When To Hire A Personal Injury Attorney After A Car Crash
Car accidents occur each and every day on our nation’s highways, but determining whether or not you should pursue legal action on account of your accident, and if that should entail hiring a personal injury attorney, can depend on a variety of factors.
Let’s examine the pros and cons of hiring a personal injury attorney for a car accident, and distinguish between accidents that necessitate legal action versus those that may simply require filing a standard insurance claim.
Two main considerations following a car accident:
1) The severity of the accident:
The extent and severity of an accident are perhaps the most important factors when considering whether or not to hire a personal injury attorney. Firstly, it goes without saying that if you are injured in a car accident, you need to address your health first and foremost. Everything else is secondary to your well being following a car accident.
In minor “fender benders” where no injury apparent has been sustained, one might assume there’s no need to hire a personal injury attorney. One caveat to that notion, however, is the potential for latent injuries to manifest weeks or even months following an accident. Therefore, it is always advisable that you visit a doctor to diagnose any asymptomatic issues of which you may be unaware. Additionally, you will want to document how your health progresses following the accident — even if it was very minor and your health appears unaffected. Alternatively, if you experience an injury of any kind immediately following a car accident, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
In cases where car accidents result in serious or catastrophic injuries which can require extensive medical care and bills, prevent one from working and therefore lead to lost wages, and leave the accident victim with what’s known as complications from “pain & suffering” (which is not easily quantified and requires expert analysis to prove that compensation is warranted), hiring a personal attorney is almost universally considered a necessity.
It’s no secret that insurance companies are in business to make a profit. As such, they do not have your best interest in mind when in the process of attempting to settle a car accident claim. Therefore, even in instances of minor car accidents you would be well advised to seek the services of an experienced personal injury attorney who can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and ensure you receive justice in the form of a settlement.
When researching a personal injury attorney to represent you following a car accident, you should seek out those with relatable experience who have successfully represented car accident victims.
Sustaining major injuries after a car accident can be a stressful and often demoralizing process. Having to worry about recovering from your injuries, paying your mounting medical bills, and recovering lost wages can be overwhelming. In such cases, hiring a personal attorney is critical because they are able to relieve you of these responsibilities/stressors by applying their experience in negotiating the highest possible monetary award for each issue.
Additionally, as mentioned earlier, pain & suffering is something experienced by nearly all victims of serious car accidents. However, determining an equitable figure for such trauma in a court of law is a complex and inexact science. As pain & suffering can account for a substantial portion of car accident settlements, you need an attorney who is an expert in articulating the pain & suffering you have experienced, as well as how it may affect you in the future.
Be mindful of the fact that insurance companies will fight tooth and nail to keep such a figure as low as possible. It’s one of the most important reasons why you should hire a personal attorney after an accident.
2) The at-fault party:
Whether the at-fault party is an average insured driver, an uninsured driver, or a driver employed by a company (e.g. a trucking company or delivery service) directly impacts the nature of your case.
As an example, if you are severely injured in an accident caused by a semi-truck driven by an employee of a corporation, the liability for your injuries, expenses, and pain & suffering falls on not only the driver, but the company employing the driver as well.
Additionally, if a driver causes an accident and is uninsured, your rights and the best course of action for proceeding through the legal system differ from an instance where an at-fault driver is insured.
As these scenarios vary considerably on a case-by-case basis, they require an expert personal injury attorney to help ensure that you are properly represented and are able to take advantage of all your rights available under the law.
When to hire a personal injury attorney:
As a general rule, hiring (or at least consulting with) a personal injury attorney as soon as possible following an accident is the best course of action. The statute of limitations that stipulates the period of time an accident victim is eligible to file a lawsuit varies from state-to-state. In California, the statute of limitations is two years. The two-year statute applies in most states, however it is important that you research and confirm the specific statute of limitations where you live (or where the accident occurred if outside of your home state). Some states have a one-year limit on filing a lawsuit.
What about cases where the at-fault party was charged with DUI?
Any time a car accident involves an at-fault driver who is charged with operating under the influence, it’s imperative that you hire a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your rights, as well as the potential settlement award to which you may be entitled, are unique from typical car accident scenarios.
When an at-fault driver causes an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, having an experienced personal injury attorney to advocate on your behalf and fight to obtain justice within the context of such unfortunate circumstances is paramount.
How do I go about selecting the best attorney for my case?
When researching the best attorney to represent you in your car accident lawsuit, there are a few standard questions that you should present during a consultation (and, it goes without saying, you should meet with at least two attorneys from different firms so you can evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately make the best choice).
Some questions to present during your initial consultation:
- What percentage of your practice is devoted to car accident cases?
- What experience do you have representing clients with the specific type of injury (or injuries) I’ve sustained?
- What is a typical settlement range for accidents similar to mine?
- Will you handle my case directly, or will another attorney be assigned?
- What is your fee structure/policy?
- What out-of-pocket expenses will I be responsible for?
- Do you negotiate with hospitals and medical insurance companies to reduce the overall cost of such bills?
In summation, whether you’re involved in a small fender bender or a life-altering catastrophic car accident, it’s always best to consult with a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney.
As virtually all attorneys offer free consultations, you really have nothing to lose by reaching out for clarification on what rights you have under the law, and whether a lawsuit is something you should pursue.
However, keep in mind that finding the “right” attorney, meaning one that specializes in your specific type of case and has successfully represented clients who have experienced similar accidents, is priority number one.
Selecting the best attorney can be the difference between a significant and equitable settlement given the extent of your accident, or an outcome the leaves you facing significant medical bills, negotiating for lost wages, and receiving little to no compensation for your pain & suffering.