Pam: This is Fighting for What’s Right, with personal injury attorney, Barry Doyle.
Barry, I know you’ve handled a lot of cases involving car accidents. They seem really simple, so do people really need to hire an attorney for a car accident case?
Barry: Not every case really requires the help of a lawyer, but the key to that is knowing which cases really do require legal help. On the surface, car accidents really are pretty simple. The rules of the road apply. You need to yield when making a left hand turn, you need to avoid rear ending people, you need to obey stop signs and red lights and so forth. But the thing that you have to keep in mind is that there are issues within that which can be really tightly contested. What you believe happened in a car accident may not be what the other driver reports to their insurance company, or may not be quite what a witness saw. So the issues of what actually happened and how that relates to the issue of liability is something that’s always open to being contested. Past that, the issue of the nature and extent of injuries is something that’s always subject to being contested and often is in automobile liability cases, especially ones where there really aren’t good grounds for disputing liability, such as in rear end car accidents.
Pam: So what are some of the things that people who are going to be going without a lawyer should be thinking about?
Barry: There are five basic issues that I think people ought to be looking at in trying to decide whether or not they want legal help. First of these is do I understand the legal basis for my case. And if you don’t, you’re really operating at a tremendous, tremendous disadvantage. The second of these issues is do I understand the procedures by which the case is going to be resolved. There are procedures for resolving cases pre-suit and certainly after suit has been filed, and if you don’t understand how things are going to be handled, again, you’re operating at a huge disadvantage, especially when you have the option to get good legal help.
The third issue that I think people really ought to consider is have I obtained my medical records and do I understand the significance of what’s in those medical records. Because when you get right down to it, the issue of the nature and extent of your injuries and how that relates to the underlying accident, it’s really kind of at the heart of the case and it’s spelled out in those medical records. If you don’t have them and you don’t understand what’s in them, you’re really operating at a huge, huge disadvantage. The fourth thing that I think people really ought to be looking at is do they understand how cases are evaluated for settlement. And it’s really one of the basic things that I bring bear as a personal injury lawyer, is my understanding and my experience of how these cases are evaluated and what fair settlement value is.
The last of the issues that people ought to be looking at is are there any complicated issues concerning reimbursement post-settlement that need to be addressed. And it’s one of those issues that’s become more and more complex over the years that I’ve been practicing, as health insurers and other entities have gotten more and more aggressive about reaching out for a share of the settlement money to get reimbursed, money that they’ve paid out for accident-related medical care.