Why Hire An Attorney?
There Are Many Reasons To Hire A Lawyer
1. You may not understand Oklahoma law and how to establish fault and damages. You may not know what the insurance company is obligated to pay. You may not know your rights and responsibilities. You should not rely on the insurance company to advise you concerning your rights & responsibilities. You should not allow an insurance company to tell you how much your case is worth. An attorney can help you understand your rights & responsibilities and help you recover what the law properly allows you.
2. Even though somebody else is at fault, you may not understand how your own insurance coverage can play an important part in your case. For example, if you settle your case against the responsible driver without the permission of your own insurance company, you may have unknowlingly waived your right to uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage under your own insurance policy. That can be a very costly mistake. An attorney will make sure that all applicable insurance policies are discovered and that the process is handled correctly and in the proper order.
3. You may not know whether you have to give a recorded statement to the insurance company. Many times, immediately after a wreck occurs, the insurance company for the other person will call and want to take a recorded statement from you. They might try to get you to say something about the wreck that they can blame on you. Moreover, they may try to get you to say that you weren’t hurt. You may not yet know whether you have injuries or the extent of your injuries. They may ask about your prior medical treatment or other insurance claims. A recorded statement could be used against you later. An attorney can advise you whether a statement should be given and to discuss what subjects the insurance company may and may not explore.
4. The insurance company may also try to get you to agree to an early settlement, before you fully understand the extent of your injuries or before you have finished with medical treatment. You need to understand that once you settle your case, the insurance company will make you sign a Release before you can accept the settlement funds. That Release is often complicated and it usually makes you acknowledge that the settlement is final and that you are responsible for paying all your medical bills, known and unknown, past and future, relating to the accident. An attorney can advise you about the proper timing for settlement and will make sure that none of your medical bills are overlooked. An attorney can also help you understand the tax consequences of a case and help you plan accordingly.
5. The insurance company will often require you to sign a medical consent form that allows them to request your medical records, including your records from before the accident and including your records that may have nothing to do with your accident. This is an invasion of your privacy. An attorney will generally not permit that to happen. Your attorney will have you sign a medical consent form that only the attorney can use to obtain all your medical records and medical bills. By doing this, your attorney insures that the insurance company cannot invade your medical privacy by requesting your medical records that are not relevant.
6. You may not understand how your health insurance can play a crucial role in the outcome of your car accident case. You may not know whether to submit your accident-related medical bills to health insurance or whether you should allow your medical provider to file a “medical lien”, which means that the bill will be paid out of your car accident settlement. Sometimes you aren’t given that choice. Most health insurance companies have a “subrogation clause” in your health insurance contract that basically provides that if your health insurance company pays any of your accident-related medical bills, then you are obligated to pay back your health insurance out of your car accident settlement. An attorney can help you make these decisions concerning whether your medical bills should be submitted to your health insurance first. Likewise, the attorney will work directly with your health insurance carrier to negotiate how much must be paid back to your health insurance company from your car accident settlement.
7. If you are on Medicare or Medicaid, you may not know how important these entities are and how they can impact the outcome of your case. By law, both Medicare and Medicaid have special lien status, which means that if they have paid any of your accident-related medical bills, then they must be notified about your car insurance claim and you must obtain a written letter from them regarding what must be paid back to them when your accident case settles. The insurance company is also obligated to protect the interest of Medicare and Medicaid. So, even if you reach a settlement of your case without a lawyer, the insurance company will not release the money to you until Medicare and Medicaid have provided the necessary final lien documentation. The insurance company will not be in any hurry to resolve this for you because they get to hold your money during the delay. An attorney will handle this for you and will start that process immediately, so that your settlement will be paid promptly. This also holds true if you have military insurance like Champus or Tricare.
8. You may not know how important it is to obtain all your medical billing and medical records before trying to settle your case. The insurance company is not obligated to make sure that all your medical bills are discovered. Neither is the insurance company responsible to pay your medical bills. That is your responsibility. Frequently, clients are not even aware of all the medical bills they have incurred. They don’t always come in the mail. If you settle your case and sign a Release to the insurance company, you may get stuck with substantial bills that did not get properly paid from your settlement. An attorney will help make sure all your medical billing is discovered and included as part of negotiations with the insurance company to get your case resolved.
9. You may not realize that you don’t have to pay an attorney any money up front. The attorney doesn’t charge for his time. The attorney won’t charge you by the hour. The attorney only gets paid at the end of the case and only if he gets the job done for you. In other words, your attorney will be highly motivated to do a good job for you and to get your case resolved to your satisfaction. If the lawyer fails to get your case resolved, then you don’t have to pay an attorney fee. This is why the attorney fee is called a “contingency fee” … you don’t have to pay the lawyer unless he is successful in resolving your case.
10. A good attorney will not give a client a false or unrealistic expectation about the value of the case. When you interview an attorney about taking your case, listen carefully to what the attorney is saying. If the attorney is telling you that the goal is to make sure you receive fair compensation, that’s a good sign. On the other hand, if the attorney wants to talk about how much money you’re going to make, walk away. This is not about getting rich or winning the lottery. It’s about making sure that the insurance company treats you fairly. Likewise, a good attorney will be wary of a client that has money signs in the eyes. The truth is that the client needs to understand that the outcome is not going to make the client feel like this has been a profitable experience. The reality is that money is never a good substitute for health and happiness. Money won’t bring a loved one back … and you can’t buy good health either. If given a choice between not having to go through the tragedy of the accident … versus going through the trauma of a wreck and receiving an insurance settlement … a good client would never choose having an accident for the money.
You may end up turning down the best settlement offer that the attorney can obtain for you. That’s okay … that’s what courthouses, judges and juries are for. But, a good attorney should also counsel you regarding the potential risks and costs of turning down an insurance company offer. Going to court is ultimately a gamble on what a judge or jury will decide. You need to know that going to court will not necessarily bring you a better financial outcome. This is a decision that you can only make with the advice and counsel of a good lawyer. A good lawyer should be recommending what is in the client’s best interest, rather than what will make the lawyer more money. Trust your instincts when deciding on the lawyer you want to handle your case … and certainly never hire a lawyer that you haven’t even met!