You may want to talk to an attorney if you or a loved one has suffered injuries or even died in a car accident. But many people worry about the cost involved in working with an attorney. How much does a lawyer cost for a car accident?
Let’s set your mind at rest immediately. Working with a lawyer won’t cost you anything. That’s right; you can contact an attorney entirely free of charge to discuss your case. After that, if they take your case, you still don’t need to bring out the checkbook. You do not pay them from your own pocket.
Car accident lawyers usually receive payment through contingency fees. If they settle an insurance claim or win a case for you in civil court, they receive a percentage of the claim or settlement. You don’t owe them anything if they do not settle a claim or win a case.
It’s very important to understand that hiring a car accident lawyer doesn’t cost you anything because a lawyer can offer very real help to victims of car accidents and their families. Without them, you may only get a settlement far less than your injuries should receive or none at all. You may even face accusations of causing an accident you didn’t cause.
Not only that, but having a car accident lawyer to handle your claims after a car accident frees you and your family to concentrate on what matters most: recovering from your injuries and trauma in the best way possible.
How a Lawyer Can Help You After a Car Accident
The first way a lawyer can help car accident victims is by helping to determine who or what caused the accident. California is a fault state. Drivers bear financial responsibility for injuries they cause. That’s one of the reasons all California drivers must carry car insurance. (In a no-fault state, by contrast, one’s own insurance coverage is often expected to pay for all car accident injuries.)
Did the other driver run a red light and hit your vehicle broadside, causing a broken leg and facial lacerations? In California, that means the other driver is responsible for medical treatment for those injuries. They also bear responsibility if those injuries cause you to miss time (and pay) from work.
But frankly, it’s not always clear who or what caused the accident. What if the accident knocked you unconscious, and you genuinely don’t remember what occurred? Sometimes accidents stem from multiple factors, such as a poorly marked-out detour or extremely heavy traffic.
Plus, sadly, at-fault drivers do not always tell the truth. At-fault drivers may tell their insurance company you caused the accident, even if they bear the blame. At-fault drivers don’t want to seem guilty and don’t want their insurance costs to go up, which can happen if they cause an accident. They seek to protect themselves, whether their statements are factual or not.
What determines who or what caused an accident? Evidence. A car accident lawyer can help you gather evidence about what caused the accident.
Evidence comes in many forms. The first is a police report. You should contact law enforcement if you are in an accident unless first responders take you to the emergency room. (Note that the requires you law to contact law enforcement within 24 hours if anyone is injured or killed or if there is property damage; only if law enforcement came to the scene is this waived.)
If law enforcement is called to the scene, they will interview all drivers and take notes on what happened. The police report may indicate the accident’s causes. It will also note the location and time of day or night. If you’re in an accident, always get a copy of the police report.
But there are times when you may have yet to receive the police report initially. If you suffer serious injuries, first responders may take you immediately to the emergency room. If that’s the case, a lawyer can obtain a copy of the police report for you.
A second source of evidence is pictures or videos. If you’re in an accident and have your phone with you, taking multiple images of the accident scene is an excellent idea. Show how the cars are damaged, if they are. Take pictures of any damage to objects, such as street signs or traffic signals. Take photos of anything relevant to the conduct of the vehicles, such as skid marks.
All these pictures can help investigators and insurance adjusters determine how and why an accident happened.
If you couldn’t take pictures yourself, public surveillance footage or photographs from other drivers or bystanders might be available. A lawyer can help determine whether that’s the case and track the images down.
Eyewitnesses, if available, are a third major source of evidence. It’s prudent to get the contact of eyewitnesses after an accident. But a lawyer can also get in touch with potential eyewitnesses and interview them.
Attorneys and investigators working with them can also investigate the causes of an accident. Forensic specialists can work to establish what occurred.
Finally, your injuries themselves are a form of evidence about what caused the accident. For instance, if you went through a windshield, it’s likely you suffered a rear-end collision! Specific injuries occur only from certain types of collisions, and they would not occur with other types.
Always save all medical records from the treatment of your injuries after a car accident.
A lawyer can help you gather your medical records if you do not have them.
Providing Transparency About the Costs
Car accident lawyers come into insurance company negotiations knowing the range for a claim. They will have reviewed your injuries, the recommended treatments, and the prognosis. As a result, an attempt to lowball you or otherwise minimize the insurance payout is avoidable if you use a lawyer.
When you are injured in a car accident, compensation can include:
- Medical bills. Emergency response, medical treatment, surgery, follow-up visits, diagnostic tests, prescription medication, physical therapy, retrofitting a home, and more.
- Income lost from work. Income lost because you cannot work due to the accident.
- Pain and suffering. Physical, psychological, and emotional pain
- Physical losses. Reimbursement for damages to physical property (such as your car)
If you try to work without a lawyer, you may not know all these categories, particularly those relating to work and pain and suffering. Compensation for pain and suffering can vary enormously. An injury that affects your livelihood, or a long-time hobby, may receive higher compensation because your loss is greater.
Suppose you work as a fitness coach and demonstrate the exercise to your clientele. In that case, you may be entitled to higher compensation if car accident injuries render you unable to do that. A lawyer will know that; often, car accident victims working without a lawyer will not.
Pursuing Your Claim in Court
What happens if insurance companies or individuals will not pay a fair claim for your injuries? At that point, lawyers can help you bring a case to civil court. The desired outcome is fair and just compensation for you, your injuries, and your trauma.
Court cases are highly complex. Insurance companies and individuals do not like going to court. Why? Because, frankly, juries can often show more sympathy to car accident victims than insurance companies do.
Insurance companies often settle out of court before a case begins to avoid that risk. The idea that a claim is brought provides significant leverage to you in receiving a just settlement.
In preparation for a court case, lawyers gather all evidence, argue in court, and bring witnesses as necessary. The witnesses may include expert witnesses testifying to the nature of your injuries, the recommended course of medical treatment, and how much that treatment will likely cost.
The Initial Consultation Is Always Free
Okay, you may think: it’s great that lawyers are free. But how can lawyers afford to do all this work for free?
It’s partly because of the role of the initial consultation. Car accident lawyers offer a complimentary first consultation to discuss your case. The lawyer finds out what happened, what your injuries are, and what your experience with the insurance company has been, if any.
The initial consultation is a time for you and the lawyer to communicate openly. If you have evidence, such as a police report, pictures and images, eyewitness testimony, and medical records, it’s helpful to bring it to the first consultation. It’s also a good idea to plan to tell the lawyer what your injuries are and how they’ve affected you.
You may talk to several different attorneys if you wish. At the end of the initial consultation, the lawyer will tell you whether you have a case in their legal opinion. Lawyers take cases if they feel there’s a reasonable likelihood of achieving a just payout or settlement. They will let you know if they don’t feel there is a reasonable expectation of either.
How Long Should I Wait Before Consulting a Car Accident Lawyer?
In California, folks injured in a car accident have two years from the accident date to bring a case against the at-fault parties to court. The span of time is known as the statute of limitations.
That’s one reason to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible after any accident.
First, a lawyer offers sound advice you need to know when dealing with insurance companies (such as don’t accept a quick offer; they may stem from a lowball strategy).
Second, lawyers always need evidence. Evidence fades or even disappears with time. Surveillance footage, eyewitnesses, and medical records can all suffer loss or damage. Surveillance footage is overwritten, eyewitnesses forget or move away, and medical records become potentially lost or misfiled. The sooner you talk to an attorney, the better and fresher all your sources of evidence are likely to be. Evidence provides a crucial link to a just claim or legal settlement.
If you have additional questions about how much a lawyer for a car accident costs, talk to a personal injury attorney.