Should I Get an Attorney for a Car Accident Claim?By Stewart J. Guss on June 21st, 2019
After a car accident, you may go back and forth many times about whether to hire a car accident lawyer. While you may not know how the legal process works, you might want to try to figure things out on your own rather than pay an attorney for their services. However, there is a reason that car accident attorneys exist, and it’s that they can often greatly improve the outcome of a car accident case.
Whether someone else was at fault for your crash or you need to file a claim with your own insurance, it is always worth it to discuss how a lawyer can help you. A discussion with an attorney does NOT mean you have to hire them, as car accident consultations should be FREE with NO OBLIGATION.
Circumstances That Warrant an Attorney
You are never required to have the representation of a car accident lawyer, however, sometimes it makes a LOT of sense to do so. Whether you are filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit, you always have the right to represent yourself. However, this is NOT always the wise thing to do. Insurance companies and defendants’ attorneys will certainly try to take advantage of an unrepresented car accident victim, and they will do everything they can to intimidate you and get you to accept a settlement that is far below what you deserve.
If any of the following circumstances exist in your case, you should consult with a car accident attorney right away.
You’re not sure about your rights.
Most people have a general idea of how seeking compensation after a car accident works. However, being sure about all of your rights and how to proceed to exercise those rights is a completely different story. Determining your rights as a car accident victim involves complex legal principles that may include:
- Respondeat superior
- Comparative negligence
- Eggshell plaintiff rule
- Negligence per se
- Sovereign immunity
- Preponderance of the evidence
If some of the above terms seem complex—it’s because they are! Car accident victims may know that someone else was to blame for the crash, but they may not realize the complexity of proving liability and losses in a car accident claim. The good news is that an experienced car accident lawyer will be able to identify any applicable legal issues and address them properly to protect your rights.
There are questions about fault for the accident.
Sometimes, fault for a crash is cut and dry. For example, if you are sitting in a legally parked car and another driver backs directly into your vehicle, it is pretty obvious that the other driver was at fault, since you weren’t even driving! Liability is not always that clear, however—in fact, it is often a complex determination.
In some cases, an accident will involve multiple vehicles, and how do you know which driver was specifically to blame for YOUR injuries? Just because one driver initiated a chain reaction crash does not mean that another driver wasn’t also negligent and responsible for colliding with your car. In addition, you may know that you were likely partially to blame for the crash, but you may also know that the other driver was MORE to blame. Maybe they ran a red light and you didn’t see them because you were distracted. This doesn’t necessarily mean you lose the right to compensation, it just makes your case more complicated.
Liability determinations depend on the facts of the accident and also state laws regarding comparative fault and strict liability. You should always speak with a lawyer right away if fault for your accident is not completely straightforward.
You are confused about your insurance coverage.
Let’s be honest—insurance policies can be confusing. These policies involve complex legal language that most people don’t read or understand before they purchase a policy. Each state also has its own requirements for auto insurance policies that many drivers don’t fully understand. Do you have no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) insurance? Do you have uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage if you were in a crash with an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run?
Too often, people file insurance claims after an accident expecting to receive benefits under their policy. The insurance company then comes back and denies payment, claiming the accident or specific losses weren’t covered under that specific policy. In order to eliminate any surprises, you should consult with a car accident attorney who can review your policy and advise you of your rights to coverage in your specific situation.
You filed an insurance claim and the insurer is being difficult.
Often, you may choose to file an insurance claim on your own after an accident. You understand the basics of how insurance works—the policyholder pays premiums and then the company should provide benefits to claimants under the policy, right? Whether you are filing a claim with your own insurance company or that of an at-fault driver, you would be surprised how difficult insurers can be during the claims process.
Insurance companies will often find any possible way to limit or deny a claim. After all, they are in business to make profits, and profits increase when payouts are limited. Insurance companies can use many tactics to limit your settlement offer, including:
- Claim you didn’t pay your premiums or that your policy had lapsed
- State that your coverage doesn’t apply to this accident and your losses
- Question liability for the accident to reduce your settlement
- Challenge the severity of your injuries and whether all medical treatment or missed work was necessary
- Offer you much less than your claim is worth and make it seem like this is your only option
- Delay your claim so long that you are willing to accept any amount just to get a check in your hand
- Repeatedly request excessive documentation and evidence
- Deny your claim outright without a reasonable explanation
When your insurance company is being difficult in any way, it is time to call for legal help. Car accident victims with the right representation often have a much different experience than unrepresented claimants. Our attorneys know all of the tricks of the insurance companies, and the insurance companies know we won’t back down. This often results in the faster and more favorable outcome of your car accident insurance claim.
You suffered serious injuries.
A car accident can cause a wide variety of injuries. Some accident victims walk away without a scratch, while others need medical attention. Some people can make an appointment with their general physician to check out their injuries and other accident victims need to head straight to the emergency room or require an ambulance for transport.
If you suffered relatively minor and straightforward injuries, you may have just taken some aspirin for a few days and got right back to normal. An insurance claim should be pretty simple in this situation, and you may want to try to handle the claim yourself (and call a lawyer if it gets complicated, as noted above).
On the other hand, if your injuries are more serious, any resulting claim can become more and more complex. The higher your expenses, the more the insurer will likely try to fight your claim. Serious injuries can involve more substantial damages, which can include:
- Costs of hospitalization, specialist appointments, surgery, ongoing rehabilitative therapy, and much more
- Future medical costs if treatment will be ongoing
- Physical and mental pain and suffering
- Lost income, including future lost income if you still cannot return to work
- Permanent impairments or disfigurement
The more serious your injuries, the higher the stakes will be, and the more difficult the insurance process can become. Often, claims involving serious car accident injuries must be escalated to a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. You definitely want to have the advice and assistance of a car accident attorney if you suffered serious injuries.
The accident resulted in the death of a loved one.
While a serious accident can alter your life, some accident victims aren’t fortunate enough to survive the crash. In one year in Texas, 3,721 persons died in traffic crashes, and more than 34,400 died across the United States. The tragic reality is that you can lose a loved one in a crash anytime they are on the road.
While an injury victim can file a personal injury claim to seek compensation for their losses, a deceased accident victim doesn’t have this same opportunity. This doesn’t mean the at-fault driver can walk away without any responsibility, however. State laws allow close family members who lost a loved one to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the laws regarding wrongful death claims can vary widely from state to state, including:
- Who can file a claim
- What damages you can seek
- How long you have to file a claim
It is important to seek help from a car accident lawyer who handles claims arising from fatal accidents to ensure you receive the full compensation you deserve in a wrongful death claim.
Multiple parties are involved.
Many car accident cases involve multiple parties, whether or not more than two vehicles crashed. For example:
- If an on-the-job driver hits you, their employer can also be held liable
- If an Uber or Lyft driver crashes, you may have claims against the individual driver and the rideshare company
- In a chain reaction crash, multiple drivers may share liability for your injuries
- If a tire was defective and caused the crash, you might have claims against both the tire manufacturer and the store that sold and mounted the tire for you
These are only some of many examples of when you may have claims against multiple parties. These situations are extremely complex, especially when one of the parties is a large company. You will need to deal with multiple insurance companies and lawyers, and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve from each claim. You always want an experienced lawyer juggling multiple claims on your behalf for the best possible outcome.
Other parties have legal representation.
You may be trying to handle a car accident case on your own when you learn the other party has lawyered up. When the adverse party has legal representation, you certainly want your own legal advocate. Pushing forward without representation is just asking for the defendant’s lawyer to intimidate you and take advantage of your lack of legal expertise. This is a time you should never wait to call a lawyer.
All of the above are only some situations in which you should get an attorney for your car accident claim. Even if you have a relatively straightforward claim, it can still be stressful to deal with insurance adjusters or court procedures. These claims are frustrating, and you have enough stress as it is with your injuries and financial losses. You should never hesitate to call a lawyer even for a seemingly simple claim. Consultations are free, so you have nothing to lose by starting a discussion with a lawyer about how they can help.
The following are only some ways an attorney can assist you:
- Communicating with the insurance companies of the liable parties
- Obtaining evidence of liability and damages
- Negotiating for the settlement you need and deserve
- Negotiating with lien holders
- Determining when it’s time to file a personal injury lawsuit
- Handling the litigation process to reach a settlement agreement