When Should I Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident?
Evaluating your circumstances to make an informed decisionBy Kimberly Lekman, Esq. | Last updated on July 18, 2022
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If you or a loved one has been in a car accident, you know that it can be a scary experience. Your first priority should be to get medical treatment. You might have sustained an injury without even knowing it if your adrenaline is running high. Injuries like whiplash or concussion might not be evident right away, and even a minor crash can cause serious injuries. So proper medical care is essential to prevent your injuries from worsening.
Once you are on the road to recovery, you might consider filing a personal injury claim against the parties who caused the crash. By taking legal action against the at-fault party, you might be able to recover some of your financial costs for medical bills, property damage, and lost wages. You might even be able to receive compensation for your pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment. A skilled car accident lawyer can fight for this compensation on your behalf.
Many car accident victims wonder when they should hire a lawyer. Due to the time-sensitive nature of car crash claims, the sooner you can contact an experienced car accident attorney, the better. Your state may place a time limit (a statute of limitations) on your ability to sue for a car crash. Further, certain insurance policies may require prompt notification of an accident. To preserve your legal rights, you should find an attorney near you as soon as possible.
Do I Need a Car Accident Attorney?
A car accident attorney is a personal injury attorney who specializes in motor vehicle accidents. Whether you will need a car accident attorney will depend on the type of accident you experienced. If you were involved in a minor fender bender and did not suffer injuries, you can probably deal with insurance claims yourself.
However, suppose you were in a traffic accident that caused severe injuries or vehicle damage. In that case, the assistance of a skilled attorney will be essential. An experienced car accident attorney can evaluate the details of your crash, guide you through the claims process, and argue for a reasonable settlement with insurance companies. When it comes to insurance companies, an attorney’s assistance is crucial. Insurance adjusters will do their best to minimize your payout. But your attorney can draw on their experience with insurance companies to argue for a reasonable settlement on your behalf. If you cannot reach a fair settlement, your attorney may even need to take your claim to trial.
You should not hesitate to contact a lawyer about your car accident as soon as possible. Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation. This first meeting will give you a better idea about the strength of your car accident claim and will help you get to know the attorney. You will need to select an attorney you like and trust to guide you through the ins and outs of the legal process.
Benefits of Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
If you have been in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you deserve expert legal representation. In addition to giving legal advice, your car accident attorney will gather evidence and assess your claim. It may also ease your mind knowing that your attorney is handling the other party’s lawyers and insurance adjusters on your behalf. Unless you experienced a minor accident with no injuries, it’s best to leave these tasks for an experienced auto accident lawyer. Further, your attorney can file all necessary paperwork and track deadlines for you while you focus on other things.
Evaluate Your Case
New potential clients can usually get a free consultation from personal injury lawyers. At this first meeting, the attorney will hear your side of the story and assess the strength of your case. This free case evaluation is an essential step of the legal process because it gives you an idea of the value of your claim. An attorney cannot provide an exact dollar figure for your claim, but they can draw on their experience to give you a rough estimate. This estimate will factor into your decision as to whether to accept any potential settlement offers you receive.
Conduct an Investigation
After establishing an attorney-client relationship, your attorney will begin investigating your accident. To gather all of the relevant information, your attorney will collect:
- Medical records and bills: Your attorney will gather your medical records and bills to illustrate your car accident injuries and medical expenses. Requesting the documents from your health care providers can be a lengthy process. Although you have every right to your medical records, hospitals, and doctors’ offices are notoriously slow to respond to such requests. Your attorney’s law firm staff can take care of this hassle while you focus on your recovery.
- Physical evidence: Broken glass, automobile parts, and damage to the roadway can all provide clues as to who was at fault for the crash. Your attorney will likely visit the accident scene to review what physical evidence remains.
- Eye witness reports: If there were witnesses at the scene of your crash, your attorney will probably want to interview them. Their reports might help to corroborate your own.
- Police reports: When the police get to the crash scene, they will check to make sure everyone is safe and redirect traffic as necessary. Next, they will write a report detailing the crash’s location and conditions. The report may also include a description of the accident’s cause. Although this report may not be admissible in court, your lawyer can use it to determine who the at-fault driver was and continue the investigation.
- Photo evidence: Picture evidence of the crash scene can be invaluable in your car accident case. Photos of dents, scratches, and physical injuries help to illustrate the damages you suffered. Your attorney can request financial reimbursement for these damages on your behalf.
- Video footage: Many busy roadways have traffic cameras placed at regular intervals. Your attorney can request the footage if a traffic camera captured your crash. Video documentation can help to show how the collision occurred and whose fault it was.
Many of the above types of evidence can disappear as time passes after your accident. For example, your physical injuries will heal. Marks on the road will fade away, and automobile parts will be removed. Finally, eyewitness memories slip away. So, it’s essential to contact an attorney as soon as you can. They can make records of the evidence in your crash while it remains.
Determine Who Is At Fault
Determining who caused your car accident can be a complex issue depending on the facts of your case. This is a job for an attorney who has proven experience in the field of car accidents.
It can be particularly challenging to determine fault when more than two cars were in the collision. Weather conditions such as snow, rain, or sleet may have factored into the crash too. These conditions can make it difficult to know who caused the accident. But a skilled attorney can draw on their experience to work through these complex details.
If a large commercial truck was involved in the accident, this could complicate matters further. Truck accidents can cause more severe injuries than other motor vehicle collisions and sometimes involve more parties. In truck accidents, the responsible parties might include the trucking company, the owner of the cargo, the truck manufacturer, and others.
An experienced car accident lawyer will use all of the available evidence to determine fault in your case. Meanwhile, they can also help you handle insurance companies and negotiate a settlement. It’s best to contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible while the evidence of fault is still readily available.
Negotiate With Insurance Companies
After your accident, you will probably receive phone calls from the other party’s auto insurance company. Although it’s important to cooperate with insurance adjusters, you should avoid saying too much. It’s common for car accident victims to accidentally assume responsibility for an accident that was someone else’s fault. The insurance company can then use the misstatement against you. An experienced attorney can guide you through your conversations with insurance companies.
Another reason the other driver’s insurance company might contact you is to offer you a settlement. Insurance adjusters are known to give low initial car accident settlement offers in hopes that the other party will hastily accept it and move on. Your auto accident attorney will know the approximate value of your case and can handle these low-ball offers. With your permission, they can suggest a counteroffer and manage the back-and-forth negotiation process to secure a fair settlement for you. Most car accident cases settle outside of the courtroom. However, your attorney may need to represent you in court if negotiations break down and you are unable to secure fair compensation for your damages.
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