When a potential client meets with us, we are often asked whether not an attorney is really necessary. Of course, that depends upon the specific facts of the case. Below is a brief list of factors that may help someone decide whether to to have an attorney involved with the case.
Proving Liability: Before you can recover any compensation for an injury, you must first prove that someone is responsible, or "at fault." Sometimes this is obvious, but many times it is not. Proving liability sometimes requires thorough and prompt investigation. An attorney can help you determine whether a makes sense to investigate a case to determine liability.
Injury Severity: Generally, the more serious the injury, the more there is is at stake. Someone suffering a severe injury has to not only deal with the immediate consequences like lost wages and medical expenses, but must look at “down the road” issues like permanent disability, or future lost income and future medical needs. An attorney can help you anticipate issues that come along with serious injury claims, and make sure that you are able to get what you need to fix what can be fixed, and make up for what cannot be fixed.
Other Responsible Parties: In some cases, and it may not be obvious,, there may be may be other people responsible for your injury, or it may not be obvious who actually is (see Proving Liability above). For example, somebody who is injured by a drunk driver may have a claim against the person who provided alcohol to the drunk driver. In Oregon, there are strict time limits that require an injured person to notify the server of alcohol of his or her intent to make the claim. If you do not provide the notice within the required time (six months from the date of your injury), you cannot make the claim against the alcohol server.
Sometimes, app fault personwas working for somebody at the time of the injury, and the proper responsible party may be the employer.
Other Deadlines: In some cases, there are other deadlines that can come and go without you knowing it. As we explained above, somebody injured because a drunk driver was served alcohol was visibly intoxicated must provide notice to the server of alcohol before he or she can make a claim. Similarly, somebody who is injured by a government agency, or an employee of a government agency in Oregon must file a tort claim notice. Washington has a similar tort claim statute, and the federal government also requires the filing of the tort claim notice under the Federal Tort Claims Act. These notices are “jurisdictional,” which means that if you do not file the notice within the required time, you lose your right to make any claim, cannot recover for your losses.
Planning For the Future: The fact is that most cases will be resolved by settlement, although some do go to trial. In any event, when someone recovers compensation for serious injury, that may just be the beginning. For example, if your private health plan paid medical benefits for injury related care, you may be required to reimburse your health plan out of any settlement. Or, you may be insured by Medicare, which has its own special set of rules regarding reimbursement of not only past medical expenses, but potential denial of future accident related medical care.
We also encounter lots of issues when representing children that require a lot of thought and future planning. In Oregon, the conservator must be appointed to pursue the claim for the child, and manage settlement funds. There are annual accounting and reporting requirements, and in some cases, we can structure the settlement to maximize benefit to the child.