When to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident
Approximately six million car accidents occur in the United States each year. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that these crashes result in over three million non-fatal injuries and 40,000 deaths, with the remaining claims involving property or minor damage. As such, motor vehicle insurance companies typically handle the majority of accident claims without attorney involvement. Some drivers even resolve minor crashes privately.
While it typically costs nothing to speak with a local personal injury lawyer about your car crash, not every accident necessitates retaining an attorney. The right lawyer will be honest with you about whether or not you need their services. Legal professionals usually recommend contacting a car accident lawyer near you if you find yourself involved in any of the five circumstances that follow.
You Suffered a Life-Altering Injury
Even minor accidents can cause serious injuries to motor vehicle occupants, pedestrians, and cyclists. Herniated discs, knee damage, and severe whiplash prevent millions of Americans from working each year, and often these injuries manifest after low-speed car crashes.
Do not let the absence of substantial vehicle damage stop you from contacting an attorney if you’re unable to work or perform usual activities without pain.
Consider speaking with a lawyer if you’re suffering from any of the following injuries after a motor vehicle collision:
- Bulging, herniated, or slipped discs
- Concussion or another head injury
- Facial lacerations
- Broken ribs or internal bleeding
- Knee or shoulder trauma
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Many people injured in motor vehicle collisions require multiple back, neck, knee, or shoulder surgeries with extensive rehabilitation. The recovery and treatment process typically results in lost wages, medical costs, pain, and daily frustrations. Whether the crash caused permanent disabilities or minor injuries affecting your work, home, and social life, contact an attorney to discuss your potential right to financial compensation.
An Insurance Company Refuses to Pay Reasonable Claims
Many car insurance companies reduce their bottom line by arbitrarily denying your entitlement to financial compensation. What starts as a simple request for medical payments may result in time-consuming insurance disputes.
Insurers commonly find reasons to send claimants for quick medical examinations and subsequently deny benefits when their clients need them most. Adjusters might also continuously request unavailable, unreasonable, or previously provided information from claimants to deny clients compensation. Some insurers even agree to unfairly split liability to expedite the claims process, deny coverage based on an inaccurate police report, or otherwise make lowball settlement offers to desperate claimants.
Legal professionals advise clients to seek advice if they receive harassing phone calls from insurance adjusters, have not recovered expected insurance payments, or disagree with their adjusters’ liability and bodily injury determinations. Most personal injury attorneys help claimants appeal arbitrary denials, assert their compensation rights under state law, and, if necessary, file car accident litigation.
An Accident Victim Suffered Fatal Injuries
Anytime someone dies due to accident-related injuries, even weeks or years after the crash, you should immediately consider contacting a wrongful death lawyer. The claims process, legal requirements, and financial recovery options differ after an automobile fatality.
Only dependents and next-of-kin may generally recover compensation for the deceased’s lost wages, companionship, and related family contributions. Further, you typically have less time to investigate and file a wrongful death claim than you do for traditional personal injury claims.
You should always discuss any proposed death benefits, financial payouts, and insurance settlements for a fatal car crash with a local attorney. If necessary, a lawyer may help you obtain letters of administration and recover compensation on behalf of the decedent’s estate and dependents.
You Receive a Financial Settlement Offer
When the other driver’s insurer willingly offers you a car accident settlement, this typically means they’ve admitted some liability. Unrepresented claimants seldom obtain the maximum value of their case without legal representation, but accepting a settlement payment also means waiving all future claims against that defendant or insurer. If your injuries worsen or you failed to understand your financial recovery rights, you cannot generally request additional funds after settlement.
Further, your private auto, health, and disability insurers may garnish any settlement funds to cover prepaid expenses. Consider contacting a local attorney if an insurer asks you to sign any documents, especially waivers, before forwarding a promised settlement. Simply retaining counsel may result in an immediate settlement offer increase.
One Party Does Not Have Sufficient Motor Vehicle Insurance
Not every state mandates that drivers must carry car insurance, and many jurisdictions only require minimal coverage.
Consider connecting with a car crash lawyer near you if any of the following situations apply:
- The accident was a hit-and-run.
- The other driver provided false insurance information.
- The other driver was unlicensed or intoxicated.
- The other driver was uninsured.
- The other driver’s insurance policy cannot sufficiently cover your losses.
- The accident involved a rideshare service (such as Uber or Lyft).
- The accident involved a commercial motor vehicle or a working driver.
Most drivers have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. These gap policies cover situations where the other driver had no insurance, fled the scene, or your losses exceed their insurance limits. You may also recover damages from the driver’s employer or an umbrella insurance policy in cases involving rideshare services, taxis, trucks, busses, or corporate vehicles.
Rare cases also exist where the other driver’s insurance disclaims liability because their policyholder violated the policy’s terms. Such disclaimers commonly occur when drivers operate unlawful rideshare or taxi services using their personal vehicles, take cars without permission, drive without a valid license, or fail to pay insurance premiums. In such cases, you could sue the driver directly to recover needed compensation for medical bills, lost wages, household help, vehicle damage, pain, and suffering.
The Cost of Retaining a Lawyer After a Car Crash
Traditionally car accident attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning the lawyer accepts a certain percentage of your overall financial settlement or judgment as their fee. Most personal injury firms also front all litigation and court costs, keeping money in your pocket during the recovery process.
There’s little to no risk associated with confidentially contacting a local car accident lawyer about your crash. Consultations generally cost nothing, and you may owe nothing if a lawyer cannot recover compensation.