If you have been unfortunate enough to be involved in a motor vehicle accident or other type of incident in which you have suffered personal injuries or financial damages, one of the first questions that you will probably have is “Do I really need a lawyer”? In order to resolve this important question, the best thing that you can do is to discuss your situation with a lawyer who is both knowledgeable and honest. In this regard, I would point out that our firm features two attorneys certified as specialists in the field of wrongful death and personal injury; two attorneys who have served as State Bar President, and three attorneys who either in the past or presently have served as members of the Arizona Supreme Court Committee on character and fitness. Also, it is important to note that our firm, like many others, offers an initial consultation at no charge to you.
There are any numbers of factors to be considered when determining whether or not you need a lawyer. These include examining the liability situation (i.e., whether or not there is a realistic probability that it can be proved that another person and/or entity was responsible for your injuries/damages), along with the nature and extent of the injuries/damages, as well as the amount of the medical bills, if applicable.
Another important consideration is the amount and type of the insurance coverage available. As a knowledgeable attorney can explain to you, in addition to any insurance coverage available as to the person/entity that caused your injuries/damages, you may well have other important coverage available under your own policy. This potential coverage could include Medical Payments coverage (“Med Pay”), Uninsured Motorist coverage (“UM”) and/or Under Insured Motorist coverage (“UIM”).
Medical Payments coverage is designed to pay for medical treatment related to accident related injuries. Under Insured Motorist coverage will come into play if the coverage available through the policy of the person or entity that caused your injuries/damages is insufficient to pay the full value of the claim. For example, if the full value of your claim was determined to be $100,000.00 and the offending party only had policy limits of $50,000.00, your UIM coverage could pick up the balance of $50,000.00.
In regards to Uninsured Motorist coverage, this could come into play if the person or entity that caused your injuries/damages was not insured (and there is a relatively high percentage of vehicles in Arizona that are being operated without any insurance), your insurance company would pay the value of your claim under this coverage, at least up to your UM limits.
Under Insured Motorist coverage could come into play if the coverage available through the policy of the person or entity that caused your injuries/damages is sufficient to pay the full value of your claim. For example, if the full value of your claim was determined to be $100,000.00 and the at fault policy had liability limits of $15,000.00 (which is the minimum amount required by Arizona law), your UM coverage could pick up the balance of $85,000.00, assuming that you had sufficient limits under your policy.
Further, a very important factor to be considered in today’s environment involves “liens” and “right of reimbursement” claims by healthcare providers (i.e., hospitals, doctors, etc.) and/or insurance companies or government entities (i.e., medicare, group health plans, etc.). Please note that you will find a very informative article discussing these issues on our website, which was written by my partner, Dan Wilson.
Another important factor to be considered in the question of whether or not you need an attorney or lawyer involves the arrangement as to how the lawyer would be paid. Most personal injury cases are handled on a “contingent” basis. In other words, the client and the lawyer agree that the lawyer will be paid a certain percentage of the amount of any settlement or judgment that the lawyer is able to achieve. Another alternative is that the lawyer will be paid an agreed upon hourly rate.
Typically, most clients favor the contingency fee arrangement. Obviously, in this situation the lawyer only will get paid if he/she is successful in achieving either a settlement or obtaining a judgment. Equally importantly, the lawyer gets paid at the end of the case, at the same time as the client gets paid, and as a result the client does not have to be concerned about receiving monthly bills.
In closing, the most important thing that I can emphasize is that in order to be able to make an informed decision as to whether or not you really need a lawyer, you need to seek out the advice of an experienced, knowledgeable lawyer that you can trust, to help you make this important decision.
Robert E. Schmitt