From the amount of advertising we attorneys do on TV, billboards, and on the internet, we would understand it if you had the impression that every person in America needs a personal injury attorney 24/7. We’re here to tell you, that’s not the case. If you’re lucky, you’ll never need to hire a personal injury attorney to pursue compensation on your behalf after an accident, or if an incident causes a serious injury or a tragic loss. But, of course, not everyone can be lucky all of the time.
In this blog post, we talk you through some common considerations to help you decide when it’s time to hire a personal injury attorney. We approach the topic from the perspective of someone who isn’t necessarily excited about the prospect of hiring an attorney, but thinks maybe it’s a good idea. Here’s our advice.
When You Get Hurt.
Obviously, personal injury attorneys help people with personal injuries. That’s no surprise. And so, yes, it’s true that most people who hire a personal injury attorney do so after they’ve gotten hurt or lost a loved one to a tragic accident. But, that doesn’t mean that you should always go looking for a lawyer every time you sustain an injury. And, it also doesn’t mean people who need a personal injury attorney necessarily know how hurt they are at the moment they should start looking for one.
Our most basic rule of thumb is that you should hire a personal injury attorney right away in the Seattle area if:
- You’ve gotten hurt (or someone close to you has), or you think it’s possible you or someone you love have been hurt; and
- It’s even just slightly possible the circumstances in which you got hurt weren’t entirely your own fault.
The reason you should see a lawyer even if you aren’t sure you’re hurt is that, sometimes, it helps to have someone with a neutral perspective, like a lawyer, size up your situation to identify whether an accident or incident harmed you. Sure, you usually know if you are in physical pain, but what might seem like a minor ache could signify a longer-term issue.
The reason you should hire a personal injury lawyer even if you think you might be partially to blame for your own injury is that in Washington (as in most other parts of the country), you can still recover compensation for an injury even if you contributed to causing it. In fact, Washington law allows you to recover damages for an injury even if you were mostly at fault for causing it.
As for timing, we encourage people to seek our advice as personal injury attorneys as soon as possible after getting hurt. That gives us the most time and best opportunity to investigate and gather evidence for a claim (if you have one), which maximizes your chances of recovering damages.
When You File an Insurance Claim.
Let’s say you don’t hire an attorney immediately after getting hurt in an accident which wasn’t (entirely) your fault. The next-best time to hire a personal injury attorney is when you begin pursuing an insurance claim in earnest to pay for the costs associated with your accident. We encourage people to reach out to us before they begin dealing with adjusters from their own insurance company, and we especially encourage people to call us if an insurance company representing the person who caused the accident reaches out to them.
Insurance companies, especially those for other parties involved in an accident or incident, work tirelessly to minimize their own financial exposure for injuries caused by their policyholder. If, for example, you sustained injuries in a two-car accident caused entirely by the other driver, that driver’s insurance company might reach out to you to ask for an interview or to offer you a settlement. Avoid taking that insurance company, or any insurance company in a similar situation, up on the offer. An interview with someone else’s insurance company is bound to become an exercise in an insurance adjuster trying to get you to admit the accident was partially your fault. A settlement offer from someone else’s insurance company is a sure sign the insurer knows its policyholder has liability to you and is trying to get you to take quick, lowball money to “go away.”
In either case, the best response is to hire a lawyer with experience negotiating with insurance companies. Having a lawyer on your side evens the playing field and ensures you do not get taken for a ride by an insurance company hoping to protect its own interests, not yours.
When an Insurance Company Denies Your Claim or Gives You a Hard Time.
If you tried to deal with insurance on your own after getting hurt in an accident or incident that wasn’t (entirely) your fault, the next-best time to hire a personal injury lawyer is at any moment an insurance company refuses to honor your claim or signals that it intends to push back on your claim. Insurers may see your lack of a lawyer up to that point as a sign that they can take advantage of you and bully you into agreeing they don’t owe you money, or that they owe you far less than you deserve. Don’t fall for that tactic. Hiring a lawyer when an insurance company denies your claim or starts giving you a hard time sends a clear message that you intend to stand up for yourself and your rights, and gives you the best possible shot at convincing the insurance company to pay the full amount of your claim.
An attorney like Tatiana Boohoff can not only help you negotiate with an insurance company, but she can also help you determine whether an insurance company denied your claim in bad faith, which may entitle you to additional compensation. Even if the insurance company acted reasonably in pushing back against a claim, an experienced personal injury attorney “speaks the language” of insurance companies and can help collect and present the information necessary to get you the money you need.
Of course, if an insurance company will not “play ball,” then a personal injury attorney can also advise you whether to take legal action against the insurance company’s policyholder for damages.
When the Person Who Caused You Harm Sues You.
Some people think the best defense is a good offense. The person who caused your injury might decide the best approach is to take the fight to you by suing you for damages and claiming you caused the accident in which you were hurt. Obviously, if this happens you need a lawyer to defend you, but in most cases that lawyer can also help you assert your own claims for damages against the person who sued you. These are known in the legal profession as “counterclaims.” It is quite common for a personal injury lawsuit to include claims and counterclaims. Do not assume that simply because a person sued you first, that means they are in the right or have an advantage. Speak with a lawyer right away to make sure you have the opportunity to tell your story and to hold anyone who hurt you accountable.
When You Discover an Injury From Long Ago.
Not all injuries become obvious right away. Sometimes, such as when a person has been exposed to toxic chemicals or defective medication, or has had a faulty medical device implanted during a surgery, or has suffered childhood sexual abuse, it takes years to discover the injury. Under Washington law, the statute of limitations “clock” does not begin running on your right to take legal action for damages for these sorts of injuries until you discover, or reasonably could have discovered, your injury. So, do not assume you have no claim merely because you the cause of your injury happened a long time ago. If it’s the type of injury that takes a long time to emerge and you couldn’t reasonably have discovered it before now, then you may still have a claim and should hire a personal injury attorney to help you find out.
When You Think To Yourself: “This Isn’t Fair”.
Everyone gets hurt once in a while. And, everyone understands life isn’t fair sometimes. But, if you sustained an injury and find yourself thinking that what happened just isn’t fair and that someone else should be held accountable for hurting you, then go ahead and call a personal injury attorney. Most personal injury attorneys, including the team at Boohoff Law, will meet with you for a free, confidential, no-obligation, consultation to discuss whether you may have a legal claim for compensation.
In other words, trust your gut. If the injury you or a loved one sustained feels like it shouldn’t have happened, or if you know someone else could have made a decision that would have prevented the injury, then a personal injury attorney wants to help you figure out if you have the right to seek damages.
Before Time Runs Out.
The statute of limitations for most personal injury actions in Washington State is three years. If you do not take legal action within that period of time, in most cases, then you will lose your rights to recover compensation. If you have the type of claim that allows you to rely on the “discovery rule” described above, then you still have to act in a timely fashion once you have discovered (or reasonably should have discovered) your injury. Some specialized legal claims, like those for medical malpractice, for claims involving faulty construction, and when pursuing a claim against a government entity, may have additional time frames to consider.
In other words, once you suspect someone has legal liability for the harm they caused you, schedule an appointment to meet with a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can. There are all kinds of advantages to hiring a personal injury attorney as soon as you can. They include:
- Preserving evidence. Virtually every accident or incident that causes injury leaves behind evidence of how the accident happened. There’s no end to the kinds of evidence that exist—car parts, tire marks, security camera footage, cell phone location records, eyewitness statements, you name it. All of these could constitute evidence that helps to prove a claim for damages. One thing these types of evidence have in common, however, is that the longer you wait to collect them, the harder they become to find and rely on. Hiring a lawyer right away gives you the best possible chance of getting your hands on all of the evidence you might need to prove a claim for damages.
- Identifying parties with potential liability. Finding, preserving, and analyzing evidence are just part of the process of seeking damages for a personal injury. Another, equally important task is identifying who might have legal liability to you. The evidence points the way. Sometimes, it’s easy to who is to blame, such as in a drunk driving accident. Other times, it’s not so simple to pin down just one person to blame, such as when a toxic exposure causes illness, or when a crane collapses on a construction site. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows where to look to find every party with potential legal liability for your injuries, so that everyone who should be held accountable must answer for the harm done to you.
- Shielding you from insurance companies and attorneys. A personal injury lawyer serves as a buffer between you and all of the people who want to prevent you from recovering the money you deserve. The lawyer can negotiate with insurance carriers and opposing attorneys, giving you the space you need to focus on healing and recovery.
- Making a case. Personal injury lawyers perform tasks that most ordinary citizens cannot. They’ve gone to school, trained, and gained experience in the best ways to convince insurance companies, judges, and juries of why you deserve to receive compensation for your injuries. It may seem tempting to try your luck at these tasks before you hire an attorney to do them, but trust us, that never turns out well. Let a professional represent your legal interests and pursue your legal rights. You will be happy you did.
Still Have Questions? Contact Boohoff Law for Help
Contact Boohoff Law today online or at (877) 999-9999 to schedule a time to meet with our team to discuss your case. We can answer any questions you have about the personal injury claim process, and help devise a plan for your next steps forward.