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Will a personal injury lawyer really make a difference?

There has always been some debate about whether a person injured in a car accident in South Florida will really receive a higher settlement offer by hiring a lawyer. After all, insurance companies offer a small layer of legal representation as part of the policy coverage. What can an attorney do for you that you can't do for yourself?

This blog post will discuss some of the most important reasons to hire your own lawyer after suffering an injury or losing a loved one in a motor vehicle accident in Broward County, Palm Beach County or Miami-Dade County.

How much legal representation will you get from them?

The first thing to remember is that your insurance provider is part of a huge insurance industry. Like every insurance company, their goal is to make money for their shareholders, not you. That means settling claims as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Even when the other driver is at fault, both insurers will try to minimize their costs. If you rely on your insurer to fight for a higher settlement, you aren't likely to get aggressive representation. Their attorneys work for the company, not you.

Do you know what your case is really worth?

Based on an old study by the Insurance Research Counsel, plaintiffs who hired their own lawyers typically receive a settlement offer three times higher than the initial offer by the insurance company. An experienced personal injury lawyer will have years of knowledge of case law and litigation experience to draw on when negotiating a full and fair settlement on your behalf. While the initial settlement offer from the insurance adjuster may sound like a lot of money, it may only be a fraction of what other injured parties in South Florida have received in litigation for very similar injuries.

In the law, case precedent is everything. Your lawyer will be able to size up the settlement offer and advise you whether it is fair or whether the insurance company is trying to low ball you. Remember, once you sign the insurance check, you forfeit the right to reopen the case, in the event your injuries turn out to need more medical attention in the future. An experienced attorney will have a case record of similar cases to point you to.

If negotiations fall through, your attorney will also have the option of taking your case to trial - something the insurance company will not do on your behalf. Although only a low percentage get settled in court, facing the threat of an expense trial means the insurance company is often more willing to negotiate in good faith.

What about the cost?

In most cases, personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. That means you pay no upfront retainer and no attorneys' fees unless you recover financial damages in a negotiated settlement. Your attorney will receive a percentage of the settlement or jury award.

Many lawyers offer various levels of contingency fees, based on the level of representation your case requires. For example, the lowest contingency percentage may apply to simple negotiations for a higher settlement. If you press for a higher settlement through prolonged negotiations and trial preparation, you fees may bump up to a higher percentage. Taking your case all the way to trial is typically the highest percentage. The various percentages should be discussed before you sign the agreement for representation and your lawyer should inform you each time your case enters a new level of representation.

You owe it to yourself to talk to a lawyer first

If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident in South Florida, don't assume the insurance companies will handle everything. Find out whether hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer is your best option. Attorney William Heller of Heller & Heller in Coral Springs and Boca Raton offers a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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