When should you get an attorney for a car accident? When you get into a car accident, chances are you won’t be thinking about contacting a car accident attorney immediately after. You’ll probably think about the damage to your car, the safety of your passengers, and that dentist appointment you’ve now missed. Next, the worry of pending medical bills and insurance issues will loom like a cloud.
Car accidents can traumatize you, and the expenses and psychological drain only begin at the scene of the crash.
For many people, any time spent in the hospital is a missed paycheck, and sky-high medical fees don’t make the experience any easier. For these and many other reasons, it’s essential to contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible. A skilled attorney will help you deal with the legalities of your case and increase your chances of securing a settlement that adequately compensates you for your losses.
If you’re still on the fence about whether to get an attorney for a car accident, a car accident attorney can walk you through the numerous scenarios in which having skilled legal representation will mean the difference between a lowball settlement and a payout that actually offers restitution for your many losses.
The Next Steps After an Accident
Accidents do happen, even to the most careful drivers. So what should you do after you’ve been in one? The first step is to remain calm. The post-accident process is never easy, so keeping your cool will help you recall as many details as possible about the wreck and ensure you get medical attention and police reports necessary to get your claim off on the right foot.
Once you have your bearings, check if you’re injured or not. If you are, try not to move and alert anyone around you to call for help. If you haven’t incurred any significant injuries, move your car to a safe place away from the road, preferably in a public place where others can see you and the other party.
Next, alert the police, even if minor or no injuries occur. Calling the police is a legal requirement and is important because the police will collect any pertinent details about the crash in their report, which will be helpful when processing insurance claims.
If you can, collect information about the other driver, including their license plate, mobile number, make and model of the car, and insurance information. If you are able and it is safe to do so, take as many photos as possible of the crash scene and both cars. Ensure you also have your own account of events which you can compare against the police report.
Never make cash or other side deals with the other driver about any damage payments. Doing so exposes you to significant expenses down the line, and you may find yourself in court if the other driver is dishonest. Avoid admitting fault or even apologizing, as it can be used to prove liability.
Finally, get medical help and contact a lawyer. Having your lawyer file your claim with your insurance provider can help prevent your report from being twisted in any way. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows the tactics that insurance companies will use to try and pay you less than what is fair.
When Filing an Insurance Claim
After an auto accident, you may seek compensation from the insurance company or the other party’s insurer. You can use the settlement money to care for yourself and your family as you recover and pay your medical bills.
You can also seek compensation for pain and suffering, lost income, repairs, and wrongful death if you lose a loved one in the crash. For lost income, you can seek compensation for current wages as you recuperate and future wages if your condition worsens and causes you to lose work.
Regardless of the injuries after the accident, you need to visit a doctor for medical help, even if you feel fine. Remember, some accident injuries take time to manifest. For instance, it may take days for the symptoms of whiplash or brain injury to arise. Seeking medical help will help your case for compensation
Finally, hiring a skilled attorney helps you level the playing field during negotiations. An experienced car accident lawyer understands the strategies and tactics insurers use to reduce compensation. They can put their skills and resources into your case, freeing you up for full emotional and physical recovery.
When You Have a Serious Injury or Are Not Sure About Your Injury
The severity of the injury usually determines the settlement, so you may not see the need for an attorney if you have minor injuries after the accident. However, you may find yourself dragging on with insurance companies if you have a severe injury. Insurance companies try as much as possible to avoid paying for policies.
If you have a serious injury, it means more money is at stake, and they will try their best to pay as little as they can by lowballing you. A serious injury doesn’t have to involve surgery or hospitalization. You may have incurred a broken bone or joint injury that has rendered you incapable of performing activities that you did before or require long-term treatment.
Anything that causes you immense pain is a serious injury. Having an attorney with you while negotiating with insurance companies about serious injuries increases your chances of securing the compensation you deserve to facilitate recovery.
Similarly, a lawyer is a good option if you’re unsure how serious your injury is after an accident or if you aren’t getting any better. Your attorney will hold the insurance company accountable and keep them on their toes for the full long-term cost, not just what the doctor has diagnosed.
When an Insurance Company Asks You to Sign a Release
Your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance company may approach you immediately after an accident to offer you a quick settlement. At the time, it may make sense, given your medical bills, but that quick settlement often doesn’t consider any future damages or losses from your injuries.
Signing a release means you relinquish several things, including absolving the other party from liability for the accident. If you sign a release of liability and claims, you will be releasing the guilty party from any fault, meaning once you’ve reached a settlement and signed the necessary forms, the company will close the case for good, and you won’t be able to reopen it in the future if the original compensation isn’t sufficient.
After releasing liability and your case is closed, you won’t be eligible for any future compensation from the guilty party, regardless of future damage. A lawyer will help you weigh the deal against the initial settlement offer and advise on whether or not you should sign a release of liability going by your case and injuries.
Another release form that grants the company access to your medical records is the medical authorization release. If the insurer gets a hold of your full medical records, they may look for any information to try and throw out your injury claim based on preexisting conditions.
An experienced attorney can help you go through the document’s fine print to ensure you’re not giving up access to vulnerable information that may jeopardize your case.
When You Don’t Want a Legal Misstep to Affect Your Compensation
Most auto accident claims usually get settled out of court, leading some people to believe that dealing with insurance companies is a bargaining process that doesn’t require the law. This couldn’t be further from the truth and may result in low compensation or, worse, lost claims.
Insurance companies are always looking for weak spots to avoid paying damages, and if you don’t have a strong legal claim or share fault, you are in a vulnerable negotiating position. A lawyer may help you establish fault and determine the extent of damages. However, there are other issues that can affect your compensation.
Many lost claims happen because people fail to file claims within the statute of limitations, which limits how much time a victim has to file a lawsuit after their injury. In California, the time limit for filing a car accident claim is two years, starting from the date of the accident. This time may be affected by some exceptions, such as if the accident occurred in another state and parties reside in different states.
Deciding where to file the claim can affect deadlines, the amount you can receive in compensation, and the process. Once a deadline has passed, you cannot bring a legal claim for injuries or loss from the accident. When the clock runs out, you will no longer have the right to pursue monetary damages through the court process.
An attorney will assess all of these issues and work towards improving your claim and negotiating position. They will also prove that the other party owed you a duty of care and breached it, causing your accident and losses. This will help prove negligence and maximize your recovery award.
You Have More to Gain by Hiring a Lawyer
A good attorney will offer you a free consultation to review your case in person or on the phone. They will listen to you and advise you on whether or not a lawyer is good for you. They will also explain their compensation and how they can help you.
Many car accident lawyers prefer to be paid on contingency. This means that if they fail to win your claim, you pay no fee because their fee comes from the compensation you recover. This payment method guarantees you can receive high-quality service. The attorney will have more incentive to aggressively pursue your case and obtain the highest possible settlement because a win for you is a win for them.
You shouldn’t need to pay anything for your first conversation with the lawyer. You shouldn’t have to make any commitments to hire them, either. The initial consultation allows you to find out if you need an attorney after your accident, how they will handle your case, and if they are the right fit for you.
Consult an Experienced Attorney for Your Car Accident Case
Handling a car accident on your own puts you in a vulnerable position and exposes you to complicated situations, which may see you leaving money on the table. Having a lawyer by your side ensures you are fully prepared for what may be thrown at you during negotiations with insurers or in court if it comes down to it
Lawyers are experienced in litigation and can create a compelling claim to prove your losses. Accidents cause physical and emotional harm. Don’t let them affect you financially too. Take the necessary legal steps to secure your rights and give your claim the best chance at success. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer today for more information and get started.