“When do I need to hire a car accident lawyer?” is a very common question with a relatively straightforward answer: pretty much always. If you have been involved in an accident on the road and want to move forward with a claim for monetary compensation, then consulting an attorney and seeking their counsel is one of the first things you should be doing after the immediate aftermath of the accident has passed and you are left to deal with the consequences of it.
All car insurers in the U.S. have their own team of specialist attorneys who, when you start your claim, will begin evaluating it. The laws which surround car accidents and claims for compensation are very complex and most cases can be complicated by their specific merits and demerits, so it is very important that you seek and retain your own specialist car accident attorney immediately after the accident, assuming that you have been injured and want to make a claim.
So, if you have been injured in a car accident – whether it was or wasn’t your fault – the first thing you need to do is file for a claim with your insurance company alongside the insurance company for the other involved driver(s). It is important that you file a claim not only with your own insurance provider but with the insurance provider(s) of all others involved in the accident. If you fail to do this, it can slow down the process significantly and damage your likelihood of success.
Carry on reading to learn more about why you should consult an attorney following a car accident.
#1: When Do I Need an Attorney?
Most people aren’t too sure when they need an attorney after a car accident and aren’t sure whether their accident warrants the retention of one.
If you are involved in a car accident which involves any type of injury, whether it’s minor whiplash, broken bones or something which leads to you spending time at the doctor’s surgery or hospital, then you should always consult an attorney, so you can figure out what your options are. An attorney can also help when there has been a fatality.
The bottom line is that you should, in virtually all cases, consult an attorney after you have been involved in a car accident. An attorney can help with a vast range of things and will handle your claim from start-to-finish, carrying out all the negotiations with the insurance companies’ lawyers on your behalf and, should it go to court, will represent you throughout the litigation process. Sometimes police reports do not always accurately represent the truth of a car accident and this can be damaging to your case, so it is important to have a lawyer who can also pick these reports apart and point out any mistakes or oversights.
To put it simply, if you have been injured due to the fault of yourself or another person on the road, then you need to discuss an attorney without delay to file your claim.
#2: When Should I Contact an Attorney?
It is always recommended that you seek the advice of qualified counsel as soon as possible after your accident, especially if another party was at fault and caused the accident. The person who caused the accident will likely notify his insurance company straight away, and this company will then reach out to you to discuss what happens next. This is where problems arise – you should never ever communicate with an insurance company without first contacting a qualified lawyer. Remember, the insurance company wants to protect their interests and pay out as little as possible, and they can be manipulative when dealing with victims of a car accident to try and do this. It is not unheard of for insurance companies to immediately reach out to an injured party with a settlement figure. This should never be accepted because you will be able to, in the majority of cases, get a lot more by consulting a lawyer.
It is important that you remember that the other party’s insurers are not there to look after your interests and they don’t care how much you have suffered, lost, or what your medical expenses are. All the other person’s insurer is concerned about is trying to force you into a low settlement offer so they can save time and money. This is where your attorney comes in – they will negotiate on your behalf and use their specialist knowledge and experience to get a higher figure.
Additionally, as a layman, you could quite easily say something wrong or agree to something you shouldn’t without realizing what you have done. It’s not worth the risk.
#3: Is There Anything I Should Do Before Calling an Attorney?
Yes, there are a few things you can do before you reach out to an attorney to help the process move along more smoothly.
- Speak to Witnesses
If you are able to then it is worth asking people nearby who saw the accident to provide a quick statement and then take their contact details. Witness evidence, especially from multiple people, can massively increase the value of your claim, as your lawyer will be able to use statements from witnesses as leverage against the other person’s insurer. Don’t rely on the police to take witness information. Sometimes they will if the accident was very bad or was caused due to drink driving, but most of the time they won’t bother, especially if there is not going to be criminal charges.
The police will likely make a report and you are entitled to a copy of this. You can get it by contacting your local police department and asking for it. It’s as simple as that. Different police departments will have different procedures, however, which can take time to work through, so the sooner you reach out to the police for this report, the better. Some police websites allow you to order police reports through it, so it is always worth checking that out.
- Take Lots of Pictures
Get photographs of damage to both your car, yourself and any other vehicles which have been involved. Pictures of any superficial injuries such as swelling, imprints from seatbelts, cuts, and abrasions can strengthen your case and demonstrate that you were truthfully injured. Insurance companies always try to pay low settlements and justify it by saying that the damage to the cars involved wasn’t serious, but if you can show your injuries then they cannot deny that they exist. If any of your property has broken (i.e. a laptop or cell phone), then take pictures of that too.
- Get a Repair Figure for Your Car
Insurance companies work with repair companies and try to push you to get a repair estimate from them. What many people don’t know, however, is that you can choose which body or repair shop you get a repair estimate from, and an insurance company cannot by law lower your settlement figure because you didn’t use their “recommended” repair shop. Also, it’s not unheard of for these “recommended” shops to provide a lower repair figure or use used parts so that it ends up cheaper.
- See a Doctor and Get a Medical Report
Don’t shrug your minor injuries off. You should be heading to the hospital or to see your doctor for evaluation. This way, there will be a medical report available which can act as evidence and add value to your claim. It’s easy to play the part of a tough guy and not bother with the medical side of things, especially when you didn’t suffer serious injuries, but so far as the insurance company is concerned, you can’t be very injured if you didn’t seek medical help. If you don’t have medical insurance and can’t see a physician then an emergency room will do the job – they will assess any injuries you have suffered, take x-rays and compile a medical report which your lawyer can use as evidence.
By doing these five things before contacting an attorney, you stand a much higher chance of being successful with your claim. Insurance companies will always try to wriggle out of paying settlements and will do everything they can to reduce the amount they pay out. By providing as much evidence as possible, you give them less of a chance of doing this.
There is no denying that a car accident is a stressful and unpleasant experience, and many of us will be involved in a car accident of some kind during our lifetimes. If you are ever involved in an accident and suffer injuries as a result, no matter how minor they may appear, you should always consult a lawyer who may be able to make a claim on your behalf and get you the compensation you not only deserve but are entitled to. Don’t try and deal with the other person’s insurer yourself, ever!