Do I Need an Attorney After a Car Accident?

You’ve just been in a car accident. It wasn’t your fault, you are injured, and you are wondering what you should do. If you’re like me, a million thoughts pop into your head: the insurance card is here somewhere… I can’t believe he wasn’t watching traffic… I should call the police… Now I’m going to be late for work… And so on.  After a little while you start thinking about your aching neck or back. The next morning you really feel it. The last thing you think of is whether or not you need an attorney.

Before you know it, the insurance company adjuster is on the phone. “Hi, this is Julie. How are you feeling? I’m so sorry to hear that.  We’ll take care of you. Sure, we’ll get your car fixed as soon as we can. Yes, we’ll also cover your medical expenses. You don’t have to worry about anything.”

But while you were on the phone making sure your expenses were covered, the adjuster was asking seemingly innocent questions about fault, the nature and extent of your injuries, and pre-existing medical conditions. For every answer that you wanted, the adjuster asked two or three questions that were designed to box in your damages and limit the company’s losses. Its simple economics: every time a claim is settled before an attorney is involved, often for as little as $100, the adjuster gets a pat on the back and maybe a raise or a bonus.

Why You Need an Attorney

Okay, the title of this section may be a little strong. You really may not need an attorney. You may have been lucky enough to have escaped uninjured and with no medical expenses. Or, there may be no insurance or assets available to compensate you for your injuries. I have even heard of cases where an insurance company treated a person injured in a car accident with fairness, honesty, and integrity. If this is true for you, congratulations are in order; however, you are in the minority.

The vast majority of people injured in a car accident should have an attorney for three basic reasons: 1) the insurance company is not your friend (even if it is your own insurance company) and has no intention of protecting your interests; 2) you probably have never been in this situation before and you don’t know what to do or what your rights are; and 3) you don’t know how to determine what amount of compensation is reasonable and will make things right. A good attorney will protect your interests, preserve your rights, and make sure you are justly compensated for your injuries and damages.

When You Should Hire an Attorney

Ideally, you should call an attorney before you have any contact with any insurance company, even if you are just opening a claim. In many cases, insurance companies will focus on the first few weeks after a car accident to decide whether or not they will pay on a claim. If you don’t understand your rights and the nature of your claim within the first few weeks, chances are the insurance company will figure out how to get you to walk away.

Who You Should Hire to be Your Attorney

This is an appropriate place for a disclaimer: this pamphlet is not your typical self-promoting advertisement. So, I am going to tell you that there are a lot of good attorneys who will represent you well. However, you will want to ask yourself a few questions. Is the attorney local? A local attorney will know the best local doctors, experts, and judges that will affect your claim. Does the attorney practice only personal injury law? This is important because the stakes are too high and the law has become too complex for the unfocused attorney. Does the attorney take cases to trial? It is very typical for an insurance company to wait until a month or week before a jury trial to pay a reasonable settlement on a claim, if at all. If your attorney doesn’t regularly take cases to trial, the insurance company will devalue your claim. Although all claims should be prepared for trial, each case should be evaluated independently to determine the likelihood of achieving a better result at trial than through negotiations, mediation, or arbitration.

How Much You Should Pay for an Attorney

This one is simple. The consultation is free. We know you didn’t expect this accident or injury. So, we aren’t going to charge you to review your claim. Not only is this consultation free, we don’t charge a fee unless we recover for you. We’re local, we practice only personal injury law, and we go to trial when it’s in our client’s best interest. Give us a call. We’re here to help.

Categories: Q & A

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