Attorneys Answer: When do you need to hire a car accident lawyer?
Keep in mind that the insurance companies have teams of lawyers and adjusters who begin evaluating your injury claim right away. Because of this, it is essential that you retain a personal injury lawyer immediately if you are injured in a car collision in order to level the playing field.
Facing a team of professional attorneys that work full-time for billion-dollar insurance companies isn’t a wise move. It is possible to go at it alone, but you are literally at their mercy; they may give you a thousand dollars, a few hundred bucks, or possibly even deny your claim. It is up to them since you don’t really know what legal rights you have, what alternatives you could use, or what to do to fight them. They spend every day, all day, fighting claims on behalf of their employers (insurance companies) so facing them on your own with no experience has an obvious outcome.
It is important to note that not all personal injury law firms are the same. In fact, many of the biggest advertising firms are little more than settlement mills. A settlement mill is a firm that relies on heavy advertising as the lifeblood of their business and litigate a disproportionate amount of their cases. Such firms do not rely on current or former clients to refer cases via word-of-mouth and can thus afford to employ a mill mentality to their handling of cases.
In fact, settlement mills tend to leave money on the table at the time of settlement as they are more concerned with resolving a volume of personal injury cases each month to pay their expensive advertising budget. Keep in mind that even an average trial lawyer is superior to a settlement mill as the insurance carrier must spend money defending a trial or a case that has advanced far in litigation. The goal of any insurance carrier is to save money and forcing them to run up costs gets their immediate attention.
How soon should you contact an attorney?
It’s recommended you contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible following the accident. Why? The at-fault party will immediately notify his insurance company, who will then try to get in touch with you to discuss what happened. You should never give a statement to an insurance company without first contacting an attorney. Remember, the insurance company is not looking out for your best interests. They are not concerned with how much you might have in medical expenses or how many days you may have had to take off of work because of your injuries—insurance companies are only concerned with getting you to accept a low settlement offer. An attorney will be able to deal with the insurance company for you so you don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing or agreeing to a number you’re not satisfied with.
There is also a statute of limitations for personal injury claims, meaning after a certain period of time has passed, you will no longer be able to file a claim to recover compensation for your injuries. In most states, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident. This may seem like plenty of time, but it passes quickly, especially when you are recovering from a serious injury. The sooner you get in touch with an attorney, the sooner he can begin the process of formally filing a claim.
Once you get in touch with an attorney, you will need to provide him with all of the information you have about the accident, including your recollection of what happened, the other parties’ contact information, the police report, and medical documentation of your injuries. Then, your attorney will determine what he thinks your personal injury claim is worth, and begin the negotiation process with the insurance company. If an agreement cannot be reached through negotiation, the case will have to go to trial.
A List of The Most Common Types of Serious Auto Accidents
There are several common types of accidents that often result in serious injuries for the parties involved.
These are some of the cases we deal with most frequently.
- Rear-End Accidents
A rear-end accident occurs when a driver collides with the vehicle in front of them. These types of accidents can range from minor to extremely severe, depending on the speed at which the vehicles were moving and the exact circumstances under which the accident occurs.
In most instances, the driver of the vehicle that rear-ends the other car is at fault, with these types of collisions often occurring because a driver was following too closely or was not paying attention. However, if the driver of the vehicle that gets rear-ended was reversing at the time of the collision, it’s possible that driver could be found responsible for the accident.
- T-bone Accidents
Also known as side-impact collisions, a “T-bone” occurs when the side of a car is hit by the front or rear of another vehicle. These broadside collisions can often result in severe injuries for both parties.
- Sideswipe Collisions
A sideswipe accident is when the side of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle, typically while both cars are traveling in the same direction. Common causes of sideswipe accidents are drivers failing to check their blind spot prior to changing lanes and drivers in parked vehicles re-entering moving traffic without first ensuring the lane is clear.
At low speeds, sideswipe collisions may only result in cosmetic damage, but at high speeds, the injuries can often be significant and severe.
- Head-on Collisions
Head-on accidents occur when two vehicles collide directly with each other while going in opposite directions. Even at modest speeds, head-on collisions can result in severe injuries or death.
- Single Vehicle Crashes
Single vehicle accidents involve only one vehicle and can be the result of a collision with a stationary object or of veering off the motorway. These accidents can occur due to driver error resulting from factors such as intoxication or fatigue, or can happen as the result of external factors like unsafe road conditions or inclement weather.
- Rollover Accidents
A rollover accident occurs when one of the vehicles is overturned as a result of either a collision or departure from the roadway. Rollover accidents are typically severe, resulting in substantial injuries and possibly death.
- Hit and Run Accidents
Hit and run accidents can be any type of accident in which one of the drivers involved in the collision decides to flee the scene. Hit and runs are defined by the driver leaving the scene of the accident without providing contact information and can result in a ticket (at a minimum) and possibly criminal charges.
Why You May Need to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
Unfortunately, car accidents are everyday occurrences. Most personal injury claims in the United States are a result of an accident involving a car, truck, or other motor vehicle. Many of these accidents result in minor vehicle damage in the form of a “fender bender,” and can generally be handled alone through direct contact with an insurance company. However, car accidents that involve physical injury, fatality, or other significant damage may warrant the legal representation of experienced counsel.
An experienced attorney can help you get compensation to cover any losses incurred due to the accident, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and car repairs. In some states, a car accident lawyer may help you recover when a loved one is killed, especially if reckless driving, speeding, or drunk-driving was involved.
What to Look For When Hiring a Car Accident Attorney
Auto accident attorneys cover a range of issues stemming from personal injury, wrongful death, property destruction, and liability determinations. When looking for a lawyer, you should concentrate on their experience, skill level, commitment, location, and fee structure.
For example, your attorney should be well versed in state and national transportation laws, know how to deal with insurance and health care companies, and know how to effectively prepare and settle a case. Also, it’s important that you check the attorney’s background, references, and track record.
Lastly, a good lawyer will typically accept your case on a contingency or “no win-no fee” basis if the attorney feels your case has any merit, so it’s important to check the attorney’s standard fee structure.
When to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
It is best to hire an attorney early to avoid any costly mistakes. The deadline for filing personal injury claims varies from state to state. Because you may need to pay for medical bills and/or cover lost wages, the sooner you contact an attorney the better. In general, a person should contact an attorney shortly after the accident occurs — within a week or two of the accident — but before reaching a settlement with the insurance company.
Some surprising ways you didn’t know a lawyer could help you
Lawyers do have skills, you know. There are some great ways they can help:
- Completes a professional investigation
Personal injury firms may have their own investigators document the scene of an accident, interview witnesses and develop theories about how the incident occurred. These might be professional investigators or even retired cops working a new job.
Outside experts such as accident reconstruction experts may be necessary if the cause of the accident is in dispute. Your attorney will have a dedicated roster of professionals he or she normally uses and will know who can assist.
- Connects with medical providers
A personal injury lawyer may have a business relationship with a medical professional who may agree to provide medical services in favor of a lien on any future settlement or judgment.
They may also have greater experience in understanding serious injuries and may recommend a particular specialist who has provided superb results in previous cases.
- Better assesses damages
Many accident victims only think about the immediate impact of an accident. After all, they could be receiving harassing phone calls from bill collectors, making up funds after being off work for a few weeks and may need to repair their vehicle to get back on the road.
However, a personal injury lawyer deals with these cases on a routine basis and can help identify a more accurate estimate of the real and long-term effect of injuries, such as a loss in earning capacity if the accident left the victim disabled. A personal injury lawyer may also ask an economist or actuary for help in assessing the lifetime impact of an accident.
- Works through a variety of legal processes
A personal injury lawyer can help in a number of different judicial forums. For example, he or she may help with informal negotiation with the insurance company before or after a case is filed in court.
Alternatively, they may help litigate a case if the settlement offer is not satisfactory to the client or the claim is denied. However, personal injury lawyers can also help in other types of forums such as alternative dispute resolution.
Arbitration may be required if the victim’s own insurance company is involved. This involves presenting a case in front of a neutral arbitrator who makes a binding decision. Mediation consists of the victim and the person responsible for the injury working together to reach a solution out of court with the help of a third-party neutral. (See more on mediation and arbitration.)