While car accidents might seem like a normal part of life, yet more often than not negligent drivers could have prevented them. This is especially frustrating to acknowledge for victims of car accidents, whose lives have changed forever due to accidents. You may know this all too well lately after being in a similar accident. Your immediate thoughts are on your future, especially your finances. How will you live normally while facing permanent injuries and massive medical bills, and possibly without working due to your injuries?
Car accident victims have the right to pursue compensation to deal with the financial and life impacts the accident causes them. And they have the best chance to succeed by hiring a personal injury attorney to represent them.
When Should You Hire A Personal Injury Attorney?
While you should not delay contacting an attorney after a car accident, first make sure you get proper medical attention. Even if you do not feel immediate physical pain, get checked out by a doctor. The absence of pain or discomfort doesn’t mean you are injury-free—for instance, some internal injuries take hours or even a few days to start manifesting symptoms. Seeking medical help can help you avoid worse injury, so think about your health first.
Once you have received treatment, start thinking about finding a car accident attorney to begin pursuing compensation. If you do not have a lawyer in mind already, do your research to find one who practices in your area and who has experience winning car accident cases.
Have Someone Call An Attorney For You
After a car accident, you might be too injured to get on your phone and contact a personal injury lawyer. But waiting until you recover enough to contact an attorney until you can yourself could jeopardize your legal rights. Thus, if you can’t contact an attorney yourself after a car accident, have a close family member or friend contact the attorney for you. They can arrange for an attorney to see you wherever you are recovering.
Once you have representation, your attorney can get to work immediately to start building your case. They will start by gathering as much evidence as they can, as soon as possible. If you have already collected some evidence (such as photos of the accident), it can jumpstart your attorney’s investigation. The sooner you contact an attorney, the more likely you are to preserve all of the important evidence.
For instance, if you call the day of the accident, your attorney might be able to visit the scene to capture photos of skid marks or the position of the cars, and possibly to identify witnesses of the accident.
Police, medical crews, or city workers often clean up car accident debris within hours. Your attorney getting there before crews clean up everything is the best way to capture the most compelling evidence. It can be the difference between an immediately strong case that will get the insurance company to settle right away and a more prolonged case, as you must rely on some more indirect evidence.
Your Attorney Gathers All Available Evidence
The universe of evidence that could help prove your case is broad. If debris remains from your car accident, your attorney can start there. But even if crews cleaned the accident up, your lawyer may find evidence of what happened from other sources.
For instance, your attorney can arrange interviews with eyewitnesses to the accident. Sometimes, such witnesses have captured photographic evidence of the accident on their smartphones. Thanks to prevalent mobile devices, video captures many accidents. This is just as valuable as the attorney having arrived to take videos and photos before crews cleaned the scene.
Another potential source of video and photographic evidence is footage from nearby traffic cameras. Urban locations often have cameras at every intersection and major roadway. Acquiring this video is much easier with public traffic cameras since the city owns them and can make them accessible to the public. Private security camera footage—from a gas station, for instance—is often not as easy to get, and may require a subpoena. Attorneys can request subpoenas from the court to obtain footage from private parties when it may help prove who caused harm.
Any physical debris still left over from the accident scene is also gathered or photographed by your attorney. All evidence is placed into safekeeping to use as proof, including if you take your case to trial.
Your Attorney Acquires Your Medical Bills
After a car accident in which you suffered injuries, the medical bills take no time to flow. They add up over time, to an amount that would spell financial disaster for most people. Your attorney will collect every medical bill and record as evidence of your accident expenses. If your injuries are severe enough, you’ll continue to have medical bills for years or even for the rest of your life after a car accident, such as for future rehabilitation.
Your existing medical bills are tabulated and used to estimate future medical costs so you know how much to demand in settlement negotiations so that you can cover all of your expenses.
Insurance Company Negotiations
Before taking a case to trial, car accident claimants normally try to garner a fair settlement from the insurance company, which is easier to achieve if you have solid evidence to support your case. The insurance company should realize that if they have to go to trial, they could owe a lot more than if they settle.
Claimants can expect to get a phone call from the insurance company at different stages of bringing their claim. The person calling is usually the insurance adjuster who wants to offer a quick settlement so the company can dispose of the claim for as little as possible. Claimants generally should not take the first offer, as it is usually typically much less than a claimant deserves. Insurance companies hope, though, that claimants, desperate for any money to pay the incoming bills, will take the quick settlement. This is one reason you need an attorney throughout the whole process. They can advise you as to how fair any given settlement offer is.
Some insurance companies have in-house legal counsel a system to be able to fight claims. Car accident claimants are at a severe disadvantage if they try to negotiate a settlement on their own. An experienced car accident attorney, though, can put someone with knowledge and expertise in your corner to be able to fight back.
How To Get To A Settlement
From the moment you retain your attorney, they collect evidence to present to the insurance company to convince it to settle out. Insurance companies may resist paying you what you deserve, prolonging the negotiation process as you work to convince them they are better off settling with you than taking their chances in court.
Car accident claimants should stay patient. While it is understandable that a claimant would want to get through the process as quickly as possible, wait until you have an option to settle for an amount that will fairly cover your expenses and impacts. Once you settle, there is no second opportunity to recover compensation, even if you find your actual expenses heavily outweigh your settlement amount.
Your attorney will communicate all settlement offers to you. They can advise you about how fair an offer is, but it is always your decision whether to accept or deny it.
If an insurance company refuses to settle for a fair amount, you may file a lawsuit, hoping a jury will rule in your favor and the court will order a sufficient award of damages.
How Much To Expect In Compensation
All car accident attorneys do what they can to maximize the amount for which their clients can settle. They’ll do the same for you, but it’s good to manage your expectations and have an accurate idea of how much you can expect to recover.
One indicator of how much you can recover is your attorney’s past results in car accident cases similar to yours in facts relating to the defendant’s negligence and the injuries suffered. Most attorneys have a “Case Results” page on their website for you to research. While past results cannot guarantee the outcome of your case, they can help give you an idea of what you potentially stand to gain, especially if the attorney has a consistent and strong history of successful settlements.
Seek Additional Damages
If you take your case to trial, you may collect damages beyond those to compensate you for your expenses and impacts, called punitive damages. Also known as exemplary damages, courts award punitive damages for a defendant’s willful or wanton wrongdoing. For example, if you know the defendant purposely ran into your car, or that they drove drunk, you might recover punitive damages.
Seeking punitive damages typically requires a separate hearing, after prevailing in a trial to recover compensatory damages. Punitive damages are also generally harder to win, making it even more crucial to have an experienced car accident attorney.
Find An Attorney Fast
How do you find the right car accident attorney for you? Google is a good place to start. Look at several law firms’ websites to compare their experience and get an initial shortlist of firms you believe would be a good fit. Law firm websites typically give a rundown of the areas of law a firm practices and their successful results in given areas. Car accident claimants should look for attorneys with a history of successfully recovering significant compensation for car accident victims.
You may also call the law firm to ask questions. Many car accident attorneys offer free consultations to explore your case and determine whether they might be able to help. There are no strings attached to a free consultation, so you should not have any hesitancy agreeing to a consultation, even with multiple attorneys.
During an initial consultation, an attorney can also explain their fee arrangement. Most car accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. Per this fee arrangement, an attorney will not charge you upfront for any legal fees. Attorneys realize the financial stress a car accident claimant is facing is already enough to handle. You only pay legal fees if and when your attorney successfully recovers compensation on your behalf, using a percentage of your recovery to pay the fees.
Find An Attorney To Represent You In Your Car Accident Case
Even the strongest car accident claims are hard to bring alone, given how aggressively insurance companies fight claims. When the insurance company disputes liability or the compensation you deserve, you could find reaching a successful resolution by yourself an impossible task.
An experienced Tampa car accident attorney has the knowledge and resources to establish your claim and get the justice you deserve. Car accidents change lives in a flash, leaving victims with significant burdens. You need to give yourself the best chance to make sure you recover compensation for all of the expenses and impacts you will face because of your injuries. Getting an attorney is the best way to do so.