Here Are Six Instances When You Should
After a car accident, you may wonder whether you really need an attorney. Can’t you file a claim on your own? You may even talk with your insurance company and discover that they can help you negotiate with the responsible driver’s insurance company, which might sound easier and less expensive than trying to go through a lawyer.
Do you really need a lawyer? If you do need a car accident lawyer, when should you retain one? Consider these key guidelines.
1. A party other than the driver of the other vehicle bears full or partial fault for the accident.
Many car accidents, especially commercial truck accidents, may have a complicated definition of who caused the accident. If someone besides the driver of the other vehicle bears responsibility for your accident, you may need an attorney to help you successfully navigate your claim. Make sure you consider the following:
Was the driver drinking and driving? A driver who drinks and drives bears ultimate responsibility for his actions behind the wheel, including the initial decision to drink and drive. However, if that driver visited a bar or restaurant to get drunk, and the bar or restaurant continued to serve him in spite of noting drunkenness as well as his intent to drive, the bar or restaurant may share responsibility for the accident and your injuries.
Did a mechanical failure cause the accident? From tire blowouts to brake failures to engine problems, many mechanical issues with a vehicle can quickly lead to an accident, often an accident with severe injuries since mechanical failure can prevent a driver from controlling his or her car. If mechanical failures led to your accident, you may need to file a claim against the manufacturer of the defective part to get the full compensation you deserve for your injuries. You may also want to consider whether a mechanic recently repaired the defective part or inspected the vehicle, which could leave the mechanic liable for the accident.
Was the driver on the clock at the time of the accident? Many companies carry commercial insurance on all of the vehicles and drivers in their fleets, which can increase the compensation injured individuals receive for injuries sustained in accidents with those vehicles. Those insurance policies, however, typically cover driver error but not errors committed by the company. If you suffered injuries in an accident with a commercial driver who was on the clock at the time of the accident, you may have grounds to go after the company directly as part of your claim. For example, consider the following factual circumstances:
- The company continued to employ a driver with a known history of serious accidents.
- The company required the driver to spend too many hours on the road or to falsify records (commercial truck drivers, for example, can spend a maximum of 11 hours out of a 14-hour shift on the road).
- The company sent the driver out in an unsafe vehicle.
2. You suffered serious injuries in your accident.
If you face a minor fender bender with comparatively minor damage to your vehicle, you may not need an attorney to seek the compensation you deserve. In fact, you may find your insurance company more than adequate to help you seek compensation for repairs to your vehicle. However, if you suffered serious injuries in a car accident, you may want to contact an attorney. Serious injuries also come with serious medical bills, lost time at work, and substantial pain and suffering, all of which you should take into account when filing a personal injury claim after a car accident. Serious injuries may include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord damage
- Organ trauma
- Broken bones
- Soft tissue damage
If you suffer any type of serious injury in an auto accident, contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible to ensure that you do not miss out on any potential opportunities for compensation when you file your personal injury claim.
3. You do not feel that the insurance company has offered adequate compensation based on the circumstances of your accident and injuries.
Immediately after an accident, many insurance companies will contact injured individuals to offer them a settlement. These settlements often reflect the minimum amount the insurance adjuster thinks the company can get away with, for example, an offer that focuses on your property damage, or perhaps on paying your medical bills, rather than incorporating all the pain and suffering and financial loss you’ve experienced as a result of someone else’s negligence behind the wheel. The compensation you receive for your injuries depends heavily on the insurance policy that the responsible driver carries; however, in many cases, the insurance company will not offer you compensation for the full cost of your injuries up to the limits of the policy.
If you do receive a settlement offer from the insurance company shortly after your accident, you should contact an attorney to go over the settlement before signing. Many lawyers will offer a free consultation to help you better understand what compensation you should expect after an accident, which can prevent you from accepting an offer that does not accurately reflect your expenses.
4. The other party’s insurance company tries to claim that you caused the accident.
You may know for sure that you did not cause your car accident. The police report may even identify the other driver as the responsible party. Unfortunately, the other party’s insurance company will likely attempt to claim that you caused the accident, leaving you financially liable for the cost of your own injuries and repairs to your vehicle. In some cases, your insurance company might even get hit for the cost of repairs to the other party’s vehicle, causing your insurance to go up. Worse, you might have a police report in hand that mistakenly names you as the driver responsible for the accident. In many cases, however, an attorney can help clear up the confusion and prevent you from facing unfair liability for the accident. For example, an attorney can:
- Locate security or traffic camera footage of the accident. Often, an attorney can get access to footage that shows the accident directly, which can help you avoid taking responsibility for an accident that you did not cause.
- Get in touch with witnesses and collect their statements. An attorney can help gather witness statements without leading the witnesses or allowing other versions of events to color their statements, which can help provide a more accurate picture of what actually happened during the accident.
- Provide expert witnesses to help establish how the accident likely occurred. Many experts can look at the vehicles involved in the accident, photos of the accident scene, and witness statements about the accident to help reconstruct the scene of the accident. Those expert witnesses can then provide statements to the insurance company, helping to clear up liability in the case of your accident.
5. You do not know what to do or how to proceed.
You contacted the other party’s insurance company and filed a claim. Now what? Perhaps you do not even know how to get in touch with the other party’s insurance company in the first place. Do you have to give a statement about the accident? What can you safely say about the accident, and what should you leave out?
Most individuals will experience only a handful of car accidents in their lives: only three to four across the average driver’s lifespan. Statistically speaking, most of those accidents will not result in serious injury or fatalities. As a result, when you do suffer serious injuries in a car accident, you may have no idea what to do next.
When you work with an attorney, on the other hand, you will get a much better idea of what to expect after your accident. An attorney can:
- Guide you through the process. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand when to file, when you need to accept a settlement offer from the other party’s insurance company, and when you should continue to negotiate. An experienced attorney will also have a better idea of when you should give up on negotiation and take the case to court to seek the compensation you deserve. Not only that, a lawyer can provide valuable peace of mind regarding the process, whether you must wait for a response from the insurance company or worry that you have made a mistake along the way.
- Let you know how much compensation you should expect. When you look at attorneys’ websites, you see the highlights: stories of million-dollar or more settlements, high dollar amounts awarded for serious injuries, and reminders of how quickly insurance companies can turn against you. The compensation you receive for your injuries, however, will depend on many factors, including the limits of the other driver’s insurance policy and the severity of your injuries. The attorney you have on your side can also help increase the compensation you receive, especially in the case of severe injuries or car accidents with more than one responsible party or entity. By working with an attorney, you can get clear advice about the real compensation amounts that you should expect.
- Take a great deal of stress off of your shoulders. After a car accident, especially one with serious injuries, you have enough to worry about. You may have to deal with repairs to your vehicle, replacing a vehicle totaled in the accident, or writing a new insurance policy for your vehicle. Not only that, but you also have to keep up with your recovery: visiting your doctor, attending physical therapy appointments, and determining when you can safely return to work. Following an accident, you have enough to deal with focusing on your recovery. An attorney can help alleviate much of the stress, leaving you free to focus on the other important aspects of recovery after your accident.
- Work with you to understand the statute of limitations and what exceptions qualify for an extension. If you wait too long to file a personal injury claim, the statute of limitations can run out, preventing the other party from facing financial liability for your injuries and leaving you struggling to pay your bills. Not only can an attorney help get the paperwork in place that will prevent the statute of limitations from running out, but attorneys also understand any exceptions to the law and how you can extend the statute of limitations when necessary.
6. The other party’s insurance company isn’t promptly issuing the funds that you need.
Following a car accident with serious injuries, you may face a lot of demands on your finances. You likely have significant medical bills to pay: the ambulance ride, the emergency room, any scans or tests, surgeries and procedures to help repair damage to your body, and ongoing physical therapy. Some patients have long hospital stays or spend a long time in an inpatient facility while receiving extensive therapy to help with the recovery process.
Worse, you may have little or no income coming in during your recovery. Many injuries may prevent victims from returning to work in their former capacities immediately after the accident. While some companies can make arrangements to allow workers to return on a part-time or limited basis as they recover from their injuries, others may not have that capacity.
Regardless of the details of your accident, you likely want the funds from the insurance company as soon as possible. When the insurance company delays, it may leave you struggling to pay your bills or take care of necessary medical treatment. By working with an attorney, you can often help speed up the process. An attorney knows exactly what paperwork you need to receive compensation for your accident. Often, when you work with an attorney, it will let the insurance company know that you plan to seriously pursue the compensation you deserve, which can encourage the insurance company to offer you that compensation faster.
If you suffered injuries in a car accident, you should not wait to contact an attorney and start seeking compensation for your injuries. Instead, get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible to start filing your personal injury claim, assessing any important details and pursuing compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
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