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The answer, of course, is yes. The better question is, “Can I get the best result for myself without a lawyer?” That answer depends on many variables. One of the variables is the value of your case. Your case’s value is determined by several factors, some of which are:

Your Medical Bills

If your total medical bills are low, you have no permanent injury, and only a month of pain after the injury, you may be able to handle your case and get a better result for yourself than a lawyer can. For example, let’s say your medical bills total $2,000.00 and you need no future medical treatment. Let’s say that an adjuster has offered you $4,500.00 ($2,000.00 medical bills and $2,500.00 pain and suffering) to settle your case. Let’s say a lawyer states that he/she thinks he/she can get a higher offer for you and negotiates with the adjuster until the adjuster makes an offer of $6,000.00 ($2,000.00 medical bills and $4,000.00 pain and suffering) — $1,500.00 more than you were able to negotiate. These facts look like the lawyer did better for you, but if you deduct a lawyer’s fee of one third ($6,000.00 minus $2,000.00), only $4,000.00 is left for you compared to the $4,500.00 you negotiated on your own. If the lawyer  negotiates a settlement for you that is above $6,675.00, you will do better than you did on your own.

Your Pain and Suffering

Sometimes a lawyer can negotiate a better outcome for you despite low medical bills. If we change the example to say that your medical bills were $2,000.00 and the adjuster offered you $1,000.00 pain and suffering plus your medical bills of $2,000.00 ($3,000.00 total) to settle your claim. The adjuster and attorney negotiate the same settlement amount ($6,000.00). After the one third attorney fee of $2,000.00 is deducted, you are left with $4,000.00 — $1,000.00 more than the adjuster offered you. In this example, the lawyer’s involvement has doubled the amount you are paid for pain and suffering.

The Lawyer

How is this possible? You suffered the same one month of pain in paragraph two as you did in paragraph one, above. A lawyer who works only in the area of personal injury has education and experience regarding what can be considered as “pain and suffering”. By reading your medical records, the lawyer may see that your injury only hurt for one month, but it was the type of injury that will cause early onset arthritis; or by speaking with you, the lawyer may learn that you had a child who was one-month old and your injury prevented you from holding or nursing your new baby. Either of these types of issues would make your pain and suffering worth more than an “average” one month of pain.

Generally speaking, unless you are a professional negotiator, an attorney, or have other pertinent skills that are held by a minority of people in the general population, our experience has been that when medical bills are above approximately $3,500.00, an attorney has been trained to have the knowledge and skills to get more money for you than you can get on your own – even after attorney fees.  Under $3,500.00, you may be able to get as much or more on your own.

Unfortunately, the amount of your settlement is rarely the amount you take home. Getting well costs money. You may be required by law to pay back some or all of the companies, government entities, or others who paid your medical bills. You may still owe payment on medical bills. In Parts II and III we will discuss how, under the law, some of these payors require to be paid back out of your personal injury proceeds. We will also discuss the law requiring that outstanding medical bills be paid out of personal injury proceeds.

The discussion above is not intended to be a complete explanation of how personal injury cases are handled. It is solely for the purpose of giving you a brief notion of how this fictional personal injury case may be settled.

Written by Personal Injury Attorney Yvonne T. Griffin

Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys:

We concentrate our personal injury practice in vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and animal bites.

Please contact us if you’ve been injured.  We offer a free, no-obligation consultation.  We have four convenient office locations: Charlottesville, Lake Monticello, Harrisonburg & Staunton.

If you’re too injured to come in, we’ll be happy to meet you at the hospital or your home.  We will fight to get you the full value of your case.

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