Car accidents can happen quite literally out of nowhere. One second you’re on your way to work, and next thing you know, you’re spending your morning trying to swap insurance information with another driver. A single accident can be incredibly troublesome for any driver to navigate. There can be a lot of ins and outs to it depending on the type of accident, especially when it comes to dealing with car insurance companies. Insurance companies help as much as they feel they should, but sometimes it is not enough.
How do you go about getting the compensation you deserve? A lawyer may be able to help. Car accident lawyers help collision victims make their case for insurance claims. They also can assist with lawsuits, should a claim turn into a case. But not every situation calls for legal representation. The guide below outlines how to go about handling car accident claims and the benefits of hiring an attorney to assist you.
Right After a Car Accident
Getting in a car accident can be incredibly overwhelming. You’re just driving along, trying to get to your destination, but fate has another idea, and now here you are, trying to figure out where went wrong and what to do next. It may be helpful to consider the following after getting into a car accident:
- Immediately report the accident - After getting into a collision, you should report it right away, preferably before even speaking to the other driver. This will help get the police report started as soon as possible and get emergency services on the scene to aid anyone injured. Both the police report and your medical report will be very valuable when it comes to deciding who was liable for the accident. Without this formal documentation, it is very hard to establish who was at fault.
- Gather all evidence available - It is important that you collect evidence at the scene. Take photos of the damaged vehicles and try to get both close-up shots and long shots. The long shots will help you to show where the accident specifically took place. Record all the street signs and any addresses/businesses in the area. You should also note traffic patterns on the street or at the intersection. Do not forget to find anyone who witnessed the accident. You should collect their contact information and record their story as part of your evidence. They should also speak with the police to strengthen the case.
- Consult a lawyer - When it comes time to collect your compensation from the other driver’s insurance company, their insurer will do everything in their power to reduce how much you receive. They tend to offer a low-ball settlement in order to save them from paying more than what is deemed sufficient. In order to battle them effectively and efficiently, you will need to contact a lawyer. More on how this works and why you need a lawyer will be explored in the next sections.
Why You May Need a Lawyer
Following an accident, you probably have spoken to a whole list of people. From police officers to witnesses, the last thing you really want to do is consult with another person about your car accident. But a lawyer may actually prove to be one of the most important people you talk to after a collision. Lawyers can bring a lot to the table in the fight for your insurance claim payout. Outlined below are some main reasons you should consider reaching out to a lawyer if you are at a standstill in your insurance claim process.
Your Lawyer Knows The Law
One very valuable key thing about lawyers is that they simply know the law. They are a professional who is knowledgeable about relevant laws and regulations that may be affecting your claim. They can advise you thanks to their education and expertise. With this, they also understand the statute of limitations regarding car accident claims. Once you hit a certain point after your car accident, you cannot take action. Lawyers understand this and can help file lawsuits within the appropriate timeline should you need to after an accident. To help build your case to companies and a possible lawsuit, lawyers also have countless resources available to assist you. They are professionals in their field, which grants you great leverage, especially when going against a company.
Missteps Will Affect Insurance Compensation
While car accident claims are settled out of court, the law can come into play in a variety of ways, like knowing the statute of limitations for your specific type of accident. There are other laws that you will need to know, but by hiring a lawyer, you have a stronger legal defense. They have good negotiating skills and understand how each party should act within the extent of the law. State laws are especially important as different states have their own claims processes and compensation payouts. You may want to especially seek legal advice if you live in one state but got into an accident in another one. Failing to understand the law can lead to you missing out on key compensation and even losing your claim.
You’re Taking on Insurance Companies
It is important to remember that when it comes to insurance claims, you are taking on the insurance company, not the other driver. These companies tend to be large with numerous resources. They understand claims and know how to navigate them probably better than you do. But hiring the right legal team can help level the playing field. They know the methods and strategies insurance companies use when it comes to deciding claims payouts. They can help you advocate for yourself when it comes to settling deals with larger-than-life companies.
Your Lawyer Does The Legwork
There’s a lot that goes into negotiating claims that you may not even realize. Insurance companies need proof that what you are asking for is actually reasonable. They are on guard for insurance fraud, which is completely understandable. Lawyers hand a lot of this legal legwork. They have the experience and resources necessary for obtaining evidence to support your claim. This includes collecting police reports, taking witness statements, gathering medical bills and records, and any other relevant bills. They can organize and present it to the insurance provider. If you are unable to reach a settlement for the claim, your lawyer will then be responsible for filing the paperwork necessary to begin a court case. At the same time, they can also be used as your legal defense and start on everything that goes into that.
A Lawyer Works For You During a Car Accident Case
Arguably one of the biggest benefits to hiring a lawyer is that they work for you; they have your best interest at heart. They are meant to advocate for you and your case when it comes to speaking with an insurance provider. Lawyers want a result that makes you happy and adequately covers your expenses. When trying to work something out with such a large company, it can be overwhelming and even a bit isolating. You are going up against a lot. It’s hard for anyone to advocate for themselves. But that is where an attorney comes in handy. As has been outlined in this piece so far, lawyers can play a pivotal role in getting your claim settled.
When to Call Your Lawyer
It is true that not everyone involved in an accident will need a lawyer. Sometimes simple fender-benders do not require either party to seek out legal advice. Some minor crashes, like a collision that results in significant property damage, will most likely need a lawyer involved. However, legal representation should be saved for major incidents. Some examples of when you should call your lawyer include:
- Accidents that cause serious injury to any party involved
- Crashes involving another driver or pedestrian
- Collision in school, work, or construction zones
- Accidents involving underinsured or uninsured drivers
- You are having trouble working with the insurance company
- Accidents lacking a clear liable party
- You notice an error on the police report
Information to Provide Your Lawyer
When it comes time to meet with your lawyer and discuss the circumstances of your claim, you will want to have all the information laid out. Keeping something from your lawyer will only be damaging to your case. Always provide your lawyer with the following:
- Facts about your claim
- Contact information (yours, other drivers, witnesses, etc.)
- Police report
- Medical records
- Financial documents
- Photographic evidence
Mistakes to Avoid After an Accident
There are certainly some missteps you can unwillingly make following a car accident. You can especially make some mistakes if you have never gotten into a collision before. If you don’t know how to navigate it, you could be paying for it later down the line. Some things to avoid doing following a car accident include:
- Failing to report the accident - Paperwork can be quite overwhelming following a collision. You may not think it is worth the hassle but assuming such a thing can be dangerous and costly to you. You never want to just exchange information and then go about your day. This can be tempting, especially if you or the other party is not at all injured. However, injuries and damage can take days to become apparent. By the time you realize you need compensation, you may have a hard time successfully filing your claim. Always report your accident and file the police report.
- Immediately accepting a settlement - You want your claim to be settled as fast as possible and so do insurance companies, but their reasoning for settling quickly is different from yours. Insurance companies may try to offer you a settlement that is way below what you actually need in order to recover and repair your vehicle. If you agree to the first settlement, you may not really receive enough to fully cover all expenses. It is best to consult a lawyer so they can analyze your situation.
- Apologizing to the other driver - We’re humans, and what do humans do when something goes wrong? They apologize. However, this attitude can be a bit harmful in the case of a collision. If you immediately apologize to the other driver, you are indirectly admitting fault. This has the potential to be used against you. Following an accident, even if you believe you were at fault, do not apologize or take responsibility. Let the investigation play out to accurately determine who is liable.
Timing is Crucial For Your Claim
Throughout this piece, we have mentioned the statute of limitations for car accidents. Statute of limitations is a deadline set by states that says drivers have a certain period of time after an accident to take action regarding an accident. The time starts on the date of the accident. On average, states give drivers about two years after an accident to file their claims. But you should never wait even a year after an accident to consider filing a claim. The sooner, the better when it comes to insurance claims. Once this deadline has passed, your right to being bout a legal claim for the accident vanishes. If you need any medical expenses and/or auto repairs covered, contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Claims can be a time-sensitive thing, and you want to get the ball rolling the minute you know you will need reimbursement or a payout from an insurance company. When you have a good attorney right from the start, they can advise you on the steps and obstacles.
Accident Claim vs. Lawsuit
There’s actually a couple of routes you can take when you hire a lawyer. Typically, you will want to start with your insurance claim. Insurance claims are filed with an insurance company and are meant to cover your expenses following a collision. These are handled outside of court and are more just like a negotiation with a company. However, if your insurance company is giving you a lot of trouble, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party. Lawsuits are generally formal court proceedings and work to seek payment for your damages. It is more serious than a claim. Lawsuits are typically only filed if negotiations are stalled, and a settlement cannot be agreed upon. A lot more preparation is needed with lawsuits but can have monumental outcomes. Your lawyer should advise you on which route would work best for your situation.
Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer
Getting what you deserve from an insurance company following an accident can seem time-consuming, especially if you need a lawyer. You may be very tempted to handle it all yourself, but this may only land you in more trouble than what you started with. Hiring an attorney can make the whole process run smoothly and assure you that you are getting the compensation you seriously need. For a quick wrap up, some benefits that come along with hiring a lawyer include:
- Higher compensation - It probably comes as almost no surprise that those with legal representation tend to receive higher compensation from insurance companies than those who go at it alone. Lawyers are skilled in building air-tight cases that insurers have a hard time fighting against. They are knowledgeable and fight for their clients appropriately, making sure all expenses following an accident are covered.
- Handles paperwork for you - Filing a claim comes with a stack of paperwork and forms. You can easily get caught up in them, but, thankfully, lawyers can navigate it pretty easily thanks to their years in the business. Having someone file your paperwork will help you stay on top of deadlines. If the statute of limitations runs out, you will not receive any assistance. Improperly filing paperwork can also delay the process,
- Speaks to the insurance company - Claims can get messy even if you are dealing with a highly-rated insurance company. Sometimes, you just don’t know what the best way is to go about approaching them regarding your claim. It’s understandable; companies of any kind can be intimidating. That is why it helps to have a lawyer in your corner. They will speak with and take on the insurance company for you, making sure everything is in line with your claim.
- Usually paid on a contingency basis - One handy thing about car accident lawyers is that they are paid on a contingency basis. What this simply means is that if you don’t win, you don’t need to pay for their services. If they do win your case, their fees will then be paid out of the compensation or settlement that you receive. Make sure the lawyer you hire operates like this. It can then be considered a risk-free venture.
- Strong investigators - As previously discussed, lawyers do much of the heavy lifting for you. They are skilled investigators, especially if they have dealt with countless other car accident cases before yours. They tend to rely on recreation teams, experts, and forensic specialists to fully determine liability. Sometimes their results do not declare any driver at fault. The accident may have been caused by the car manufacturer or city roads. This is something that the average person would not be able to investigate on their own.
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