In our office, in the initial conference, we frequently hear our new clients tell us that they “really did not want to get a lawyer involved” early in their injury case, whether a workplace injury or a personal injury as the result of a motor vehicle collision or fall or other negligence. These folks wait for months or years before seeing us, as they “want to see what the insurance company would do first” before consulting an attorney. The hesitancy seems to come from a reluctance to want to create either conflict with an employer, or in the belief that the insurance adjuster looking out for the insurance company’s money will also look out for their interests, or in the belief that it makes sense to keep an attorney out of the process to avoid the contingent fee the law firm will assess on their award. This is, in most cases, the wrong position to take, in many cases a foolish attempt to save money, and can have lasting effects.
In worker’s compensation claims, it is important to get an attorney involved early to fully investigate the claim, to find witnesses and evidence that might be important in proving a claim later disputed by the insurance company; or in investigating whether there might be another action against another party outside of the worker’s compensation system that might be responsible and pay in damages. Usually, only an experienced attorney is going to be capable of fully exploring all of these potential issue areas.
In personal injury cases, we find that at times folks sign authorizations they should not have signed, or gave recorded statements they should not have given. Also, statutes of limitation can affect a claim, and there are shortened time periods against certain defendants and in certain claims that need to be honored and an experienced attorney should be aware of these potential pitfalls. Sometimes, a lay person can make a mistake early in the claim process that is fatal to their claim.
Failing to hire competent legal counsel at the outset, in the belief that one is saving money or trying to avoid conflict with the other side, is usually a foolish and misplaced idea. The attempt to represent yourself in a claim may result in the loss of fair compensation that will exceed what the contingent fee of the law firm would have been. It usually makes sense to consult early with an attorney to determine whether you need or should have legal representation early in the case. It may save headaches and the loss of compensation that otherwise will occur without having an attorney to guide you on the path.