If you’ve been injured in a car accident, your first priority should be health and healing. Even minor collisions can have long-term physical, mental, and emotional effects.
As you recover, it can help to have someone on your side who understands what you’re going through and can help you fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. While no amount of money can account for the full extent of your pain and suffering, it can offset the financial burden you’re facing so you can focus on what matters most.
If you’re wondering, “When should I hire a car accident lawyer?”, the simple answer is as soon as possible. Today, we’re sharing why this could be the most important step you make in your recovery journey and how to find the right one.
When Should I Hire a Car Accident Lawyer? Understanding the Basics
In general terms, it’s smart to hire an accident lawyer for all serious collisions. While there is no legal requirement that requires you to seek legal counsel, it can be challenging to navigate the system and seek compensation on your own after a car accident.
There are several reasons why this is the case. Here are a few reasons why it’s a good idea to go this route.
When the Accident Is Serious
If the car accident results in serious injury, death, or a significant amount of property damage, you need an attorney. There can be severe consequences to these charges, and you’ll want a competent and experienced legal team by your side.
If your case ends up going to court, your lawyer can also represent you. There will be multiple people to contact, forms to complete, and deadlines to make. If you slip up even once, it could negatively affect the outcome of your case.
A lawyer will know exactly how to proceed. They’ll be familiar with the legal process that follows a car accident and can guide you through all of the requisite paperwork, conversations, meetings, and appointments. This way, you can rest assured that you aren’t missing or forgetting anything.
When You’ve Been Injured
Some accidents are major, requiring immediate hospitalization and treatment. Others are more minor but don’t be too quick to brush them off.
Even if you aren’t sure about the full extent of your injuries, you should still visit the doctor following any car accident. Some soft-tissue injuries do not show up until days or even weeks later. Your lawyer can analyze the injuries you’ve sustained and calculate their cost into your settlement amount. In addition to physical pain and suffering, this may also include mental anguish and emotional trauma.
Your lawyer will gather and organize all of the relevant medical documents that pertain to the accident. In addition to your doctor’s reports, this might also include hospital bills, prescription information, therapy notes, and more. Then, they will add everything together (including current and ongoing expenses) to create a clear picture of how much the accident continues to cost you.
When You’re Filing an Insurance Claim
After a car accident, you will be in the middle of healing. Regardless of the extent of your injuries, it’s unlikely that you want to spend these important weeks or months on the phone with the insurance agency, negotiating your claim. Even if you don’t mind those conversations, it’s all too easy to accept a minimal offer simply because you don’t know how much you should realistically receive.
Insurance companies know this, and they can prey upon a victim’s naivete. A car accident lawyer will be experienced in this realm and will know exactly how much you need to fully compensate for your injuries.
This includes helping you navigate the specific insurance regulations in your area. Certain states follow comparative negligence laws, which means that if you share any percentage of fault for the accident, it could affect your compensation. In these states, the settlement you receive will be deducted by the degree of fault you share.
Whether you’re dealing with your own insurance agency or the other driver’s agency, these can be complicated negotiations. This is especially the case if the other driver doesn’t even have insurance or their current policy doesn’t cover the full extent of your losses. When this happens, you may be able to seek compensation through your insurance agency as long as you have uninsured motorist coverage.
When you hire a lawyer, you don’t have to worry about understanding the ins and outs of everyone’s coverage. You can trust that they will work directly with the insurance agents involved, and will fight to help you receive the highest settlement possible.
When Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you’re up against an uninsured motorist, there may be a case in which your losses are so severe that even your own policy won’t cover them completely. If this happens, you still have recourse.
You may be able to cover the remainder by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent, at-fault driver. As long as you comply with your state’s statute of limitations, this can be a way to push back against an insurance company that cannot or will not provide fair compensation.
A car accident lawyer can help you take this next step. They will know if you have a solid case for a personal injury lawsuit, as well as the deadlines that you’ll need to meet in order to do so. To proceed with the lawsuit, you’ll need to be able to provide evidence that a few key factors apply.
- Your injuries caused actual economic or non-economic losses
- You can prove the extent of those losses through documentation (e.g. medical diagnoses)
- You have evidence that proves the other driver was at fault for the accident
While you can attempt to gather all of this data on your own, it’s easiest and most effective to let an attorney take the reins. They’ll know the details to look for and the right documents to file. This means less time scrambling around for the right paperwork, and more time building a solid case.
When You Need to Prove Fault
Your car accident lawyer will thoroughly review every part of the car accident. They’ll gather key details by referencing the police report, eyewitness statements, photos and videos of the scene, and your account of events.
As they do so, they’ll have one chief concern: establishing fault.
If they can prove beyond any doubt that the other driver was at fault, then they’re more likely to win your case. For instance, they might look for data that proves the driver was operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs. Or, they could reference the police report to learn their blood alcohol content (BAC) level.
If the driver had drugs in their system or their BAC exceeded the legal limit, your attorney can use this to prove they acted negligently. Yet, proving fault isn’t always as straightforward as this.
Sometimes, the issue isn’t strictly negligence. Rather, it’s a breach of duty.
All drivers have a lawful duty to protect themselves and other motorists when they get behind the wheel. Sometimes, they knowingly neglect this duty, such as when they drink and drive, or send a text from the driver’s seat. Other times, they get simply get distracted.
For instance, they might answer a phone call, scan the radio, or navigate their GPS system. In each case, they aren’t breaking the law. However, they put you at risk and their actions could have caused or contributed to the accident. If your lawyer can prove what happened in the moments leading up to the collision, it can substantially help your case.
When You’re Navigating Transport Laws
Transportation laws can vary from state to state. They can be very nuanced and difficult to understand, especially if this is your first serious car accident. You want to make sure that your legal rights are being protected at every turn, but that can be difficult to establish if you don’t even know the law yourself.
A car accident lawyer will know the law, forward and backward. They can let you know if you have a case, what the probable outcome will be, and exactly how to proceed. They aren’t just well-versed in the high-level basics, but also have an in-depth knowledge that extends to every statute, clause, and sub-section of the law.
They can use this knowledge to guide you through every part that follows. From filing a claim and submitting a demand letter to managing negotiations and going to trial if required, they’ll be there each step of the way. They’ll also be around to answer questions, ease your concerns, and translate the ongoing legalese into concepts that you can understand.
When You Need to Recreate the Scene
In some car accidents, there will be key witnesses around who see the entire sequence of events unfold. If they stay on the scene, they can provide their account of what happened.
The police will take down their contact information and add their version of the events to the official accident report. You can also get their name and phone number to follow up with them later. Your lawyer can reach out on your behalf to learn what they remember from that day, and what they saw immediately before and after the crash.
Other times, there won’t be anyone present when the accident occurs. This can make it nearly impossible to prove who was at fault. Fingers are pointed and blame gets placed, but there are few verifiable facts on which either party can base their argument.
This is where an accident lawyer can help, especially if your case goes to court. They will have access to a team of legal professionals, including expert witnesses and accident reconstruction experts. Both experts can help establish what occurred, which gives validity and credibility to your case.
An expert witness is someone who has specialized knowledge in a relevant subject. Attorneys often bring them into a car accident or personal injury case to testify. If you were injured in the accident, for instance, a medical expert witness can explain the nature of your injuries to the jury, detailing their immediate and long-term impact.
As their name implies, an accident reconstruction expert is someone who can recreate the scene of the accident. They can do so in a way that clarifies foggy details or answers unknown questions surrounding the collision. Their version of events can help explain exactly what happened, in a visual way that a jury can understand.
Do You Need a Lawyer for a Minor Car Accident?
If you’re only involved in a minor fender-bender, you might think that it’s excessive to hire a car accident lawyer. However, remember that most attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means that they don’t get paid unless you do.
Thus, it’s smart to go ahead and bring one into your case. They’ll work to make sure that you get the highest settlement possible, which is often higher than you could have achieved on your own.
If you’re unsure, ask if they will offer a free, no-commitment consultation. During this meeting, you can share what happened from your perspective. The lawyer will listen and make an informed decision on whether your case requires legal representation or not.
Hire a Qualified and Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today
Still wondering, “When should I hire a car accident lawyer?” If you or someone you love has been injured, the answer is right away. Even small bump-ups can benefit from the legal knowledge, skill, and expertise that an attorney provides.
At Sweet Lawyers, our car accident attorneys are experienced in every facet of this field. We will work diligently to help you receive the compensation you deserve, so you can reclaim your health, confidence, and quality of life.
You can contact us today to learn more about the services we provide and how we can help. You can also schedule a free consultation online!