do You Need a Lawyer?
Some people don’t trust lawyers. Others feel comfortable negotiating with insurance companies themselves. In an injury case, however, we believe the old saying is true: a person who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client.
Insurance companies have conducted their own private research to determine the financial consequences to the injured person of trying to handle his or her case without a lawyer.
In 1999 the Insurance Research Council (IRC), an organization supported by property and casualty insurance companies, performed a study that compared the settlements paid to injured persons who hired lawyers with the settlements received by people who handled cases themselves.
The IRC study showed that, on the average, people who hired a lawyer received three and one half times more money in settlement than those who didn’t hire a lawyer.
That statistic bears repeating. People with lawyers received three and one half times more by way of settlement. This means people who hire lawyers come out ahead even after they pay their legal fees and costs.
Is it any wonder that insurance companies try to keep injury victims away from lawyers? Smaller settlements mean larger profits for insurance companies.
Here are some other good reasons why you’re better off hiring a lawyer to handle your injury case:
- The insurance company will do a thorough investigation of your case. You won’t.
- The insurance company has unlimited financial resources. You don’t.
- The insurance company knows what your case is really worth. You don’t.
- The insurance company knows the laws that apply to your case. You don’t.
- The insurance company lawyers know how to defend a case in court. You probably don’t know how to bring a lawsuit.
- The insurance company “negotiates” settlement for profit. You don’t.
Paying Your Injury Lawyer
Here’s a surprising fact: consulting and hiring an injury lawyer shouldn’t cost anything out of your own pocket. Injury lawyers typically provide a free consultation to prospective clients. At that conference your lawyer will explain that his or her legal fee will come out of the any funds recovered in your case. If there is no settlement, your lawyer should explain, he or she will charge you no fee at all.
The insurance industry has mounted a campaign against lawyers, claiming they have been unfairly enriched by the contingent fee system. But in fact this system is fair both to lawyer and client. It levels the playing field. It enables injury victims to bring cases against defendants with enormous resources, who are insured by the largest and most profitable insurance companies in the world, and who can pay unlimited legal fees to defense lawyers.
Here are the reasons why hiring your injury lawyer under a contingent fee agreement is the best legal decision you’ll ever make.
- Access to the best. Nearly all injury lawyers charge the same fee for their work on a case (usually one third of the gross settlement, although for some high damages cases a sliding fee scale may apply to reduce the fee below one third). For this reason, you can hire an outstanding injury lawyer in your community for the same fee you would pay to any other lawyer, regardless of experience or area of professional interest.
- Common interest. You and your lawyer are always on the same side. The more you get by way of settlement, the more the lawyer receives as fee.
- No risk. Because you aren’t paying the lawyer an hourly fee, you aren’t risking any of your own money on the merits of the case. If there is no recovery, there is no legal fee and the lawyer normally bears the costs of the litigation.
- An honest view of your case. Because the injury lawyer only gets paid if he or she recovers money for you, injury lawyers are generally careful to take meritorious cases. No lawyer will handle your case on a contingency fee if the case has no chance of success.
- Promotes access to justice. The contingent fee system opens the American justice system to the poor and disadvantaged who ordinarily can’t afford to pay a lawyer in advance or at an hourly rate. Often in injury cases, the victim is out of work with strained finances. With the contingent fee system, an injury lawyer will take a case even when the client can’t pay a normal hourly billing rate or the costs of litigation in advance.