In a wrongful death, should we talk to the company ourselves and try to settle the case or should we have legal representation from the beginning?

My mother died as a direct result of something that came from this business. Some family members think we should just contact the company ourselves and see if they will just settle with us rather than involve attorneys. I am afraid that is a mistake and that we need representation from the beginning. What kind of mistake are we making if we talk to them ourselves unprotected? Should we consult with  personal injury attorney? In Bowie County, TX.

Asked on October 13, 2011 under Personal Injury, Texas

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

At least talking to an attorney is always a good idea before you settle any type of personal injury claim.  If you do decide to settle without an attorney being directly involved, you should still take the time to have an attorney review the paperwork to make sure that the settlement is structured properly and you are not accidentally waiving any valuable claims.  Having an attorney throughout the settlement process will definitely be a better option, though.  First, it will reduce the chances that you will be taken advantage of.  Many companies are fair and upfront, but others may offer far less because they know that you are unrepresented.  Second, an attorney can help you make sure that certain information, evidence, and statements are preserved in the event that you do have to file a lawsuit for this claim.  Personal injury cases are riddled with incidents of companies disposing of evidence that is adverse to them.  The third advantage in having an attorney is that they can help structure a better settlement.  Settlements can be structured (paid out) in different ways.  How a settlement is structured can impact your personal tax liabilities.  So without the attorney, you may be resolving one bad situation, only to walk into another one.  Finally, an extremely important advantage is that the statements by the attorney to the company are not usually admissible in court.  If you talk to the company personally, they may be able to twist your words and use them to mitigate damages in their favor.  These are just some general highlights of issues and advantages associated with representation.  Other issues may apply depending on the particular circumstances of your mothers death.  Many personal injury attorneys offer free or inexpensive consultations.  Visit with a couple until you find one that you are comfortable with during this stressing situation.


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