After a slip and fall injury, a car accident, or any other kind of incident where someone else's carelessness caused you harm, you may be considering making a personal injury claim for your medical bills, lost income, and other damages. And right at the outset, one of your first questions is probably something along the lines of: “Do I really need a personal injury lawyer's help, or can I handle this on my own?”
To help you decide, we surveyed readers who've recently gone through the personal injury claim process—both with and without a lawyer—to see how their cases turned out, in terms of the amount of compensation received and the time it took to resolve their case.
Does Having a Personal Injury Lawyer Mean a Higher Settlement?
Let's start with the question on most readers' minds: If you have a lawyer on your side in a personal injury case, does it increase your chances of getting compensation? And if you do, will you get a higher settlement (or a higher court award in the rare instances where a personal injury lawsuit makes it all the way through a court trial)? Judging by our survey results, the answer to both questions is a fairly resounding “Yes.”
Our survey showed that a lawyer is the biggest difference-maker when it comes to getting a personal injury payout or walking away empty-handed. More than nine out of ten readers who had legal representation received a settlement or award, compared with only about half of those who went without an attorney.
Personal injury claimants who hired a lawyer walked away with an average of $77,600 in compensation (whether in out-of-court settlement or as a court-ordered judgment). Compare that with the average $17,600 received by those readers who handled their own cases, and our survey shows a 340% boost in compensation for personal injury claimants who put their case in the hands of an experienced attorney.
These numbers aren't all that surprising. Lawyers are well-versed in what it takes to build a solid personal injury claim. That means proving the other party's liability for the underlying accident, compiling convincing evidence of the scope and severity of the claimant's losses, and advocating fervently on their client's behalf. And experienced personal injury lawyers aren't shy about getting in the trenches to fight it out with the insurance adjusters and attorneys on the other side of the case. Our survey results also show that the more serious the injuries, the more likely a claimant was to seek out a lawyer's help.
Does Having a Lawyer Mean Quicker Resolution of a Personal Injury Case?
While our survey shows you're much more likely to see a better financial outcome to your personal injury claim when you hire a lawyer, our readers reported experiencing a longer claim process when represented by counsel.
On average, readers who pursued their personal injury claim on their own reported that the process took around 7 months to reach a “resolution”—that means a settlement was reached, the claim was denied, or a court handed down a decision on the case. Readers who hired a personal injury attorney were in for a longer fight (a little over twice as long, in fact), reporting a 15.7 month timeline between the beginning and the resolution of their case.
So we're seeing higher compensation for represented claimants, but more of a drawn-out process when the personal injury case is in the hands of a lawyer. What's behind this trend? Getting a better result often means being willing to turn down the first settlement offer and fight for fair compensation. These numbers also illustrate a correlation between more significant injuries and longer claim timelines. Not surprisingly, the more serious the accident, the more evidence that must be gathered and coalesced into a winning case. And when there's more at stake, the defendant—whether it’s a doctor, a hospital, or an insurance company—is more likely to put up a bigger fight, which can also drag things out.
Taking the Next Step
These survey results illustrate some pretty clear correlations between having an attorney on your side and getting fair value for your personal injury claim. But surveys can't account for every consideration, and besides the basic concerns about the outcome and duration of a PI claim, there are the more thorny questions to consider. Are you able to spend the time and resources necessary to build and present your best case on your own? Are you willing to engage in the kind of hard-line negotiations that are often the key to guaranteeing the best financial outcome? If you're not sure where you stand on questions like these, or if you've examined the numbers from our survey results and are ready to take the next step, it may be time to turn your personal injury case over to an experienced lawyer.