According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2018, seat belt usage climbed to nearly ninety percent nationally. It appears that more drivers than ever appreciate the value of buckling up. The CDC estimates that seat belt use in passenger cars may have saved upwards of 15,000 lives in 2017.
Thanks in part to seat belts and other safety improvements, we all know that not every automobile accident results in injuries, and, when they do happen not all injuries are as severe as they might have been in days gone by. You may have been in an auto accident and, thanks to wearing your seat belt and perhaps having a car with airbags (most newer ones do these days), you came away from what might have been a much more serious accident with just a few cuts and bruises.
Remember, however, that not all serious injuries are immediately apparent. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to get checked out at the hospital or by your own medical professional after an accident. That’s especially true if you suffered a blow to your head or you’re having back pains. Remember, too, that you may have sustained an internal injury such as a concussion or neck whiplash. These types of injuries have symptoms that may not become apparent for some time.
Naturally, automobile accidents aren’t the only ones that result in injuries. Perhaps you slipped and fell on a spill in a market and have some bruises. Maybe a defective product that should have had a guard over a sharp blade has cut your hand and required a few stitches.
In instances such as these, assuming you have your own medical insurance, there’s probably no reason to make a claim against the other driver’s insurance, the property owner or the seller of the defective product.
But if your injuries are more serious, or if you’re not yet sure how bad they are, once you’ve seen a medical provider you should always seriously consider consulting a personal injury lawyer. Here are some excellent reasons why:
He Probably Offers Free Initial Consultations
In addition to toll-free numbers and website contact forms, most Massachusetts personal injury lawyers offer low cost or free initial consultations. During this session (which will typically be about an hour long), an experienced personal injury lawyer will review the records of your medical evaluation and treatment of injuries from the accident. He will also want to talk to you about how the accident happened.
This will enable him to offer a preliminary assessment of whether your damages make the case one that’s worth pursuing and, if so, what it might be worth. Only an experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to do this. While no two accidents or victims are precisely the same, an experienced lawyer has probably even had other cases very similar to yours.
If he believes your claim has merit, the lawyer may offer to represent you, usually on a contingent fee basis. This means that you won’t pay him a fee or reimburse expenses unless you settle or win your case. In that case, the fee is typically upwards of forty percent of your recovery or settlement.
Remember, however, that even if the lawyer believes you have a valid cause of action, you’re under no obligation to retain him or any other lawyer to pursue your case. For more suggestions for choosing the right personal injury lawyer for you, please see our recent article.
He Can Direct You to a Qualified Medical Professional
Not all medical service providers have experience in evaluating traumatic injuries. If it appears to the lawyer during your initial consultation that your injuries are more severe that you thought, he can usually arrange for an experienced physician to examine you, do tests such as x-rays or an MRI and provide an objective assessment of your injuries. This can be especially important if your injuries are internal and not apparent to an untrained eye.
He Will Explain The Injury Claim and Lawsuit Process To You
In many serious injury cases (especially where you or the party who caused the accident has insurance), you won’t even need to file a lawsuit. An experienced and capable personal injury lawyer can negotiate on your behalf effectively with the other party or the insurance company If the other party the company won’t pay and a lawsuit is necessary, however, he can also explain the process to you. It’s important not to delay, as there are rules in concerning the time within which a lawsuit must be filed.
If a suit is necessary, you’ll want a lawyer with significant trial experience. More than ninety percent of all suits nationally are settled. However, if a trial in your case is in the cards, you’ll naturally need a seasoned personal injury lawyer to represent you during the pretrial and trial proceedings.
He Can Obtain an Objective Accident Investigation
Most plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers have on staff or have a relationship with an experienced private accident investigator. This person won’t assess your injuries, but will do a thorough investigation of the accident and provide an objective opinion as to who was at fault. Remember that Massachusetts is a “comparative” fault state. This means that even if you were partly at fault in the accident, you may still be able to recover some damages. An experienced investigator will also assess whether you were partially at fault.
The investigator’s fee is usually based on the time he spends, and, as with the medical exam costs it is an expense of the case and won’t be your responsibility unless you win or settle.
Negotiating On Your Behalf
Assuming you even talk to them (generally you shouldn’t under any circumstances) the insurance company or defendant’s lawyer may try to persuade you that your serious injury claim is worth far less than it is in reality. You’ll be at a significant disadvantage if you attempt to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company or a defendant’s lawyer on your own. While it’s probably one of the few times in your life you’ll be in a position like this, they handle claims such as yours for a living and typically have negotiated hundreds or even thousands of claims. An experienced personal injury lawyer is used to dealing with these representatives and can be an effective negotiator on your behalf.