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No one ever plans for accidents. So when it happens to you, you’re left wondering what to do next.
How will you deal with?
Your property damage?
Lost time from work?
Intangible things such as pain and emotional distress?
Who do you need to call first?
Your Insurance representative?
The other party’s Insurance Company?
No two accident are alike. They range in severity from minor fender benders to multiple vehicle accidents that result in injuries or even death.
And then there are the accidents that fall somewhere in between- the ones where you didn’t go to the hospital, but you still ended up with physical pain and thousands of dollars worth in property damage.
So how do you know if you need to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you?
We will go over accident situations where obtaining legal representation would be the best option for you. We will also discuss cases where hiring an attorney might not be necessary.
First, let’s talk about when you need an attorney.
You’ve Suffered Serious Injuries
The severity of your injuries determines the value of your bodily injury claim. Insurance companies evaluate your injury claim based on a long list of factors, including:
The types of injuries you sustained
The cost of your medical bills
Your recovery period
The reasonableness of your injuries in relation to your accident
Attorneys are experts at negotiating with insurance companies. Filing a personal injury claim on your own may be too much to handle when you’re trying to heal. Most people just want to focus on their health without having to worry about dealing with insurance companies. Having an attorney on your side ensures that you will have someone to speak on your behalf and seek the maximum award for your claim.
In accidents where liability isn’t clear or is disputed, having legal representation on your behalf is crucial. If one person’s facts don’t agree with your version of the accident, you can jeopardize your case by making mistakes in your statements.
Insurance companies will look for inconsistencies in what you say. Also, you have minimal resources to prove your side of the story and may not know all of your legal rights. An attorney’s job is to negotiate with facts in hand that support your case.
Even when liability is not disputed or cases where the other driver fled the scene, an insurance company can dispute other parts of your claim. The adjuster can argue that the amount you are seeking for medical bills is excessive or that your injuries are not consistent with the facts of the accident.
These type of situations can open up a can of worms. Insurance companies can go as far as opening up a fraud investigation against you. There is no telling how the insurance company will treat your case. It’s essential that you have every available legal resource to prove your side of the story.
Multiple Claimants Involved
Multi-vehicle car accidents not only increase the likelihood of disputed liability but also raise the total cost of losses. Insurance policies are capped to cover a certain amount for certain coverages. Liability coverage covers you if you cause damage or injuries to another party.
Liability insurance policies are sold for different amounts. In California, the law requires that you carry bodily injury coverage for $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident / $5,000 for property damage (15/30/5). Anything over that amount is over the policy amounts and can potentially come out of your own pocket.
In multi-vehicle car losses, there may not be enough to cover for everyone’s property damage and injuries. If you were to add disputed liability to this situation, it gets even more complicated. There could be counter-claims and cross-claims among everyone involved. It is strongly suggested that you never try to handle this type of claim on your own. Seek legal help immediately.
The Insurance Company Offers an Unacceptable Settlement or Refuses to Settle at All
If your negotiations with the insurance company are leading nowhere, it’s unlikely that they will come to an agreement without giving them more convincing evidence.
You may think that an attorney’s job is to argue and be tough. While that’s true to a certain extent, an attorney’s responsibility is to argue with factual, concise, and credible evidence that supports their client’s claim.
It’s not just about being tough. It’s about finding strengths in your case and looking for weaknesses in the insurance company’s investigation. In addition, an attorney can make sure that the insurer is acting in good faith and not engaging in any questionable tactics.
When You May Not Need a Lawyer?
If you find yourself in any of the situations we just discussed above, it is best to retain legal representation. The more complicated your accident claim is, the more likely you’ll need an attorney. But what about accident cases that might not require an attorney?
The first consultation with your attorney is not only to asses the facts of your case and provide you with legal advice. It’s also an opportunity for an attorney and client to determine whether legal representation is necessary. Below we discuss cases where an attorney might not be necessary.
Minor Injuries or No Injuries at All
Non-injury accidents happen all the time. These are the minor fender benders, parking lot accidents, and other low-speed collisions. These types of accidents also include single vehicle losses such as a car bumping into a standing structure like a pole.
When liability is clear, minor non-injury accidents are usually settled right away. The insurance company repairs your vehicle, and you are back on the road again.
If the injuries are minor and did not require medical attention, it’s unlikely you’ll need an attorney. The insurance company may cash you out for a specific amount for your inconvenience.
You Were Responsible for the Accident and Admitted Fault
If the facts are clear and you admitted fault, then hiring an attorney won’t be necessary. Your insurance company will handle the claimant’s property damage and injuries.
The Insurance Company is Paying You the Maximum
As stated earlier, insurance policies are capped at their policy limits. If the other party’s insurance carrier is paying you the maximum amount for their insured’s policy, there is little you or an attorney can do to request additional funds.
However, there is still the possibility the at-fault party may have additional assets that can cover the difference. But as far as pursuing the insurance company for more money, it will be impossible.
You are Choosing to Handle your own Claim
Some individuals may feel comfortable to handle a claim on their own and negotiate with adjusters. This is a matter of personal preference. However, if you choose to go this route, make sure that you are organized and prepared with all of your documentation. Websites like LegalZoom and other free legal resources are available with useful information on state laws, liability, and fair settlement amounts.
Still, Have Questions?
Handling a claim on your own makes a lot of sense in some cases. But accidents are not always clear-cut and they can manifest in unimaginable ways.
Hopefully, we’ve shed some light on whether your case could benefit from a personal injury attorney. Our law offices welcome anyone with questions about their injury cases.
If you’re still unsure whether you need an attorney, contact us to make an appointment. We offer free consultations.
Contact us today