When you or a loved one suffers a major injury, it’s common to focus mostly on recovering rather than going back and trying to figure out why the injury happened. In some cases, that’s the healthier option, especially if it was clearly your fault, or no one’s fault.

There are other, less clear-cut cases, though. Say you were rear-ended by an uninsured driving who was texting with her boyfriend at the time. Or you slipped and fell in a store that had no “caution wet floor” signs out. Even worse, maybe you lost a family member because something went wrong at the hospital.

People who file personal injury suits are sometimes called greedy and lazy. But that’s largely based on a few wildly frivolous claims that receive a lot of media attention. Then there are widely misunderstood cases like the McDonald’s hot coffee case, where there was much more damning evidence against the fast food giant than most people realized at the time. The fact is, major injuries can be life-altering. You’ll likely have to miss work even as the medical bills pile up. And car insurance and health insurance companies aren’t always helpful.

As soon as you’re able, you need to find a personal injury attorney who knows local and state laws backwards and forwards. For instance, the state of Alabama has very specific rules regarding who can receive punitive damages in a wrongful death case. Rules regarding civil suits can vary wildly once you cross state lines. A personal injury case in Mobile, Alabama, could play out very differently just an hour away in Pensacola, Florida. Local expertise is critical.

If you’re worried about cost, know that many attorneys offer free initial consultations. A good attorney will tell you if you have a legitimate claim before deciding whether or not to move forward. If you have a case, many attorneys work on contingency, which means they don’t get paid unless you win your case.

If an insurance company is offering to settle, don’t do it before speaking to an attorney. Chances are, signing a settlement now means you waive the right to any future claims. That’s not a great idea, especially if you’re looking at the possibility of an extended treatment schedule.

For instance, say you get medical treatment and seem to be mostly OK after a couple of weeks. You’re still bruised and sore, but you think you’ll be OK, and you need help paying medical bills, so you sign the initial offer you get from an insurance company. A month or two later, you develop major back pain and seek treatment at a chiropractor that specializes in treating car accident victims (a place like Accident Recovery Center). Now you have more medical bills and no way to get the insurance company to pay for it. You lose all your leverage the minute you sign a settlement.

Insurance companies know their stuff. Trying to fight an insurance company without help from an attorney is like going into battle armed with nothing more than a set of knitting needles. In other words, it’s probably not going to end well. If you don’t have an attorney, insurance companies may very well try to get away with low-balling you. You need someone who can fight for you while you focus on regaining your health.

Suffering a serious injury will change your life, but it doesn’t have to ruin it. The idea of filing a lawsuit may not seem appealing, but the court system is there to ensure people get what they deserve. Get to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your options.

 

 

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