Do You Need A Car Accident Lawyer ?
Lawyers – love them or hate them, there are times when you need them. Being involved in a car accident may well be one of those times you seriously need to think about having their help.
This may not be the first thing on your mind following an accident, but in the days afterwards obtaining a car accident lawyer is something you will properly want to give serious thought to, and investigate more thoroughly.
However helpful your insurance company may appear or not, ultimately they will look after their own interests and not yours.
Given that most auto accidents are quite complex in nature, a car accident lawyer may well be worth having as being the only person who is really on your side.
Costs – Contingency Fee Car Accident Lawyers
The one thing that probably puts most people off the idea of hiring a car accident lawyer is cost, and the fear of rising legal fees as the case continues.
This fear led to the rise of many contingency fee lawyers or attorneys, offering what are often referred to as no-win no fee deals. The essence of these deals is that a car accident lawyer will take on your case, and will only take their fee from any damages they win for you in court or out of court settlement.
This means that there should be no upfront costs to you, and no fees payable to them if they do not secure you damages.
Not all car accident lawyers operate schemes such as this, but many do and it is well worth searching them out, and checking their record.
From your point of view, a solid contingency fee deal means that you should not have to worry about any costs, as any lawyers fees will simply be deducted from any settlement you may receive.
There are a few potential downsides to these arrangements, and these are worth being aware of.
- Once you have entered into a contingency fee deal you are unlikely to be able to get out of it until a final settlement has been agreed, which in some cases could take many years.
- This means that you are tied into the whole process of litigation whether you like it or not. If you do break the deal, you may well have to pay significant costs to the attorneys you have hired
- The contingency fee lawyer is only likely to take on your case if they feel you have a really good chance of winning, and of winning substantial damages.
- Make sure the contingency fee deal is watertight, and that it does literally mean what it says. Make sure there are no caveats that might lead you having to pay any
- Given that there should be no upfront fees, it is likely that the fees recoverable by the car accident lawyers you have hired are likely to be significantly more than if you are paying them upfront.
- This is a simple risk return ratio from their point of view, and something you should be happy to accept or not given the proportionate lack of risk to yourself
- Even with some contingebcy fee deals you may have to pay some court costs up front, Check with any contincency fee deal if any costs are involved and what they relate to.
Areas where a Car Accident Lawyer may be able to help
There are a number of lawyers, commonly referred to as car accident lawyers, who specialise in all areas of the law relating to motor vehicle accidents. Below is a summary of the main areas an attorney may be able to offer specialist help, with more detailed information below
- Looking to obtain police reports
- Helping to obtain information about the other vehicle – maintenance records etc
- Dealing with your insurance company and insurance company of other vehicle – testifying under oath
- Personal injury claims
- Knowing if the person was using cellphone call / texting, under the influence of alcohol or drugs or sleep deprived
- Property damage claims
- Defective vehicle parts
- Medical bills
- Other expenses related to the accident – hire cars, accomodation, repatriation expenses etc
- Lost wages/ employment
- Loss of enjoyment
- Pain and suffering
- Finding out if the vehicle was speeding
- Working with forensic engineers to determine cause of accident
- Were unsafe road conditions a factor – was proper signage in place
- Protects your interests against insurance company
Whenever you are involved in an accident, it is always a good idea to involve local law enforcement. This may not only be a legal requirement, but can also prove invaluable in terms of dealing with the accident and follow-up information as well.
Local police will produce a report that should cover all aspects of the accident, including details about the other person and their vehicle.This should be available to you or your car acacident lawyer on request
This can include whether the vehicle was speeding or not, the maintenance or servicing records of the vehicle, any inherent defects on the vehicle, whether the individual was distracted in anyway by cellphone usage etc.
The police will also most likely do tests on all parties for any alcohol or drug usage, or impairment by any other means, including sleep deprivation.
They should also take note of any adverse weather or road conditions, and should take note if there was appropriate signage displayed, either physically or electronically.
A police report can be invaluable in terms of any follow-up claim on your insurance policy, and can provide vital information regarding the determination of who was at fault, and provide a sense of context for what happened.
Defective Vehicle Parts
These are often a common factor in vehicle accidents, and can be at play either in your own vehicle or in one of the other vehicle/s involved in the accident.
This can lead to scenarios where the manufacturer and/or dealership of the vehicle could also be involved in litigation, irrespective of any other factors involved in the accident.
It is quite possible that if a defective vehicle part is a contributory factor, any of the insurance companies involved or your car accident lawyer could seek to take action against the manufacturer or dealership, to which you would inevitably be a witness.
Personal Injury Claims
Whether or not you or any other party need medical assistance at the time of the accident, it is vital that you seek a thorough medical examination in the days following. There are two main reasons for this.
Firstly it is quite possible that an injury will show up in the days or even weeks following an accident that was not obviously apparent to you at the time.
Secondly, if you do proceed with any type of personal injury claim, using a car accident lawyer or not, it is crucial to your credibility as a witness that you sought medical attention at the earliest opportunity. Failure to do so could seriously undermine your case.
Personal injury claims are notoriously long, in terms of the time taken to assess long-term damage and other implications. It is not uncommon for some claims to last several years before damages are finally settled.
The are a number of reasons for this. Some more cynical people assume that insurance companies string out personal injury claims to defer having to make payment.
There are probably times this is true, but there are other reasons as well.
The main one is simply that a lot of personal injury claims relate to injuries that take their toll on the body over time, and it is necessary to see how the injuries progress over that time, and what level of damages is therefore appropriate.
It is important if you do have a serious personal injury claim to at least seek some sort of legal advice early on, and to be wary of any potential settlement that an insurance company offers you early on as well. A good car accident lawyer should be able to advise you on any potential settlement terms.
Some insurance companies offer early settlements as a way of finalising the claim, although such settlements are likely to be much less than if the claim was allowed to run its natural course over several years.
The other element of personal injury claims can relate to what could be termed knock on effects of the injury. This can relate to both short and long-term effects.
These can include mental, psychological and physical manifestations of an injury, sometimes referred to as loss of enjoyment or pain and suffering.
The other effects tend to relate to more practical issues that normally focus around an individual’s ability or inability to work as a result of the injury, and subsequent problems regarding income / mortgage payments etc.
Protecting You Against Your Insurance Company
There is often a tendency to believe in situations like this that your insurance company is on your side. In some ways they maybe, but it is also quite likely that they will seek to minimise their costs and settlement figures to the most basic figure they can.
They will either do this within the strict terms and conditions of the policy, or interpret them in a more legally dubious manner. This is really where a car accident lawyer can be useful, in addition to whatever other remedies you may wish to employ.
Your auto insurance policy will be an incredibly tightly worded legal document, that will have a number of very strict conditions regarding its terms and benefits.
In relation to an auto accident this can revolve around things such as hire cars and accommodation expenses, medical bills and having to testify under oath to the insurance company or their representative about the accident and what happened.
This is before you even get into the issue of compensation or liability settlements.
A car accident lawyer can be invaluable if they have sufficient experience in these areas, and can help smooth both the short and long-term effects of dealing with your insurance company. A good lawyer may in the end be the only person who is really on your side in situations like this.
Steps To Take After An Accident
It is fairly likely that after any car accident, you are likely to be in some degree of shock. There are a number of things that you need to do at the time, and it is a really good idea to have a plan in advance.
Either write the following things down on a piece of paper and keep them in your car, or find some other way of having these items with you. Some insurance companies provide an app for your smartphone which covers most of the information below.
- Prevent another accident
- Don’t move any of the vehicles unless absolutely necessary
- Check occupants of all vehicles for possible immediate injuries and call for immediate medical help if appropriate
- Call local law enforcement
- Exchange information with other driver
- Do not admit any liability or fault
- Take photographs
- Get witness statements
- Write a description of what happened
- Seek medical treatment
- Contact your insurance company
Prevent Another Accident
This may seem quite obvious now, but at the time of any accident it is a major priority. It is imperative that you make sure that the accident that happened does not create a situation where another one could take place because of it.
This may mean putting warning triangles in place, asking other pedestrians or car drivers to redirect traffic, or doing whatever is necessary to make the area the accident happened a safe place.
Unless absolutely crucial, do not move any of the vehicles involved in the accident. This will impede law enforcement’s ability to assess what happened, and may impact on your insurance claim.
It is really important that you gather as much information as possible at the time, even if it is in note form that you write ups later. This information should include everything relevant to the accident.
This includes getting information from any drivers involved in the accident, their names and addresses, vehicle make and registration number and insurance details.
Get the names and addresses of any witnesses you can, either pedestrians and other car drivers. Make a note of the weather conditions, and of any relevant skidmarks or tire marks on the road.
Take as many photographs as you can, whether on a camera or on a smart phone. Take photos of any damage to your car, any damage to the other car or photos of the other car if there is no damage.
Note to see if there are any surveillance cameras nearby, either on the road or on nearby stores or office buildings. They may well have footage that could be invaluable in the event of a disputed insurance claim.
Knowing Your Insurance Policy
Most people only tend to look at their influence policy when there are about to make a claim, and unless you are an exception to this you will need to familiarise yourself fairly quickly with your auto insurance policy’s major provisions.
- Notify insurance company of claim immediately
- Follow-up for details of claim on company forms within a set number of days
- Never admit fault or liability to any third party
- Be willing to give evidence under oath
- Settlement procedure regarding valuation of vehicle
- Medical expenses
- Settlement procedure regarding total claim
- Independent medical assessment by insurance companies doctor of choice
Whilst there are many areas of your insurance policy that you should become familiar with, there are a few that are critically important.
Your insurance policy will have time limits within which you must notify them of the initial accident or incident, and time limits with which you must follow up with details of the claim.
These time limits are really important, and if you fail to keep them it could well void your policy. Your insurers may will appoint an assessor who is essentially a specialist in motor claims, and you will be expected to fully complywith their requets and assist them as much as possible.
Having the counsel of a good car accident lawyer can be invaluable.
You may well also be required to give evidence under oath as to what happened, and this is one area where it is well advised to have an attorney or car accident lawyer present. It is often said, but cannot be repeated too often, never ever admit any liability or fault to a third party.
This is not about you being honest or dishonest, it is simply that if you admit any type of liability or fault, it could well be used against you and potentially void your claim.
It is worth mentioning that there is no way some arbitration process built into the insurance policy in the event of a dispute, and then they will be some state laws governing arbitration as well. This can be very important in the event of a dispute with your insurance company, an dan area where you would be well adives to have the services of a car accident lawyer.
Knowing who is at fault
The term accident often makes people think that there was no one to blame, whereas in reality most accidents canusually be traced to some degree of negligence by one or all drivers.
This negligence can take many forms, ranging from distracted driving, defective or badly maintained vehicles, unnsured vehicles to being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Whilst every accident is different, there are a number of standard classifications of accidents that tend to happen, most of which have a significant amount of case law, and specific legal definitions regarding negligence. Your car accident lawyer can give you more details.
It is worth familiarising yourself with which classification of accident yours falls under, and the main legal principles involved in your state.
Different types of accident
- Hit and run accidents
- Single vehicle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Railroad accidents
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Rear end collision
- Single vehicle accidents
How to Find a Car Accident Lawyer
This can in many ways be the trickiest part of the process. Firstly decide whether or not you want to have a car accident lawyer, and if so whether you want to hire one on a contingency fee basis, as outlined above, or on a more normal fee for work basis.
The rest is common sense to an extent. Find a lawyer who has experience in these areas, either through a Google search, or through various review websites.
There are a number of questions to ask any potential car accident lawyer, ranging from their costs through to their level of experience. Do not be afraid to interview lawyers and go with whoever you feel is most appropriate for your case.
Most lawyers will offer an initial free consultation to assess the merits of your claim or case, sometimes this is online, over the phone or in person at that office.
Make use of this facility as it will give you an opportunity to see how different lawyers approach your particular situation, and which you feel most comfortable with.