Will Representing Yourself Save You Money In The Long Run?
Most Tucson car accidents resulting in injury will play out fairly similarly: the victim will seek medical treatment, file a claim with the other driver’s insurance, and negotiate a settlement or go to trial. The victim, who will become the plaintiff, has the choice to hire an attorney or proceed pro se or be self-represented. The court does not provide the plaintiff with an attorney for personal injury claimants. The good news is that you can hire a personal injury attorney without paying anything upfront. To schedule your free consultation with our Tucson injury firm, call 520-441-1450. Our experienced attorneys can help you decide whether it is worth the cost to hire an attorney to represent you in your claim.
The Up Front Costs Of A Personal Injury Claim
Part of a personal injury claim is a game of financial chicken- the insurance company may sense if you urgently need your injury award and play that to their advantage. If someone’s vehicle is severely damaged in an accident, they may be left without a way to conveniently and affordably get to work and medical appointments. Even with health insurance, a family could easily struggle to pay out-of-pocket medical costs from a car accident. Thankfully, many personal injury attorneys will let clients retain with no money down.
How is this possible? When a personal injury attorney is confident in a claim, they will accept payment through a contingency fee. When a lawyer accepts payment on a contingent basis, they do not get paid unless they successfully obtain a judgment for the client. They also do not get paid until the client receives the award. The percentage that the attorney receives when the award is issued will be decided upon in the retainer agreement. If you’ve been injured in an accident, don’t let the potential cost of an attorney deter you from consulting with attorneys to see if they are willing to represent you on a contingency basis.
Calculating Your Accident Damages
Figuring out how much you want in an injury award from the insurance company isn’t as simple as it sounds. You only have one chance to sue the opposing party for your damages from the accident- no coming back to sue later if you discover that the award wasn’t enough to pay for your future medical expenses, or if symptoms from previously undiscovered medical conditions arise. The amount you use to start your negotiations with the insurance company must be as accurate as possible.
General damages have a clear numerical figure. It is relatively simple to calculate your current medical bills surrounding the accident. However, if the accident causes severe injuries, it may take longer than the statute of limitations to complete treatment, or treatment could last for life. The accident victim could also miss extensive time from work due to their injuries. Whether or not the victim has paid time off to cover that recovery time, this is compensable general damage. Depending on the plaintiff’s field of work and the severity of their injuries, the accident could cause long-lasting impediments in their career. This type of damage could require speculation by experts in the field to determine how much financial loss it causes the plaintiff.
Special damages are intangible, and while they can be proven using evidence, they are also usually fiercely defended by the opposing party. For example, how can someone put a dollar value on the loss of someone’s contributions around the house, time spent with the children, and even intimacy with their spouse? Some plaintiffs may sue for each special damage specifically, while others may lump them all into “pain and suffering.” In serious accidents, this will be calculated by multiplying the rest of the total damages by another number. That number could be 5 or higher when the injuries are severe. Special damages will be even higher if the accident victim is permanently disfigured or disabled, or if the accident is fatal.
Determining When Is The Right Time To File Your Claim
Filing your personal injury claim at the most strategic time can be a crucial part of the entire process. For some plaintiffs, it is preferable to wait until they have fully recovered before bringing a suit. This is the clearest way to assess the total damages caused by the accident. But time is a luxury that may not be available to all accident victims. They might need that money sooner to get back to life as usual. If a plaintiff hasn’t reached full maturity, it could affect the way their medical treatments need to be administered, which could be another reason to hold off on filing a personal injury claim.
Another concern is making sure the case is filed within the appropriate statute of limitations. If a case isn’t filed within the applicable statute of limitations, the court must dismiss the case. For most personal injury cases in Arizona, the statute of limitations is 2 years after the accident. However, your case could be subject to exceptions. For some government cases, a claim must be initiated within 6 months and filed with the court within 1 year. The statute of limitations stops running if the defendant flees the state to avoid liability for the accident. The statute of limitations also doesn’t start running for a child accident victim until they reach their 18th birthday unless their parent or legal guardian has already brought a claim on their behalf. A self-represented litigant should be sure to do the proper research to determine the statute of limitations that applies in their case. Failure to do so could result in disqualification from the reimbursement for accident-related expenses.
Avoiding Assignment Of Blame By The Opposing Party
If you read A.R.S. § 12-2505, you’ll see that Arizona is a comparative negligence state. This means that a plaintiff whose conduct contributed to the accident won’t be prohibited from collecting in a personal injury suit in this state. The plaintiff’s damages will be reduced proportionally based on their percentage of fault for the accident. So let’s say a plaintiff suffers $50,000 in damages from a car accident. However, the opposing party proves that the plaintiff was 20% at fault for the accident for speeding and failing to use turn signals. Here, the plaintiff’s award would be reduced to $40,000. As you can see, there is a lot of potentials for insurance companies to use fault designations to significantly reduce the amount they must pay accident victims.
One tactic insurance companies use to poke holes in the plaintiff’s claim is requiring an interview about the accident on a recorded line. The insurance adjuster may seem friendly and understanding but make no mistake- their only aim is to minimize their employer’s liability. Refusing to engage in this phone call may seem like a simple workaround to this issue. However, you should never underestimate how persistent and stubborn an insurance adjuster can be. Additionally, the insurance company may refuse to engage in further settlement negotiations until the call is made. If the plaintiff retains an injury attorney, the insurance adjuster must address all such requests toward the attorney rather than the plaintiff personally.
Prepare For Negotiations & Trial
Only about 5% of personal injury claims make it all the way to trial. However, a plaintiff still needs to be prepared for trial, or the insurance company will use that as leverage in negotiations. Since the opposing party will be aware if you have an attorney of record, they will know if you decided to handle your claim pro se. Even if you are articulate and well-read on legal issues, they will see this as a sign to send lowball offers and be less flexible while negotiating.
Consider Our Tucson Injury Team For Your Accident Claim
Our firm offers free initial consultations, so there is no risk in reviewing your injury claim with one of our experienced attorneys. If Tucson Injury Lawyers is a match for you, your lawyer will present you with a contingency retainer agreement with clear and reasonable terms. We will fight to get you the highest injury award possible, and we only get paid when we win. Our dedicated staff and attorneys will keep you up-to-date with updates on your case while you get back to life as it was before the accident. Contact us or call us at 520-441-1450 to schedule your free consultation today.