When to Get a Lawyer After an Auto Accident
Being in a car accident can be a scary and stressful experience. Even if you only suffer minor injuries, the process of dealing with insurance claims, medical bills, car repairs, missed work, and other accident-related issues can be overwhelming. Knowing when to get a lawyer after an auto accident is an important decision that can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Here is some guidance on when it may be advisable to hire an attorney after a car crash.
Seek Legal Counsel if You Suffered Serious Injuries
If you suffered any serious injuries in the accident that required extensive medical treatment, you should strongly consider consulting with an attorney. Severe injuries like broken bones, head trauma, spinal cord damage, burns, and others can result in extensive medical bills and lost income from being out of work during recovery. An experienced personal injury lawyer can handle negotiations with insurance companies to help ensure you receive full and fair compensation for all accident-related losses. They will determine what your claim may be worth and aggressively pursue the maximum settlement or court award.
Get a Lawyer if the Insurance Company is Not Cooperating
Following a car accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance company may try to get you to accept a quick, low-ball settlement. They may even try denying your claim outright. If you feel the insurer is giving you the runaround, refusing to pay for treatment, or not offering a settlement that covers your losses, it may be best to get a legal advocate on your side. An attorney who specializes in car accident claims can deal with the insurance company on your behalf and file a lawsuit if necessary.
Consider a Lawyer if the Accident Was Caused by a Commercial Vehicle
Accidents involving large commercial trucks, delivery vans, buses, taxis, rideshares, and other commercial vehicles can result in severe injuries due to their large size and weight. There may also be multiple liable insurance policies from the driver, vehicle owner, and company to pursue compensation from. An experienced truck accident lawyer can help maximize your payout by identifying all available insurance coverage and building the strongest case possible under applicable commercial vehicle regulations.
If the Accident Resulted in Wrongful Death
One of the most tragic outcomes of a serious auto accident is the loss of life. If your loved one died as the result of another driver’s negligence, you should seek legal representation from a wrongful death attorney. They can advise you on steps to take as the personal representative of the deceased’s estate and build a claim that accounts for lost future income, consortium, pain and suffering before death, funeral expenses, and other applicable damages.
Consult an Attorney if the Accident Was a Hit-and-Run
Hit-and-run crashes present unique legal challenges since the at-fault driver fled the scene. A car accident lawyer can help investigate the circumstances, identify the vehicle and driver if possible, and make an insurance claim or lawsuit against the owner if unknown. The lawyer may also be able to recover compensation from your own uninsured motorist coverage.
If You Were Partially at Fault for the Accident
Comparative negligence laws reduce a victim’s compensation if they were partially to blame for the accident. Even if you do not think you did anything wrong, the insurance company may try to assign partial fault to reduce what they owe you. Having a lawyer argue your case and fight any allegations of contributory negligence can help maximize your settlement.
If You Do Not Have Your Own Insurance Coverage
If you do not carry auto insurance or were driving an uninsured vehicle at the time of the accident, getting legal help is critical. A personal injury lawyer may be able to recover compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurer or find other ways to get your losses covered if you have no insurance protection of your own.
If You Were Hit by an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist
Sadly, many drivers on the road have minimum liability insurance coverage that may not fully cover the damages they cause in a major collision. If you were hit by a driver with no insurance or insufficient coverage limits, an attorney may be able to help you claim compensation from your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. They can also identify other potential sources of compensation if the at-fault party has no assets or insurance.
If Criminal Charges are Pending
If the driver who hit you received a citation or faces criminal charges related to the crash, it is a good idea to get an attorney involved immediately. They can advocate for your interests in parallel with the criminal case and use evidence from the prosecution to help build your injury claim. The attorney may also be able to recover part of any criminal restitution the defendant has to pay.
If You Need Help Navigating Complex Laws and Regulations
Each state has complex auto accident and insurance laws full of intricacies the average person may not fully understand. An experienced lawyer knows how to navigate relevant regulations to build the strongest case possible. They also stay on top of changes to the law that may impact your ability to recover damages. Their legal expertise can be invaluable after an accident.
When in Doubt, Seek a Consultation
If you are undecided on whether to hire a lawyer, most will provide free initial consultations to discuss your case. They can review the circumstances of the accident, your injuries, applicable insurance policies, and options moving forward. The consultation allows the attorney to assess the viability of your potential claim. You can also get a feel for the lawyer’s experience, fee structure, and overall reputation. This helps ensure you make an informed decision on legal representation.
Should I get an attorney before talking to the insurance company?
It is generally advisable to consult a lawyer before providing any recorded statement to an insurer. Anything you say can be used against you later and accident details are fresh in your mind immediately after the crash. An attorney can deal directly with the insurer.
How much does a car accident lawyer cost?
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, meaning they only get paid if they recover compensation for you. Fees typically range from 33-40% of your total settlement amount. Initial consultations are usually free.
When should I hire a car accident lawyer?
It is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible after seeking medical treatment. Memories fade and evidence can disappear over time. Quick action also sends the insurer a message that you are serious about pursuing maximum compensation.
Should I accept the insurance company’s first settlement offer?
No. Their initial offer is almost always lower than the value of your claim. An attorney can assess what your claim is truly worth. Exceptions may be very minor accidents with minimal damage and injury.
Can I file a claim without a lawyer?
Yes, you can negotiate with the insurer yourself or file in small claims court if the amount is under the limit. However, having a lawyer handling the often complex legal and negotiation aspects is highly recommended in most cases.
- Consult an attorney after any serious accident resulting in significant injuries or damages.
- If the insurance company is delaying, denying, or disputing your claim, get legal help fighting for compensation.
- Lawyers are useful when fatalities, commercial vehicles, uninsured drivers, or criminal charges are involved.
- Expert legal advice can maximize your payout and help fully protect your rights after a car accident.
- Initial consultations are free, so contact a lawyer when in doubt about handling your own claim.