Do I Need an Attorney After a Car Accident?

What's In This Article

The aftermath of a car accident can be a scary and stressful time. You may be dealing with injuries and damage to your vehicle. It can be extremely difficult to handle the aftermath of a car accident by yourself. After handling the police report and seeing a medical professional to assess potential injuries, it is time to deal with insurance companies. You shouldn’t have to do this alone – a car accident attorney can help. 

You may want to set up a consultation with an attorney to get a feel for your rights after a car accident. A lawyer can also assist by:

  • Helping you understand your insurance policy
  • Getting an idea of how much your claim might be worth
  • Determining if other types of insurance coverage might be available
  • Helping you understand your rights or the rights of someone else (passengers or children, for example)

In these situations, you may be able to use the attorney’s advice to get you started. Often, the attorney will tell you whether this would be a good case for his or her services. Attorneys will often let you know when you can likely handle a case yourself.

When Do You Need an Attorney For a Car Accident?

After a car accident there are usually lots of questions about your next moves. For the vast  majority, speaking to an experienced car accident lawyer is a good idea. A lawyer can help you understand what the next steps are and how to get the appropriate compensation after a car accident.

After an auto accident, there are generally four types of damages to seek compensation for: 

  • Property Damages
  • Loss Of Income
  • Medical Bills For Your Injuries
  • Pain & Suffering/Negative Impact On Lifestyle

If you’re in a car accident that was someone else’s fault, they are responsible for compensating you. This may include fixing your car and property they damaged, any income you may have lost because of injuries, and any medical bills incurred. If the extent of damages is substantial, you should contact an attorney.

I wasn’t injured in my car accident. Should I hire an attorney?

After you or a loved one are in a car accident, you should consider contacting a personal injury attorney. Even if the impact felt minor and you don’t think you sustained injuries, you should contact an experienced car accident attorney to discuss your options.

Additionally, there are a wide range of injuries that can result from a car accident that may not be immediately apparent. Whiplash, for example, can take several hours to even a few days to start causing serious pain. Other injuries such as bone fractures, concussions, and soft tissue damage may also not cause immediate pain or visible injury. These are just a few of the reasons why it’s important to seek medical attention and the help of an experienced attorney.

The seriousness of an accident is generally a good indicator of whether you need an attorney. While an attorney may not be necessary, it is always wise to have a consultation. From there, you will know whether your case is straightforward or if it will need tougher tactics. 

I was injured as a result of a car accident. Will an attorney be able to help me?

Sometimes injuries are obvious after a car accident. Even if you think you walked away from an accident unscathed, you should always see a doctor to make sure that you don’t have hidden injuries. It is not uncommon to have an internal injury, or a problem that doesn’t present itself right away. After establishing that injuries exist, you should speak with a car accident lawyer. This is especially true if you fall into any of the following scenarios:  

  • You have a serious injury
  • There will be long-term consequences associated with your injury
  • Your injury is going to cause disfigurement
  • There was a death that resulted from the accident
  • The accident occurred in a construction area
  • The accident involved a commercial truck
  • There is a question about who is at fault for the accident
  • The insurance company has retained their own attorney
  • The insurance company has offered you a settlement that you feel is much too low
  • You suspect your insurance company is acting in bad faith or not treating you fairly

Why should I hire an attorney?

After a car accident, most people know they should report the crash to the police and their insurance company. But what about after that? At what point does it make sense to get a car accident attorney?

Not every car accident justifies having a personal injury attorney. For example, if the accident is a minor fender bender with less than $1000 in damages and no injuries, the case is typically handled by the insurance companies.

However, there are some car accidents where you are strongly advised to get an attorney:

Severe Injuries

If you have serious injuries that involve going to the hospital or an overnight stay in the hospital, you should consider hiring an attorney. Besides extensive medical expenses, you may face lost wages that you will need compensation for. 

Dispute About Fault

If there is any dispute about who is at fault, you definitely want an attorney. In many states, your percentage of blame for the crash will reduce your potential settlement or verdict award. Your compensation could be cut in half or more if you are found partially at fault for the accident. Hiring an attorney in this case can help to protect your legal rights when fault is being contested. 

Medical Payments Coverage

Some policy holders have coverage for medical expenses through their insurance. Your attorney will work with the other driver’s insurance to get you compensation for your medical bills. Ongoing medical treatment can also become extremely expensive. An experienced attorney can help ensure you are compensated fairly for the extent of your injuries.

Settlement Offer Is Low

Insurance adjusters are well trained to know that people injured in a crash often end up in financial distress. This financial distress often leads to victims settling for very low payout amounts. Most insurance adjusters will make an initial low offer to see if you will settle for a smaller figure. It is strongly advised to have an attorney review any settlement offer that you receive. This is especially true if you have been seriously injured or have substantial property damage. Even when accounting for the attorney’s 1/3 contingency fee (the common financial arrangement), most people come out ahead by hiring a lawyer. 

Maximizing The Value Of Your Auto Accident Case

Another reason to contact an experienced car accident lawyer is that they will seek higher compensation for you. Insurance companies try to present injured victims with low ball offers for their injuries. When you have an attorney for a car accident, they will deal with the insurance companies, make sure you get your car fixed or replaced, seek compensation for your medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses, and get you the largest amount of compensation for your injuries.

What Does An Attorney Do For You After an Accident?

An experienced car accident attorney will be able to help speed your financial recovery. Additionally, they can help provide peace of mind, as you know that your case is being taken care of. For anything other than minor fender benders, your personal injury attorney can provide you with several invaluable services during the claims or lawsuit process:

  • Collect and organize evidence. Even if the other driver was at fault, it is not unusual for the other insurance company to try to blame you. To disprove your being at fault, evidence is necessary. Your lawyer can review evidence and talk to witnesses. They may also pay for an accident reconstruction expert to determine exactly how the crash happened.
  • Negotiate with the insurance company. Your lawyer will be able to negotiate with the insurance adjuster more effectively than you will. Many people damage their claim by trying to negotiate with an expert insurance adjuster.
  • Take the case to court. Most claims settle before trial, but there are times when the insurance company will not give you a fair offer. In this case, you will need a personal injury attorney with trial experience. 

Talk to an experienced personal injury attorney after a car accident for anything other than very minor fender benders. Otherwise, you risk leaving money on the table. If you want to be fairly compensated for your injuries, pain and suffering, and property damage, an attorney who specializes in auto accidents is essential. 

I was at fault for my car accident. Should I get a car accident attorney? 

Car accidents can happen for many reasons. Perhaps the driver was looking at their phone. Someone who is drowsy can become a hazard to others. Sometimes poor road or weather conditions come into play and result in a collision.  What if you find yourself in one of these situations and cause a car accident? Just because you think that you are at fault for an accident doesn’t mean that you are without rights. 

Car accident lawyers do not exist solely to help the victims in a car collision. If you think that you are at fault for causing an accident, you should speak with a car accident lawyer about your case. 

What should you do after a car accident that you think you caused?

After any car accident, there is a series of steps that you should follow. This is true whether you believe that you are at fault or not.

  • Do not leave the scene of the accident. 
  • Assess yourself and any passengers for injuries. 
  • Some states require that you offer help to others injured in the crash. 
  • Call the authorities to report injuries or significant damage. 
  • Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. 
  • Take pictures of the involved vehicles, your injuries, and of the area around the scene of the crash. 
  • Do not admit fault, apologize, or discuss the cause of the accident with the other driver. 
  • Be polite to the other driver and the authorities that arrive at the scene. 
  • Be honest when giving the police your statement but avoid unnecessary details. 
  • Speak to anyone who witnessed the crash and may have captured it on video. 
  • Seek medical care, even if injuries are not apparent
  • Inform your insurance company that an accident has occurred but do not give too many details
  • Contact an experienced car accident lawyer

How can a lawyer help me if I caused an accident?

A car accident lawyer can investigate your accident and determine whether other drivers share blame.  If you are only partially liable, you may be able to recover funds needed to repair your vehicle or cover other expenses. The laws of proving fault and seeking compensation for an accident vary by state. An experienced car accident lawyer will know the laws in your area and how they apply to your case. 

A car accident lawyer can also help you understand your insurance coverage. Dealing with the insurance company on your own can be a daunting task and a lawyer can be your advocate. 

I wasn’t at fault for the accident. Why would I need a car accident lawyer?

Hiring a lawyer after a car accident isn’t always needed. Anyone can file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit on their own. That said, dealing with an insurance company or maneuvering through the legal process on your own can be stressful and difficult. 

Car accident lawyers can do many things to help you receive the largest amount of compensation after a crash: 

  • Explain the laws that affect your situation. 
  • Perform their own investigation of the accident.
  • Identify the at fault party, which may include more than one driver. 
  • Calculate your damages and losses. 
  • File an insurance claim and handle negotiations with the insurance companies.
  • File a personal injury lawsuit if the insurance company will not provide adequate compensation.
  • Keep you informed of the process regarding your lawsuit. 
  • Represent you in court to get the settlement you deserve.

Can I represent myself in a car accident settlement case?

While it is possible to negotiate with insurance companies by yourself, this will limit the chances of you receiving the highest possible settlement amount. Insurance companies handle thousands of car accident settlement cases each year. They are well versed in the art of paying as little as possible to victims of car accidents. An experienced lawyer knows how to use all the tools available within the legal system to get the highest possible settlement. Someone without specialized experience may be able to file their own case with the insurance company and do some negotiation, but on top of recovering from a car accident and going about your day to day life, your time would be much better spent consulting with a lawyer.

Insurance Companies Are Not Your Friend

Insurance companies may take advantage of individuals after they have been in an accident. This is because the insurance companies know that you do not know the law. You likely do not know what you are legally entitled to regarding compensation for your property damage, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering. The other driver’s insurance company, and sometimes your own, will request a recorded statement. The other driver’s insurance company will then take what you said and try to use it against you. For these reasons, you should call a car accident lawyer before speaking with any insurance representatives. 

How long after an accident do I have to hire an attorney? 

Immediately after a car accident, you may feel overwhelmed by everything that you need to do.  You may have injuries to recover from, a damaged vehicle to fix, and the hassle of getting a police report filed. You probably already know that it is in your best interest to hire an attorney but do you need to start that process right away? The answer: act sooner rather than later. 

In some cases, the settlement process is quick and easy. In other, more serious instances, the insurance company does not want to pay out what you deserve and a lawyer will file a lawsuit on your behalf. Lawsuits are long and drawn out processes that can take months to years until concluding. Because of the potential of a lengthy court battle, it is better not to put off getting a lawyer involved. 

How long do you have to report a car accident?

Every insurance policy will be different on exactly how long you have to file a claim. However, the industry standard is 30 days. This means you have 30 days from the day of your accident to file a claim with your insurance before you miss your window of opportunity. Many insurance companies require extensive paperwork in order to file a claim. This means it is essential to keep track of your documents, seek the help of an attorney, and file your claim as soon as possible.

Statute of limitations

Each state has its own deadlines for how long after an accident you can file a lawsuit. Once that deadline has passed, the courts will outright dismiss your case. When speaking with a lawyer, you can discuss what your state’s laws are regarding the timeframe you have. It ranges from one year to six years and in very particular cases, an extension to the timeline is possible. 

Because claims and lawsuits are time sensitive, it is in your best interest not to wait to contact a car accident lawyer. 

  • How much is your car accident injury claim worth?