Defendants: Should I Retain Counsel During A Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Personal injury lawsuits are usually complicated endeavors even for the lawyers who choose to fight them — and because personal injury lawyers almost always work on contingency, they won’t take a case unless they believe they can win. What does that mean for you, as the defendant being sued? Easy. It means the opposing side believes it has a slam dunk victory. And that means you absolutely need to retain counsel of your own.

There’s another problem some defendants encounter during such cases. While an individual suing for personal injury might realize they have been legally “wronged” — allegedly by you — the authorities might not initially know a thing until the case goes to court, especially if the plaintiff didn’t realize a real crime may have been committed, rather than just a civil offense for which you might be liable. In other words, the police could become involved the longer the case drags on. It’s another good reason to obtain qualified personal injury counsel as precipitously as possible.

In one Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania personal injury case, Mr. Jackson and Mrs. Flaherty were involved in a collision. Although injuries seemed only minor at the time of the accident, weeks later Mrs. Flaherty succumbed to internal damage — which had not been diagnosed after the accident. Flaherty’s husband decided to sue Jackson for wrongful death, which falls under the same umbrella of personal injury.

During the course of the civil case, police became aware of Flaherty’s death and began asking questions about the nature of the accident — because no police report had ever been filed. (You should always call the police after a car accident, even when it is apparently minor.) The legal ramifications for Jackson became more and more severe after he decided to defend himself in court. It was later found he had likely been intoxicated at the time of the accident, although a jury later found reasonable doubt on that particular charge.

This kind of example is rare. Civil cases rarely turn into criminal cases. When they do, it’s always because new information has come to light, usually uncovered by a law firm’s investigators during the course of a trial. But the fact is that these types of transitions do occur, and personal injury defendants should always be ready with counsel of their own. They should never defend themselves!

Keep in mind that any information shared with your personal injury or criminal defense attorney is privileged. They are legally and ethically bound to keep shared information to themselves — and they could even be barred from practicing law after breaking this oath of confidentiality. But you need to sign a contract to retain this counsel before privilege kicks in, so act quickly.

Lawyers can help put the facts of your case into perspective, let you know what might be coming from the opposing side’s counsel, and organize a settlement or trial defense. They know the law. Unless you’re a lawyer yourself, you don’t. Always retain counsel during litigation, and always take the advice of your counsel.