Do you even need a lawyer?
Well, honestly, an attorney may not be needed to handle all types of claims -- for some small, uncomplicated claims, an attorney simply won't be of economic benefit to you, and a good attorney will tell you this. Legal information and forms for certain types of matters can be found on the Nolo Website.
A personal injury attorney should basically be providing two services to you: 1) the attorney's skill, experience, and knowledge should add to the value of your claim, and 2) the attorney should handle all the insurance and legal meetings, paperwork, telephone calls, negotiating, court appearances, etc., necessary to resolve your case.
If you have a claim so simple that the attorney is unlikely to be able to add significantly to its value, and the required paperwork and negotiating is minimal and straightforward, then an attorney should advise you that you are likely to end up putting more money in your pocket by handling your claim yourself than by hiring an attorney to do so.
On the other hand, have you performed an appendectomy on yourself lately? If performing a moderately complicated medical procedure on yourself doesn't sound appealing, then handling a moderately complicated personal injury claim shouldn't either. Handling your legal claim yourself won't cost you your life -- it may only cost you thousands of dollars. By analogy, if a simple personal injury is a "hangnail" claim that the average person is easily capable of "clipping," then more complicated personal injury claims may be equivalent to more complicated medical procedures. Do you feel capable of performing surgery on yourself? Setting your own broken bones? An experienced attorney will be able to handle all the insurance and legal requirements necessary to resolve your claim while avoiding the numerous stumbling blocks that will be thrown up to slow the process.
A plaintiff's personal injury attorney can also maximize the value of your claim by presenting every relevant medical and legal fact to an opposing insurance company or insurance defense attorney. The driver who struck your car was found to be drunk and to have a history of drunk driving convictions -- should this increase the value of your claim? Your doctor tells you that the collision caused only a relatively minor strain injury to your neck, but you feel that it has caused a flare-up in the arthritis you've been experiencing for years -- can you be compensated for this?
A good personal injury attorney will track down every one of these legal and medical facts and present them in a way that will maximize the value of your claim. A good personal injury attorney may use experts to help maximize your case. Insurance company defense attorneys will hire experts to minimize your case, see TrialSmith. An attorney on your side in many instances should do the same.
A good personal injury attorney will also listen to you and to your family members and friends. Listening carefully will reveal the many ways an injury impacts your family, social and work life.
Finally, a good personal injury attorney will collaborate with you as your case moves through the stages before resolution. Handling an injury case is a cooperative effort. Make sure you feel comfortable with the attorney you hire.