If I'm Involved in a Car Accident, When Should I Hire an Attorney
Trigger # 1: When you are injuredIf you have a strain that resolves itself in
a week or so, you may not need attorney.
However, if you have pain that lasts more than about a week, you should speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
In Washington, your own insurance typically pays your medical bills, even if they were caused by the fault of another party. You then become responsible for the correct reimbursement to your own carrier after you
settle with the fault-party's insurance carrier. This can be quite complicated, especially if you have medical coverage on your auto insurance policy along with health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.
If your injuries are severe, you must
be concerned about obtaining fair compensation. Individuals who are not represented by experienced personal injury attorneys often times receive far less compensation for their injuries than they deserve.
Trigger # 2: When your own insurance adjuster asks for a recorded statementWhen you report your auto accident to your own insurance company, you have a duty to cooperate with your carrier, this includes giving them all the details of the accident. However, if your own insurance adjuster
asks that your statement be recorded, be careful. (In Washington, someone recording must have the permission of the speaker, so by law no secret recordings are allowed.) If your insurance adjuster asks for permission to
record your voice, you may want an attorney to handle the reporting of your accident.
Trigger # 3: When the fault party is uninsured or under-insuredNearly 20% of drivers on the road today have no insurance at all, and many more carry only the state required minimum insurance
policy limits which are frequently not enough to cover even moderate property damage or medical bills. If your claim involves an uninsured or underinsured motorist
and you have uninsured motorist coverage, your own insurance company will "step into the shoes" of the fault party's carrier. That is, your own insurance company will actually become adverse to you. This makes the recorded statement you give even more critical.
Trigger # 4: When the fault party's insurance carrier asks you for a recorded statementIt is especially important to have an attorney
when you engage in any dealings with the fault party's insurance company; the fault party's insurance company will almost always request that you give a recorded statement, but giving such a recorded statement is usually a bad idea. An experienced personal injury attorney can usually eliminate the need for you to give the fault party's insurance company a recorded statement and if one is necessary, your attorney will be able to prepare you and be present throughout the statement.
Trigger# 5: When there are witnesses to your accident who have not yet given written statementsWhen you are in accident, it is critical to obtain statements from independent witnesses. If witnesses gave their contact information to you or to the police, someone needs to follow up with them quickly to obtain statements while their recollections are still fresh. Insurance companies hire professionals to investigate claims immediately and obtain statements. You need someone to do this for you as well.
Trigger # 6: When you feel uncomfortable communicating with an insurance adjusterOnce an attorney takes your case, they handle all communications with the insurance company. You will only be required to have
further contact with the insurance company if it is necessary to file suit; if you
do file a lawsuit; your attorney will always be present with you.
Trigger # 7: When you are unclear about insurance lawsA personal injury claim can be very complicated in Washington because the claim usually involves both your auto insurance and that of the fault party. Even your health
insurance coverage may become involved. There are specific rules for the ranking of which carrier pays what expense and how they are repaid. An experienced attorney handles all of the reimbursements while protecting your interests.
Trigger # 8: When you want an advocate to make sure you receive adequate compensation for your damagesThe law of Washington allows for the recovery of "general damages" by a person injured in a car accident caused by the fault of another person. General damages are compensation for the hassle, pain and suffering; those experiences as the result of being injured. These general damages are in addition to what are known as "special damages," those specific losses that include medical bills and wage loss, among other things. Insurance adjusters are skilled at paying out as little of their company's money as possible. An attorney on your side forces your insurance adjuster to be fair as you seek compensation for your injuries. An attorney evens the playing field and will not allow the insurance company to take advantage of you.
There are also a few other advantages to hiring an attorney when you are injured in an auto accident:An attorney files suit on your behalf ONLY if you want them to. Hiring an attorney does not mean that you need to go to court; the vast majority of claims are settled outside the litigation process. An attorney may only file suit on your behalf if you authorize them to do so.
An attorney only receives a fee if
there is a recovery. Most personal injury lawyers base their fees on a contingency basis, as a percentage of your total recovery. Therefore, your attorney only gets paid if you recover damages for your injuries.
Since you do not pay your personal injury attorney
by the hour, you end up paying the same
amount whether you hire your lawyer
immediately after your auto accident, or
at a later date. It makes sense to get your attorney involved earlier in the process, so that your lawyer can protect your rights and maximize your recovery.