When should you hire a lawyer for a car accident?

Morris James LLP
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No one is prepared for a car accident and the impact it can have on your life. It can cause fear, pain, expense, and inconvenience. It also raises questions that you have never had to consider before, such as do you need a lawyer if you have been in a car accident or do you go it alone? The short answer is if you are asking this question, you need to talk to a lawyer.

After a car accident, always remember:

  • If you have any injuries, expenses, or damage, you may be entitled to compensation.
  • Most lawyers will give you a first consultation without any risk or commitment.
  • Insurance companies are not on your side.
  • You should not delay.

Having a lawyer can increase your compensation

If you have been injured or incurred property damage in a car accident, you may have significant medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs. In many cases, these expenses continue long after the accident. It is well known that car accident victims who have legal representation obtain significantly higher compensation amounts than those who are unrepresented. Some studies have shown that settlements and awards can be up to 3.5 times as much for victims who have an attorney. Personal injury attorneys are familiar with the tactics of insurance companies, and can help clients to negotiate and stand up to insurers who want quicker, and lower, settlements. It is not unusual for an insurance adjuster to tell a car accident victim that they do not even need an attorney, as part of their strategy to reduce the compensation that the insurance company will have to pay.

The losses that can result from a car accident are not always clear in the days and weeks immediately after the accident. An experienced personal injury attorney can help a victim to better estimate their potential future expenses, and include them in their claim. Sometimes apparently minor injuries, such as whiplash, can become persistent or bigger issues requiring ongoing medical expenses. The effect of minor or major injuries from a car accident can be far-reaching, and incur costs beyond obvious medical expenses that a victim might not consider if they are handling the claim without representation. Victims frequently underestimate their expenses and how long they will last, resulting in inadequate settlements that do not cover the costs their family has to bear after an accident.

A legal misstep will affect your compensation

Most car accident claims are settled out of court which leads some people to think that dealing with an insurance claim is only a bargaining process, and that the law is irrelevant. This is incorrect and can result in lost claims and lower compensation. If you do not have a strong legal claim in a car accident case, you are in a weaker negotiating position, and the insurance company knows it. Knowing the law is key to a successful claim.

Apart from the core issues of proving who is at fault in a car accident and the extent of damage or injuries, there are other legal issues that will affect your case and compensation. A claim can be lost if it is not filed within the statute of limitations period for that type of claim and for that state. The state in which a claim should be filed is a highly complex legal issue in itself, which can depend on where the accident happened, the type of damage caused, and where the people involved are resident. Deciding where to file a car accident claim will affect the deadlines, the process, and the amount of compensation, which are not the same in every state. In Delaware, for example, the comparative negligence rule applies which means that a victim’s compensation will be reduced if the victim is at fault for the accident, and will not recover anything if they are more than 50% at fault. A personal injury lawyer will consider all of these issues in order to improve a victim’s claim and negotiating position, and maximize their compensation.

There are no drawbacks to talking to a lawyer

Any good lawyer will offer you a free initial consultation, either on the phone or in person, to discuss your case. They will listen to your story and advise you whether or not you might benefit from having a lawyer to represent you. They will also explain how they can help you and how they are paid. The majority of car accident lawyers are paid on a contingency, or “no-win-no-fee,” basis. This means that their fees will be paid out of any compensation or settlement that you receive.

You should not have to pay anything for this initial conversation, and you do not have to make any commitments to hire the attorney. It is a chance for you to find out if you need a lawyer after your car accident, how your case will be handled, and if that lawyer is the right fit for you.

You are up against the insurance company not the at-fault driver

When you file a claim in a car accident case, you are not opposing an individual driver but instead a large insurance company that handles such claims on a daily basis. Some people who have been involved in an accident are concerned about causing distress or expense to the other driver, even if that driver caused the accident. However, most drivers carry auto insurance, and your dealings will be with their insurance provider. Insurance companies have massive resources, including teams of lawyers and medical and forensic experts, all of whom are directed at reducing the money that is paid out to you for your car accident claim.

An experienced car accident lawyer can help to level the playing field in your dealings with insurance companies. They know the strategies that insurance companies use to reduce the compensation paid out to victims of car accidents. They can also handle the mountain of paperwork, phone-calls, and emails that are involved in an insurance claim, freeing you up to recover physically and emotionally from your accident.

Timing is important in a car accident case

After you have been in a car accident, there are a lot of unexpected things to take care of and you may also be dealing with physical injuries and emotional distress. It can take time for you to recover and deal with the necessary phone-calls and paperwork. Unfortunately, the insurance companies involved in a car accident will be working to reduce their liability in any car accident claim immediately. The necessary steps after a car accident are routine to insurance companies, and they have the experience and resources to fight, and minimize, your claim. An experienced car accident lawyer knows the process after a car accident and the tactics of insurance companies. They can help you to stand up to the powerful insurance companies, and the sooner that they are involved, the more effective that they can be. It is always advisable to talk to your lawyer before talking to the insurance companies, and it is a good idea, especially in the case of physical injuries, to have your lawyer make the first calls to the insurance companies about the car accident on your behalf.

Every state has deadlines under a statute of limitations for bringing a legal action after a car accident. Often the relevant deadline is for personal injury claims, which in the State of Delaware is 2 years, typically running from the date of the accident. However, the deadline can be different in other states, other types of claim, or may start running from a later date depending on the circumstances of the accident and the injury. Once the deadline has passed, you lose your right to bring a legal claim for any injuries or loss as result of the accident, therefore it is crucial that you get good legal advice as soon as possible after an accident.

If you have been involved in a car accident, and suffered any injuries or property damage, you should contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible to find out more about your options. A good attorney can help you decide the best course of action for you, and navigate the many administrative and legal obstacles that lie between you and fair compensation after an accident.

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