This blog is not intended to offer you legal advice. It is common sense advice that should give you an overview of general principles to consider when determining whether or not you need a lawyer. In the event that you have a potential case where you have some doubt as to whether or not you should pursue it, you should contact a lawyer to discuss your specific case to make certain.
If people were always fair, always told the truth, and always thought carefully before they did something, there would be no need for lawyers. Lawyers cost money and add a middleman to your contact with an insurance company. Because of this, it’s always important to know whether or not you need a lawyer in the first place before you hire one. Here are some statements that I have had from prospective clients in the past and my responses:
“I had an automobile accident and the insurance adjuster won’t return my call.”
Following an accident, people are often frustrated with insurance companies. The insurance company has not given them the attention that they need or accepted responsibility for an accident quickly enough. The problem is that, attorney or not, insurance companies need to perform an investigation before they can accept responsibility for an accident. You know what the facts are, they don’t. When talking to their insured, insurance companies are often told by their insured that you were at fault. They need to weigh whether or not to believe their insured or to believe you. If you’re frustrated with waiting, that is usually not a good reason to hire a lawyer. If you are overwhelming the insurance company with numerous calls on a daily basis, they will ignore you. The squeaky wheel only gets the grease up to a point. If the insurance company is refusing to respond to a reasonable number of calls within a reasonable time, an insurance company may speed up the process slightly but it probably won’t justify the cost.
“I had a small accident and I just don’t know what to do.”
People aren’t born with an understanding of the American legal system. The American legal system allows people who have grievances involving legally recognizable injuries to have courts and juries listen to their grievances and make decisions. The average jury will be suspicious and generally will not award money for injuries that are not serious. If you have been in a small accident, you are entitled to compensation for the medical bills you incurred, the wages that you have lost, and an amount to compensate you for the annoyance of having to deal with the accident, the anxiety of having to worry about whether your injuries will subside, and the pain and suffering which have accompanied your injury. In essence, the injuries you suffered, whether financial or personal, have placed a burden on your life. To balance the scales of justice, a jury must place a monetary value on that burden. Juries do not want to be taken away from their lives in order to deal with insignificant injuries. If you have injuries which go away within a few months, the burden on your life may not justify hiring a lawyer.
“A police officer violated my civil rights and I would like to teach him a lesson.”
Police officers have a difficult job to do. At the point they are dealing with people, the situation is often tense and difficult. If an officer violates your civil rights, you have the ability to sue him. If you win, your attorney’s fees may be paid. While paying your attorney’s fees may enable you to hire a lawyer, it doesn’t result in any benefit to you. Civil rights claims should be reserved for instances where there is a false criminal charge filed or serious injuries incurred. You have the ability to make a complaint to the internal affairs department which may, at the very least, let his supervisor know that the officer may have some problems and might even result in discipline against the officer.
“A doctor made a mistake and I would like to sue him for medical malpractice.”
In October 2003, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that deaths related to medical malpractice committed in hospitals should be considered a national epidemic. The fact that medical malpractice causes so many deaths does not mean that every case is a viable malpractice case. In order to file a complaint for medical malpractice in Arizona, you must have an affidavit prepared by a professional in the same specialty as the defendant. Paying experts costs and other costs associated with medical practice cases result in significant amounts often times being in excess of one hundred thousand dollars for a complicated case. If you have been harmed but your injuries are not serious and permanent, the overwhelming expense of filing a medical malpractice case may make it impractical to do so. If you have a serious complaint against a physician where the damages may not support a lawsuit, you may file a complaint with the Arizona Board of Medical Examiners or the Board of Osteopathic Physicians.
“I was seriously injured in a case where I will have to spend the rest of my life suffering from the injuries that I have.”
When you have sustained injuries that you will have to live with for the remainder of your life, you should know what your options are. Contacting a reputable lawyer will allow you to have all of the information that you need in order to make decisions which will obviously affect your remaining life. A reputable lawyer will not tell you to hire a lawyer unless they can help. Is there enough insurance? Is the liability such that no one will contest any of it? Is their insurance coverage that you didn’t think about? Are there theories of liability that will allow you to get compensation?
All of these are questions which can be answered by an attorney. At the point you have the discussion with the lawyer, they should be able to help you decide whether or not you really need a lawyer in your case.
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“Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”