Do I Need an Attorney After a Car Accident?
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 to try and negotiate a car accident settlement that will cover all your damages.
It can all be a very daunting situation, especially if you’ve never been through it before. This is usually the time that people start wondering things like:
- Should I get an attorney after a car accident?
- How much does a lawyer charge for a car accident case?
- When should I seek an attorney to help with my car accident settlement?
While every situation is different, this article will attempt to answer some of these questions, and give you a good idea about how much car accident lawyers charge, when you should seek one out, and how they can benefit your situation.
And while fees may vary slightly from lawyer to lawyer, almost all car accident lawyers offer free initial consultations as a way to gauge the strength of your case and decide whether or not they want to accept it. So it’s usually wise to set up a free consultation with an auto accident attorney after a car accident, whether you intend to hire one or not. A free consultation with a car accident lawyer can help you in a number of ways:
- Helping you understand your insurance policy
- Getting an idea of how much your auto accident 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. Keep in mind that lawyers typically charge on a contingency fee basis (more on this later), meaning that they are paid as a percentage of the auto accident settlement.
Because of this, a car accident lawyer will need to feel pretty confident in 2 things – First, they need to be confident that they can prove that the other driver was at fault, or mostly at fault, for the crash. Second, they need to be able to show damages (medical bills, lost income etc) that are large enough that the fees they will make on the settlement are worth the time they’ll put into the settlement negotiations.
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, a free consultation with a car accident lawyer is a good idea. He or she 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 may want to consider hiring an attorney to help with the car accident settlement.
I wasn’t injured in my car accident. Should I hire an 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. However if there aren’t any injuries, or the injuries are minimal enough that you didn’t have to miss work or pay lots of medical bills, a car accident attorney will likely reject your case anyway,
Additionally, there are a wide range of car accident injuries that may not be immediately apparent after the accident. Whiplash after a car accident, 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 auto 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 get an attorney for a car accident?
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:
There Are 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.
There is a 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), many people come out ahead by hiring a lawyer.
Maximizing The Value Of Your Auto Accident Settlement
Another reason to contact an experienced car accident lawyer is that they will seek higher compensation for your auto accident injuries. Insurance companies try to present injured victims with low ball offers for their injuries, especially when they know the person hasn’t hired an attorney. 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 help get you the largest amount of compensation for your injuries.
Saving Time and Headaches
This one is harder to quantify, but for some can be downright priceless. It’s true that you can handle a car accident settlement without a lawyer, but even the most savvy negotiators will have to sit on hold for hours with the insurance company, write car accident settlement demand letters, document injuries, and lots of other tedious, time consuming tasks. For some busy (or just impatient) claimants, hiring a lawyer for a car accident isn’t a financial decision, but a lifestyle choice. By getting an attorney for your car accident, you’ll be saving yourself hours of lost time and frustration, which might just be worth a few bucks, even if you might have netted a little a slightly larger payout without one.
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What Does An Attorney Do For You After an Auto Accident?
Getting an attorney for a car accident 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, hiring a car accident lawyer can provide you with several invaluable services during the claims 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 found at fault. Should I still get an attorney for my car accident?
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.
Do I NEED a lawyer for a car accident?
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.
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How can I afford to hire an attorney?
The hours and days following a car accident can be confusing. Many people ask the question: Do you need an attorney for a car accident? Many people are afraid of high hourly fees and think this is always the case when you hire a lawyer. Thankfully, this is an inaccurate assumption. In fact almost all car accident lawyers bill on a contingency fee basis. This means you don’t have to pay anything unless your case settles.
Understanding Lawyer Fees
Often, car accident lawyers use a contingency fee agreement. This means the client does not pay a dime until they win their case. This is a good option for anyone who cannot afford to pay hourly lawyer fees out of pocket. In a contingency fee agreement, the attorney will take a percentage of the money awarded after winning a case. Typically, that fee is between 33 and 40 percent of the net recovery. If the attorney loses the case, the client owes their attorney nothing.
Contingency Fee Attorneys Vs. Hourly
Almost all car accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means they will work on your case for free and then take a percentage of the settlement. This means that many car accident lawyers do not charge an hourly rate upfront. Knowing that you do not have to pay out of pocket, there is no reason to not contact an attorney after a car accident.
How to hire the right lawyer for an auto accident:
Getting the best lawyer for a car accident claim is extremely important to your case. Below are some attributes that you should look for when choosing your attorney.
Experience and Knowledge
There are all kinds of lawyers, and not every lawyer deals in every type of law. The lawyer that prepared your will may not be a good option for your car accident case.
Car accident lawyers tend to specialize in certain types of cases, including trucking accidents, pedestrian accidents, and motorcycle accidents. Lawyers often choose to work on one side or the other for most of their cases as well. To clarify, some lawyers work on behalf of victims while others defend claims.
The best lawyer for a car accident claim should have experience representing victims and has dealt with similar cases. An attorney with the right type of experience will be a vital asset for your case.
One of the most effective ways to find a good attorney is to ask family and friends if they have suggestions. Friends and family can give you candid reviews of particular lawyers and point you in the right direction.
You can look online for reviews, board certifications, and peer ratings for other attorneys. You can also determine if a particular lawyer has any awards.
It is your case—you deserve to know what is going on. An attorney who is willing to answer your questions, take your phone calls, and keep you updated is invaluable. It can be difficult to determine if an attorney has good communication skills, but you can use their attentiveness in your initial meeting as a gauge. If the attorney is giving you indirect answers or constantly looking at his or her watch, you may want to look elsewhere.
Tips on how to find the right car accident attorney:
Most people feel lost and confused when starting their search for a car accident lawyer. Most of us do not have a lawyer on standby, ready to take our case. When a car accident happens, though, victims may need immediate legal representation. But the days and weeks following a car accident are stressful enough without having to vet the lawyers in your area.
So how do you find the best lawyer after a car accident? Start by asking around. Car accidents are unfortunately all too common. Chances are, someone you know was the victim of a car accident. Collect the names and contact information of lawyers recommended by friends and loved ones. Be sure to ask friends about their experiences with the attorney in question. Were they pleased with the lawyer’s work? How communicative was the lawyer? Would your friend hire them again?
Do Your Homework
Next, it’s time to research. While it may seem like a chore, doing a few minutes of research into local attorneys can help you better understand your needs as a client. Check out websites and make some phone calls asking about the experience of the lawyers. Many attorneys offer free confidential consultations. Select a few of the lawyers you like best and schedule appointments. While research from afar helps, nothing beats a face-to-face conversation.
Meet and Interview Accident Attorneys
A meeting with a lawyer can tell you a lot about their work and their practice. Upon entering the office, are you greeted quickly and politely? Does your appointment begin on time? Does the attorney seem knowledgeable about your case? Are they focused while you are meeting, or are they multitasking and busy with other things? A successful initial meeting isn’t a guarantee of your treatment throughout your case, but it can provide a much-needed peek into what the client-attorney relationship may be like. Some other questions to ask an attorney during a consultation include:
- What’s your communication style like? How quickly do you return phone calls and emails?
- Have you handled many car accident cases before?
- How much participation do you require of your clients? What will be needed from me?
- How do you plan to handle my case?
- Why should I choose to hire you over one of your peers?
- How long have you been practicing law?
- Can you explain the fees required for my case?
It’s important to thoroughly vet the attorneys you consider hiring after a car accident. Having an attorney can save you the time and stress you’d otherwise spend dealing with body shops, insurance companies, and the other driver. These entities are looking out for their own best interests, not yours. A car accident lawyer can be your closest ally and best advocate. A lawyer can ensure the protection of your rights and ensure that you receive the greatest settlement possible.
Choose the wrong attorney — or forgo one altogether — and you put your accident compensation on the line. Many victims fail to realize their entitlement to compensation that a car accident lawsuit can obtain for you. Some accept the first offer an insurance company sends their way. By taking that offer, the victim forfeits their right to seek additional compensation in the future. That means care for lingering injuries, like whiplash or back injuries, are paid for out of pocket once the settlement runs out. It’s impossible to overstate how important hiring the right attorney truly is.
Different types of accidents a car accident lawyer can help with:
Involvement in a car accident is a very basic way to explain your predicament. There are many different kinds of car accidents and different scenarios in which your accident occured. There are lawyers with experience with these various scenarios. It is a good idea to mention the specifics of your case when interviewing car accident lawyers.
Here are some of the categories your case may fall into:
- Hit and run accident
- Distracted driving
- Multi-vehicle accident
- Drunk driving accident
- Drowsy driving accident
- Child or passenger injuries
- Pedestrian involved accidents
- Cyclist involved accidents
- Uninsured motorist accidents
- Driving while impaired accidents
- Driving under the influence accidents
- Read-end collision settlements
- Reckless driving accidents
- Road rage accident
- Hazardous road conditions
- Roll-over accidents
- Fatal car accidents
- T-bone car accidents
- Construction zone accidents
- Highway accidents
- Head-on collisions
- Rideshare accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Semi truck accident settlements
- Failure to yield accidents
- Illegal turn accident
- Failure to maintain lane accidents
- Defective automotive accidents
How Do I Speak to A Car Accident Attorney After An Accident?
After a car accident, you may find it difficult to discuss the exact details of the crash. You may not have a clear memory, or you may find that thinking about your accident is emotionally distressing. This is why asking witnesses for statements or phone videos at the scene of the accident is so important. Even if you did not manage to speak to any witnesses, you can always refer your car accident attorney to the police report of your case. Speaking with your attorney about the specifics of the crash can help them more easily determine the validity of your case.
How Do I Hire A Car Accident Attorney for An Accident Where I Wasn’t At Fault?
After a car accident where you are not at fault, hiring an attorney is an important first step to ensuring that you receive fair compensation for your injuries and property damage. Make sure you do proper research into the different types of lawyers – if you were in an accident with a semi-truck, for example, you will want to find a lawyer that specializes in commercial vehicle accidents. Going with a local attorney who knows state laws as well as local judges can be extremely beneficial to your case.
How Do I Hire A Car Accident Attorney for An Accident Where I Am At Fault?
Even if you were at fault for your car accident, reaching out to an attorney can help make dealing with the insurance companies as painless as possible. Be truthful with the attorneys you consult with. If you tell an attorney that you were not at fault and they discover that you were at fault only after working on your case, they may choose to no longer represent you. With a clear picture of the crash, a car accident attorney can create a plan to settle the case as soon as possible.
What A Good Lawyer Does After A Car Accident
After a car accident, there are many things that your attorney can do for you that will make the settlement process less painful. A good lawyer will do the following after your car accident:
- Provide peace of mind. A lawyer’s expertise and careful handling of your case can make the difference between a hectic and stressful legal process and a relatively painless one.
- Keep track of all the players involved in the crash. This includes both your insurance and the insurance company of any other drivers involved in the crash. A good lawyer will help you make sense of which company is responsible for making you whole with a settlement.
- Organize and file away documents related to your crash. Losing important paperwork can set your settlement back significantly. A good lawyer will have a reliable organization system that keeps your case on track.
- Fight for the settlement that you deserve. On your own, it may be difficult to fight with the insurance companies and reach the highest possible settlement agreement. Insurance companies look to pay out as little as possible. An experienced lawyer will know exactly what to say to prove who serious your case is to the insurance companies.
- Work with you when collecting their fee. The vast majority of car accident lawyers work on a fee structure. This means that they do not get paid until a settlement is reached. For those who would have difficulty paying for a lawyer out of pocket, this can mean the difference between landing a settlement or receiving no compensation for their accident.
How Lawsuit Info Center Can Help
The reality? There are hundreds of auto accident lawyers you can choose from in your area alone. Selecting the one that’s right for you can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, there are resources to help you narrow the field and hone in on the right attorney for your case. Lawsuit Info Center connects knowledgeable lawyers with injured victims seeking justice. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident and need help getting an attorney, we can help.