Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis.  This means the amount of their fee is a percentage of the amount of their client’s recovery, usually 33.3%.  The upside of this arrangement is that the client does not have to pay any fee unless and until there is a recovery.  The downside of this arrangement is that there are situations where it will not make financial sense to hire a personal injury lawyer.

But most personal injury lawyers also offer free consultations.  So when in doubt, it can’t hurt to consult with a lawyer to get a second opinion even if you ultimately decide to go it on your own.

Minor Injuries

If you have relatively minor injuries and are fully recovered after a few weeks of conservative treatment (not involving hospitalization), then you may be able to handle the claim without the need of a lawyer’s help.  However, there is no rush to settle (the statute of limitations on a personal injury claim in Washington is 3 years).  So you should wait until your are confident your injuries have resolved or your doctor clears you of the need for future treatment before making a decision not to hire a lawyer.

But even though no bones are broken, soft tissue injuries such as whiplash can be very painful and can linger for weeks, months or even years after an accident.  If you have been getting treatment for several weeks after an accident and are still not close to having your doctor release you from treatment, you should give serious consideration to hiring a personal injury lawyer.

No Insurance

In Washington, a motorist is only required to carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance.  Despite this requirement, some motorists do not have any auto insurance.  Many others carry only the minimum amount required.

For this reason, Washington also requires that all auto policies issued in Washington offer uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage in the same amount of the liability coverage purchased.  But Washington also allows insureds to waive this coverage completely or purchase it in an amount less than the liability coverage.

If you do not have UM coverage and are involved in an auto accident where the other driver was at fault but was uninsured, it will not make sense to hire a personal injury lawyer, because the likelihood of recovering any money to pay either you or the attorney will be small to nonexistent.

You Feel the Insurance Company is Treating You Fairly

After an accident, the insurance adjuster for the party at fault for the accident will contact you to obtain information about your claim.  This will usually include getting a recorded statement from you concerning how the accident happened, what your injuries were, and where you have been treating.  The insurance adjuster may also ask you for authorizations to obtain your medical records and bills, and documentation concerning your lost wages.

While you have a contractual duty to cooperate with your own insurance company in their investigation of a claim, you are under no such duty to cooperate with the insurance company for the at-fault party.  There are pitfalls to cooperating with this insurer.  The adjuster may be seeking information to prove you were yourself at fault for the accident.  Even where you clearly were not at fault, the adjuster may be seeking information or records hoping to minimize the amount of your recovery.

But if you do decide to cooperate with the at-fault party’s insurance company and they then make you a settlement offer you think is fair, it may not make sense to hire a personal injury lawyer.  Again, however, a free consultation with a personal injury attorney can help you decide if an offer is fair before accepting it.