Do you know when to hire an attorney after a car accident? The simplest answer is this: you should hire an attorney after a car accident if you or anyone else suffered injury or damage. You should also hire an attorney if the insurance company isn’t treating you fairly or if you have questions about a settlement offer you received.
According to PennDOT, one out of every 164 Pennsylvania residents sustained injuries from car accidents in 2018. This equals about nine-car accident injuries every hour resulting from the 352 crashes that occur each day of the year (on average). Many injured individuals were likely eligible to receive compensation from the parties who caused their accidents.
However, much confusion exists about who is eligible to file a personal injury claim and when is the appropriate time to hire an experienced personal injury attorney.
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When Should You Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident?
Attorneys and claims adjusters from you and the other driver's insurance company begin working on the claims process immediately after an accident. In accidents where their insured may have been liable, they may try to shift that liability onto the other driver to minimize their financial exposure.
Speaking to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible after an accident offers answers to your legal questions and guidance in dealing with the insurance representatives who may contact you.
You should hire an attorney to represent you after a car accident in these situations:
- You suffered injuries and/or significant damage to your car.
If you were involved in a minor fender-bender that did not cause serious injuries, you might not need the assistance of a car accident injury attorney. But in all other circumstances, immediately speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer is the best way to protect your legal rights to recover compensation for your damages and medical expenses.
- It is obvious, or even just possible, that someone else's actions contributed to causing the accident.
Speak with an attorney about any car accident in which someone else's actions may have played a role, including any accident involving more than one vehicle and any accident involving a sudden, unexpected loss of control of your car.
- The other driver's insurance carrier has offered you a lowball settlement.
Speaking to an attorney before agreeing to a settlement or making an official statement to a third-party insurance provider is important. Early after an accident, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have a clear and thorough understanding of the costs accident injuries might inflict on your life. Until an experienced attorney has helped you analyze the extent of damages, you risk accepting a car accident settlement that is much too low and will not fully cover the expenses you face now and in the future. Once you've accepted a settlement, you generally will not have the opportunity to go back and ask for more money.
- Your injuries are severe and permanent.
Permanent injuries inflict a lifetime of expenses, including future surgeries, hospitalizations for complications, modifications to your home, and a decline in your earning capacity. Let an attorney help you obtain the money you need to pay for them.
- A governmental agency caused your accident.
It takes skill and know-how to recover fair compensation from a local or state government entity as damages for the wrongful actions of its employees. Ask an experienced attorney who understands the complications of taking legal action against a government entity to help you.
- A loved one died from injuries sustained in the accident.
If you lost a loved one because of another driver's negligence or recklessness, you might have the right to obtain compensation from the at-fault driver through a wrongful death claim. Suppose you need more information about who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim. In that case, an attorney can give you the details about this process and may be able to assist you in recovering damages caused by the loss.
Can You Seek Compensation for Damages Caused by a Car Accident on Your Own?
In theory, yes. In reality, no way.
Car accident injury lawyers spend their days helping car accident victims recover compensation from at-fault parties. It takes years of training and experience to learn the ins and outs of obtaining maximum payouts from insurance companies and top-dollar awards from Pennsylvania juries.
In short, lawyers know how to get you all of the money you deserve. You, in all likelihood, don't have the experience or resources to seek compensation, especially if you're having trouble physically recovering from the accident.
What can lawyers do for you that you almost certainly cannot do on your own?
- Plan a legal strategy for obtaining maximum compensation.
Many laws and rules can affect when, how, and against whom you can take legal action for damages after a car accident and how much money someone might have to pay. An auto accident attorney knows how to navigate those laws and rules to your advantage. You do not.
- Identify all parties with potential legal liability to you.
Lawyers with experience representing car accident victims know where to look and what to look for to identify all parties who have a potential legal liability to you for damages. The more parties they identify who have the resources to pay a claim to you, the better your chances of recovering the money you deserve.
In a car accident settlement, putting a dollar value on the harm you sustained is not always a straightforward process. It entails not just adding up the out-of-pocket costs you have already incurred as a result of the accident but also estimating those costs for the future. Additionally, it requires placing a value on the emotional harm you suffered, such as your pain and suffering and damage done to your personal relationships. Most personal injury lawyers have years of experience accurately valuing those items of damages. If you try to tally them up on your own, you will likely leave money on the table.
- Assemble the evidence you need to prove your claim.
Experienced car accident injury lawyers have training in gathering diverse pieces of evidence about your accident and compiling them into a clear and compelling narrative to prove someone has a legal liability to you for damages. This is a skill that most people do not have. It is what sets lawyers apart.
A personal injury lawsuit arising from a car accident will most likely settle out of court. Typically, the insurance company for the party with legal liability pays money to the injured party in exchange for the injured party giving up a legal claim. Just because lawsuits normally settle, however, does not mean that it is easy to achieve the largest settlement available. Only a skilled lawyer with years of experience interacting with insurance adjusters can navigate the give-and-take of a settlement negotiation to a client's maximum advantage, determining the limits of your insurance policy and interceding on your behalf with the auto insurance companies involved. Most car accident claims negotiated by non-lawyers with insurance companies end up getting steamrolled.
- File and litigate a lawsuit.
Yes, it is possible to file a lawsuit for damages arising from a car accident on your own (known as filing pro se), but it is always, (we repeat) always, a terrible idea. Acting as your lawyer is a fool's errand. No one will take your legal claim seriously, in or out of court. No opposing attorney or insurance adjuster will negotiate with you on the level. You will, without a doubt, make basic mistakes that shoot your own claim in the foot. The jury will dismiss you as a crackpot if you make it to a trial. Trust a lawyer to file a lawsuit on your behalf. Never attempt it on your own.
- Collect the money owed to you.
Even when a legal claim for damages arising from a car accident settles or results in a jury award, it is not over until the money is in your bank account. Do you know how to collect an award when the party with liability fails to step up and write a check? Lawyers do.
We do not mean to sound harsh, but the fact is that injured car accident victims should never, ever try to pursue personal injury cases for damages on their own. The only way to protect and enforce your rights, and obtain the legal representation and compensation you deserve, is to put your case in the hands of an experienced car accident lawyer.
How Do You Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
Most people do not consider hiring a personal injury attorney until they need one. At that point, however, they are unsure of where to turn to or what to look for in legal counsel. Here are some tips when it comes time to hire an attorney:
- Find personal injury attorneys licensed to practice in your state and work in your region by performing an internet search, looking at review sites, contacting the state bar association, or asking a friend or acquaintance for recommendations. Visit the websites of those you find through your search. When you decide on a few attorneys you want to know more about, schedule an appointment to meet with them.
- Most car accident lawyers provide a free consultation. This is a time in which you can share the details of your case, as well as ask questions regarding your legal options and the experience of the attorney in working with cases like yours.
Be sure to prepare a list of questions to take with you so that you do not forget to ask questions that matter to you. When you meet with a personal injury attorney, ask how many cases they have settled, litigated, and worked on that were similar to yours. You will also want to hear the attorney's preliminary thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of your case and receive guidance on how you wish to proceed.
It is acceptable for you to ask for references from past clients who have used the attorney's services, and most attorneys are happy to supply this information.
- When you and the attorney agree to begin work together, you will likely be provided with some documents to sign. Be sure to read these documents fully and to sign them only when you are satisfied that you understand them and are comfortable with doing so.
The Representation You Deserve
If got hurt in a car accident, contact an experienced car accident attorney at a personal injury law firm today.