In most cases, car accidents involving significant or long-term injuries necessitate the assistance of an attorney in order to achieve the best possible result. After a car accident, a skilled injury attorney can be highly beneficial in navigating the often hectic and complicated world of insurance claims and injury settlements. What you need to know is as follows:
- Most injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means they only get paid if your claim is successfully resolved.
- An attorney brings in-depth legal knowledge, the ability to put together your best case, and comfort in the negotiating trenches when it’s time to battle for your best result to the table.
- Handling a car accident claim on your own might be risky, unless your injuries are modest and the opposing party admits guilt.
1. A car accident lawyer is well-versed in the law.
When you hire a personal injury attorney to represent you after a car accident, you are hiring a professional who is well aware about the applicable laws and procedural regulations that may affect your case.
If your own negligence contributed to the accident, an attorney can advise you on the shared blame rules in your state and how they can affect your case.
An attorney will also be familiar with the time limits (known as statutes of limitations) that may prevent you from suing the at-fault driver. In many places, for example, you must file your case within two years of your car accident or you may lose your ability to go to court. An attorney can also tell you if there are any unique exceptions to the statute of limitations, such as for minors.
Your attorney will be able to file a lawsuit on your behalf and will know how to counter any potential defenses presented by the other party. Furthermore, once your lawsuit begins, your lawyer will be crucial in preparing your case for trial—and even in taking your case to trial if it does not settle.
Even while a lawsuit is rarely necessary, the fear of legal action gives you a lot of negotiation power when it comes to reaching a fair settlement.
Finally, and perhaps most crucially, having a competent attorney on your side levels the playing field, especially when you’re up against a huge insurance company’s experience and resources.
2. Identifying Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident
In most places, the at-fault motorist is responsible for the vehicle damage and injuries that come from the accident. Most claims stemming from the accident will be covered by the at-fault driver’s car insurance company, and the driver will normally “pay” in the form of a higher car insurance rate. When it comes to legal and financial responsibility for car accident damages, most states adopt these classic “fault” standards. If you live in one of the dozen or so states that have adopted some form of no-fault car insurance, you should read the “No Fault States” section below.
While insurance policy variances have a significant impact on claims, nothing has a greater impact than determining who was at fault in the car accident. When one of the drivers violated the state vehicle code or breached the unwritten “rules of the road,” it’s easy to assign blame (as where a driver rear-ends another vehicle and three impartial witnesses saw what happened). It’s unclear who was at fault in other (maybe most) accident instances.
In a car accident lawsuit, demonstrating liability usually entails proving one of the drivers’ negligence, which necessitates establishing a few important elements:
A legal obligation was broken. In the context of car accidents, this legal duty of care is the one that all drivers owe to everyone on the road—other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists—to operate a vehicle in a reasonably safe manner under all conditions.
The actions of the alleged at-fault motorist are compared to what a reasonably sensible driver would have done in the similar situation. When it comes to driving, failure to exercise adequate caution usually equates to a “breach” of the legal duty of care, which amounts to carelessness. Evidence that a driver was cited for a traffic violation in connection with the accident, for example, will go a long way toward proving that a duty was violated.
3. In a car accident claim, a lawyer does the legwork for you.
Negotiating an insurance settlement, let alone trying a personal injury case, takes a lot of time and effort. Taking on this time-consuming labor after a car accident may be the last thing on your mind, presuming you’re capable. Leaving matters in the hands of an experienced lawyer can alleviate a lot of stress.
While this may be your first experience dealing with the ins and outs of an accident claim, injury attorneys have worked with a wide range of claims and have seen insurance company techniques. They know how to gather the essential proof to back up your claim, including police reports, witness testimony, medical records and bills, and employment and wage information.
Your attorney will also be able to organize the facts and write the insurance company a settlement demand letter. If you are unable to reach a settlement in your accident case, your attorney can file the proper paperwork to begin a court case on your behalf and deal with the defense counsel. Having a seasoned professional handle the day-to-day details of your case relieves you of the stress, allowing you to concentrate on recovering from your injuries.
4. A car accident lawyer fights for the best possible outcome for you.
The job of an advocate is perhaps the most crucial one that a car accident attorney plays. This entails acting in your best interests and on your side throughout the claim process. Your attorney will be your advocate, whether negotiating with a car insurance company or presenting your case before a judge or jury, ensuring that your side of the story is heard and that you are reimbursed for all of your damages.