Car accidents can be devastating, and the insurance company can make claims a difficult experience. A friend or loved one may suggest you seek a law firm for help. Attorneys can effectively advocate on your behalf.
If you have never filed a claim, you may wonder what car accident lawyers do.
When to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
Around 4.8 million injuries result from motor vehicle collisions every year. Many of the cases happen because of negligence. State laws entitle the injured party to compensation if a person's carelessness leads to general and special damages. To recover damages, you must file a claim.
Car accident claims can be complex, especially if the injuries are severe. If you have a claim, you can benefit from the assistance of a lawyer. The best time to hire a car accident attorney is immediately after the crash. Medical attention should be a priority, but finding a law firm should be one of the next steps afterward.
You should find a car accident lawyer early to make sure you meet the claim deadline. All claims must adhere to the statute of limitations. Many states provide injured parties two or three years to pursue compensation after the accident. The deadline may vary depending on whether you file a bodily injury, property damage, or wrongful death claim.
Once the statute of limitations expires, a person can no longer seek compensation. Your attorney focuses on submitting the necessary paperwork to avoid a loss of reimbursement. Find a law firm as soon as you can.
Find a Lawyer if the Insurer Treats You Unfairly
Severe injuries and disagreement over fault are common signs a car accident lawyer is necessary. Another reason to hire an attorney is if the insurance company denies your claim. Car insurers have multiple reasons to reject a claim. However, sometimes denials happen due to bad-faith arguments.
Bad faith may have occurred if the adjuster failed to explain explicitly why they refused to pay your claim.
Common reasons for denied accident claims include:
- Liability dispute. The other party's insurer may say you are partly or completely at fault. The adjuster refuses to pay as a result. However, your insurer might believe the other side was negligent. Therefore, no one can recover damages due to the dispute.
- A mistake in the assessment. After you file a claim, the adjuster investigates the incident and evaluates the damages. They might have made a mistake that led to a rejected claim. The adjuster may have no reasonable basis for the error.
- A misrepresentation of the contract. Coverage policies can be pages long and have confusing language. The adjuster could misrepresent the terms, policy provisions, or exclusions.
Not every mistake or denial is a sign the insurance adjuster has acted in bad faith. They generally try to work with claimants to settle the matter. Nevertheless, they have a priority to maintain profits for the insurance company. Therefore, some insurers may try to find ways to undervalue claims or refuse to pay.
Search for a motor vehicle collision lawyer if you believe the insurer behaved unfairly. The attorney performs their own investigation to determine if the claim is valid. They can pressure the insurance company if they find the other side is at fault for the accident.
What Do Car Accident Lawyers Do?
Help You Understand the Case
Many people do not have a complete understanding of car accident laws. As a result, they may need to learn what rights they have to pursue financial compensation. While you can find some information online, the legal terms you see can appear confusing.
A car accident lawyer can inform you of what car accident laws are relevant to your case. You might discover a deadline extension applies to your claim if you hire a car accident attorney. They can tell you your rights and how to protect and pursue your legal claim.
Investigate the Claim
When someone consults a car collision law firm, the attorney reviews the facts available. They figure out if the injured person has a valid case. Additionally, they investigate further to see who is liable.
More than one party could have been negligent during the accident. A lawyer aims to bring the people responsible to justice. The investigation reveals who is liable and how severe the damages are.
Work Toward Maximum Compensation
Another aspect of a car accident lawyer's job is to get the client the most compensation possible. Your attorney can help you determine what damages you can claim. They review all your medical bills and estimate potential future costs.
A lawyer can help you recover lost income if your injuries cause you to miss work. In addition, they may determine if the settlement should include loss of future earning capacity.
Motor vehicle collision attorneys maximize compensation by assessing possible non-economic damages too. The law could entitle you to loss of consortium, pain, and suffering, or disfigurement. However, calculations for car accident settlements take work to complete.
Your attorney should have experience with estimating potential compensation.
Build a Strong Case
Car accident lawyers work to build a client's case to increase the chance of a successful outcome. A convincing claim requires sufficient evidence to prove the other party was responsible. It helps to know what will support your argument and what is admissible in court.
A law firm understands what evidence you need and can organize the information. They know how to secure footage if a camera caught the collision on film. In addition, they hold depositions to obtain witness testimony. What you need to establish liability depends on the circumstances of the accident, and an attorney can help you determine what evidence you need.
Every case is different. Therefore, a car accident lawyer works with you to determine the best strategy for your claim.
Represent You During the Lawsuit Process
After a motor vehicle collision, a person files an accident claim with the insurer. Many claimants can settle the matter with the help of a law firm. They can get their money without needing to begin litigation. However, your car accident lawyer may find a lawsuit is necessary to get the reimbursement you need.
If you have to start a lawsuit, your attorney represents you throughout the legal process. They compile the paperwork to save you time. Additionally, they handle communication with the negligent party. A car accident lawyer negotiates fair compensation with the other side's defense team to try and reach a settlement. The majority of cases settle before a trial becomes necessary.
A car accident lawyer represents you in court if your lawsuit does require a trial. Find a law firm with courtroom experience. Your legal team should know what to expect so they can prepare to defend you before the judge.
Negotiate With the Lien Holder
An individual may receive health or disability benefits from the insurance company. As a result, the insurer places a lien on their claim. The lien means the company gets a part of the settlement award before the claimant does. Some car accident lawyers work with lien holders to reduce the lien. The lowered amount may or may not be much. However, you are likely to get more money in the final paycheck.
Will a Lawyer Accept Single-Car Crash Claims?
Many car collisions involve more than one vehicle. However, you may have gotten hurt in a single-car crash. Since another driver was not present, you likely must file a claim with your insurer. Your insurance company might pay if you have specific coverage for the situation.
Nonetheless, the payment might not be enough to cover the damages. An attorney can help you get the money you need to pay bills. However, you might be unsure if anyone would take your case since another driver was not present.
If you were in a single-vehicle accident, you might still have a valid claim. Unsafe road conditions can be the reason someone gets into a crash. The municipality may be responsible for large cracks or potholes in the street. Alternatively, a vehicle manufacturer could be negligent. Bad brakes or a faulty engine put a driver at risk.
An attorney can hold a negligent manufacturer liable. You may still pursue compensation even if you were the only car in the accident. A lawyer can help you determine if you have a viable claim.
Car Accident Lawyer Fees
One reason why some people hesitate to get a car accident lawyer is the cost. You may hear of some firms charging high hourly rates for their services. However, most car collision lawyers do not operate on an hourly basis. Instead, a client pays them a contingency fee.
A contingency fee means you do not pay the attorney before or during the claims process. They receive their money at the end only if they win the case. The payment comes from a part of the injured party's settlement.
Before they send the client's compensation, the lawyer deducts a percentage of it. The size of the fee varies from firm to firm. Your attorney may charge you as low as 25 percent or as high as 40 percent. Most offices take around 33 percent. The portion could be a fixed number, but a lawyer might change the amount during the claims process.
A law firm may use a sliding scale for its contingency fee. The cost could be lower if the case settles before the trial stage. The percentage may increase if the lawyer has to file a lawsuit or if the case goes to trial. You and the lawyer discuss the fee agreement before you agree to work together.
The attorney may give you a written contract for their services. This document lists the fees and what you need to pay. If they do not provide you with a copy of the contract, you can ask for one.
Other Court Costs
Usually, you do not pay the contingency fee if you lose. However, you may or may not have to pay additional legal costs. Legal expenses can accumulate as the lawsuit proceeds through the court system.
Prevalent costs include court reporter rates, filing fees, and expert witness expenses. A firm may have to pay to acquire police reports or medical records. Some large firms cover the price and deduct the amount from the settlement. Meanwhile, others charge clients as they incur more litigation costs.
Some people do not have to pay the additional fees regardless of the outcome. You can know what to expect when you speak to an attorney before you hire their services.
Are Car Accident Consultations Free?
After an accident, you may come across more than one firm specializing in car collisions. Create a list of potential ones you feel could meet your needs. Afterward, contact each office to schedule a consultation with a lawyer. You can speak in person, but some places allow you to talk to someone through a virtual meeting or over the phone.
During a consultation, the car accident attorney reviews your case to determine its validity. Additionally, you can get some answers regarding your situation. Most lawyers do not charge people anything during the preliminary consultation. If you have to pay to meet with an attorney, they may not be suitable for your claim. Be sure to choose the law firm that suits your needs best.
What to Bring to a Consultation
The initial meeting allows you to know the lawyer a little more. The attorney can understand what to expect from your case as well. You can expect them to ask questions about what happened and the injuries you sustained. They need to review as much information as possible during the consultation.
Several of the documents you should bring include pictures of the crash, medical records, and a police accident report. The attorney may want to see car insurance details or information about the other driver. Any notes you have written down can be helpful as well.
You may have recorded notes about the collision and the nature of your injuries. Your summaries should include the weather, date and time, location of the crash, and if witnesses were present. In addition, document what injuries you have and the progress of your medical treatment.
The lawyer can use your detailed notes to learn how the other side's negligence affected you. You do not have to bring every type of document with you to the consultation, but the attorney can benefit from as much information as possible.
Attorneys can be a great resource to assist you following a car accident. Contact a car accident lawyer immediately following your crash to see how they can pursue the compensation you deserve.