I Just Want A Settlement…Why Do I Need To Hire A Lawyer? Personal Injury Attorney Ben Schwartz says clients, ask this question all the time.
I’m attorney Ben Schwartz,
Today we are going to answer a viewer question. It is actually a question that comes up a lot for me in my personal injury/criminal law practice. The question is, I just want to get a settlement…Why do I need to hire a lawyer to do that? I will tell you, here is the context that this question comes up for me. It comes up in a lot of personal injury cases where they say, “I am not the type of person that goes around suing anybody. I got rear-ended in a car accident, I am injured, and I know I have legal rights, but I am just looking to get a settlement out of the at-fault drivers’ insurance company. I am not looking to file a lawsuit and make this a federal case or make this case go to the Supreme Court. What do I need to hire a lawyer for, if I am just trying to get a settlement?
I also hear this in the context of criminal cases, you know we’ve got an attorney in the office that handles a huge amount of DUI cases. I talked to him, and he tells me he hears the same thing. People say, I know I have been charged with a crime and I know I need to get an attorney to get some guidance. But I am not looking to hire an attorney to go to a jury trial and spend a week in trial. I just want to get this thing settled and I just want to get a plea and take a plea, resolve it, and avoid jail time. And the answer is, that if you are thinking that you just want to get a settlement or thinking well, I am just going to get a plea and wrap this up. You are putting the cart before the horse, to be blunt.
The ability to get a settlement, a fair settlement, or a reasonable settlement in a personal injury case is almost all the time based on your ability to go all the way through trial and appeal and have a winning case. An insurance company is going to pay that settlement. Settlements in personal injury cases come from insurance companies. Well, the insurance company is not going to pay you anything, they do not have to pay you. It is not like they are going to deal with you directly and say, Ooh gee you have not gotten an attorney and you have not followed any of the steps necessary to present a claim. You are not a jury trial lawyer. You are not prepared to file a lawsuit and go the distance. But let us deal with you fairly, it just does not work that way. Insurance companies respond to power. If you have the power to file the lawsuit, you have the power to go to a trial. You have the power to get a winning verdict, and you have the power to keep that verdict. Even though the insurance companies paid a team of attorneys to file an appeal and go that distance, go through that process, then you have the power to get a settlement.
In a criminal case, you may be thinking, well I just want to get a plea. Well, the prosecutor is there to represent the state interest, not represent your interest. The prosecutor is there to get the maximum amount of justice. When you talk to criminal prosecutors, whether they are federal prosecutors or state-level prosecutors, when they are seeking justice, they are acting in several roles. They are acting as an advocate for their client and their client is the state and federal government. So there are very few prosecutors who are looking to give you a reduced jail time sentence. There are very few prosecutors who are looking to help you. They are looking at the case and trying to figure out what is a reasonable sentence or what is a reasonable resolution. Their idea of justice and their idea of what is a reasonable resolution oftentimes is going to conflict with what you the accused, or you the family member of the accused, think would be justice or thinks would be reasonable.
So, the ability to get a favorable plea in a criminal case many times comes down to, did you file the proper motions to suppress evidence? Have you taken the steps to pare down or whittle down the state’s case? Have you done a thorough investigation and investigated all their witnesses? Have you prepared the case for trial, is there leverage? You know I think that the key to this is, its leverage. If you have leverage in a personal injury case, you will be presented with the opportunity to get a decent settlement. If you have leverage in a criminal case, you will be presented with the opportunity to get a favorable plea bargain or dismissal.
Without leverage, you have gotten nothing! So, I tell people all the time that contact me and say well I just want to get a settlement, or I just want to resolve this in a plea. We are not talking about getting leverage and executing on the leverage in order to get a good result. You are talking about, you know bucking under and hoping that the insurance company lawyers or the insurance company claim adjusters, or the criminal prosecutors take pity on you. That is not what we do! You should hire a lawyer so that the lawyer is prepared to go the distance, the full distance. And by being prepared to go the full distance and by working the case up for trial. That is how you develop leverage and that is how cases settle and pleas are reached, or charges are dismissed.
So, I just want to say that this question comes up for me all the time. I have given you the context in which it comes up. If you come to me and say; “I do not know if I want to file a lawsuit, or I do not know if I want to go the distance in my legal case, I just want to settle it”. Understand this is where I am coming from, and any quality attorney that you go to, if you take the same approach, they are going to tell you, we have to work on the case to get leverage to get a good result. I think it is helpful to know where your lawyer is coming from.
Hope that answers your question. I think that was a little more answer than the question probably was intended to elicit but that is what it comes down to. It comes down to the power to derive by having leverage. I am attorney Ben Schwartz, if you have a question for me, please feel free to send me an email. Thanks for watching!