California Auto Accident Victims: Should You Hire A Lawyer Or Go It Alone?

If you've been in an auto accident, should you go it alone or hire a lawyer to represent you? Barry J. Simon, a former insurance defense attorney who has spent nearly the past 30 years as a tort litigator representing victims against insurance and other large companies, explained when you should hire a lawyer and when you shouldn't.

Property damage needs to be significant

Simon told us that he asks car accident victims these questions when they consult him about hiring an an California auto accident attorney:

  • Is there a police report?
  • Do you have proof showing that you weren’t at fault or that the other driver was (such as witnesses, photos. .. )?
  • How much is the property damage to your vehicle and the other vehicle involved?

He says that it's often the latter which determines when hiring an experienced car accident attorney   is warranted. He explained:

Property damage needs to be significant. If it is what is called minor damage, then juries, arbitrators and insurance companies won’t pay or won’t give you much. I'll take a case where there is significant property damage or proof of a significant impact if the victim is seriously injured or has soft tissue injuries that will need to be treated for several months or a case in which a victim will incur significant expenses. If it's just a $500 medical bill with a couple of weeks of treatment, they don’t really need a lawyer for that. It's sad, but insurance companies are low-balling clients in these tough economic times. They’re offering very little on cases and are forcing people to litigate.

California juries conservative on soft tissue injuries

In these tough times, people are getting more conservative in general – and that includes the way California juries are treating damages for soft tissue injuries, according to Simon, who told us:

I've got some cases involving soft tissue injuries and the insurance companies are offering very low settlements – sometimes even less than the victim's medical expenses – so they're forcing us to litigate these cases and pay the cost of it. It's just not right. Something should be done about that, but that’s just the reality of the situation – even in California. Carriers know that juries are fairly conservative on damages in certain cities and counties and try to take advantage of that instead of doing what is right on a particular case.