When You Should Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
After suffering injuries in a car crash, many choose to hire a car accident lawyer. However, every auto accident is different, and it can be difficult to tell when it is necessary to have a qualified attorney on board or when we can simply handle it ourselves. To learn the difference, keep reading.
Receiving Immediate Medical AttentionImmediately after an accident, your first priority should be receiving medical attention. No matter how big or small injuries may seem, the shock of an auto accident typically numbs our bodies to the instant pain of our injuries. Therefore, to protect both your health as well as your right to proper compensation, have your initial injuries examined right off the bat.
For personal injury, it must be proven that your injuries are the direct result of an accident caused by another's negligence. For this reason, do not hesitate to have your injuries examined. In some cases, insurance companies may try to claim that your current injuries were existing medical conditions or resulted from an earlier accident. Having a doctor document your injuries from the moment the accident occurs and throughout the healing process helps to build a solid case.
Filing a Personal Injury Protection ClaimAfter your initial medical examination, your next step in caring for your injuries should be contacting your own insurance company to file a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim. Florida's "no-fault" system requires all drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 worth of PIP benefits. In the case of an accident, these benefits will pay for immediate medical treatment, regardless of if the driver was liable for the accident or not.
In some cases, the $10,000 of PIP benefits is enough to cover all of your injuries. However, in other cases, this amount is not enough, and you may need to pursue further compensation. Regardless, if you were not liable for your accident injuries and required medical attention, you can seek recovery for your damages.
When a Lawyer May Not be NeededAfter filing a PIP claim with your auto insurance company, the amount provided may be enough to cover your damages. This is often the case in minor accidents, such as "fender benders." When damage to the vehicle as well as injuries to the body are minimal, you may not require further compensation to care for your injuries. However, while you may not have required an attorney to receive your initial benefits, you can and should still seek out an attorney to find out if the money spent on your injuries can be recovered.
This is also the case when the matter of liability is very clear. For example, if you were fully braked at a red light and another driver hits you from behind, the other driver was negligent in failing to come to a stop. The other driver would clearly be liable for your injuries, and if the driver acknowledges this fault, the insurance company will likely deal with this without intervention from an attorney.
However, to ensure you are receiving the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries, it is advisable to consult with an attorney. As your initial consultation with an attorney is free, it is always worth it to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer to find out if you would benefit from filing a claim.
When You Absolutely Need a LawyerIf PIP benefits are not enough to cover all of your medical bills, your next step is likely to file a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company. The important thing to remember here is that the insurance company will not want to pay out any more than they feel is necessary. For this reason, it is advisable to hire a car accident lawyer to fight for your proper compensation.
Likewise, it is imperative that you hire a car accident attorney if the insurance company denies your claim. If the insurance company offers you less money than you believe you deserve, or disputes the matter of liability, then you should also have a qualified attorney on hand to argue your case. On this same note, it is advisable to have a lawyer if the insurance company claims there are extenuating circumstances that require investigation.
Essentially, extenuating circumstances are factors of a case that can reduce a party's level of responsibility, or what could be deemed negligence. Proving extenuating circumstances might result in a lower damage award. Examples of extenuating circumstances include: previously existing injuries to the same body part injured in the crash;
uncertainties about insurance coverage; questions about the statute of limitations; complications in the accident, such as confusion in liability.
If the insurance company has asked you to provide medical records from prior to the accident, or is calling you asking for statements, you should absolutely hire a car accident lawyer to begin handling your case.
Instances in Which a Lawyer Should Be by Your SideWhile facing issues filing your claim certainly requires the help of a trusted car accident lawyer, there are several other cases in which a lawyer should be by your side. These include instances such as: you've incurred severe or life-long injuries; you don't know how to prove losses, for instance, if you're a caregiver but your injuries no longer allow you to care for another; you don't know how to prove lost wages because you are a sales person, consultant, or freelancer and it can be difficult to provide an accurate estimation; the injured individual is a minor with substantial injuries; you are not close to settling your case one year after the accident; the at-fault driver does not have enough, or any, insurance; the at-fault driver has served you with a lawsuit.
Aside from the pain of injury, the stress of settling auto accident cases can be terrible. When you lack a clear-cut case, such as a fender-bender or accident in which the at-fault party willingly accepts responsibility, the resulting process can take up an enormous chunk of time and money. Especially when one considers that often medical treatment continues throughout this time period, the stress of attempting to represent yourself in a personal injury dispute can be too much for one person to bear.
It is best to always err on the side of caution, and at least consult with a trusted car accident attorney. Most will offer free and confidential consultations prior to hiring, this way you can get an accurate picture of your case through the eye's of a professional prior to making any more decisions.
At the end of the day, after a car accident you need someone with your best interests at heart in your corner. Unfortunately, that often is not the insurance companies. Hiring a qualified car accident attorney means you won't have to go against insurance companies alone. If you've suffered injuries as result of an auto accident, think twice before trying to settle on your own.