I would like to first distinguish between hiring or retaining an attorney and simply consulting with an attorney. A consultation is simply a meeting with the attorney to go over your situation, discuss your options and determine whether or not the attorney can assist you and whether or not you wish to retain/hire that particular attorney.

 =Most consultations are free and they can even be done over the phone in many circumstances. If you are in a situation where you are unsure whether or not you need an attorney, find one who offers a free initial consultation so that you can ultimately make an informed decision. In most cases, all it will cost you is a little time.

Retaining or Hiring an attorney requires a formal agreement (written) in which the attorney agrees to represent you for that particular matter. The agreement should specify the attorney’s legal expenses, costs and scope of the matter.

Now that we have discussed the difference between hiring and an attorney and simply consulting with an attorney, we can discuss certain circumstances where you will likely need to hire an attorney.

1. Auto Accidents If you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision (auto accident) and you or your loved ones were injured, you will likely need an attorney. This can be true even for minor injuries, unfortunately. Ten years ago (or more), individuals who suffered minor injuries in collisions could resolve their claims on their own.  It was a simple process. They would go through a short course of treatment such as physical therapy or chiropractic care, submit the records and bills to the liability insurance carrier and the insurance carrier would agree to pay the bills in full and then provide a reasonable amount of pain, suffering, and out-of-pocket damages. That was then.

This is now. Now, the liability insurance carriers fight minor claims very aggressively because they know that many attorneys will not take these cases if the insurance industry as a whole makes it a bad business decision to take these cases. They do this by forcing you to go to court which costs a lot of money and takes a lot of your time as well as your attorney’s time. Many attorneys will not accept these cases because they essentially lose money on them because they have to dedicate so much time to get them settled and/or to try the cases.

Another factor that has made it essentially impossible for an individual to resolve a minor motor vehicle collision on their own is the issue of subrogation. Subrogation is a legal doctrine whereby one person or entity takes over the rights or remedies of another against a third party.  How can this affect you? If any of your medical bills were paid by your health insurance company or your own auto insurance company through the Medical Payments coverage, then those companies likely have a subrogation claim.  What does that mean? It means that you may have to pay them back out of any settlement you reach with the liability insurance company. What happens if you don’t know about their subrogation claim and don’t pay them? They can sue YOU. This is true even if you did not know about their subrogation claim. Similarly, Medicare and Medicaid have similar rights and the receipt of a settlement may even disqualify you from receiving needs-based benefits such as Medicaid. Unfortunately, Corporate America has made it virtually impossible for individuals to settle these types of claims without the assistance of a personal injury attorney who is well-versed in personal injury law as well as all of the pitfalls associated with this area of law.

If you or a loved one were injured in the collision, you need to hire a personal injury attorney. If you were not injured, then you probably do not need an attorney.

2. Work Related Accidents I highly recommend that anyone who is seriously injured on-the-job to at least call an attorney and obtain a free consultation. Work related injuries frequently result in serious and debilitating injuries that can have life-long effects on the worker and they commonly affect their ability to work in the future. One thing that many attorneys and almost all workers are unaware of is that prompt investigation is absolutely necessary for these types of injuries. Whether you may have a Workers’ Compensation Claim and/or a personal injury claim, an immediate investigation is necessary. OSHA prefers to inspect the accident site within 24 hours of any serious accident. DO NOT rely on your employer to call OSHA and report the accident. Call a personal injury attorney to discuss your situation to determine whether or not you need to get OSHA involved and to determine whether or not you may have a personal injury claim above and beyond a Workers’ Compensation Claim.

3. Wrongful Death Claims If you have lost a loved one due the negligence or recklessness of another individual or company, then you need to hire a personal injury attorney. While many attorneys may claim that they can help you with your situation, very few attorneys are truly qualified to handle these types of cases. While contacting an attorney is the last thing you want to do after suffering such a tremendous loss, it is imperative to at least consult with a personal injury attorney. The consultation can provide you with suggestions on whether or not you need to go through probate court as well as possible probate attorneys. The consultation will also address whether or not you need to retain experts immediately to investigate the accident. Each case is different and each one involves numerous issues that need to be addressed such as estates, subrogation claims, OSHA violations, police citations, preservation of evidence etc. . . . The best thing you can do is to schedule a free consultation to get straightforward answers to your questions and to give you some piece of mind. Once you retain an attorney, you can shift all of these legal issues to him or her and you can focus on what is important.

4. Swimming Pool Accidents If you lost a loved one due to a drowning accident, you should immediately contact a personal injury attorney. I understand contacting an attorney is the last thing on your mind and the last thing you want to do in this situation; however, an immediate investigation is imperative in these types of cases. There are numerous factors that lead to drowning accidents such as clarity of the water, water temperature, negligent supervision, distractions, improper water flow etc . . . If you wait too long, much of this information/evidence will be lost. Call a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to find out what needs to be done and then let them take care of it for you.

I could go through hundreds of examples of situations in which you should at least call a personal injury attorney for a free consultation if not retain a personal injury attorney immediately; however, it is not necessary to do so. Essentially, if you or a loved one has been seriously injured and are facing permanent injuries, incurring significant medical expenses or facing financial hardship due to the negligence of another person or company, call a personal injury attorney. You will know following that initial free consultation whether or not you will have to hire an attorney.