Why do I need a lawyer after a car accident?
Not every car accident requires a lawyer, but hiring an attorney can make a difference in the size of your settlement. Many insurance claimants are unaware of the types of expenses they are able to claim. Others are willing to take insurers’ denials at face value when some or all of their claims are rejected.
Working with a car accident attorney allows you to understand the full scope of your case, including:
- Your legal rights
- What damages you are eligible to claim
- What types of evidence are needed to support your claim
- What strategies insurers will use to attempt to reduce or deny your claim
What’s more, an experienced car accident lawyer is ready and willing to escalate your case to a lawsuit if insurers or defendants refuse to settle. The work your attorney puts into building your claim pays off when it comes time to present your case to a jury.
So, while hiring a car accident lawyer does end up costing you money when you win your case, you also increase the chances that you will obtain more compensation than you would by handling your case alone. This is especially true when you have sustained serious injuries.
How does a lawyer help me prepare my injury claim?
Injury attorneys primarily assist with claims by applying legal knowledge to establish that the defendant (and their insurance carrier) is responsible for paying all of the accident victim’s losses.
Proving Your Claim Means Establishing Negligence
When seeking a personal injury settlement, most injury victims are out to prove one thing: the defendant, usually another driver, was negligent. If the injury victim can prove negligence, then the defendant is liable for all resulting damages.
But what does negligence mean? Traditionally, negligence is broken down into four parts, often referred to as The Four D’s:
- Duty. The defendant had a duty of care to prevent causing harm to the injury victim.
- Deviation. The defendant breached their duty of care, usually by acting carelessly, breaking the law, or by failing to perform actions necessary to prevent harm.
- Direct Causation. The breach in the defendant’s duty of care directly caused an accident and resulting injuries.
- Damages. The injury resulted in losses that can be recovered through legal action.
While the concept of negligence is fairly straightforward, the average person might run into problems with proving one or more individual components.
For instance, let’s say that the defendant driver obviously caused the accident when their vehicle spun out of control after hitting a puddle. In this case, we have obvious causation and damages, but did the defendant actually breach any duty of care? If the insurer can argue that the accident happened because of a fact of nature and not because of any actions the driver took, they can seek to deny the claim.
As another example, the insurer wants to allege that the accident only happened because the claimant/plaintiff made a mistake that led to their injuries. In this case, even if the defendant was found to have committed some obvious breach of duty of care, such as speeding, then the claimant/plaintiff still has to be prepared to prove that this breach was what directly caused the accident, as opposed to their own actions.
Proving damages is another area where the average person might have trouble seeking full compensation. If they are unable to prove the connection between injury treatment costs and the accident, or if they are unable to provide the necessary documentation, then a defendant can chip away at the amount of compensation available.
How Attorneys Research and Seek To Prove Your Claim
A car accident attorney helps you gather the evidence needed for all four parts of negligence.
A law firm can hire a crash scene investigator to reinforce allegations that the defendant driver was breaching their duty of care, such as by speeding, driving under the influence, failing to obey traffic signals, or following too closely.
In some cases, the lawyer may need to research similar cases from the past to establish that courts ruled that the defendant was negligent because of particular actions. For example, if a trucking company wants to argue that they are not responsible for a contracted truck driver’s mistakes, the attorney can look to cases that have proven that the company is indeed responsible. Past cases have established that in some instances, when carriers pressure drivers to complete routes in an unreasonable time frame, they are ultimately responsible for accidents caused by driver fatigue.
Documenting your losses is another important component of proving your claim. An attorney can help you gather all medical bills and related expenses. They can help you document your lost income, even if you work an irregular schedule, are self-employed, or work on commission.
Altogether, the work your attorney puts into your claim can build an overwhelming body of evidence that can convince insurers they need to settle for a fair amount, lest they risk losing a case in court.
Insurance Companies Are Not Your Friend
Another crucial point for car accident victims to remember is that the insurance company has a profit-driven motive to avoid paying out as much as possible. While they may seem friendly, they are using any strategies they have available to weaken your claim, deny certain coverage areas, or invalidate your claim altogether.
For example, a common strategy is for insurers to ask leading questions about how the accident happened in order to lay fault partially upon the claimant. Any percentage of fault the claimant assumes reduces the value of their claim.
Another strategy is to ask the claimant to release their entire medical history, implying that it is a normal part of the process. In reality, you are only obligated to release specific documents related to the most recent and relevant treatments. Insurers want your entire history simply to hunt for pre-existing conditions that can allow them to reduce or deny coverage.
Appointing a car accident attorney puts someone with experience in your corner. They will be familiar with strategies insurers use, and they can advise against actions like making a recorded
statement that would later be used against you.
Insurers have practice getting claimants to jeopardize their claim values. Having a lawyer can deter insurers from dragging out the process longer than necessary.
Work With a Car Accident Lawyer When Your Case Gets Serious
While some car accident cases are resolved without the assistance of an attorney, others are more likely to require legal assistance to seek the desired outcome.
Cases that might require the help of an attorney include those that have the following qualities:
- The injury required a hospital stay or extensive medical treatment, such as surgery.
- Your injuries required you to miss several days or weeks of work.
- There was significant vehicle damage.
- The car accident scenario was complicated, with multiple vehicles or unclear fault.
- A commercial driver was involved in the accident.
- Insurers are questioning whether your injuries were pre-existing or caused by something other than the accident.
- You are being accused of partial or total fault.
- The insurer is asking for extensive paperwork, recorded statements, or engaging in other fact-finding inquiries.
- You are being threatened with legal action.
In any of the above scenarios, not having legal expertise can pose a risk not only to your claim but to your finances, for liability reasons. For this reason, it is highly advisable to at least consult with an attorney during a free, no-obligation case review.
However, no matter what your car accident situation involves, an attorney’s experience, knowledge, and resources can provide a net benefit to your ability to claim compensation and move on from the accident.