Do I need a car accident lawyer?
After a car accident, there are generally three types of damages you can seek compensation for. You may or may not need an attorney depending on the severity of the damages specific to your case.
Property Damage CasesAs a general rule, if you suffered no personal injuries, you should be able to settle your case with the opposing insurance adjuster for approximately the same amount of money that an attorney could obtain for you. In this type of case, you are entitled to money to repair or replace your car and for the use of a rental vehicle until your car is repaired or replaced. It does not require legal skill to obtain repair estimates for the damage to your car or to determine the fair market value of you car. For repairs, simply get quotes from reputable repair shops and compare them to the amount offered by the adjuster. If your car has been totaled, determine the fair market value of your car by consulting reference sources such as the Kelly Blue Book, NADA Used Car Guides or Edmunds. These publications provide accurate information for most makes and models of cars.
Minor Injury CasesIf your case involves personal injuries, a more detailed analysis is required. If the injures are minor and you fully recover from the injuries in a few days, you probably do not need an attorney. Minor injuries are ones that result in less than a $1,000.00 in medical bills. To obtain a fair settlement for your minor injury claim, educate yourself sufficiently to negotiate with the insurance adjuster. To educate yourself, go online or to the bookstore and obtain one of the many self help guides for car accident victims. These guides are excellent resources for dealing with the minor injury claims. Like the property damage only type cases, minor injury cases usually do not justify the use of an attorney. In such cases, the attorney's fee generally results in a lower net settlement to the claimant because the value of the claim is low and can not be appreciably increased.
Major Injury CasesIf your case involves anything more than property damage and minor injuries, it is likely that you will benefit by hiring an attorney. Most people do not typically have the necessary negotiation skills, knowledge of the law and experience in evaluating damages to obtain a fair settlement value for major injury cases. As such, when negotiating with an insurance adjuster, non-lawyers are at a distinct disadvantage. Do not be misled by the adjuster's statements that hiring an attorney will reduce your net settlement or delay payment for your claim. The insurance industries own statistics do not support these statements. In 2004, the Insurance Resource Council completed a study that found that people who used an attorney received an average of 3 1/2 times more money in settlement than those individuals who settled on their own. Thus, if you seek to obtain a fair settlement for your injuries, the use of an experienced car accident lawyer is vitally required.