Thousands of motor vehicle collisions occur each year, and many of them happen due to negligence. If negligence played a role in your accident, you might be able to recover damages. The claim process can get you closer to compensation, but you should not go through it alone.
A car accident lawyer can represent you when you file a claim. An attorney’s job includes a variety of responsibilities. Some of what they do improves the chances of a claim.
When Should You Call a Car Accident Lawyer?
After you can leave the accident scene, you should receive medical care. Once a healthcare worker examines you, contact a lawyer immediately. The attorney can have plenty of time to investigate the claim and gather evidence. They are less likely to build a strong case if the client waits until the last minute.
Hire an attorney before the other driver’s insurance company has the chance to call you. The adjuster could ask leading questions to get you to say something to hurt your claim. When they speak to you, you can refer them to your lawyer. Attorneys know how to handle insurers.
Furthermore, contacting a car accident attorney after seeing a doctor prevents you from missing the deadline. You would not have to worry about losing the possibility of compensation.
Common Errors People Make Without an Attorney
Thousands of people go through the legal system without representation. The law refers to them as pro se litigants. More than 2,700 pro se litigants file personal injury claims like car collisions annually.
While a person can proceed without a lawyer, they may have a disadvantage during the process. The legal system is not simple to navigate. A person could become confused if they have never filed a claim before. Additionally, they are more likely to make costly mistakes.
Common mistakes include:
- The claimant fails to file before the deadline. Every state has a statute of limitations for car accident cases. The time limit varies in each jurisdiction, but missing the deadline could mean the loss of the right to compensation.
- The plaintiff agrees to a quick settlement. Lawsuits can take a long time to resolve, and many people need compensation to pay for immediate bills. An early settlement can seem tempting, but the other party may offer far less than what your claim is worth.
- The person fails to retain evidence. A claimant must secure any documentation they have about the accident. Some people risk losing a healthcare receipt or other valuable items. As a result, they could struggle to prove the other side was negligent.
- The claimant gives a recorded statement. The other driver’s insurance company may request a recorded statement. They ask you to give your side of the story and review what you say. The adjuster looks for ways to lessen the liability of the defendant.
Claimants risk committing various errors if they do not have a lawyer. An attorney knows how to protect your rights as a car accident victim.
What Car Accident Lawyers Do?
Speaks to Insurers
The other party’s insurance company may attempt to lower or avoid the settlement. The adjuster might reach out and intimidate you into signing papers. You could face pressure to give a recorded statement as well.
You can expect your car accident lawyer to speak with the insurer for you. They protect you from the unfair tactics an adjuster is likely to use. If you need to talk to the insurer, your attorney may be able to advise you on what to say.
Your attorney handles negotiations as well. They try to maximize the potential settlement payout to cover all your losses.
During a motor vehicle accident lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove negligence to win. Evidence helps show the other party was liable for damages. Evidence can be any relevant piece of information like photos and witness statements.
A part of a lawyer’s job is to investigate thoroughly and gather the facts of a client’s case. For example, they may call the doctor to obtain any missing records when they organize medical documents. They know what is likely to build a strong case and what the court would accept.
A settlement may include various types of damages. Most people receive money for special damages like healthcare expenses. The insurance can pay reimbursement for general damages like a lower quality of life.
The calculation for all the damages you claim in a lawsuit is not a simple process. General damages do not have a definite monetary value. Multiple formulas exist to find the worth of pain and suffering.
A lawyer has experience when determining a settlement figure. They estimate a dollar amount as accurately as possible. Then, the attorney uses the estimate as a starting point during negotiations.
Represent You During a Trial
Only a handful of car collision cases go to trial every year. You can expect your lawsuit to resolve before you need to stand before a judge. However, you should have a lawyer by your side if you need to go to the courtroom.
The jury decides the lawsuit’s outcome, so the chances of compensation may decrease. Roughly 54 percent of civil trials end in the plaintiff’s favor. An attorney may be able to increase the possibility of a favorable result.
Lawyers know court procedures. They can help clients appear sympathetic to the judge and jury. Furthermore, a lawyer presents relevant information to the jury. They fight to protect your rights.
Find All Liable Parties
Another responsibility of an attorney is to discover who is liable for a client’s injuries. In many car accident cases, two drivers are the relevant parties. However, a third party could have been negligent for damages.
The third party could be an employer, manufacturer, or government agency. Regardless, a car accident lawyer investigates the matter to see who all owes you compensation. They then use the evidence to connect the third party to the accident.
Qualities to Look For in a Car Accident Attorney
Plenty of law firms specialize in car accident cases. However, do not settle for the first lawyer you find. You will want someone who can focus on your claim and protect your best interests.
Several of the qualities to look for are:
- Strong negotiation skills. The other driver’s insurer likely will use various tactics to pay as little as possible. A car accident attorney should have the proper skills to negotiate a fair settlement deal. Your lawyer should not be willing to back down.
- Quick responses. Multiple new developments may occur during the lawsuit. Additionally, you might have concerns down the road. Your attorney should have strong communication skills and reply soon to inquiries.
- Years of experience. You will want a car accident lawyer who has been in practice for years. They know motor vehicle laws and how to navigate the legal system. They are familiar with courtroom procedures and how the defendant may respond.
- Compassionate. The attorney you hire needs to be empathetic and understanding of your situation. They should accommodate your needs while they work on your case. You can switch firms if your lawyer treats you as another case to settle quickly.
- Does not charge a fee unless they win. Most qualified car accident lawyers do not require you to pay a fee unless they settle your case. A firm with an hourly rate or other payment methods might not be in your best interest.
You can get an idea of a lawyer's characteristics based on their firm's website. A site usually lists the description of the office's team and client testimonials. In addition, you can use word-of-mouth from friends and family who hired an attorney.
However, a consultation can help you determine if a lawyer has the qualities to support you and your claim.
What to Expect From a Consultation?
Before you hire a car accident attorney, you should schedule a consultation with them. The meeting is an opportunity for you and them to discuss the potential of your case. You can determine if the lawyer is right for you.
Most firms do not charge for the initial consultation. Some people prefer to speak to the attorney over the phone, but others want a face-to-face meeting. Some firms may be able to accommodate clients.
Regardless of how a person speaks with a lawyer, they should expect to answer plenty of questions. Attorneys generally want to know where and how the collision occurred. You will need to explain what parties got involved and the injuries you sustained.
Lawyers want to fully understand what happened to determine if someone has a valid case. Therefore, you should avoid leaving out details when you answer their questions. The exclusion of information could affect your case in the future.
The consultation phase usually includes the car accident lawyer reviewing documents. You need to bring any paperwork you have related to the incident. Examples include medical records, a form of income verification, pictures, and a police report.
You do not need to bring each document if you can't a copy of everything yet. However, you can better inform the lawyer if you have more with you during the meeting.
Furthermore, the attorney may not thoroughly review everything depending on how many documents someone brings. They likely will scan them to get a sense of any strengths or weaknesses of the claim.
Ask Your Questions
Another thing to expect is a moment where you can ask the attorney any questions you have. You can ask about their years of experience and success rate. Since communication is necessary, you can inquire if you would speak to the attorney directly about concerns.
Since you are in the consultation phase, the lawyer may not have exact answers yet to case-specific questions. Nevertheless, they should explain their best estimate based on the information they have.
Can You Seek a New Car Accident Lawyer?
You might have visited a few firms before deciding which one to hire. However, you may feel like the lawyer is not suitable for your case down the road. Like some people, you may wonder if you have to stay with the lawyer you chose initially.
People have the right to search for another firm if they lose trust in their current one. The action should not hurt your case if you decide to do it. Instead, your claim may be able to benefit more.
If you have not filed a lawsuit yet, you can find another firm easily. The process is simple. Your lawyer can inform the previous one and insurance companies about the switch. However, some people need to seek a different car accident attorney after filing a lawsuit officially.
Many places allow plaintiffs to change lawyers in the middle of a case. However, you need to follow a process when you do. Your attorney prepares a notice of substitution of counsel. The document lets the court and the opposing side know about the change. The new and former lawyers both must sign a form as well. Additional rules for the substitution of lawyers may depend on the local court.
If the switch occurs in the middle of the lawsuit, the former attorney may issue a lien on any compensation you get. Usually, the amount depends on the services the lawyer already provided. Your new attorney would use a portion of the settlement to pay the lien.
Do not be afraid to get a new car collision lawyer if you are unhappy with your current one. You could get more money in a settlement if you find someone who dedicates themselves to a favorable outcome.
Reasons You Cannot Change Attorneys
While the court generally allows you to change lawyers, they may deny your request in a few circumstances. For example, a person cannot switch if the action delays the case. The rule prevents individuals from prolonging the lawsuit on purpose.
Another reason is a conflict of interest regarding the lawyer you want to hire. The attorney could represent the opposing side to a certain degree. In other cases, the conflict concerns the judge and the new lawyer. The attorney usually checks for reasons they cannot take on your claim beforehand.