When Do I Need to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

 

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When Do I Need to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

When auto accidents happen, insurance companies are looking to minimize how much they pay you or not pay you at all—and they will succeed if you go to them as an unrepresented claimant. 

There are times when you don't need a lawyer. For example, if you get into a minor parking lot fender bender, and it's someone else's fault, no one is injured, and all you're trying to do is get your car fixed, then you don't need a lawyer. In that case, liability is admitted, no one is injured, and no genuine issue of contention.

Other than that, if you're injured in an auto accident, you need a lawyer, and you need one fast. 

You need a lawyer after sustaining an auto accident injury because most people don't know what they need to show an insurance company to get paid for something. You may think you have such a reasonable claim, so you don't need an attorney to handle it for you. As they say, it's an open-and-shut case, a no-brainer. No, it's not that easy.

Yes, you may indeed have a good claim, but do you know that to make a claim for injuries after an auto accident, the first thing to do is document the injuries? What about documenting your complaints at the time of the accident? Then there's the need to see a doctor that's willing to treat someone who's injured in an auto accident. And no, your primary care physician can't help you in this case. 

Now you see why you need your injury attorney as quickly as you need a doctor after sustaining injuries in an auto accident? The great news is you can hire a top lawyer and pay nothing. Your lawyer only gets paid if you get paid. Until then, they go to war on your behalf free of charge.  

Learn more in this episode of the David vs. Goliath podcast with elite civil trial lawyers Matt Dolman and his partner, Stan Gipe. They discuss the need to hire a personal injury lawyer, avoid common mistakes that could hurt your claims before it's too late, and more.  

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Matt Dolman introduces the topic of the day: the need for hiring a personal injury lawyer
  • [00:49] When do I NOT need to hire a personal injury lawyer? Stan Gipe explains 
  • [02:53] Open-and-shut case? Not so fast. When you need to hire a lawyer after an accident before it's too late
  • [04:19] Why it is a struggle to find a doctor after an auto accident
  • [05:07] The type of doctor you need after an auto accident
  •  [07:02] Exacerbation of a preexisting condition and the eggshell plaintiff rule
  •  [09:29] Your insurance company does not like to pay you. How to make sure you don't give them a reason not to 
  • [11:52] The dilemma of a pro se plaintiff or unrepresented claimant 
  • [13:45] Mistakes unrepresented claimants make
  • [15:02] Understanding the no-fault or PIP coverage 
  • [16:39] What does it cost you to hire a top personal injury lawyer? $0 (zero dollars). Stan talks about why that is so 
  • Transcript

    Welcome to another episode, the Dolman Law podcast. I'm here with Stan Gipe, my partner in crime. Stan say hello to the audience.

    Hello again.

    So today we're going to discuss the need for hiring a personal injury lawyer. When does that need actually take place? When is the actual realization event? Is time of the essence or can someone go at it alone without representation? And what are the pros and cons?

    You got a whole can of questions in there. And really, I think the basic thing where it starts is, what are you looking to accomplish? Okay? Is what you're looking to do relatively simple? For instance, if you get into a small parking lot fender bender, and it's clearly someone else's fault, no one is injured, and all you're trying to do is get your car fixed. You can probably handle that without an attorney. The other side's got to pay to fix your car. You take it down to a shop, you're usually not involved. And the biggest thing about this, Matt, I think, and what really says they may not need an attorney, is liability's admitted in that scenario. They already agree who's at fault, and you're able to hand the insurance company an exact number for the damage to your vehicle. Here's exactly what it costs to fix the car or here's what the car's worth.

    There's no real issues of contention.

    Right? So anyone who's been involved in that particular scenario, may have walked through the process relatively unscathed, they got their car repaired, they didn't need an attorney, and everything got resolved for them. It gets a little bit different if you've got other damages, okay? If you've got any kind of injuries. To having to deal with an insurance company, it's a whole nother ballgame at that point.

    Yes. Not to mention that the studies that show, and some of them are insurance industry founded and funded studies that say that, the average claimant earns nets, not grosses, nets three times as much money when they're represented by council, as opposed to those who go out there alone. And much of the reason is, the world's scariest person is he or she who is not aware of what they don't know. And when we deal with this all the time, we understand what the actual values of certain claims are, what drives the value, and makes a claim even more impressive, and how to illustrate such the insurance carrier, where your lay person doesn't, but even more troubling is, your lay person who's representing themselves is a dog that has really no bites, just a lot of bark, because at the end of the day, what are you going to do if the insurance does not pay you properly, it does not give you a fair settlement offer?

    Right. And I can tell you, Matt, before I did this, okay? Most people don't know what do you need to show an insurance company to actually get paid for something, okay? I've got a number of people who when they come into the office, we got to tell them my neck's hurt. Just tell them I'm hurt, and it's not that easy, okay? Whenever you want to make a claim for injuries, the very first thing that you got to work on is documentation of the injuries, okay? If it's not written, it basically didn't happen, okay? And I'll tell you the people that I always feel the worst for that come into our office, are the ones who have a really good claim. And it was such a good claim, they thought this is going to be a no brainer they could handle on their own. This is a open-and-shut case. I can't tell me how many people say that, open-and-shut case, okay? And then they come in they've been trying to do this for two months, and finally decide maybe I should talk to an attorney about it.

    The most important part of a claim is right around the time of the accident. When we're working to document both the injuries, and the complaints of the injured party at the time of the accident, making sure this person gets to a doctor, that's willing to see someone who's injured in auto accidents, because that's a huge...

    Which is often a challenge in of itself.

    Yeah. I mean, I can't tell you how many people come to us because they can't figure out how to get to a doctor. They go to their primary care physician thinking, this is my doctor, this is who I go to when stuff hurts. And guy says, look, I can't see you, this is auto accident. You got to go somewhere else.

    I mean, half the battle is not just finding a physician who's going to render a top notch medical treatment, medical service. It's just as important to find a plaintiff advocate. And when I say that, it has a pejorative tone to it, it smells a little bad that we're trying to find doctors who's going to say what we want, that's not the case. What we're looking for is a doctor who's willing to go above, and beyond the means just writing a general report, and actually get up there, and testify, and explain, and illustrate the damages that our clients have obtained. That they've sustained.

    Exactly. And it's that simple there are a lot of doctors when you go into, and they say, hey, how did Jerry break his leg? That doctor says, I don't care. I just fix it, right? Which is a great doctor, a competent doctor, and a perfect doctor to use when you're not involved in an auto accident. Because if you want to collect for that broken leg if you want to make a claim for the broken leg from an auto accident, that doctor needs to say, yeah, that leg was broken in the auto accident. He's got to be able to say this to a reasonable degree of medical probability, and many doctors don't understand that. And when you're dealing with doctors who don't really understand the testimonial capacities, and the need for testimony, they don't realize what a disservice they're doing to their clients. Providing great treatment, but making it very difficult for clients to recover sort of the fair value of their claim.

    As a board certified civil trial lawyer that you are Stan, The Florida Bar deems you as an expert in trying cases. You understand that, and more common to your practice is probably the example of, the spine surgeon who sees one of our clients, okay? Someone who's been in an auto accident or a motorcycle accident that has cervical, neck issues, lumbar, which is back issues, but they had preexisting issues. And how do we differentiate what was caused by this most recent accident, as opposed to what was preexisting and had been longstanding? And that's when you need a physician who's willing to... It's not that we want them to give a specific answer. Many of our cases go away as a result of testimony, we learned that the preexisting issue was not necessarily exacerbated by the accident, but before the accident the client probably would've had the same problems. We've learned that before in cases, you have had the same experience. The question is, how do we find those witnesses, those doctors if you will, that'll help build the case, and take the case all the way to the end zone for you?

    Yeah. That's a really good question, and it's a real good point, because when you think about it, okay? If were to put 10 people in a car, right? In an auto accident, in any given accident, and then you get in the crash, the person who's most likely to sustain injury or be hurt in the accident, is the guy with the bad back, the guy who's already got some kind of problem going on. It doesn't take a lot of trauma to re-injure, aggravate, or worsen the injuries that person's dealing with.

    What's the term of art by the way for that?

    Well, the legal term that we're talking about in the court of laws, an exacerbation of a preexisting condition.

    But what I was getting at is the eggshell plaintiff. If you want to explain what the eggshell plaintiff means?

    Well, Eggshell plaintiff is exactly that you take your plaintiff as you find them, okay? When you run into someone, they may just barely be hanging on by a hair, okay? But that's their right, okay? If you're the one who tapped them, and that hair, and caused all the problems, you're responsible for it. Everyone's got a right to sort of be free from negligent conduct. And that sounds kind of weird, and it sounds kind of official, and legal, but really that means you get the right to be left alone without people messing with you, okay? They just doesn't touch you, push you, pull you, hit you, do any of that. That's your right.

    When someone does this by accident, and it may be by accident, they're responsible for all of the damage. Even if you were predisposed to have some of that. If they caused it, they got to pay for it, and they got to pay for every bit of it. But as you know, insurance companies don't like to do that, insurance companies don't like to write checks. And this is one of the biggest defenses we get all the time. Not that it's not an injury caused by the auto accident. It's what's called a preexisting condition.

    I couldn't have said it better.

    And that's it. I mean, I can't tell you how many cases we go to, and that is the entire defense.

    Sure. I mean, I see it often enough. It's the easiest argument there is, as you're starting about at the wall. I always say that the job of an insurance defense lawyer, I don't begrudge them. They have their job to do, we have ours to do. Is a much easier job than being a plaintiff lawyer. Being a plaintiff lawyer requires you to actually frame the case, being a defense lawyer you could literally just throw mud at the wall.

    Matt, it's been that way since we got out of the sandbox at like three years old. It's always been easier to tear it down than it was to build it.

    I guess I'm trying to illustrate there Stan is that, all too often in our cases, okay? I would say the majority of the cases that we have in our office, if they're outside the realm of a normal auto accident, it's a truck accident, motorcycle accident. Many lawyers practice multiple areas of law, and they handle criminal, family, maybe they do a little bit of personal injury. We only do personal injury. And the point I'm going to make is, if you're going to hire a lawyer, and the difference between hiring a lawyer and going unrepresented is the difference of having experience in dealing with the insurance company, and knowing what their arguments are going to be, being able to anticipate what their arguments are going to, I mean, how we're going to rebut those arguments and present the case in the most favorable light to get, hopefully obtain a settlement pre-suit.

    Somewhere in litigation we're getting the most fruitful recovery for you, where the lawyer doesn't practice personal injury predominantly, but does a little bit in dabbles or the individual who is just representing themselves. They're pretty much in the same boat, they don't have the experience of dealing with insurance companies on a day-in day-out basis like we are that have handled thousands of claims between the two of us to anticipate what the insurance company is going to do on these cases.

    Yeah, it's a sort of repeating bag of tricks the insurance company relies on. They're continually using the same defense as most of which center on either liability or preexisting conditions. And if you are not actively building the case, if you're not actively working to preserve those sort of weakness in the case, and shore up those areas where the case is open to attack, you're going to get eviscerated. When the insurance company gets ahold of it, when they pay a defense doctor to look at it, and give an opinion on it, you get run over. It requires active involvement to make sure both the doctors, and the treatment type your patients are receiving is correct, and it's going to move the case forward.

    Further, your average claimant who's going unrepresented, okay? They're dealing with the case in a pro se manner, meaning they're handling it on their own without having a lawyer involved, is probably not going to understand how to get their medical bills reduced as much as possible at the end of the case. They're probably not going to be able to obtain the same level of medical care while also walking away with as much money from the case as possible, because their net recovery is going to be, if they have a net recovery, it's going to be greatly reduced by the medical bills they've incurred.

    Not only that, Matt, the vast majority of people that sit there, and not to disparage people or pretend like we're at this top of this mental mountain here. But the vast majority of people out there aren't even aware of what elements of damage they're allowed to collect. If I was to go up to the average person on the street, everyone knows you can get paid if you're injured in an auto accident. Everyone knows that if you get run over by the Coke truck there could be money at the end of the day for you to compensate you for the injuries. No one really understands how that money gets measured. No one understands what the elements of the claim are. What are your elements of damage? What specifically goes to adding up and collecting that money?

    And if you don't document all of those elements, you're not collecting for, and I can promise you, okay? When people look and think, oh greedy attorneys, we're not getting over on anybody, okay? The people who write the checks are writing us checks from their own pocket. And they're insurance companies, insurance companies with their own experts. They're not giving away any money. And in fact, if you don't force them to give you the money, they're going to keep it.

    100%

    Also, and that's why the pro se plaintiff has such a problem, because the guy on the other side's not trying to do the right thing. The pro se plaintiff thinks, hey, well, I'm doing the right thing, they're doing the right thing. We'll come an agreement. No, the guy on the other side's not trying to do the right thing. The guy on the other side's trying to minimize his payout, and he's got a lot more knowledge of what goes into building the claim, than you do. And what will happen is by the time... A lot of times the injured party realizes they're a little in over their head, or they need an attorney, they need to get this straightened out. The train has left the station, it's too late to document a lot of these things, et cetera.

    How many mistakes have you seen that claimants make? And get into what we know, it's nomenclature, but the gaps in medical treatment that most claimants would not understand is going to undermine and kill their case. We see it all the time with individuals who hire us later on not understanding that they've done several things that we can mitigate, but we can't completely get rid of the problem.

    Absolutely. Okay? And this happens a lot with the primary care physician, your own doctor, okay? Most people know if you call to make an appointment at your doctor's office, you're really, really lucky if he can squeeze you in within two weeks. Most of the time when you call to make an appointment at your primary care physician, you're several weeks out, sometimes a month out. And how many times do you get this? I called my primary care doctor, went to my appointment three weeks after the accident. He told me he couldn't see me. Now I need to find another doctor that can see you. Well, what a lot of people don't realize is there's some special coverages on your insurance policy, specifically PIP coverage.

    If you're in Florida, a lot of our audience might not be in Florida, but we're Florida lawyers, we handle cases throughout the nation, but on Florida cases itself where we do not have to co-counsel with local attorneys in that jurisdiction, the rules are a little bit different. Want to explain what no-fault coverage is?

    Yeah, I guess it did get a little ahead of myself with that. For the national audience here in Florida, we've got, what's known as PIP coverage, which is a no-fault kind of coverage under your own auto insurance. Okay? That's going to cover your first $10,000 in medical bills, regardless of who was at fault in an accident. Caveat to that is, you have to get the first treatment within two weeks. So those people that scheduled an appointment with their primary care physician, get in to see him in three weeks, and then realize they've got to go to another doctor. Well, they can no longer access that PIP coverage, right? Because that's cut off. They didn't get to treat anywhere within the first two weeks, and now they've got a little bit of a quandary.

    Yap. Oftentimes they've killed their case.

    No, it's true. They've killed their case, and some of these specialist doctors, things you need to get to an auto accident that see you quick. Well, they're not going to accept standard health coverages. It's a different kind of beast, takes more time to document causation than just to treat an injury. So what happens is they get out there, they've waited too long for the PIP or special coverages to kick in. Now they're trying to treat under their health coverage, and that really good doctor, the one that's dialed into treating auto accidents, and does a good job of advocating for the patient. Well, they're not willing to see this guy because they don't accept the health coverage. And now it's a big problem.

    Yap. We see it all through often. Anything else that would spark your interest that you want to share with the audience as to why you need to hire a lawyer, at least a competent lawyer, somebody experienced in personal injury law and car accident litigation after an auto accident? Any other issues that you've spotted that we haven't really discussed?

    One thing I'd like to point out to people is, when they talk about the cost of hiring an attorney, okay? Because a lot of people think they can't afford it. Look, you don't pay us anything, okay? I take a piece of what we collect from the other side, okay? I am in for a piece of every dollar I can get from the other side, okay? As a contingent fee attorney, if I can get you 10 more dollars, I'm picking up another three.

    Yap. Our goals are symbiotic, 100%.

    Right? I want to get you every dollar I can because I'm getting myself every dollar I can by that thing. So you got to realize when you're working with an attorney, this is someone who's on your side, they're in your boat. They win when you do, they lose when you do, okay? If we go out there and don't get a good recovery, I'm eating all the costs.

    It's the risk we take.

    And you're not paying me out of pocket, okay? So if I'm telling you to do stuff, it's because I think it's best for both of us, okay? You've got someone on your side. You're not pay paying me to retain me. It's sitting like a criminal attorney. That's sitting like a family law attorney. I'm in the boat with you, okay? We will win together or lose together. And when you've got someone on your side like that, when you've got someone who's experienced, you've got someone who knows what you're doing. You're always better off than going it alone.

    Yeah. We only get paid if you win. If we get a resolution or if we get a verdict in trial, and Stan got a verdict of $6.7 million this past week, hell of a board certified civil trial lawyer. I just wanted to congratulate you on that Stan.

    Yeah, not to toot my own horn, but yeah, that's a good verdict, man. That's a lot of money that $6.7 million for a family that I can promise you wouldn't have done something like that alone, if they tried to go pro se.

    Exactly. So going forward, if someone is in an auto accident in need of us after a motorcycle-truck accident, premises liability issue, how they get ahold of us?

    Well, the easiest way, and the way I all always mentioned first during podcast, especially is we're dealing with internet-savvy people out here are typically watching podcasts. We have one of the most robust websites out there on the internet. And Matt, you get full credit for that. Matt was an early adopter to the internet search engine game to creating lots of robust content, putting information on the website, and sort of pulling people, not through advertisement, but by providing the information that people look for on the internet. So if you ask a legal question, we probably have the answer to it on our website somewhere.

    Chances are you'll find us if you even just do a cursory search for the answer. If you put a query into Google, it's probably going to spit out our law firm in the top five search results.

    Absolutely. And that's www.dolmanlaw.com. That's D-O-L-M-A-N law.com.

    And you can reach us toll free anytime 83355 crash. We are here in Florida, but we handle cases throughout the nation, when the cases occur outside of Florida, Sam and I are both licensed only in Florida. We will co-counsel with attorneys in the applicable jurisdiction, still be able to handle the case with him. So keep us in mind if you have any personal injury needs, that's what we do here at Dolman Law.

    Yeah. We always look forward to helping anybody, and we have attorneys that'll be licensed in any jurisdiction where you need some help. If you call us you're always going to point you in the right direction.

    Well, that wraps up another episode. Thank you very much, Stan.

    Hey, It's always a pleasure. Enjoy your podcast more each time we do.

    Have a blessed and great day take care now.

    💡 Meet Your Hosts 💡

    Name Matthew A. Dolman, Esq.

    Title: Partner at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

    Specialty: Matt is a nationally recognized insurance and personal injury attorney and focuses much of his practice on the litigation of catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. 

    Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram 

    Name Stanley Gipe, Esq.

    Title: Partner and Head of Litigation at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

    Specialty: Stan is a Florida Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer. This distinction connotes expertise in the discipline of trial practice. He has served as lead counsel on over 1,000 Florida personal injury lawsuits.

    🔑 Relevant Resources 🔑

    The insights and views presented in “David vs. Goliath” are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information presented is not a substitute for consulting with an attorney. Nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Any case result information provided on any portion of this podcast should not be understood as a promise of any particular result in a future case. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers: Big firm results, small firm personal attention.