You got into a car accident. Now, you have a lot on your plate to deal with. You have a recovery to manage, with a slew of appointments you have to attend and limitations that you have to consider as your body heals. You have to deal with the insurance company. You may have to replace your vehicle.
Do you have to add talking to a car accident lawyer to your list?
What does a car accident lawyer actually do, anyway?
Hiring a car accident lawyer does not just add one more thing to your to-do list following a serious car accident. In fact, hiring a car accident lawyer can help make your life easier as you recover. A car accident lawyer provides many vital services that can prove extremely useful as you navigate a personal injury claim following a car accident.
1. A car accident lawyer can make sure you understand your rights.
The average person gets into a car accident just once every 18 years. Most of the time, car accidents involve only minor injuries or, most likely, property damage, which makes them relatively easy to manage.
If you need to file a personal injury claim following a car accident that resulted in substantial injuries, on the other hand, you may find the process much more complicated and many people have no idea what to expect as they manage their claims. Do you have the right to contest a police report that does not accurately reflect how the accident occurred? How much compensation do you really deserve?
The insurance company that covers the liable driver may not have your best interests in mind. Even your own insurance company might act to protect its best interests before it protects yours. A car accident lawyer can go over everything from how much compensation you really deserve for the accident and your injuries to how to obtain an accurate idea of who actually caused your accident.
2. A car accident lawyer can help investigate a serious car accident.
Many people assume that the police officer who responds to the accident scene will manage the investigation. A police officer, however, will not typically do an in-depth investigation of a car accident. Rather, a police officer will look at the factors available at the scene: the position of the two vehicles, the extent of the damage to the two vehicles, and any witness testimony. If the police officer can quickly get video footage of the accident, as in cases when one driver might have a dashcam, the police officer might look over that footage.
A lawyer, on the other hand, can conduct a much more in-depth investigation into the accident. Not only can that investigation serve to better establish which driver actually bears liability for the accident (which can help protect your right to compensation, even if the insurance company tries to deny its driver’s liability for the incident), it can help provide deeper insights into any other parties that might have contributed to the accident.
Did a commercial driver cause or contribute to your accident?
If a commercial driver contributed to your accident, you will need a lawyer to look over all the details of the accident. That may mean looking over the driver’s logbooks, checking into company policies, and even evaluating the driver’s past accident history to determine whether the driver’s employer might have contributed to the accident in any way. If the driver’s employer did contribute to the accident, you may have the right to pursue compensation from the employer and the driver’s insurance policy directly.
Did your accident involve a mechanical failure?
Mechanical failures can make an accident very complicated. Sometimes, mechanical failure occurs because the owner of the vehicle—often the same person driving it at the time of the accident—fails to maintain the vehicle properly. For example, failing to replace worn tires can substantially increase the risk of a tire blowout. Vehicle owners also bear responsibility for basic maintenance: replacing wiper blades to help improve visibility in poor weather, replacing lights when they burn out, and making sure that the car receives the attention it needs to keep running smoothly and not pose a hazard to others on the road.
Sometimes, however, vehicle owners can do everything right and still suffer a mechanical failure out on the road. The vehicle manufacturer may bear liability for an error caused during the manufacturing process: a faulty part or product that does not behave the way it should and poses a danger to the driver and others around them on the road. Sometimes, the driver does everything right, including taking the vehicle to a mechanic for maintenance or repairs, but the mechanic fails to repair the vehicle properly or accidentally damages another part while repairing the vehicle.
A lawyer can help investigate all those factors, determine why the mechanical failure occurred, and give you a better idea of who may bear liability for the accident.
Did a drunk driver cause your accident?
In some cases, if you had an accident with a drunk driver, the shop where the driver bought the alcohol may share liability for the incident. Louisiana law prohibits victims from making third-party claims against a licensed alcohol vendor: in essence, Louisiana alcohol vendors cannot control the actions of their patrons once they leave the premises, and cannot face liability for it. In Texas, on the other hand, if a vendor sells alcohol to someone already visibly intoxicated, and that person goes on to cause a serious accident with injuries, the vendor may bear partial liability for the incident.
An experienced car accident lawyer can look into the conditions that led to the accident, including where and when the driver bought that alcohol, and pursue action accordingly.
3. A lawyer can aid in the negotiation process.
A lawyer can be vital as you move into negotiation for the compensation you deserve. At every stage of that negotiation process, a lawyer can provide support and assistance. In many cases, just having a lawyer on your side can increase the compensation the insurance company offers upfront. The insurance company knows, when you hire a lawyer, that you plan to take the claim seriously.
A lawyer can put together your demand package.
Your demand package serves to indicate the compensation you expect to receive from the insurance company. It lays out the financial and non-financial losses you suffered as a direct result of the car accident and indicates to the liable driver’s insurance company that you plan to pursue compensation in that amount.
It also helps tell your story.
What damages did you suffer as a direct result of the other driver’s negligence? What losses have you faced? Why do you deserve compensation for those losses and injuries? A lawyer can help put together a compelling story that establishes the full compensation you deserve and why, often in a way that proves more difficult to contest.
A lawyer can intercept communications from the insurance company.
Hearing from the insurance company can be incredibly stressful. You may know that you have to watch everything that you say. Worse, when the insurance company contacts you to offer a settlement, you may feel very pressured to accept it. A lawyer can intercept those negotiations and deal with the insurance company for you, which may make it much easier for you to resolve your claim.
Having a lawyer manage communicating with the insurance company for you can offer many benefits.
First, a lawyer knows how to avoid saying anything that could leave liability for the accident on your shoulders. A lawyer knows the traps the insurance company often uses and will take care to avoid them on your behalf, making it less likely that you will miss out on some of the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Next, having a lawyer on your side can make the insurance company more willing to negotiate. Many insurance companies offer additional compensation or provide more support when they know that you have a lawyer working for you. A lawyer will often stand strong where you might have a harder time not giving in to an offer, which can make you feel more confident that you have received the full compensation you deserve.
Finally, letting a lawyer take over negotiation with the insurance company can make the entire claim process much less stressful. You have enough on your plate as you deal with the aftermath of your car accident and the injuries you sustained. You do not need additional weight and challenges, including the challenges that go along with dealing with the insurance company. Keep in mind that stress can have a detrimental impact on your overall recovery. Turning the negotiation process over to a lawyer can help you avoid that stress and feel better about your claim.
Many delays come with car insurance claims, which can frustrate people who do not know what to expect. You may not know, for example, how long it will take for the insurance company to get back to you after you negotiate, or how long it will take the insurance company to investigate your claim. You may have questions about what you have to release to the insurance company: do you have to share your medical records? Submit to an independent medical evaluation? What about talking to the insurance company: do you have to discuss the accident?
A lawyer can help lay out what to expect at each stage of your claim. Many car accident lawyers have worked with a variety of insurance companies in the past, and they often have a good idea about how to best work with the insurance company handling your accident and your injuries.
5. A lawyer can represent you if you have to go to court.
Court sounds scary-but it does not have to be. Most car accident claims settle out of court. The average insurance company does not want to go to court unless absolutely necessary. Court means higher legal expenses associated with the claim-often much higher than the amount disputed between the insurance company and the victim.
However, sometimes, car accident claims do have to go to court.
You may have a higher likelihood of going to court over your car accident claim if:
- You suffered very severe injuries and need to ask for considerable compensation
- The insurance company disputes liability
- The insurance company disputes the extent of your injuries in any way
If you do have to go to court, having a lawyer on your side can be critical.
In court, a lawyer can present your case in a compelling way that will increase your odds of receiving the resolution you deserve for your claim. Furthermore, having a lawyer on your side from the beginning can help take the pressure off in court, since the lawyer already knows your case and you have had a chance to become familiar with them and develop a relationship.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Handle a Car Accident Claim?
If you suffer injuries in a car accident, you need an experienced car accident lawyer to help you navigate that claim and pursue the compensation you deserve. A car accident lawyer can help at every stage of the claim process, whether you need more help figuring out what to say to the insurance company or learning more about the compensation you deserve. As soon after your accident as possible get a lawyer’s support for your car accident claim.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.