According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 5.25 million police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes occurred in the U.S. in one recent year, with sharp increases in injuries and deaths over the previous decade.
Car accidents occur daily, leaving many wondering if they need to hire a car accident attorney. What if your injuries weren’t serious? What if the insurance company is sympathetic and says they will handle everything for you? What if the at-fault party accepts responsibility? The fact is that it’s always in your best interest to contact an experienced car accident attorney if you’ve been in a motor vehicle crash.
No matter how minor it might seem or if you believe the insurance company has it under control, it’s better to find out directly from an attorney if you need legal representation than to assume that you don’t. If you fail to contact an attorney, you can lose your rights without even knowing it. Car insurance companies and other parties might take advantage of you, and you may not receive the financial compensation you deserve.
1. The Statute of Limitations
All states have a deadline for filing personal injury cases, known as the statute of limitations. If you don’t file your legal case within the deadline, you forfeit your right to use the civil legal system to pursue compensation for your injuries and damages. Most states have a statute of limitations between one and four years after the date of the crash, with many having a two-year statute of limitations.
Sometimes the deadline can vary— for example, if a minor child suffers an injury or the at-fault party leaves the state. An experienced local attorney will know what statute of limitations applies to your case and can work to ensure that they file your claim with the appropriate court within the statute of limitations.
2. Know the Value of Your Case
You can get a pretty good idea of your claim’s value by contacting an attorney as soon as possible. Why does this matter? Because some insurance adjusters like to call claimants immediately to get them to accept a settlement. This might sound like a nice gesture and a possible relief to get a settlement sooner than expected. However, chances are high that the settlement they offer is much lower than the claim’s actual value.
Never accept a settlement offer without speaking to an attorney who can tell you what your case is likely worth. It is usually worth waiting longer to receive compensation that better matches your damages. If you are having difficulty paying your medical bills during that time, speak to your attorney. They can arrange a medical lien. With such a lien, your medical providers agree to wait for payment until you receive a settlement check or a court award.
3. Protecting Your Case
Unfortunately, what you don’t know can hurt you regarding car accident cases. If you speak with the insurance company without meeting an attorney or having your attorney present, you may do or say something to hurt your case.
- If the insurance adjuster calls you and asks how you are, replying with fine or good can imply that your injuries aren’t bothering you and that you healed.
- The insurance adjuster may ask leading questions, such as “You didn’t see the other car coming, did you?”
- The insurance adjuster might try to twist something that you say.
No matter how innocent your response, what you say can harm your claim. When you hire a car accident attorney, they can take over communications with the insurance company. If the insurance company must speak with you, your attorney will be there to protect your rights.
For these reasons and more, contact a seasoned car accident attorney immediately after a crash.
What are Contingency Fees?
Some accident victims don’t call an attorney because they believe they can’t afford one. However, most personal injury attorneys provide free, no-obligation initial consultations and work on contingency fees alone. With a contingency fee arrangement, the injured individual pays nothing upfront. If their attorney settles their case or receives a court award, the attorney gets a predetermined percentage of the funds. You owe nothing upfront and nothing out of pocket.
Even after paying an attorney, most accident victims with legal representation pocket a higher settlement or court award than if they represented themselves. Hiring an attorney is an excellent way to ensure that you maximize your claim and an investment into your claim that costs you nothing upfront.
What if Your Car Accident Was Minor?
Even if your car accident and injuries were minor, it’s still a good idea to check in with an attorney about your case. Let them decide if you have a case worth pursuing or not. The professional legal opinion of a well-versed attorney is invaluable after any motor vehicle crash.
How Do You Know if You Need a Car Accident Attorney?
While you always want to discuss your accident with an attorney, in some instances, you need legal representation.
You Sustained Severe or Catastrophic Injuries
If your injuries were severe or catastrophic, there is no doubt that you will want an attorney on your side. These types of injuries mean you likely have many high-value damages for which you deserve compensation. You might require extensive and ongoing medical care for the rest of your life or cannot return to work and need constant care.
Hire an attorney with financial experts, such as actuarial accountants, they can rely on. They should have the resources to determine how much your injuries might cost you in the future if you can’t return to work or need medical or other care for the rest of your life.
These types of injuries include:
Suppose you suffer these injuries and don’t receive the compensation you deserve. It can have severe, lasting implications on your finances and medical care. Hiring a seasoned car accident attorney can maximize your compensation.
There Are Multiple At-Fault Parties
If multiple parties potentially caused your crash, you should have a lawyer on your side. The caveat is that sometimes accident victims don’t even realize if multiple parties can be at fault without seeking the counsel of an attorney. This is another reason it’s best to meet with an attorney after any accident—there’s a lot you may not know or realize that can significantly impact your claim.
Parties you can hold liable for your accident include:
- Other drivers
- Employers of other drivers
- Owners of the vehicles involved (if the driver isn’t the owner)
- Vehicle or parts manufacturers
- Municipalities in charge of roads, road conditions, road design, or signs/lights
When you hire an experienced car accident lawyer, they will perform a thorough investigation into your accident, possibly using an accident reconstructionist if necessary. Not only will this help determine how your accident happened, but it can also help pinpoint who is responsible. If multiple parties are responsible, your compensation can be even more.
A seasoned attorney knows how to maximize compensation when various parties are at fault. In accidents involving numerous at-fault parties, it’s common for each one to point fingers and blame the others. This can cause your case to drag out longer than necessary. Having legal representation can help prevent this.
There are Multiple Injured Parties
In addition, you need an attorney if your accident involves multiple injured individuals, whether in your vehicle or another vehicle. Insurance policies only cover a specific dollar amount. The more injured people that need to draw from that amount, the less compensation you stand to get. Once again, you likely won’t know this on your own, so having an attorney assess your case can be extremely helpful.
Your lawyer can put together a compelling argument, showing how much compensation you deserve for your injuries and why. Suppose you don’t have someone on your side who can fight for your rights.
In that case, you may get nothing or very little for your injuries, while other victims who have attorneys get what they deserve or even more. With a skilled car accident lawyer on your side, you can help level the playing field and ensure you get what is rightfully yours.
You Feel the Insurance Company is Treating You Unfairly
Perhaps you have already tried to manage your claim on your own and aren’t getting very far. Maybe they offered you a settlement that you aren’t sure about, delayed the processing of your claim, or blamed you for the accident.
You have the right to enlist the help of an attorney at any point during your claim. While it’s ideal to hire one from the start, if you don’t, you should know that unless you’ve already received a settlement, it’s never too late to get an attorney on board who can help make your claim more successful.
Often, once an insurance company realizes that you have legal representation, they understand that you take your claim seriously and will pursue full and fair compensation. They know that they can’t get away with many of their tactics when the claimant has attorney representation.
You Don’t Have the Time, Resources, or Knowledge to Manage Your Claim
Handling a car accident claim might seem simple at first. However, it can require a plethora of resources, several hours a day, and extensive legal and insurance knowledge to successfully manage a claim. This can quickly become overwhelming for someone who has recently sustained severe injuries in an accident and remain overwhelming for someone trying to return to work after healing from their injuries.
Your attorney will need your help and cooperation to gather details, find facts, and obtain medical and other records. You can focus on healing and getting back to your everyday life as much as possible when you hire one to manage your case. Your attorney will handle communications with the insurance companies, investigating your accident, settlement negotiation, and many other aspects of your claim.
Were You Involved in a Car Accident? Call an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today
Being involved in a car accident can have severe implications for your life for years to come. If this happens to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to an experienced car accident attorney for help right away. It’s best to protect your legal interests right from the start.
The sooner you hire a car accident attorney, the sooner you can have peace of mind that someone is protecting your rights. You have nothing to lose by reaching out for help today.