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 can typically be handled by the insurance companies for the drivers involved.
However, there are some car accidents where you are strongly advised to get an attorney:
If you have serious injuries that involve going to the hospital, loss of work, staying overnight in the hospital, etc., you should almost certainly hire an attorney. You may face weeks or months out of work and tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills for which you want to be compensated. You also may be faced with future lost earnings and who knows how much in medical expenses in the future.
Dispute About Fault
You may have injuries that have cost you a lot of money and lost work time, and if there is any dispute about who is at fault, you definitely want an attorney. In many states, your potential settlement or verdict award could be reduced by your percentage of blame for the crash. Your compensation could easily 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
When working with the other driver’s insurance company, you attorney may be able to get you paid for medical bills via the medical payments insurance policy that may be on that coverage.
Settlement Offer Is Low
Insurance adjusters are well trained to know that people injured in a crash are often in financial distress and are often willing to settle for very low amounts. Most insurance adjusters will make an initial low offer to see if you will settle for much less than you are owed. It is strongly advised to have an attorney review any settlement offer that you receive, 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.
What Does An Attorney Do For You After an Accident?
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 will be needed. Your lawyer can review evidence and talk to witnesses before it is lost. He also may pay for an accident reconstruction expert to determine exactly how it happened.
- Negotiate with the insurance company: Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance adjuster and usually more effectively than you will. Many people damage their claim by trying to negotiate with expert insurance adjusters who specialize in not paying injured victims what they are owed.
- Take the case to court: Most claims settle before trial, but cases arise where the insurance company just will not give you a fair shake. 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 could leave a LOT of money on the table.