Dollars And Sense: Is Hiring An Injury Lawyer Worth The Money?

Research shows the recovery amount is much higher for people represented by lawyers, even after legal fees are paid.

After an accident, two common questions the victim asks are "Do I need to hire a lawyer?" and "How much does one cost?"

Most people believe an attorney's services will result in a giant bill - a particularly scary thought for someone who is injured and already facing financial uncertainty. This fear causes people to research whether they can handle their injury claim on their own.

This article discusses the monetary pros and cons of hiring a personal injury lawyer.

Doing It Yourself? What To Expect As A 'Pro Se' Plaintiff

Ohio courts permit an injury victim, or plaintiff, to represent himself or herself in a lawsuit. This is known as pro se litigation.

While Ohio courts permit pro se plaintiffs to bring lawsuits, they must follow all the steps and procedures just like a trained attorney. For example, the complaint must be timely, filed with the proper court and free of defects. It must also meet service of process requirements. These are just a few of the procedural requirements of an injury lawsuit and don't speak to pro se plaintiffs' ability, or inability, to successfully argue their cases.

Some judges are a bit more lenient with pro se plaintiffs, but many are not. Most Ohio judges are dealing with the pressure of an overloaded docket and may get frustrated when the process gets tripped up or delayed due to the inexperience of a pro se plaintiff.

The benefit of bringing a pro se lawsuit is obvious: You do not have to pay an attorney. But does this outweigh all the drawbacks?

Why Most People Hire A Personal Injury Attorney

The law is confusing and pitfalls are everywhere. Because a seemingly minor mistake can doom a personal injury claim, few people are willing to risk their legal rights so they can save money. Studies have shown that people who hire attorneys have higher success rates and recover substantially more money damages.

In a study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), auto accident claim payouts were 40 percent higher for claimants who were represented by an attorney. Another IRC study examined lawsuits that were settled out of court and found that the recovery amount was 3.5 times higher for claimants who were represented by an injury lawyer.

When you consider that Ohio personal injury lawyers are typically paid about one-third of their client's recovery, the client usually ends up walking away with substantially more money, while enduring far less stress than a pro se litigant.

Another reason that most injury victims hire a personal injury attorney is because a layperson cannot value damages. Damage valuation is one of the most important aspects of any claim. If you undervalue your injury or it doesn't heal as you had hoped, you are not allowed to file a second lawsuit. You have to carefully value the full extent of your recoverable damages, including nonphysical harm, and successfully argue why those damages are merited.

Can I Afford An Injury Lawyer?

Everyone in Ohio can afford a personal injury attorney who works on a contingent fee basis. A contingency fee arrangement means the lawyer will get a certain percentage of the money that the client recovers, usually about 33 percent. If the client does not recover any money, then the lawyer does not get paid.

A frequently overlooked aspect of contingency fee agreements is that the injury attorney assumes the financial risk. He or she absorbs the many expenses of bringing the suit, from expert witness testimony to the cost of an investigation. If the client doesn't prevail, the lawyer must still pay these expenses even though he or she has gained nothing - while devoting many hours of his or her time to the case.

So, You Are Sold On The Value Of An Attorney. What Now?

Find a reputable attorney who you are comfortable working with. Friends and family members often give the most meaningful referrals because we trust and value their opinions. Positive reviews and case results are other ways for you to measure the worth of a particular attorney or law firm.

It is also important to select a personal injury attorney who you are comfortable with. Does he or she seem genuine? Do you think he or she will return your phone calls? Never underestimate your own instincts. A good lawyer will make a positive impression on you.