There are various advertisements on television that inform you to call an injury lawyer in the case of suffering injuries from an accident – they tell you that you should not wait, or else you may lose your right to sue. The issue is that the advertisement will not tell you the time you should sue or how you should do it.
In many cases however, the best advice is looking for an auto accident attorney. In this article, we will delve into why you need an auto accident lawyer, as well as what to do when you face a similar situation.
What is an injury lawyer?
A lawyer that gives clients legal assistance when they have gone through injury, either physical or psychological – mostly because of the negligence of another individual, entity, company or government agency. This is a common field for motorcycle accident lawyers.
Why you need an auto accident lawyer
Car accidents happen every day, and many personal injury claims within the U.S. are results of accidents occurring among trucks, cars or other vehicles.
Many accidents result in ‘fender bender’ damages, which means that you can handle them without the need for direct contact with your insurance provider. However, a minority fall under the need to involve an auto accident lawyer, such as accidents resulting in fatalities, physical injury, or significant damages.
Experienced lawyers assist you to get compensation that will help in covering losses that the accident incurs, including hospital bills, major car repairs and lost wages. In certain states, you can even get compensation when you suffer the loss of your loved one particularly due to drunk driving, speeding or irresponsible driving.
Do you need an auto accident lawyer?
In some instances, it is not necessary for you to get a lawyer. To save yourself some costs (and heartache), here are some tips to find out if you really need a lawyer or you should avoid them.
- Avoid when you have a clear-cut claim – simplicity of these cases lies in the following instances:
- Lack of extenuating circumstances that require investigation, for instance previously existing injuries to some body parts of the car
- Unclear insurance coverage aspects
- Complicated instances in the accident
- Queries about legal deadlines for filing lawsuits against the cause of the problem.
- Avoid them when you have clarity of liability – this means that the responsible party knows and acknowledges they were at fault
- When you have small injuries with lower expenses and medical bills
On the other hand, it is wise to seek legal help in the following instances:
- Both parties in the case share liability
- You do not know the procedures for evaluating claims
- The adjuster gives you an order and you think your claim is worth more than the offer
- The adjuster requests you to give your medical history (before the accident)
- The adjuster decides to give a structured settlement instead of payments in lump sum basis
- You are not sure that you can negotiate a settlement on your own
- You have lost wages before because of the accident but find it difficult to prove them, for instance you work as a sales person, consultant or business owner.
There are certain instances when you must seek legal help, and these are:
- You have circumstances that validate the claim and make it more valuable, even when you do not know how to prove your loss, such as being the breadwinner of your family and not being able to take care of them after your accident
- The insurance company denies your claim, but you believe they are incorrect and they refuse to reconsider
- The time taken since the accident is close to a year, and you are not close to settling your claim, as well as not having information about the statute of limitations within your state
- The offer that the insurance company pays you in settlement is too low
- Liability is under dispute and you believe you are not responsible or partly responsible for the events of the accident
- You underwent significant injuries, resulting in very high hospital bills with or without prior disability
- The other party in the case serves you with a lawsuit
- You underwent moderate injuries from the accident with residual disability and you believe you will incur medical bills in the future
- The injured party is a minor that has more than slight injuries
- The circumstances in the accident need investigation because of their complexity
Looking for a lawyer for auto accidents
The lawyers that deal in auto accidents near you can cover a variety of issues ranging from wrongful death, personal injuries, liability determination and destruction of property.
When you are looking for an auto accident lawyer, look for the following aspects:
- The experience of the auto accident lawyer – they need to know transportation laws that apply to both the state and national levels.
- Skill level – their reputation in similar cases, how well can they argue the case. They should also know how to deal effectively with health care as well as insurance companies, and prepare the case well.
- Fee structure – some of the best auto accident lawyers are affordable, so look for one within your budget. In addition, good auto accident lawyers will usually accept cases on contingencies of ‘no win=no fee’ basis, as long as they feel that there is merit within the case.
- Commitment – it is important that you look into the background of the lawyer
What questions should you ask the lawyer?
Before you decide on looking for an auto accident lawyer near you, it is vital that you have as much facts and information about the accident as possible.
It is also in your interest to show the lawyer some documents after the accident, which include the motor insurance policy, your medical records, exchanged information at the scene of the accident, as well as other things. Some questions to ask are:
- The experience the lawyer has in cases involving auto accidents
- The percentage of the law practice that the lawyer has in the specific area of car accidents
- The usual settlement ranges for similar cases
- The extent the lawyer will handle your case
- The out-of-pocket expenses that you need to pay
- The structure of the lawyer fees
You may wonder the documents that you need to present to your lawyer that will assist in the evidence of the case. These are:
- Insurance policy – your vehicle likely has an insurance cover, and your auto accident lawyer will want to see it to know the type of recovery that you require. Even if you do not have a copy of the policy, your lawyer can get one for you from the insurance company.
- Information exchange at the scene of the accident – this is often a case of telephone numbers exchange between the parties at the scene. Ensure this information gets to your lawyer.
- The evidence of premiums – the lawyer needs proof that you have paid the premiums of your car insurance. This can be in the form of periodic reminders from the insurance company that the payments are due. When your lawyer gets this information, they can establish that the policy is active, since you already paid for it.
- Tickets that have a relation to the accident – make sure your auto accident lawyer knows this information, for instance if you got a ticket for ‘failure to yield’ or a speeding ticket.
- Any information that the police provide at the accident scene – in situations of accidents, the requirement is that police arrive to the scene and draft a report. This includes diagram of where the pedestrians or cars involved were at that time, and this information is vital to helping the lawyer understand the case in depth. However, if you lack a police report, the lawyer can still get one on your behalf.
- Statements – most likely scenario is that after an accident, a representative from your insurance company calls you. The company wants to get a statement from you, and you have the right to have a copy of the statement. The lawyer can also organize to get this information if you do not have the statement.
- Photographs of the scene – if your car had significant damages in the accident, it is good to take pictures of it. In the case that you lack pictures, a representative of your insurance company likely has them. If you have pictures with you, it is best to give them to your lawyer, but if you do not then the lawyer can organize to obtain some from the insurance provider.
- Medical history – car accidents may leave significant physical injuries on you, and leave you seeking medical care. Your lawyer will therefore require your medical records to establish the extent of injury and recovery time. If you lack the records, provide the lawyer with the address and name of any medical provider you visit and they can get your records.
- Pay records (salary or wages) – if the accident results in loss of work time, the lawyer can assist you to recover your lost wages. They will need to know the money you have ‘lost’ by using your usual earnings before and after the accident
- Psychological history – if the accident results in mental and emotional trauma, the lawyer needs to know and see the medical records related to that. This means you should provide copies of psychological names and addresses of the health care providers as well as a release form.
The usual fees for auto accident lawyers
Many cases of car accidents are on contingency basis – this means that it is a ‘no win=no pay’. In other words, if the lawyer fails to win the case, they will not collect a fee. If they win the case however, the lawyer will get a percentage of the award from the personal injury.
The percentage of the attorney will vary depending on the nature of the case, but it does not exceed one-third (33%) to 40% of the total award – again, this also depends on the limits that the state imposes.
Note that lawyer fees are separate from costs, so this implies you will need to foot certain out-of-pocket expenses that are associated with the case itself.
What to do after a car accident (before hiring a lawyer)
- Get some information from witnesses
This applies if you are physically able – inquire from nearby people if you can get their names and contacts. This is because the police report may not be comprehensive enough to include certain people at the scene who were witnesses to the whole event.
- Make sure you establish whether you really need a lawyer
Remember that you will need to pay 33-40% of your money to the lawyer if you win the case. Some accidents do not require lengthy court processes, unless under special circumstances. In addition, some insurance companies tend to ‘lowball’ the unrepresented clients in court, giving them settlements of less value than expected.
- Order the police report
This will assist you in further proof. While different departments have different procedures for drafting a copy of the report, you can still obtain it easily.
- Obtain pictures of the damage
Make sure these pictures show that you were adhering to safety rules, as this will increase the validity of your compensation claim. In addition, ensure you get pictures of broken property at the scene.
- Obtain repair estimates for the car
Be careful about this, however. Insurance companies in some states do not condition payment if you took your car to a ‘recommended’ auto repair shop.
- Obtain medical records and check-ups
This will be important in ensuring your recovery. It will also help in establishing a proper court case in the event that you decide to get the services of a lawyer.
It is important to ensure that when you hire an auto accident lawyer, you have done the necessary preparations for your case. After all, it is a costly affair to go to court, so you want to know that you have accomplished your part in securing proper compensation.