After being hurt in an accident in South Carolina, many people don’t know if they need to hire a personal injury attorney. They wonder what exactly an attorney will do for them and if hiring a legal team will be of benefit.
We are the first to admit that not every person needs a lawyer after being injured. In some cases, it is possible that you could walk away with more money if you handle the case on your own. However, there are many situations where an injury lawyer will potentially benefit you many times over – not just financially, but also in terms of peace of mind.
Much like doctors, different lawyers focus on different areas, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you officially decide to hire a personal injury lawyer. I wrote this article to answer:
- When should you hire an injury attorney?
- When NOT to hire an injury lawyer?
- What does a personal injury attorney do?
- What questions should I ask a personal injury lawyer before I hire them?
- What is the number one reason to hire a personal injury lawyer?
- How do lawyer contingency fees work?
- How can I set up a free consultation?
Put simply, if you have been needlessly injured due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, I would consider at least contacting an attorney for a free consultation. The lawyer will listen to the facts of your case and assess whether legal representation would help.
Some situations where you will likely benefit from hiring a personal injury attorney include:
1. If you have severe injuries and mounting medical bills.
By hiring an attorney, you’ll be able to focus on healing while we handle everything else. When it comes to broken bones, long hospital stays, or the possibility of future surgery, a lawyer will help ensure all medical bills are identified and all future medical care is taken into account. Any settlement or verdict in South Carolina should factor in not only past medical bills, but every expense that may be incurred down the road.
We can also preserve and secure evidence, find witnesses, negotiate with the insurance company, and help to reduce your medical bills so that you end up with more money in your pocket at the end of a case.
2. You were in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, and the other driver was driving under the influence.
Drunk driving accident cases are usually more complex than your typical car accident case because there may be multiple parties that can be held accountable. According to South Carolina’s dram shop laws, the bar or restaurant that over served the at-fault driver can be held accountable for the injuries and harm the wreck caused. When the bar or restaurant gets involved, there is typically much more money on the line, so the case is more vigorously defended by the bar’s insurance company. Our firm has handled many drunk driving wreck cases, and our attorneys know how to stand strong against powerful insurance companies, so our clients can receive a just outcome.
3. The accident involved a commercial vehicle.
Similar to drunk driving accidents, when a commercial vehicle, like a company car or a semi truck are involved in a wreck, the damages are typically more severe and there is much more insurance coverage on the line. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t give in easily, even if their insured caused unspeakable harm to an innocent person. Hiring a personal injury attorney can help make sure your legal rights are protected.
4. Liability is being denied by the insurance company.
When the insurance company disputes who was at fault, you are unlikely to receive fair compensation without a lawyer who can study the facts, investigate the incident, hire experts, and prove that you are not to blame for your injuries.
5. The insurance company is stonewalling you.
If you have attempted to settle your case with the insurance company, but are simply not making any progress, hiring an attorney may help jumpstart the process. Insurance providers often intentionally draw out the claims process and hope that you’ll get frustrated enough to accept a lower settlement or give up on your claim altogether.
If there were minor injuries or no injuries at all, you can probably handle the case on your own. In situations like this, when the damages are thankfully limited, we like to inform people that they will likely walk away with more money in their pocket if they don’t have to pay a lawyer’s fees. If you’re unsure of what to say, or if you feel that the insurance company is being unfair, you can always call our office, and our attorneys would be happy to provide guidance.
We also send out numerous free copies of my books that provide easy-to-understand information about South Carolina personal injury, workers’ compensation, and car accident laws. They are helpful resources that can guide you through your legal situation today and into the future.
We get this question a lot because people wonder where the advantage lies in hiring a personal injury lawyer. I put together this list of what I do as an accident attorney and how my team and I can potentially help maximize your case’s value.
1. Gather evidence to build a stronger case.
Evidence is key in personal injury cases, but it is not always readily available. Evidence often begins to disappear in the hands of defendants. Attorneys can send what is called a preservation of evidence letter, also known as a "spoliation" letter, to the at fault party to ensure any relevant evidence, such as phone records, video recordings, etc., are preserved so they can be used during negotiations with the insurance provider.
2. Negotiate with insurance companies.
Insurance companies make money when they avoid paying out claims – especially by avoiding paying a person’s policy limits. When you aren’t represented by an attorney, insurance adjusters may try to take advantage of you because you don’t know the nuanced language to use when presenting your claim. The adjuster may also stonewall you until you agree to accept a smaller settlement than you deserve.
Personal injury lawyers deal with insurance providers day in and day out. We know how to negotiate with them and make them understand the impact your injury had on your life. The right lawyer will not be bullied by an insurance adjuster.
3. Has the resources to hire experts.
Sometimes in a personal injury case, it’s necessary to hire an expert to prove a point to the insurance company. For example, if you were hit by a drunk driver, and you suffered multiple broken bones and a traumatic brain injury, and you could no longer return to work, our firm has the resources available to hire a team of experts to determine how the injuries from the accident will affect you throughout your life. We can hire a life care planner to determine what medical treatment you will need in the future and how much it is likely to cost.
We can also hire an expert to calculate what your lost earnings will add up to over the course of your life because you are no longer able to work the same job after the accident. Our operating account allows us to work with these experts to further illustrate your story, so we can recover compensation for every harm and loss you experienced.
4. Identify all possible sources of compensation after someone is injured.
Insurance companies don’t just offer up a summary of how much insurance coverage a person, trucking company, bar, or restaurant has available to pay someone’s injury claim. Instead, you must dig and identify what policies are available for recovery.
The right personal injury lawyer will know how to look for additional car insurance policies in the household that can be stacked, hidden umbrella policies, or commercial policies. If your injuries are the result of a drunk driving accident, an injury lawyer may be able to find additional sources of compensation through South Carolina’s dram shop laws.
5. Take your case to trial if an insurance company refuses to pay a fair settlement.
If after all of our efforts, the insurance company still refuses to pay a fair settlement for your injuries, our lawyers are not afraid to take your case to trial and let the jury decide how much compensation you should receive for your injuries.
6. Set up liens against your medical bills, so they won’t go into collections while you wait for your settlement money.
With complex injury cases, sometimes it can take months or even years to settle a case. During that time, your medical bills will continue to grow, and though we recommend you file all medical bills with your health insurance, we understand that not everyone has health insurance coverage to help them take on the financial challenges associated with serious injuries. To help ease the burden, we are able to send a “letter of protection” to your medical providers which serves as a legal promise that they will be paid out of your settlement funds when your case is closed.
7. At the end of your case, the legal team can attempt to negotiate your medical liens down.
Sometimes at the end of a case, hospitals and other medical providers may reduce your final bill at our request. Our legal team can negotiate reductions with them by explaining how additional funds are needed for future care and to cover lost wages.
8. Client-focused injury lawyers will take everything off your plate, so you can focus on healing while they focus on your case.
Life altering injuries are stressful – not just for the injured person but for friends and family as well. During the healing process, the last thing you want to deal with is relentless insurance adjusters. At our firm, we pride ourselves on allowing clients to focus on the healing process while we take care of everything else. We want them to have peace of mind knowing that we have their back and will do everything in our power to help them achieve justice.
If you decide to hire a personal injury lawyer, here are questions you should ask them before signing any paperwork.
1. Do you exclusively practice personal injury law? Or do you juggle family law, criminal law, real estate closings, etc...?
Lawyers who exclusively practice personal injury law are working in the same field day in and day out, and will be well-versed in how to handle the twists and turns that can come up in a complex case.
2. Do you have experience with this type of case?
It is much easier to advertise for injury cases than to handle them. TV ads and lawyer websites make it seem as if every person with a law degree is equally capable of handling a car wreck, on-the-job injury, or medical malpractice claim. Don't believe everything you read. Instead, ask the attorney about their experience with cases like yours, the results they achieved, and their plan of action for your case.
3. Will you be the actual attorney working on my file?
Many personal injury lawyers advertise as if they will be the person handling your file, when instead it is a paralegal or young associate who is doing all the work. My firm takes a team approach when it comes to accident cases. Though my paralegal, associate attorney, and legal assistant may all work on your case with me, I remain involved with and knowledgeable of every case we handle. When you hire my firm - you get my entire team - including me.
4. What resources will you devote to my case?
Accident cases can be very expensive on the front end. Multiple experts may be needed. For example, a trucking collision could require us to retain an accident reconstructionist, trucking safety expert, and life care planner to establish who caused the wreck, how it could have been prevented, and what medical treatment it will require over the course of an injured person's lifetime.
You want to be sure that the personal injury firm you hire is willing and able to spend the money it takes to maximize the value of your case.
5. What steps will you take to make sure I am kept informed?
One of the biggest complaints people have about past experiences with law firms is that they were not kept informed of developments with their file. My firm has a policy by which clients never go more than a few weeks without either an in-person meeting or scheduled phone conference. Likewise, clients are always free to call us so that questions may be answered, and their minds may rest at ease.
We want injured people to know how hard we work, how close we are to a resolution, and what steps must be taken to achieve a fair outcome.
6. What do your previous clients have to say about you?
You may ask an attorney this, but make sure to do your own research as well. A lawyer may say their clients love them, but online reviews could tell a different story. Check out the attorney’s testimonial page, Google reviews, Facebook reviews, and Yelp reviews. This will give you a better understanding of how you can expect to be treated throughout your case.
Keep in mind that actions speak louder than words. Throughout your research process, how have you been treated? Have you been able to speak with a lawyer? Does someone answer the phone or have you had to leave multiple voicemails? Are the members of the legal team nice to you? The way you are treated at the beginning of your case will provide great insight into how you’ll be treated one week, one month, and even one year from now.
7. What results have you achieved for previous clients?
Again, actions speak louder than words. Although many cases may have settled confidentially, the lawyer should at least have a few examples of case results he has previously achieved. However, keep in mind that every case is different and just because the lawyer achieved certain results for one case doesn’t necessarily mean they will achieve the same results for you.
After experiencing a catastrophic injury, you only have once chance to receive a fair outcome. Once you sign settlement paperwork, your case is over, and there are no more opportunities for you to get additional compensation. Hiring a lawyer can help make sure no stone goes unturned, so that all possible sources of recovery – for current and future medical bills, lost wages, lost enjoyment of life, and punitive damages – are exhausted.
Hiring an attorney can help you feel confident that nothing was left on the table and that you will be taken care of now and into the future.
Most lawyers who handle accident and personal injury cases recognize that the last thing you want to do after being hurt is to pay a retainer fee. Your focus is likely on medical bills, getting back to work or school, and regaining your health. Even if you could afford a retainer fee, that money is better set-aside to pay for other expenses you face.
Personal injury lawyers generally receive a contingency fee of 33%-40% at the end of the case rather than charging retainer fees or an hourly rate. A contingency fee is a fee that is based on the final value of your settlement or verdict, meaning if you're unable to receive any recovery, you don't owe the lawyer anything. On the other hand, if they secure a $100,000 settlement for you, the lawyer's fee will be 33% to 40% of that (or $33,000 to $40,000).
If any attorney in Columbia, SC tries to charge you anything other than a "contingency fee" for your case, you may want to consider speaking with someone else. As I often tell clients, if an injury lawyer believes in your case enough to take it on, they will be willing to accept a fee at the end of the case that is "contingent" upon how much compensation they obtain for you.
If you think you might benefit from consulting with a personal injury lawyer in South Carolina, contact us. We would be honored to hear your story and see how we can help. Our firm is committed to our mission and values; we treat our clients like family; and we take pride in the relationships we are able to build with them, in addition to the results we were able to achieve.
The Law Office of Kenneth Berger focuses exclusively on personal injury cases, and helping injured people is our top and only priority. You can reach our office 24/7 by calling (803) 790-2800 or by starting a live chat using the box below.