If you’ve recently been in an automobile collision, you may wonder if hiring a car accident attorney is necessary. You’ve likely seen advertisements for legal assistance in personal injury cases, particularly those involving car accidents. Before you seek legal help, it’s helpful to understand what car accident attorneys do and how they can assist you.
What Is a Car Accident Attorney?
Car accident attorneys work within the field of personal injury law. Often, they’ll specialize in a single area of personal injury law, such as automobile crashes, slip and falls, product liability, and medical malpractice.
These lawyers work with clients injured due to someone else’s negligence, protecting their rights and aiding them in recovering monetary compensation for the pain and difficulty they’ve suffered.
How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help Me?
Many people are wary of hiring an attorney after a car accident, believing they can handle matters themselves. However, this is usually a mistake. Anyone who has ended up with injuries, property damage, or other hardships following a car accident should speak with an attorney, even if they decide not to file a lawsuit.
An attorney can assess your case and determine whether you are eligible for compensation you might otherwise be unaware of. Attorneys can also protect your rights, ensuring that any monetary damages you recover reflect the damage incurred and don’t leave you struggling to make up the costs of the accident on your own.
Frequently, insurance agencies seek to minimize the compensation they pay to car accident victims to protect their bottom lines. Adjusters often undervalue your car, declaring that it’s totaled when it’s fixable but will cost money to repair. And if you’ve suffered an injury, the insurance agency may offer you a lowball settlement, knowing you may take it if you don’t realize you’re entitled to more.
Regardless of the circumstances of your collision, speaking with an attorney can alleviate your worries and represent your interests thoroughly.
What Does a Car Accident Lawyer Do?
Car accident lawyers serve their clients in a variety of ways. Here are a few of their most critical responsibilities:
Assessing Your Rights in a Car Accident
Most people don’t read up on car accident law. They’ve got enough to do, whether it’s juggling familial responsibilities, keeping up with work, and staying in touch with friends. Thus, they aren’t entirely sure what to do when an accident happens. They may accept the first offer from an insurance agency or make a statement that impedes their ability to collect compensation for their injuries.
You’ll likely hear from your insurance agency frequently in the days following a car accident. They’ll request specific details concerning your wreck or ask you to provide a recorded statement for their records.
If you suffered injuries in the wreck, it’s important not to convey any information until after you’ve had the opportunity to speak with an attorney. You don’t want to give the insurance agency any information they might seek to use against you. Instead, schedule a consultation with a lawyer to discuss the matter in depth.
A lawyer will review the facts of the accident to determine who was at fault and how to proceed with your case, as well as help you keep track of relevant details and develop a successful case strategy. They will communicate with insurance agencies on your behalf to make sure that you are represented fairly and don’t forfeit your chance to collect compensation for the accident.
Offering Legal Advice
Your friends and family will likely do their best to help you in the aftermath of an automobile accident. They may advise you on how to move forward or encourage you to take any settlement that an insurance agency offers.
While your loved ones may have your best interests at heart, they’re unlikely to know the ins and outs of car accident law unless they are practicing attorneys. Advice based on experience or anecdote is a poor substitute for the guidance a skilled lawyer can provide.
It’s usually free to seek the aid of a lawyer in the event of an automobile accident. Most car accident attorneys offer complimentary consultations, which help determine whether you have a claim. If they decide to accept your case, they’ll give you a contingency fee agreement, which means the lawyer will only get paid if they successfully win a settlement or court verdict on your behalf.
Reviewing the Facts of Your Case to Determine Fair Compensation
When you discuss your accident with an attorney, they’ll help you decide whether to pursue a claim against the defendant. If the attorney agrees to take on your case, they’ll start by determining the amount of compensation you’re due.
Determining fair compensation isn’t always a straightforward process. Your lawyer will start by carefully analyzing your medical expenses. If you haven’t yet recovered from your injuries, they’ll gather statements from your doctors concerning your treatment needs. Sometimes, they may speak with medical experts to establish how long you’ll require ongoing care.
Your attorney will also assess your ability to work. If your injuries prevent you from working for a period, your lost wages factor into the monetary compensation you’re due. In some cases, injured persons cannot return to their previous jobs because of their physical limitations. Under these circumstances, the victim may be eligible to receive more monetary damages to make up for future lost income.
Investigating Your Accident
Your attorney must know every aspect of your accident to ensure they have adequate evidence to support your claims. In doing so, they’ll obtain documentation and supporting information from various sources, beginning with details they get from you, such as pictures from the collision, copies of your medical bills, and a police report.
Next, they’ll further their investigation by talking to witnesses, consulting with medical experts, and reviewing case law. Depending on the facts of your case, their investigation might take them in other directions. For example, if your collision involved a truck owned by a transportation agency, they would examine the driver’s history and the vehicle’s condition.
Due to their status as members of the legal community, attorneys are in a position to request access to documents that may be off-limits to you. For instance, they could request insurance policy details from other drivers or ask for video footage of the crash if a nearby camera recorded the accident.
Solidifying Your Legal Strategy
Many people believe they must accept whatever the insurance agency offers them, but that isn’t the case. Although insurance agencies may come on strong, they often start with lowball settlement offers, especially in personal injury cases.
Your lawyer will compile the facts of your case and devise a legal strategy around them to obtain fair compensation on your behalf. They’ll look for loopholes and strengthen your lawsuit so that no insurance agency can attempt to ignore your claim.
Developing a legal strategy isn’t as simple as filing a lawsuit. Before filing a claim, your attorney will confirm that they have all the necessary evidence to support your case. A lot goes into proving the elements of a lawsuit, so your attorney must be certain that they’re armed with information if the insurance agency decides to challenge them.
Communicating with Insurance Agencies for You
It’s generally not a good idea to talk directly to an insurance agency following a car accident, especially if you’re considering a legal claim against them. They may ask you for a written or recorded statement that they can later twist against you if you choose to file a lawsuit.
Instead, speak with an attorney to figure out whether it makes sense to file a lawsuit in your situation. If the answer is yes, your lawyer will likely dissuade you from speaking further with the insurance agency and handle all future communication with them.
Letting your attorney do the talking reduces the pressure you may feel to share information about your accident, allowing you to focus on your recovery.
If the case goes forward, your attorney will attempt to negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance agency. They’ll present the evidence of the accident and the details of your injuries and ask the insurance agency for a large enough sum to guarantee that you walk away financially secure.
Representing You in the Courtroom
While most personal injury cases resolve through settlement, some do occasionally end up in court. If the insurance agency refuses to agree to a reasonable settlement, your attorney will take your case to trial.
Trials are complicated and often lengthy. You’ll want a lawyer who can stand up to the insurance agency under pressure and present the relevant facts to the judge and jury convincingly. The court may ask you to give your version of the accident, and your lawyer can also help you prepare for your testimony.
Finally, a good lawyer will defend your rights before the judge and jury by standing up for you when the defendant’s legal team tries to challenge your account of the case.
Is Hiring a Car Accident Attorney Worth It?
People often forgo hiring a lawyer because they fear it will be too costly. Others believe they should just accept whatever the insurance company offers them and move on, not realizing they have other options.
It typically costs nothing to schedule a consultation with an attorney. Just as a doctor evaluates you before recommending medical treatment, a lawyer can help you decide whether a particular settlement offer is fair. By providing their expert legal opinion on your case, they can prevent you from agreeing to an offer that’s insufficient to cover the extent of your injuries or trauma.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Receive?
There are three main types of compensation in personal injury cases: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic damages compensate for the financial burdens you’ve incurred as a result of a car accident. These sorts of burdens are easily traceable to the accident and include medical expenses, lost wages, and household costs.
Any medical costs you rack up can be compensated for in the form of economic damages. Treatments and services like ambulance transportation, inpatient stays, future clinical visits, physical or occupational therapy, laboratory tests, and medication are all considered medical expenses.
Sometimes, injury victims can no longer perform their regular job duties due to their condition. If you cannot work, your attorney will calculate your lost wages, even if you’ve used vacation or sick leave to keep your paychecks coming. If your doctor doesn’t believe you’ll be able to return to work in your normal capacity for the foreseeable future, they’ll include those expenses in your claim as well.
Victims might also seek outside help to handle household chores following an accident. For instance, they may contract a weekly maid service or hire a regular babysitter to care for young children while they recover. Your car accident lawyer can incorporate your growing household expenses into an economic damages claim.
Non-economic damages are more subjective. They typically can’t be accounted for through receipts and bills but are estimated based on the extent of your injuries. To arrive at their estimate, your attorney may attempt to show that you’ve suffered emotional trauma or mental anguish stemming from your accident and are now afraid to drive. Similarly, catastrophic injuries may result in disability or disfigurement, which are other forms of non-economic suffering.
If your case appears destined for court, you may start to hear talk of punitive damages. Courts award punitive damages, which are monetary consequences intended to punish the at-fault party if the defendant’s actions are determined to have been negligent.
The Takeaway: Get Legal Help with Your Car Accident
Being injured in a car accident is hard enough without battling an insurance company to get what’s owed to you.
Make sure your case gets the attention it deserves. Work with an experienced car accident lawyer and take your first steps down the road to recovery, financial and otherwise.