Is It Worth It to Hire A Personal Injury Attorney In Oklahoma?
You’ve been hurt and the accident should have never happened. But how can you hold those who caused your injury accountable? And do you need a lawyer to help you do that?
Personal injuries can happen many different ways, including car or truck accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, wrongful deaths, dog bites, and more. If you’ve suffered an injury like this and want to pursue a lawsuit, it’s only natural to wonder if it’s worth hiring a personal injury attorney or whether you can go it alone.
To be clear, you have every right to represent yourself and are not required to hire an attorney for personal injury cases. Every Oklahoman is entitled to certain legal protections and self-representation is one of them. But would you want to? There’s a lot at stake and legal representation might make a big difference in your case.
Here are the most important factors to consider when determining if you need a lawyer for your personal injury claim.
Facts About Personal Injury Suits and Settlements in Oklahoma
The first question most people ask is “Will a lawsuit have to be filed in my case and will I have to go through a court trial?” Many personal injury cases are settled without a lawsuit being filed. Even in cases where a lawsuit is necessary, almost all of those settle without the need for a trial.
It’s estimated that around 95% of civil cases reach settlements, which means that you (the plaintiff) are agreeing to accept a specific amount from the defendant in exchange for not taking the case to court. You can agree to a settlement at any stage of your case—from before the case is filed to after the case is over. The determining factors of early settlement are whether there is a dispute over who was at fault and whether the personal injuries are truly related to the accident.
Another common question when thinking about whether it’s worth hiring a personal injury attorney is how much you could possibly recover with or without an attorney. There are no guarantees and settlement amounts vary widely based on case details and the severity of your injuries. A lawyer will provide you with the best estimate on how much damages you might be able to recoup.
Oklahoma Statute of Limitations
Oklahoma has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. That means you must file your lawsuit within two years of the date of the incident. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, the clock starts ticking on the date of the crash. If you were harmed in a medical malpractice incident, the two-year deadline starts on the date the harm was discovered.
After two years, you will not be able to seek damages—the court will throw out your suit. There are certain exceptions to this statute, such as if the victim was a minor or the injury was a result of government negligence. If the two-year deadline has passed and you think your injury falls within an exception, this is a situation when you should definitely hire a personal injury attorney.
Pros of Hiring an Oklahoma Personal Injury Attorney
Like any big decision in life, it can help to make a list of pros and cons. Here are the benefits of getting a lawyer for your personal injury case:
Even Playing Field
If you decide to represent yourself, you’ll be facing an experienced insurance claim adjuster whose sole job is to limit how much to pay for your personal injury. If you file a lawsuit, you will then face a team of lawyers on the other side of the table. It will not be you and the individual defendant going head to head, but rather you versus the insurance company’s lawyers—legal professionals who work on personal injury cases all day every day.
If you don’t have an attorney, you’ll be facing them alone with no one to advocate for your rights. What you say about the accident and your injuries can be taken out of context and twisted in ways for them to avoid responsibility for the accident and your personal injuries. Plus, your case will be at risk of being dismissed by the Court if you miss deadlines or don’t follow Court rules.
Better Chance of Winning
Personal injury is a complex area of law and Oklahoma has its own specific statutes and rulings that apply to these types of cases. In other words, to fight your case successfully and earn the maximum amount of damages, you'll need a thorough understanding of the law and procedure related to personal injury cases.
More practically, you’ll also need to know how the Oklahoma court system works. For example, you must know how and when to file the appropriate documents for your case. If you miss a deadline or have incorrect or incomplete paperwork, it not only creates a lot of extra work for yourself, but ultimately it gives the defense an advantage and threatens the viability of your case.
If you hire an experienced personal injury attorney, they will have the legal and court knowledge you need. They will handle all filings, won’t miss deadlines, will lead all investigation and communications, and can expertly guide you through the entire process. Your lawyer will know how to present your case in the best possible light and be ready to combat the legal team for the defense.
In short, a personal injury lawyer’s experience and perspective will give you a better chance at maximizing your recovery for your personal injuries whether it’s a settlement before a lawsuit is filed or after it’s filed.
Accurate Claim Amounts
Personal injury cases can involve a few different types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive. When you file an insurance claim, you must prove the other person was at fault and that you have suffered damages.
It’s somewhat straightforward to total up your economic damages because they are quantifiable and typically include receipts: hospital bills, pay stubs (to prove income loss), therapy bills, and more. But non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering, reputational damage, and diminished quality of life. Similarly, punitive damages are somewhat rare but are awarded to punish the defendant for particularly malicious or negligent behavior, like drunk driving.
Without personal injury experience, it is incredibly hard to accurately calculate non-economic and punitive damages because they are subjective—it’s difficult to place a value on pain and suffering. Personal injury attorneys know exactly what types of damages you can claim, as well as what amounts. Your lawyer will ensure you claim the right amount of damages and save you some stress and math.
Expert Settlement Negotiations
You know the details of your case and the extent of your injuries better than anyone, but settlement negotiations are tricky. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how the insurance company and its lawyers will view your claim in unreasonable ways in an effort to pay less than your claim is worth. Having an experienced attorney to challenge their unreasonable arguments and advocate for you during negotiations is invaluable. and can anticipate aspects of your claim that This is especially true if you may be partially at fault for the accident. Any percentage of fault placed upon you reduces your total damage amount by that percentage.
For example, did you know that Oklahoma uses a "modified comparative fault" rule? This means the amount of damages you receive is dependent on how much fault you are legally determined to have. For example, if you are seeking $10,000 in damages for a car accident injury and it’s determined that you are 30% at fault in the incident, your award will be reduced by $3,000 (30% of $10,000), leaving you with $7,000. And if your degree of fault is 50 percent or more, you won’t be able to recover any damages at all.
Remember, you will be facing a team of defense attorneys who spend their days handling personal injury claims and their goal is to prevent you from recovering damages. When deciding whether it’s worth hiring a personal injury attorney, consider the benefit of having an experienced settlement negotiator on your side. Your lawyer’s expertise in dealing with these situations and insurance companies can make all the difference in your settlement amount.
Less Time and Stress
Another item to add to the “pro” list is that hiring a personal injury attorney will save you time and stress. Your attorney will handle the entire process, from case investigation, claim filing, dealing with your healthcare providers wanting payment, preparing you for giving statements of what happened so your explanation is not taken out of context and used against you, and settlement negotiations. If you’ve never filed a claim before, it can take a lot of time and effort to learn how to negotiate the court system and processes. You can pass all that work off to your personal injury lawyer and spend your time focusing on recovery, which is most important.
Cons of Hiring an Oklahoma Personal Injury Attorney
The only downside to hiring an attorney is the cost. Most personal injury attorneys are paid a percentage of the settlement and contingency basis, which means they don’t get paid unless you win. The fee percentage for personal injury cases range from 33.33% to 45% depending upon the type of case and its complexity. Also, most personal injury attorneys do not require you to pay any money upfront for expenses. Instead, the costs of the case are reimbursed to the attorney from the settlement along with the attorney fee, again, only if you win. So, in most cases, it should cost you nothing to hire a personal injury attorney and it is highly unlikely you would owe the attorney any money even if your case is dropped or unsuccessful.
But, since the attorney is paid a percentage of your settlement, the “cost” of hiring a personal injury attorney is a reduced settlement amount to you after the fee percentage taken out of the total settlement. However, in most cases, the amount you will receive after the attorney fee is more than you have received without the attorney, and you will have avoided the time and stress of representing yourself.
How to Hire an Oklahoma Personal Injury Attorney
If you’re still worried about cost or have other concerns about hiring legal representation for your case, take a baby step and get a free consultation with a personal injury attorney. You’ll get advice and information on how to proceed with your claim from someone who specializes in personal injury cases, for free with no obligation to continue.
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