We were involved in a serious car accident. None of the injuries were life threatening but we all (three of us in the same vehicle) had to be take to the hospital and there are various minor injuries. The lady who caused the accident was cited, in the police report, for speeding and running a stop sign. Since there is no ambiguity with regards to who was at fault do we need to retain legal counsel or should we just work directly with her insurance company? Please bear in mind we aren't looking to profiteer on this accident just get back to where we were before it happened. Also I should mention that, since our car was paid off, we were only carrying liability coverage for our vehicle.
Unlike most attorneys, I am not of the school of thought that you always need a lawyer when handling an auto case with minor injuries. File a claim with the insurance company first and find out if they are accepting liability (they should if what you say is true). Then find out what their offer is to settle the case. Then go consult with some personal injury attorneys (for free) and get their opinion of your case. You can choose to tell them about the current offer or not. Having this information helps you determine whether or not you need a lawyer. While it is difficult to tell upon an initial consultation what a case is worth, if the attorney tells you that your case is not worth more than what you have already been offered or close to it, you should know that hiring the lawyer is not going to get you more money. Personal injury attorneys typically charge 1/3 of your award. Hiring an attorney should get you more money, not less. Having an offer from the insurance company in your pocket increases your bargaining power with the attorney as well. The 1/3 rate is not set by law and is negotiable. I have taken cases in the past where I will only take 1/3 of any award above what the client has already been offered.
Since the other driver was at fault in your case, it should not matter that you only had liability coverage. The insurance company should pay for your car, any other property damage and expenses, lost wages and should give you and your family some money for pain and suffering.
You should also be aware that there is likely a statute of limitations that applies in your state. You should find out from any attorney with whom you consult how long you have to file a lawsuit in your case. If you fail to file a lawsuit or settle your case prior to that date you will lose any right to recovery in your case.
The safe answer to your question is to always get an attorney no matter what. Without consulting with you in person and hearing all of the facts and analyzing the evidence in your case, I cannot truly advise you as to what you "should" do (thus the disclaimer). There is no doubt that there are many pitfalls in even minor auto injury cases. However, many people handle their own minor auto accident cases every day. It is not the best solution for everyone or on every case, but can be done effectively.
Auto accidents are serious and complicated matters. Ask yourself when dealing with this matter on your own, does the insurance carrier you are trying to settle with have a lot of experience with these matters, do they have lawyers advising them? If your answer to those 2 questions is yes, hire a lawyer!!!!!
While you can negotiate the case with the insurance company on your own, you will not know which pitfalls to avoid and the insurance company will negotiate with you with its best interest (and the interests of its shareholders) in mind rather than out of concern for you. The adjusters job is to make you feel comfortable that they are working on a level playing field with you, but that is not true.
I recommend consulting directly with a North Carolina licensed attorney. The consultation should not cost you anything and the attorney can help walk you through how they can help you in the case. Level that playing field and get an attorney involved on your behalf.
Hernan Law Firm
Telephone: (678) 275-4000
Representing injured clients in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia
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Not to sound trite, but have you heard the expression that a lawyer that represents himself has a fool for a client? There isn’t even a saying for how foolish it is to represent yourself when you aren’t a lawyer. This is because the rules of procedure and evidence are complex and even with the best case, unless you know how to apply the rules, you are at a huge disadvantage. Insurance companies know this and are not very likely to give you anything even close to a fair offer if you try to settle by yourself. Many times, injury victims have tried to do it themselves only to find that they need a lawyer… by that time a lot of damage has typically been done. So in short… get a local lawyer that has experience in personal injury lawsuits.
I agree with Mr. Kim. Although there is no dispute as to who was at fault, properly evaluating a personal injury claim takes experience, especially with relatively serious injuries. There are other legal questions involved in even the most simple bodily injury situation, for instance medical liens, which can make a huge difference to your bottom line. It is a misconception that everyone that is hurt in a collision is "profiteering". You should talk to a good North Carolina attorney.
I recommend retaining counsel as soon as possible. Preservation of evidence is key with all personal injury matters. Trying to work directly with the insurance company could end up leaving you with a settlement that is less than desirable. You likely do not have a lot of experience dealing with insurance companies; skilled personal Injury attorneys do just that, all day, everyday. Even with a 1/3 contingency fee, hiring a lawyer is probably the best bet. Personal Injury lawyers are master negotiators, which is a valuable skill when it comes to discussing settlement offers or negotiating lien reductions. I would recommend not going it alone. Best of luck!
The general legal information presented in this answer should not be construed to be formal legal advice and is not a substitute for a private legal consultation with a licensed attorney. Attorney Ledger is licensed to practice in California. Please note that you are not a client until your case is accepted and both you and an attorney from our firm signs our retainer agreement. Prior results do not guarantee or predict similar outcomes with respect to any future matter. The above response is general in nature, is not legal advice and it does not, in any way, create an attorney/client relationship. The advice is for general educational purposes only. There are strict time limits and other legal requirements to bring a lawsuit and you should immediately book a private consultation with a licensed attorney to discuss your specific legal needs.
Lawyers and insurance companies can help make sure that you are treated fairly and receive proper compensation for your auto accident.
According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 334 fatal car crashes reported in 2009. There are no reliable statistics that report the number of non-fatal car accidents, but it is presumably very high.
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