Is It Worth Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney After An Accident?

And Whether You Need A Lawyer After A Car Accident In Washington State

Injured man shakes hands with a personal injury attorney.

One of the most common questions we get from people involved in an accident is “Do you need a lawyer after a car accident?” Our answer is that it comes down to several factors: the severity of the accident, whether you are willing to take time off work for the lengthy process of taking legal action, and your access to reliable legal advice.

It is true that having an experienced professional by your side can provide emotional support during this difficult time in your life. But “is it worth hiring a personal injury lawyer” just for a pat on the back? Perhaps it goes without saying that an attorney can do much more for you than be a good buddy during a tough time. Dealing with an accident is stressful enough without having to worry about financial losses or dealing with insurance companies, let alone potential court dates, fees, and legal paperwork. A lawyer can take all of these complex tasks off your plate so that you can focus your energy on healing and getting back to living your life as quickly as possible.

While it may seem like an extra expense, having legal representation can be invaluable if you’re dealing with insurance companies after an accident. Here at Helland Law Group, we handle most personal injury claims on what’s called “contingent fees”, meaning that we deduct all our fees from any proceeds that you may be awarded at the end of your case. If you are wondering whether it is worth hiring a personal injury attorney after a car accident, this article will present you with the pros and cons of enlisting legal services. Throughout the article and in the video below, Attorney Bob Helland will show you the ins and outs of filing a personal injury claim.

Is it Worth Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney | Yep, But Not Always

Should I Contact A Lawyer After A Car Accident?

After receiving medical care, a common question that you might ask yourself is “Should I contact a lawyer after an accident?” While we would not necessarily advise you to start calling law offices on the side of the road before receiving medical attention, the sooner you get in contact with a lawyer the better. There really is no time like the present to obtain accurate witness statements. The sooner a lawyer is brought in to begin collecting witness statements and other evidence on your personal injury case, the easier it will be for them to build a strong case that will give you the most favorable outcome. This is especially important in cases that involve disputed liability.

Before you even think about stepping foot in a courthouse you need to be prepared to negotiate with your car insurance company. Beware of insurance adjusters. They are notorious for offering lowball settlements or outright denying valid claims—but you don't have to let them get away with it. The playing field between you and the insurance company is far from level. That’s why hiring a personal injury lawyer to come to bat for you is the surest way to receive the maximum compensation. An experienced attorney will protect your interests and fight for a fair settlement to cover all medical treatment and other expenses related to your injury from income loss due to missing work, pain and suffering, and even emotional distress.

Do I Need A Lawyer For A Minor Car Accident?

Some people feel they can represent themselves in court and don’t need to hire an attorney—especially if they believe their case is relatively simple. “Do I need a lawyer for a minor car accident?” On the one hand, the answer to this question is “No.” You are not required to get a lawyer if you were in any kind of car accident. However, whether their car accident was minor or near-fatal, people often underestimate the amount of work it takes to receive fair compensation after a car accident without an attorney. In legal terms “going it alone” is referred to as “pro se representation” and we do not recommend you take this route if your accident involves questions of liability, insurance coverage, allocation of fault, etc.

Now that we’ve dispelled the notion that receiving fair compensation after a minor car accident is any less of a headache than more significant accidents, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of pro se representation.

What Is The Statute of Limitations For Personal Injury Claims In Washington State?

If you are thinking about not hiring a lawyer after an accident and representing yourself, the first step in the legal process that you should know about is that every state in the US has its own statute of limitations. This is essentially a deadline for filing a claim, in this case, a personal injury claim. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Washington state is three years. Now, you might be thinking “What’s the big deal, then? If I’ve got three years to fill out a few legal forms then why should I contact a lawyer after a car accident?” Unfortunately, filing your initial personal injury claim is far from the only deadline you will have to meet. Before we get into other deadlines, let’s get into more specifics on the claim process for personal injury cases.

What Is The Process For Filing A Personal Injury Claim?

Successfully filing a personal injury claim comes down to three main steps:

  • Determine who is at fault
  • Understand your rights
  • Negotiate

Determining who is at fault 

In order to prove liability for an accident, you must determine who was at fault for the incident. If you are at fault then you should immediately notify your insurance of the accident to allow them to investigate the accident as quickly as possible. If the accident was significant enough to incur expenses beyond your minimum insurance coverage of $25,000 then you may be required to compensate the difference to the affected parties personally. This can be complicated and require months of investigation and evidence-gathering before a conclusion can be reached. None of this will be easy to accomplish on your own, especially if you are healing from injuries as a result of the accident in question. On the other hand, an experienced car accident attorney knows the nuances of filing a successful compensation claim. They know what evidence needs to be gathered and presented in order for your claim to be taken seriously by insurance companies.

Understanding your rights 

It is important for accident victims to understand their rights when dealing with insurance adjusters. Insurance companies often employ teams of adjusters whose job is to pressure accident victims into accepting lowball settlement offers. Without an experienced attorney by your side, it is all too easy to let your rights fall by the wayside during this process.

Consider negotiation tactics 

If your case goes to court or arbitration, having an understanding of how negotiations work can greatly improve your chances of success. Negotiating is never easy if you feel out of your depth. Unless you went to law school, you very well could be out of your depth if you choose to represent yourself. This is yet another reason why it is worth hiring a personal injury attorney after an accident. Your lawyer will be able to negotiate on your behalf in many cases as well as advise you on how best to approach these situations in order to get the best possible outcome for your case.


When To Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer

Knowing when to hire a personal injury lawyer is crucial to your accident case. Many people who represent themselves come to wish they had gotten a lawyer. Personal injury litigation is a long and complicated process rife with pressing deadlines, court appearances, and confusing “legalese” that you have to keep up with. Should you miss any one of these deadlines, arrive late to a scheduled court date or - God forbid - not show up at all, you not only risk getting less compensation but you could also inadvertently get your entire case dismissed. In other words, if you step a toe out of line you could have your whole case thrown out, leaving you with little to no compensation to pay for any medical bills or loss of income you may have racked up in the aftermath of your accident; to say nothing of the numerous court fees you will owe.


This brings up another serious drawback to self-representation: if you choose to go it alone and not hire a lawyer you will have to pay court fees out of pocket. If they were good for nothing else, avoiding out-of-pocket payments with contingency fees makes it worth hiring a personal injury attorney after an accident as many law offices are willing to cover your legal bills, contingent on their receiving a portion of your eventual settlement. Here at Helland, we are happy to cover your legal costs until you receive the maximum compensation that you deserve so that you can focus on healing from any injuries and get back to living your life as soon as possible.

Is It Cost-Effective To Hire An Attorney?

In her 2016 study on self-representation, one of the directors at the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) at the University of Denver, Natalie Knowlton discovered, “There has been a significant increase in the number of individuals choosing to represent themselves at trial.” If more and more people are choosing to represent themselves then surely it must have some benefits, right? As it turns out, the increase in self-representation has not led to an increase in positive outcomes. In her 2018 article in the Chicago Tribune, columnist Cathy Cunningham sat down with Knowlton who told her “62 percent of state trial judges surveyed by the American Bar Association reported that litigants who represent themselves wind up with worse outcomes than their counterparts who have representation.” Here’s what these findings mean for your personal injury case: the majority of people who represent themselves in court end up receiving less compensation and paying more money out of pocket than those who hired a lawyer to represent them.

Not only did Knowlton find that people who represented themselves accepted significantly less compensation in a settlement than those represented by a lawyer, she also found that if you represent yourself then your case is less likely to be taken seriously by a judge. This is actually one of the reasons you might receive less compensation if you do not hire an attorney. Judges have the ability to reduce your compensation if they determine that you are asking for too much. Now, why would a judge take your case any less seriously if you do not hire a personal injury lawyer after an accident? Let’s get into that next.

Do You Need A Lawyer After A Car Accident?

For starters, Knowlton would have you know that “Judges can only do so much. They can’t walk through the process and they can’t present evidence on behalf.” In other words, since judges are supposed to remain impartial, they cannot and will not hold your hand to make sure your case ends up favorably for you. However, that is exactly what a lawyer will do for you. But without a lawyer, if there are parts of the legal process that you do not understand you risk wasting the judge’s time by not keeping up with court proceedings and doing what is expected of you. 

Going to court without a lawyer is like showing up to a job interview in a hoodie and sweatpants and expecting to be taken seriously as a candidate for employment. It's even analogous to showing up to court in a hoodie and sweatpants. Incidentally, you should never ever do that if you want your case to be taken seriously by a judge. “Do I really need a personal injury lawyer?” “Is it worth hiring a personal injury attorney after an accident?” Well, if you planned to show up to court in a hoodie and sweatpants then that alone would make legal counsel invaluable to saving your case from yourself. If they accomplish nothing else for you, your lawyer will never let you walk into a courtroom in a hoodie and sweatpants. In all seriousness, attorneys do much more than ensure you look presentable for court appearances. Let’s get into some specifics about what they will do for you in a personal injury case.

Is It Worth Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney After An Accident?

A 2014 research report by the Insurance Research Council found that injury victims who were represented by an attorney were awarded settlements 3.5 times larger than those who settled on their own. That’s three and a half times as much money you could use to pay off medical bills, auto repairs, and other expenses related to your car accident, should you hire a lawyer rather than “going it alone”. To maximize your settlement your personal injury lawyer will review all documents related to the case such as:

  • medical bills
  • car repair estimates and bills
  • crash site photographs

Your lawyer will also help asses:

  • lost wages due to missed work
  • pain and suffering
  • emotional distress

If there are additional parties who should be held liable for the accident, your lawyer can help ensure that these individuals are held responsible as well. Those could include:

  • negligent drivers
  • manufacturers
  • mechanics

Your attorney will also take steps to ensure that all evidence is collected properly. This includes obtaining photographs of the scene of the accident as well as collecting statements from witnesses, sorting through medical records and police reports, and hiring an accident investigation team or accident reconstructionist if necessary. All of this information is necessary in order to prove liability in court or arbitration hearings and get you the settlement you deserve for your injuries – especially if they are permanent or life-altering.

The Role Of A Car Accident Lawyer In Washington State

Washington State has some of the most comprehensive car accident laws in the country. From medical malpractice cases to wrongful death claims and property damage suits, a good personal injury lawyer can make all the difference in helping you get the compensation you deserve. If you are in need of legal counsel for a car accident or other personal injury claims like construction injuries, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents there is no one who will take better care of you and fight for your right to compensation than we will here at Helland Law Group. And if there is one thing we know from over fifty years of experience, it’s that the sooner you reach out to a lawyer the greater your chances are to achieve the best possible outcome for you or a loved one. So please do not hesitate to fill out a consultation form or give us a call at 253-572-2684.

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What Is The Average Cost Of Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney?▾

The most common way for attorneys to charge for their services is by contingency fee. This means that they are only paid if they succeed in recovering damages for you. This is how we handle most personal injury claims at Helland. Contingency fees typically range from 33-40% of the total amount recovered, with fees being higher the more complex or difficult a case may be.

How Long Does The Process Of Filing A Personal Injury Claim Usually Take?▾

The time it takes to file a personal injury claim is highly variable. The amount of evidence gathered and how quickly your attorney is able to obtain all the necessary paperwork will influence how long it will take to file your personal injury claim. If your case goes to court, this can extend the timeline significantly. Of course, there are several additional steps beyond paperwork in filing a personal injury claim that may take more or less time than others. At Helland, our office likes to strike a nice balance between giving you enough time to heal and making sure we settle before the statute of limitations runs out.

Do I Need A Lawyer If I've Already Settled With The Insurance Company?▾

If you're concerned that the settlement amount is not enough to cover all of your current and future expenses related to your car accident, then having a lawyer review your case could make all the difference. A personal injury lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected and that the settlement accurately reflects any costs associated with the injury. At Helland, our precedent cases and knowledge of laws on local, state, and federal levels could potentially provide more favorable terms than what was initially offered by your insurance company.

What Other Steps Can I Take To Help My Claim Before Hiring An Attorney?▾

First and foremost, seeking medical attention should be your top priority. It's essential to document any physical injuries you sustained in the accident and make sure they are treated properly. If there is any chance that your injuries will require ongoing care, you must get it documented by a doctor as soon as possible. This could be key evidence if your case goes to court. Other steps you can take to help your claim before hiring an attorney would be gathering any information related to the accident that you can from witnesses or from any recordings made at the scene. Photos of the area taken shortly after the incident occurred can also be very helpful in showing what happened. Even though you already settled with your insurance company, these records can still help strengthen your case if an attorney is involved down the line.

Are There Any Ways To Reduce The Cost Of Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney?▾

Many personal injury attorneys only charge their clients contingency fees, as we do at Helland. In other words, with little to no money upfront the only cost to you would be a percentage of the potential damages you could be awarded when your case is settled. It's important to remember, however, that experience matters more than the price tag alone. While cheaper attorneys may seem attractive at first, it's important to make sure that you are getting quality representation from someone who has plenty of experience dealing with cases like yours. At Helland, we have over fifty years of experience representing clients in personal injury cases just like yours.