Should I Hire A Personal Injury Attorney or Just Take the Settlement?
When injured in an accident in Texas, should you settle the matter out of court or hire a personal injury attorney? When should you file a personal injury claim in Texas?
The majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court, and for good reason. Settling a case without involving the courts is faster, less risky, and less expensive. Some accident victims even settle without filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Settling has a number of advantages over the litigation route. However, is settlement always beneficial?
Read on for the key pros and cons of settling a personal injury case, as well as what you should keep in mind to know the best way moving forward for your case.
Personal Injury Settlement Basics
The term “settlement” simply means to come to a formal resolution of a legal dispute without involving the court. Settling usually means that the defendant has agreed to offer a certain sum of money to the accident victim. In return, the victim (also known as the plaintiff) signs a release of the defendant’s liability in connection to the incident that led to the personal injury.
You can settle a personal injury case at any point in a civil lawsuit. Sometimes, a settlement can be proposed before you even file a lawsuit. For example, if you are injured in a car accident, the defendant’s insurance company can approach you with a compensation offer.
Why You Should Settle a Case
There are various reasons why you may wish to settle a personal injury case rather than file a lawsuit:
- Predictability. It is not easy to predict a jury’s decision. On the other hand, you can dictate the terms of a settlement agreement, especially if you have hired a competent attorney to represent you in the negotiations.
- Privacy. The details of a personal injury case can be kept private when a settlement is reached. If the case is taken to trial, the court records become public records. This means anyone can look up the records, unless the judge orders them to be sealed. Most settlement agreements also include a confidentiality clause.
- Stress. Trials can be very stressful. Apart from the anticipation of the unknown verdict that is to come, you may fear to get on the witness stand to tell your story to a judge and jury. Moreover, you may not wish to be cross-examined by the attorneys of the defendant.
- Expense. When you file a lawsuit and the case goes to trial, there are many expenses you are bound to incur. Generally, trials involve personal injury lawyers, extensive depositions during the discovery process, expert witnesses, travel, and time. The expenses related to these activities can be significantly reduced when you opt for an out-of-court settlement.
- Finality. With a trial, the defendant can always appeal the ruling, and this will drag out the process even longer. On the other hand, settlements are not usually appealed.
Who Decides on the Settlement?
Whether you wish to take a case to trial or are looking to settle, it is important to hire an attorney to offer counsel and help you with the case. The lawyer will evaluate the settlement offer to see whether it is fair and in your best interest.
In most cases, the attorney will engage the defendant’s lawyers in back-and-forth negotiations in a bid to ensure that you will end up with a reasonable settlement. The attorney will advise you when it’s prudent to accept an offer and whether it would make sense to proceed with a trial.
When Does it Make Sense to Hire an Attorney?
There are a number of scenarios where it would make sense to file a lawsuit rather than accept an out-of-court settlement. If you want the case to be determined in court, it is advisable to hire an attorney to represent you.
There are specific rules to follow with regards to filing a personal injury lawsuit in Texas. Hiring an attorney to do the legwork of getting the necessary forms and helping you fill them out will make your work easy. The lawyer will also submit the form to court before the statute of limitation expires.
Here are some scenarios when it would make sense to hire an attorney:
- The other party is disputing liability in the personal injury case and has refused to offer compensation
- The insurance company is offering a small compensation that you feel is not reasonable for the injuries you sustained
- You suffered severe injuries that left you disabled or unable to live your life fully like before
- You had a partial role to play in the events that led to your injuries
- The law enforcers that responded to the scene blamed you for the accident
- The other party is taking you in circles and refusing to offer a fair compensation
- The statute of limitations is about to expire and there is no progress made on the settlement negotiations
Benefits of Working with an Attorney
Hiring an attorney also has its benefits:
The majority of personal injury lawyers in Texas offer a free consultation to prospective clients. During the consultation, you can obtain valuable information on the merits of your case. Moreover, the attorney will answer all questions you may have regarding the case.
When you hire an attorney to handle your claim, the professional will deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. As a result, your stresses will significantly reduce. Moreover, most attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. Therefore, you won’t incur huge expenses before your case is determined.
Statute of limitations
One of the pitfalls of not hiring an attorney is that you are likely to fall victim to the Texas statute of limitations. This is a time limit within which you are required to file a claim if you are to be compensated. Failure to file a claim with the relevant court within the statute of limitations will make you unable to recover any damages. With an attorney working on your case, you can be sure that your claim will be filed within the required time.
Determining the proper compensation
An attorney will know how much you are entitled to as compensation depending on the circumstances of your case. The amount of compensation you are likely to receive will depend on the losses you incurred (cost of medical treatment, loss of income, disability, etc.)
Knowledge of insurance law
Most personal injury accident victims are not familiar with insurance laws that may affect their case. Insurance policy language applying to coverages, limitations, and exclusions are interpreted in Texas case law. If your claim involves insurance compensation, you definitely want an attorney to represent you.
Should You Hire an Attorney?
Ultimately, the decision on whether to settle or hire a personal injury attorney lies with you. Generally, you will need an attorney regardless of whether you choose to settle or take the case to trial. In either case, working with a lawyer will increase your chances of getting fair compensation.