If You Want a Fair Settlement in One of These Types of Personal Injury Cases, You Absolutely Need a Lawyer
The following is adapted from Not a Good Neighbor.
Although there are many instances where you can successfully negotiate a fair settlement with an insurance company after an auto accident without an attorney’s help, there are certain personal injury cases you should never try to settle without a good lawyer at your side. These cases are so complex that you need expert help to ensure your rights aren’t compromised.
These cases include medical malpractice, sexual harassment, product liability, medical product defects, and commercial vehicle accidents. If you’re involved in one of these types of cases, I highly recommend you get an attorney.
However, even when you hire an attorney, it’s still important to understand the case and the laws around it as much as possible. That will help you increase your odds of getting a fair settlement. Let me walk you through what you need to know in each case to better your chances of getting the best settlement possible.
Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical malpractice cases are rarely cut and dry. To win a medical malpractice case, you have to prove that negligence occurred and that the damage you suffered was a result of that negligence. That is a significant endeavor.
You simply can’t prove those things without a medical expert, expert testimony, and an expert understanding of how medical malpractice works in your state. Every state has complex medical negligence laws. States often go out of their way to protect doctors. Overcoming these legal and scientific hurdles is next-to-impossible for a layman.
In medical malpractice cases, not only do you have to know what you’re doing, but you also have to do it quickly. Most states have limited the amount of time you have to bring a medical malpractice case to court.
You even have to offer the information to the other side and give them the opportunity to take your statement and take discovery before you can sue. In fact, you have to engage in active, lawsuit-like behavior before you can sue, and that usually requires that you find an attorney to represent you.
Medical Product Defects
This type of case is also very complicated. And even if a medical device caused serious injury, the cost of pursuing a case is so significant that many people don’t feel it’s worth it.
For starters, the company that produced the product is never going to admit their product is faulty. They probably spent billions of dollars developing the product, testing it, getting it approved by the federal government, and marketing it. They’re not about to say, “Sorry. Here’s some money for your trouble. We’ll pull the product off the market.”
This is why medical product defects often end up as class-action lawsuits. In a class action, several plaintiffs sign up as a group to sue someone. An individual case worth $60,000 isn’t enough to justify the cost of the scientific studies needed to beat one of these companies.
But a group of lawyers who’ve signed up several clients can afford to spend the seven figures they need to prove a defective device hurt their clients. They get the benefit of all the science and all the prosecution and all the group think required to go after one of these companies.
Even when there’s clear product damage and clear liability, companies probably won’t give you any money unless you have a lawyer. You could make a claim; you could give them a call. But if you wanted any compensation for the faulty product, you need to be part of a group.
Product Liability Cases
We’ve already talked about medical devices, which are just one form of product liability. But nearly all product liability cases are going to require a lawyer if you want to get fair compensation.
Say, for example, you buy a ladder. You take it home and set it up precisely the way you’re supposed to and you climb up and stand on a rung to fix an electrical wire. While you’re doing the repair, a rivet breaks on the ladder rung, and you get electrocuted and fall to the ground, paralyzed for life.
It’s possible that you could get a settlement from the ladder company without a lawyer simply by calling them up. They may even give you an impressive settlement, like $1 million.
The problem is, how do you know how to value your case so that you can get a top-value settlement? They offered you $1 million, but what if your case is worth $10 million? Internally, the ladder company might decide it’s better to pay you quickly so you don’t hire a lawyer who will get you that much bigger settlement.
Plus, you’ll still need to prove your case. Most companies will not roll over and admit their product failed. They’ll say it was user error. They’ll say the ladder was old or wasn’t maintained properly. They’ll say there was a problem in the supply chain that caused the rung to break. In serious cases, the defendants will throw up a wall of subterfuge, and you’ll need an attorney to break through it.
Sexual Harassment Cases
It’s not easy to win a sexual harassment claim without a lawyer. The statute of limitations is short, and there is a complicated statutory scheme you have to follow when pursuing a case like this.
The first thing you must do is file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You have to do this before you can file a lawsuit.
The EEOC has a certain amount of time in which to investigate your claim, and then they issue a conclusion of no action or a right-to-sue letter, which allows you to file suit against the person in the business whom you feel made unwanted sexual advances. You can get a lawyer before going to the EEOC, but you can’t sue anyone until the EEOC says you can.
Lawyers can also help you figure out what kind of case you can bring. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are not synonymous. You can get civil damages for sexual harassment, but it’s not a criminal offense. The point here is that you really need a lawyer to help you sort through all this.
Finally, legal representation is important in these types of cases because people who have been taken advantage of find it very difficult to advocate for themselves. The cases are too emotional, and facing your assailant is incredibly difficult to do without someone to be your knight. Plus, it is hard to sell your case having actual value.
Auto Accidents Involving Commercial Carriers
These kinds of settlements demand the expertise of a lawyer, too. That’s because commercial drivers carry a strict level of responsibility that goes beyond what’s required of noncommercial drivers. That means there are many things a lawyer familiar with those rules can do to develop evidence and create liability.
It’s often not easy to pin that liability on a commercial driver, but it helps to know the federal rules and regulations that govern commercial drivers. The standards for someone driving an eighteen-wheeler are strict and more extensive than they are for people driving a car.
To win against commercial carriers, you have to know what those standards are. If you have an expert attorney, you can significantly increase the value of your case because commercial carriers are required to carry large insurance policies.
Expert Representation is Vital
As you can see, some personal injury cases are often complicated and require expert representation. The stakes for many of these cases are also higher, and that’s another sign that you may need to hire a lawyer to represent you.
If you find yourself involved in one of these cases—or any complicated or serious motor vehicle accident in which the damages are significant—it never hurts to call an attorney and explain your circumstances. If they think they have the expertise and can drive value into your case, they’ll let you know, and you can take steps to hire them.
For more advice on hiring the right attorney to help you get a fair settlement, you can find Not a Good Neighbor on Amazon.
Brian LaBovick is a lawyer and entrepreneur who has earned more than $400 million for his clients after establishing his injury law practice in 1991. As one of two students selected to the prestigious Order of the Barrister as the outstanding litigator in his class at the University of Miami, Brian was hired by the US Department of Justice Honors Graduate Program after graduation. He is now CEO of the LaBovick Law Group, an advisory board member of Keiser University’s legal education division, a past president of the North Palm Beach County Bar Association, and former director of the Palm Beach County Justice Association.