When the unexpected happens, and you find yourself navigating the aftermath of a serious car accident, it is common to feel overwhelmed. The consequences of a car crash can be incredibly wide-ranging, from the physical pain and trauma of getting injured to the financial stress caused by medical bills, lost income, and expensive vehicle repairs.
Filing a compensation claim is another major challenge involving dealing with insurance companies notorious for trying to pay claimants as little as possible. That is why the guidance and support of an experienced car accident lawyer often decide between being able to protect your legal rights or having to walk away without fair compensation.
However, not all car accident lawyers are created equal, and there are many important qualities you should look for to find the right legal team for your specific needs. This blog post provides practical tips to help you decide about the best car accident lawyer near you.
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How Do I Find a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
Choosing a legal team to protect your best interests after a car crash requires researching and trusting your instincts. The right attorney will have specialized experience handling car accident claims similar to yours, which makes them knowledgeable about the important nuances of your unique situation.
Hiring an attorney with good negotiation skills and the necessary resources to prepare a persuasive case with solid evidence is also essential. For example, they should have access to a network of expert witnesses that can reconstruct the circumstances of the crash.
Here is how to get started with finding the right legal guidance throughout the claims process:
Gather a List of the Most Reputable Attorney in Your City
Begin your homework by doing an online search using terms like “car accident lawyer in [your city]” or “the best car accident lawyer near me” to get a sense of qualified attorneys in your area that you might want to consider. Personal referrals from people you trust are an even better resource. Ask your family and friends who have taken legal action after a car accident if they can recommend a good lawyer.
Seek Out Reviews and Testimonials
Before reaching out to a potential car accident lawyer, take the time to read any reviews and testimonials available from their former clients, which you can find on the law firm’s website, by browsing social media pages, or on third-party review sites.
You will want someone with a good reputation, many satisfied clients, and a track record of successful cases. While no attorney can please everyone, finding a consistent pattern of negative reviews may be a major red flag.
Schedule a Consultation
After narrowing down your list to the most promising car accident lawyers, ask for a consultation to discuss your case, which can happen either in person or over the phone. Most personal injury attorneys offer these initial conversations for free without strings attached. They are a great opportunity to evaluate the attorney’s expertise and whether they are a good overall fit to handle your claim.
Prepare for each consultation by gathering important documents related to your case, like medical records, the police report, or any correspondence with the at-fault party’s insurer.
You should prepare some questions, such as:
- Can you tell me about any car accident claims you have handled that had issues similar to mine (such as having disputed liability, involving multiple vehicles, resulting in catastrophic injuries, being caused by a drunk driver, etc.)?
- What is your success rate in obtaining settlements or verdicts with similar cases?
- How do you usually communicate with clients, and how often could I expect updates on the progress of my claim?
- What is the value of my car accident claim? What kind of a range can I expect for a reasonable settlement offer?
- What would be your strategy for investigating the fault and proving negligence in my case?
- What is your strategy for negotiating with insurers in cases like mine?
- What steps should I begin taking right now to help me strengthen my compensation claim?
A skilled car accident lawyer should be able to answer your questions with clear, accessible language that demonstrates their familiarity with similar cases and helps you understand different aspects of the legal process.
Go With Your Gut
Pursuing compensation after a car accident can be stressful and overwhelming, with many potential setbacks. Ultimately, you will want to find an attorney that inspires your trust, that you can feel comfortable working over the long haul, and that makes you feel more confident about being able to navigate the legal process.
How Do I Know Whether I Need an Attorney After a Car Accident?
Many car accident victims will be tempted to handle the claims process independently because they hope to save on legal fees by negotiating directly with insurers. A small fender bender with no injuries can be resolved without much hassle, which means claimants would not necessarily need the intervention of a lawyer.
However, the stakes become considerably higher for accidents that are more serious regarding injuries, property damage, or even the underlying causes of the collision. One rule of thumb is that having a skilled attorney in your corner is crucial if you have been involved in a car crash that caused significant injuries, you are dealing with a complicated insurance claim, or you are having difficulty getting fair compensation for your damages. Some of the scenarios where hiring a lawyer are particularly important to include:
Accidents With Unclear or Disputed Liability
Car accidents can get incredibly messy and contentious when a lot of money is on the line. When the other driver or their insurance company is disputing your version of events, hiring an experienced car accident attorney can be incredibly beneficial to protect your rights and help ensure a fair outcome.
Like many other states, Illinois follows comparative negligence laws where the compensation each driver recovers is directly impacted by their percentage of fault for the crash.
For example, if you have claimed $75,000 in damages and the at-fault driver’s insurance company successfully argues that you were 25 percent responsible for the circumstances that caused the collision, you would only be eligible to recover $50,000. Having a professional who can analyze the evidence and build a strong case in your favor can protect you from being unfairly assigned too much of the blame.
After a Serious Accident
If you have been in a crash that was serious enough to cause significant injuries, having an attorney by your side is crucial to help you recover enough compensation. The costs associated with medical treatment, rehabilitation, and ongoing care for permanent or long-term injuries can be astronomical.
The harsh reality of these situations is that insurance companies are motivated to reduce payouts as much as possible, regardless of the actual merits of your case. This makes the claims process an uphill battle for car accident victims facing major damages, especially if they do not have skilled representation.
An experienced attorney can guide you through the complex medical and legal issues these cases involve and help you avoid common pitfalls that can lead to an inadequate settlement.
You Have Received a Low-Ball Offer
If you have already received a settlement offer that is significantly lower than the losses you have claimed from the accident, it is essential to consult with an attorney before accepting the deal and signing your rights away. Insurance companies will routinely make low-ball offers because they hope you will be too intimidated by the legal process to pursue further action.
An experienced car accident attorney can review your case, help you understand the true value of your claim, and leverage their legal knowledge to secure a better settlement that covers your damages.
When Should I Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident?
With so much going on immediately after a serious accident, especially trying to recover from your injuries, consulting a lawyer may not be at the top. However, the sooner you find skilled legal representation, the better you can begin placing yourself in a strong position to protect your legal rights.
Even if you already started the claims process and received your first settlement offer, having a lawyer by your side can make a huge difference in helping you maximize compensation.
Some of the main reasons you should reach out to an attorney sooner rather than later after an accident include the following:
Preserve Important Evidence
Car accidents involve many types of evidence that contribute to determining fault and liability, some of which are potentially time-sensitive. For example, witnesses to the collision can forget important details or become hard to locate.
Crucial surveillance footage can get deleted after a certain period, and physical evidence can deteriorate. By acting quickly to investigate the crash, your lawyer can ensure evidence that helps your case is gathered and analyzed as effectively as possible.
Avoid The Risk of Harming Your Case By Talking to Insurers
After a car accident, you can expect adjusters working for the at-fault party’s insurance company to contact you and try to take recorded statements about the circumstance of the accident, the extent of your damages, and other aspects of your claim. These representatives are skilled at asking questions that may seem harmless or straightforward but are designed to undermine your case.
Car accident victims without legal representation risk accidentally compromising their case by saying something that can be misinterpreted or used against them, such as admitting fault or minimizing the extent of their injuries. Having an attorney early in the process means you will have a professional handling all these communications and advocating for your best interests.
You Face Time Limits for Pursuing Compensation
Every state has a statute of limitations for being able to file a personal injury claim after being in a car accident. In Illinois, this legal deadline is only two years, a relatively short timeline for navigating the legal system. Car accident victims that cannot file their claim before the statute of limitations would essentially be forfeiting their legal rights to recover compensation, regardless of the seriousness of their injuries.
Contacting an attorney soon after the accident allows your legal team to investigate your case, develop a compelling legal strategy, and file your claim to meet all the necessary deadlines.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Most personal injury lawyers do not expect their clients to pay for legal services under the traditional hourly billing structure because they know these costs are unrealistic for the average person, especially amid a financial crisis caused by serious injuries.
Instead, they work on a contingency-fee-basis, an agreement to only collect their legal fees after winning compensation for their client, whether with a settlement offer or through a court-awarded judgment. You will not owe legal fees if you do not win compensation. This system makes legal representation much more accessible for anyone with a valid car accident claim. Also, it allows lawyers to collect a percentage of the amount they recover for their client’s damages.
Before choosing a car accident lawyer, it is essential to understand the specifics of their fee structure, which can vary from firm to firm. The typical percentage in Illinois ranges from 30 to 40 percent of the client’s compensation, depending on how quickly the case gets resolved and whether it reaches the stage of a court trial.
Before hiring, you should understand all the terms of your lawyer’s contingency fee agreements, including any additional costs you might be responsible for beyond the legal fees.
Finding the best car accident lawyer near you is one of the most crucial steps you can take to protect your interests after being injured in a collision and help you recover fair compensation. It is essential to research, ask as many questions as possible, and choose a legal firm with a demonstrated track record of success handling similar cases.