Notifying the police and getting medical attention should be at the top of your list of things to do immediately after a car accident. Somewhere among the top five or six things on that list should be a reminder to call an attorney. It’s not something that you must do, but a consultation with a personal injury attorney lets you know what rights you have and, equally as important, the steps to take to protect and preserve them.
Legal representation may not be necessary when dealing with a low-speed, fender bender with no injuries and only a dented car door needing repair. Things change when there are injuries or when an at-fault driver flees the scene. Here is a look at some of the circumstances when hiring an attorney after a car accident may be the smart thing to do.
When there are personal injuries
If the only damage caused in a car accident is to your vehicle or property, such as a fence or building, you probably do not need to hire an attorney to file an insurance claim. Filing a claim with the insurance company of the driver whose negligence caused the damage is one option. The other option is to make a claim under the collision coverage of your auto insurance policy for payment of the damages.
You need an attorney when someone sustains personal injuries. The party whose negligence or reckless conduct causes a car accident can be held legally responsible for payment of compensation to anyone injured in the crash. Hiring a car accident lawyer is something that should be done once you encounter an accident so someone can handle your insurance policy, check for liabilities and most importantly, defend your claim with evidence.
Pursuing a claim for damages for personal injuries suffered in a car accident is a complex process that requires a thorough knowledge of the law and skills that the average person does not possess. Some of the services offered by an attorney to car accident victims include:
- Investigate the accident and gather evidence to prove the claim.
- Identify and contact the party or parties who were at fault in causing the accident.
- Handle communications with insurance companies, including negotiating a settlement of the claim.
- Prepare pleadings and other documents to file a lawsuit when negotiations do not result in a settlement providing the compensation that you deserve.
- Present evidence and witnesses at trial to prove your claim for damages.
An additional benefit of hiring an attorney after being injured in a car accident is that it gives you the time that you need to rest and recover from your injuries.
When you are at fault
If someone files a personal injury lawsuit against you, the liability coverage of your automobile insurance policy provides legal representation to defend you and pays any damages awarded to the injured party. You may need to hire an attorney if your insurance company refuses to provide coverage for the claim. This may happen when it did not receive timely notice of the accident.
When the other driver does not have insurance
All states have some form of compulsory financial responsibility laws that require drivers to have liability insurance coverage or demonstrate that they have the financial resources to pay damages for accidents they cause. That being said, the harsh reality is that one in eight drivers comply with the law.
If you have an accident with an uninsured motorist, you need an attorney to handle your claim for damages even though you may have uninsured and underinsured coverage included with your auto insurance policy. When you have a claim for personal injuries in an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you file it against the uninsured/underinsured coverage of the insurance on your car.
The fact that the insurance company that sold you the policy is handling the claim does not necessarily mean that it will get the claim and immediately write you a check. As far as the company is concerned, you are a claimant.
As a claimant, you cannot succeed unless there is evidence proving the following:
- Cause of the accident.
- Negligence or other conduct establishing fault on the part of the other driver.
- Absence of conduct on your part contributing to the cause of the collision or the injuries that you suffered in it.
- The nature and extent of the injuries caused by the crash.
- Damages, including medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, lost earnings, and lost or diminished future earning capacity.
An attorney knows the laws in your state regarding uninsured and underinsured motorists and knows how to present such claims from experience handling similar cases. The fact that the claim is against your insurer does not make it any easier.
Speak to a personal injury attorney
If you sustain injuries in a car accident, most personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations. Use it to get advice and guidance to help you decide whether to hire an attorney.