When to Get a Lawyer for a Car AccidentBy Stewart J. Guss on June 26th, 2019
Many car accident victims go back and forth trying to decide whether they should call a car accident lawyer. You may ask your friends or family members, and you may get many different types of advice. Some people may have a lawyer they recommend, while others may have an inherent distrust for lawyers and may claim that an attorney will just try to take your money. While it’s not always necessary to hire a lawyer after every single car accident, there are many times when it’s definitely wise to have legal representation.
One thing that’s always important to remember is that it costs you NOTHING to learn about how a lawyer can help you. In fact, in most cases, it costs absolutely NOTHING unless a lawyer wins your car accident claim. You have nothing to lose by making a call to a personal injury law firm, and you have A LOT to lose if you mishandle or jeopardize your claim by trying to handle it on your own.
When You Suffered Injuries
Some people are lucky enough to walk away from a crash feeling shaken up but with only a few minor scratches or not a scratch at all. However, many other car accident victims require immediate medical treatment for a variety of serious injuries. A crash can jolt and twist your body in many different unnatural ways, as well as cause your head or body to hit the inside of the car or even get ejected from the vehicle. Some common injuries that may result from a crash include the following:
- Soft tissue tears, sprains, or strains
- Neck and back injuries
- Facial injuries
- Head trauma and skull fractures
- Concussions or moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord injury
- Internal organ damage
- Internal bleeding
All of the above injuries should get a proper diagnosis by a medical professional and a treatment plan as soon as possible after an accident. Many crash victims may also need an ambulance ride but even if you don’t, you should still go to the emergency room as soon as you can. In many situations, doctors can diagnose injuries that you didn’t even suspect you had since some injuries take hours or days to show symptoms. This not only means that you will receive the treatment you need, but also that there will be a comprehensive record of all your accident-related injuries. This can help with insurance claims to seek compensation from the party who was at fault for your accident.
While medical treatment is highly important after a crash, many people hesitate to go to the ER. With the constantly rising costs of healthcare, getting treatment for any type of injury can be an overwhelming financial prospect. However, this is where getting a car accident lawyer comes into play. Having the right representation means that someone will be fighting for compensation for all of your medical bills and other expenses from the liable party.
Even a seemingly minor injury can result in a few thousand dollars in medical bills for the ER visit, imaging and diagnostic tests, follow-up visits, physical therapy, and more. Even if you think the injury isn’t serious, the costs of treatment can add up quickly. You should always file an insurance claim to get paid for your medical bills, and you should contact a lawyer for help with your claim.
When Liability Is in Question
If you stopped properly at a red light with both hands on the wheel and looking at the road, and another driver slams into your car, it is pretty obvious that the collision was the other driver’s fault. However, liability is not as clear in many crashes. In order to seek compensation for your losses, you need to be able to identify the liable party and prove they were negligent, so when liability is in question, it can jeopardize your entire claim.
There are different situations in which proving liability may be complicated, including:
- The other driver outright denies being at fault
- The driver or the insurance company claims that you caused or contributed to the accident
Questioning liability is a primary way that insurance companies try to limit or deny payment to claimants. As soon as this happens, you should have a lawyer on your side right away. A lawyer can do the following to support your claim whenever possible:
- Conduct a thorough and professional investigation of the accident
- Enlist expert analysts and witnesses to give their opinion regarding the cause of the crash
- Gather evidence including police reports, witness statements, video footage, and more that can help prove the other driver’s liability
- Present your case to the insurer or in court in the most persuasive manner possible
Also, a lawyer can advise you when you still may be entitled to compensation even if you might have been partially at fault. Shared liability doesn’t automatically mean you can’t recover for your losses, though many people don’t realize this. Your lawyer can advise you of your rights under state comparative negligence laws, which may allow you to seek partial compensation even you were also partly liable for the accident. When liability is not obvious or is contested, call a trusted car accident attorney immediately.
When There Are Corporate Parties or Multiple Parties
Often, another driver is at fault for a car crash. When this happens, you will be dealing with that driver’s consumer auto insurance company. However, insurance claims can become substantially more complex VERY quickly when there are corporate parties or multiple parties who may be at fault for the accident.
There are several different scenarios when a company may be liable for your car accident losses instead of just an individual. Some of these include the following:
- The driver who hit you was on the job at the time of the crash, and their employer can be held strictly liable for the actions of the driver
- The driver was operating under a rideshare company such as a Uber or Lyft at the time of the crash
- The accident happened because of a defective and malfunctioning auto part, so the auto manufacturer will be at fault
- The accident happened because of a road defect caused by a construction company or government agency
If any of the above applies in your case, you will need to deal with a corporation and its insurer and legal team. This is a completely different ballgame than dealing with a single consumer auto insurer, and you definitely want the help of a lawyer from the very beginning of your claim. The same goes when you have multiple insurance claims against multiple parties.
When You Question a Settlement Offer
When it comes time for an insurance company to finally make an offer for a settlement, it is all too common for the offer to be far too low to adequately compensate you for all the injuries and damages you sustained. It usually does not make financial or legal sense to accept an initial settlement offer from the insurance company, as there is always more money on the table. An experienced car accident attorney will be able to review the offer and reject the initial settlement offer on your behalf when necessary. Your lawyer can then present a counter-demand to the insurance adjuster based on the amount you need to cover your losses.
When it comes to negotiating with the insurance company about your car accident case, it can require frequent communications with an adjuster and presenting additional evidence to support the full value of your claim. It often takes several rounds of settlement negotiations, however, in order to reach that point. During the negotiation process, each side makes adjustments to their respective settlement demands and offers until the parties either come to an agreement or reach an impasse. In order to ensure that the final settlement is adequate, the accident victim’s lawyer will usually begin the negotiations by asking for significantly more than what they believe the case is actually worth. These negotiations take time and skill, and you should be focusing on your injuries instead of going back and forth with the insurance company.
When it comes to settlement negotiations and reaching a settlement in your car accident case, there are certain factors that you should always consider:
- The amount of your past and future losses (as calculated by your attorney)
- The contingency fee agreement between you and your attorney, and the amount that will be taken out of the gross settlement proceeds to pay your attorney’s fee
- The amounts of any outstanding medical bills, liens, and other expenses that must be subtracted from the gross settlement offer
A car accident lawyer will be able to let you know how much you will net from the settlement once all outstanding bills and fees are paid.
In some car accident cases, it may be necessary for your lawyer to file a lawsuit against the responsible person or persons. Filing a lawsuit begins the litigation process, and it forces the insurance company to take action in your case—and hopefully take it more seriously. Once a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company must refer the matter to outside counsel—or to in-house counsel—to represent their client.
Just because a lawsuit is filed, however, does not necessarily mean that your car accident case will go to trial. In fact, in the majority of car accident cases, the parties continue to negotiate long after suit is filed. A civil jury trial is usually a last resort and occurs only when the parties cannot reach a settlement. In some car accident cases, the parties may even reach a settlement on the day before—or the day of—the civil jury trial. Taking a car accident case to trial can sometimes be risky because neither party knows for sure what a jury is going to do or how the jury will decide the outcome of the case.
When you receive a settlement offer that is insufficient, it is often a sign that proceedings can drag on and that they may even escalate to civil court. This is a sure sign that it is a good time to call for the help of an experienced car accident lawyer.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney as Soon as Possible
After a car crash, you have a LOT to deal with. You need to make sure you have the right diagnosis and medical care, that your car gets fixed, and that you can get back to work as soon as you can. The last thing you need is something else on your mind, such as your insurance claim or whether you need a lawyer.
To ease your stress, don’t wait any longer to call an experienced auto accident lawyer. A strong legal team can address your concerns about hiring a lawyer and let you know how it can help you in your specific situation. Often, making the phone call can instantly help you feel better about your options and can increase your confidence in your decision to get legal assistance.