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I’ve Been Injured… Why Can’t I Settle This Myself?

Prospective personal injury clients sometimes ask us whether it might make more sense for them to handle a particular matter themselves versus hiring an attorney. This is a valid question, the answer to which is dependent on a number of variables including the complexity of the case, the severity of the injuries, the size of the financial award sought, and the willingness of the individual to wade through a maze of issues with which they may not be familiar. Contrary to public perceptions, for some cases, most personal injury attorneys will suggest that a matter may best be handled by the individual themselves or by another attorney better suited to address their particular concern.

That being said, in most cases, it is usually not the wisest course to file a lawsuit alleging injury on one’s own. It may be tempting for some to seek recourse by themselves, but nowhere is the adage “penny wise, pound foolish,” more apropos than in such situations.

Putting together a case against another for negligence, medical malpractice, wrongful death, an automobile accident, a slip or fall, etc., is difficult. And it is difficult primarily because the world of insurance is complex. In a situation where an individual has been harmed or suffered because of the actions of another, all medical bills related to these injuries must be documented. Repayment of these medical bills must also be negotiated with the health care providers. Personal injury attorneys are adept at analyzing such documents and uncovering ways to reduce the amounts that must be repaid.

Secondly, with all of the different types of insurance packages and bundles available, individuals are often surprised to discover that they or the defendant actually has more coverage than they may have realized. Personal injury attorneys are able to analyze insurance policies and look for additional layers of coverage.

In many cases, individuals often find it difficult to make a settlement demand to an insurance company. They may not know that the law allows for compensation of more than just medical bills. They may possibly be able to receive awards for lost wages as a result of any injuries sustained. Similarly, compensation may be awarded for the pain and suffering the individual has had to endure. Whether they have lost wages or suffered emotionally and/or physically is however only one part of the equation. A second, equally important question is how one puts a financial value on these variables. An experienced PI attorney will know the criteria for establishing the need for these kinds of compensation as well as what the level of the financial award should be.

Further, it is not enough to assess what the cost of medical treatment has been or is currently. What about the future? As a result of his or her injuries, will the individual need to receive future medical care? Will they need to visit a physical therapist once a week for the rest of their lives? Will they be limited in their future earning capacity or suffer from enduring physical and/or emotional trauma? And again, how does one place a value on these?

Aside from insurance matters, determining the relative level of fault in a case is also of critical concern. If the person injured is partially to blame for his or her injury, they can only hope to receive that percentage of the financial damages that correlates to the percentage the defendant is to blame. For example, if a jury finds that the defendant is two-thirds to blame for an accident, the plaintiff can only hope to recover two-thirds of the total damages. And in Indiana, if the plaintiff is responsible for more than 50% of the accident, they are entitled to exactly nothing. Hence, before one takes on one’s own case, one must ask with whom the best chance of proving the relative responsibilities for the accident rests – – with themselves, or with an experienced attorney.

The practice of personal injury law is not just about proving fault or the level of that fault, but also ensuring that the injured individual is justly compensated for his or her injuries. It’s about making sure that the future financial, physical and emotional costs of those injuries are held to a minimum, whether or not that means taking on the defendant, his insurance carriers or even the carrier of the plaintiff; and whether or not it means doing so through settlement, mediation or jury trial.

Because of the complexities of all these matters, it is usually best to seek out someone qualified to look out for your best interest. It’s a big and important responsibility, and one that an individual should usually not face alone. Wilson Kehoe and Winingham helps relieve this tremendous burden that individuals face after suffering an injury or losing a loved one.

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