If you're involved in a serious automobile accident, you should hire a lawyer. Although lawyers are expensive and often difficult to manage, you'll have trouble securing a fair settlement on your own. As long as you're willing to maintain regular contact with your lawyer and encourage him or her to take specific actions on your behalf, you'll ultimately be glad that you chose not to self-represent.
Many judges frown upon self-represented plaintiffs. As such, your decision to hire a lawyer will smooth your case's path through the court system. It may also mean the difference between a favorable settlement and an outright dismissal.
Unfortunately, hiring a lawyer can also slow down the settlement process. Since the counter-party to your suit will almost certainly choose to hire a lawyer as well, the back-and-forth negotiations between your respective representatives could produce significant delays. It's unlikely that either of your attorneys will be devoting more than a few hours per week to your cases.
However, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't hire an attorney to help you arrive at a settlement. If you didn't have a lawyer to speak for you, you'd have to take time out of your busy schedule to field phone calls and file court motions. This would be an onerous task even if you weren't also recovering from an emotional and potentially life-altering accident.
In most cases, you should have your settlement within two years of the date on which your accident occurred. If your settlement involves a complex array of medical bills, it may take longer than this for your settlement to arrive. By contrast, any settlement that involves a reputable insurance company should take less time. If you're awaiting a settlement from your counter-party's insurance provider, you should expect to receive it within a year of your accident's occurrence.
There are several points at which the claims or settlement processes can become delayed. Before your attorney can begin negotiating a settlement with your counter-party, he or she will need to receive all of your medical bills and damage receipts. If you received medical treatment through multiple hospitals and specialists, this could take months.
Once your attorney has received all of your bills, it may take him or her some time to assess the strength of your case and determine an appropriate starting point for settlement negotiations. Meanwhile, your counter-party's attorney will need to make the same considerations. Before a final settlement can be reached, your respective attorneys may exchange several offers and counteroffers. Two or three months may separate each of these successive exchanges.