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When Do I Need A Lawyer?

When Do I Need A Lawyer?

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You need a lawyer in the following situations:

  • To help respond to any kind of legal action whether you are being sued or need to respond to a subpoena, divorce papers, court order, or other legal mandate from a judge. It's usually wise to consult a lawyer to respond to any inquiry from another lawyer.
  • To assist in filing suit against another party, whether it is an individual, employer, or insurance company. One exception is if you sue in small claims court. In most states, you cannot be represented by an attorney in small claims court.
  • To draw up legal documents.
  • In matters (such as discrimination) where statutes require that your legal fees be paid by others.

There are some situations where it may be premature to hire a lawyer. For instance:

  • Insurance claims: If the insurance company denies a request for medical care, or refuses to pay after the fact, claims issues must usually go through an internal appeals procedure before you can file suit or access regulators. If you follow the appeals procedure and the information in Health Insurance Claims Appeals you may be able to handle an appeal on your own, or with the help of a knowledgeable friend. However, at the least it would be prudent to speak with a lawyer for advice.
  • Social Security applications and initial appeal of denials: Many lawyers will not take Social Security appeals until they reach the Administrative Law Judge level. In addition to being the area where they can help most, the ALJ level is also a stage where their compensation will be highest. For help with a Social Security application and appeals, see Social Security Disability Insurance 101.
  • Doing the preparatory work for legal documents (such as Wills, Guardianship papers, and Trust agreements): While it is advisable to hire a lawyer to prepare these types of documents, you can save money by doing the preparation ahead of time. There are articles on each of these subjects in this site that can help be prepared so you won't be billed for hours of preparatory work. For example, see Wills: Information To Compile.

If you have question whether a lawyer is necessary, call a lawyer who is expert in the field. If the lawyer doesn't have time to speak, tell your situation to his or her assistant and ask if it would be worthwhile to engage the lawyer, at least for some advice.

You can also check with other people to whom you have access or can meet online who have gone through similar situation. Based on the consistency of their answers and guidance, then you can decide if you need confirmation from a lawyer.

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