Whether you should hire a personal injury lawyer after a car accident will depend on the nature and extent of any injuries that you have suffered. One thing that is certain, however, is that you should at least make initial enquiries with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your car accident.
Most reputable personal injury lawyers will provide free advice over the phone and a free initial consultation, with no obligation to go ahead. Furthermore, any personal injury lawyers that act on a no win no fee basis must have a 5 clear business day cooling off period in their costs agreement, so that if you sign up to go ahead and then subsequently decide not to within the next 7 days, you can terminate your agreement with that lawyer without having to pay any costs.
The benefit of seeking advice early, even if you do not proceed with a claim through that personal injury lawyer, is that you find out your potential rights and entitlements and you are familiar with the very strict time limits that apply with respect to personal injury claims.
If you have suffered relatively minor injuries or if you feel that your injuries will resolve (i.e. recover) over a relatively short period of time (i.e. within a few months), then the personal injury lawyer may suggest that you lodge the claim yourself and they will provide you with some guidance in that regard. Alternatively, they may lodge a claim on your behalf and then if you completely recover within a relatively short period of time, they will negotiate a small settlement on your behalf with the insurance company and charge you a relatively nominal fee.
If, however, you have suffered reasonably significant injuries which might impact on your work capacity now or in the future, then you would be well advised to hire a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your car accident. This is because your personal injury lawyer will be able to prepare the claim on your behalf and present it in the best light and he or she will also be able to provide you with advice on what to say and do to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation possible. For instance, your personal injury lawyer should advise you to be careful about what you say to the CTP insurer and any treating practitioners. This is because they record everything you say and if there is something in there that is not entirely accurate, the CTP insurer will then be sceptical about the rest of your claim. For example, you might tell your physiotherapist that you can “no longer surf” when what you meant to say was that “I don’t surf anywhere near as much as I used to because it hurts, but I still do it because I love it”. If a CTP insurer reads the comment that you can “no longer surf” and then gets footage of you surfing, they will use that to suggest that you cannot be trusted or believed with respect to anything else that you talk about, including your pain and restriction levels.
A personal injury lawyer will provide you with invaluable advice, recommendations and guidance at an early stage of your claim, which will ultimately result in you receiving far more compensation than if you represent yourself or only engage a personal injury lawyer towards the end of your claim.
In terms of the benefit or otherwise of representing yourself, statistics provided by the Australian Lawyers Alliance in August 2019 indicated that claimants injured in motor vehicle accidents in Queensland who represent themselves currently receive, on average, less than $8,000 in compensation, as opposed to those claimants injured in motor vehicle accidents who are legally represented who receive 1 to 5, on average, approximately $42,000 in their hand after payment of all statutory refunds (i.e. to Medicare, WorkCover, Centrelink and the like), legal costs and disbursements.