When to Lawyer Up After an Auto Accident
A car crash can happen in the blink of an eye, but the effects of this traumatic moment could last a lifetime. And like that sudden impact, an accident can spark hundreds of new questions in an instant. Should I hire a car accident attorney? Who will pay for the damage to my vehicle? Who will cover my medical bills? Who is at fault? Can I seek compensation for pain and suffering? Will I be reimbursed for my lost earnings?
Not only can an experienced personal injury attorney provide you with reliable answers, but he or she can also guide you through the tricky landscape of insurance claims, negotiations, and settlements. Fortunately, most personal injury lawyers work on a contingent-fee basis, so they only get paid if your claim is successful. As such, unless you are seeking a small settlement and have strong evidence to prove liability, causation, and damages, there is little incentive to take on this legal battle alone. Simply put, a lawyer can help you fight for a fair settlement and provide valuable direction and support during this challenging chapter of your life.
Knowledge of Procedural Rules & Relevant Laws
Hiring a lawyer to assist in your fight for fair compensation after a car accident means you will have a professional by your side—someone with an in-depth understanding of the relevant case law, statutes, and procedural rules that may affect your personal injury case.
For example, there are statutes of limitations that establish the amount of time allotted to file the lawsuit. In Florida, for example, a plaintiff has up to four years from the day of the accident to bring a lawsuit. The SoL can vary from state to state. If you do not bring a case within that window, it’s entirely possible that the court will dismiss your case.
However, there are some exceptions to the typical statutes of limitations. As many serious injuries can first present with minor or latent symptoms, you may not discover you have suffered harm until weeks or even months after the accident. In such scenarios, the time limit may be extended pursuant to the “discovery rule.” If you plan to bring a lawsuit against a government entity, you will have a smaller window in which to file your suit. There are many other exceptions to the statute of limitations, and a lawyer will be able to inform you whether any of these might affect your deadline.
Your attorney not only will assist with handling the specifics of your personal injury claim, but can also file a lawsuit on your behalf if negotiations reach an impasse. Attorneys with experience handling car accident cases are familiar with the kinds of disputes that can arise during legal proceedings and how to counter them. Additionally, your lawyer will play an instrumental role in preparing your case for trial if a settlement is not reached.
Fortunately, most personal injury cases are settled out of court. But it may still benefit you and your family to have a skilled litigator by your side. If the insurance company is aware that you’re ready and willing to go to court, they may be less likely to challenge your claim. Often, you will be going up against an insurance provider with access to significant resources. Hiring a lawyer who has experience handling car accident cases can help level the playing field and ensure that you and your loved ones are given a fair chance of obtaining reasonable compensation.
Lawyers Do All the Legwork for You
Between gathering evidence, mitigating disputes, and filling out paperwork, it’s no secret that negotiating a car accident claim is a time-consuming and stressful process. In the aftermath of a crash, this endless admin will take your focus away from what matters most: your recovery. Fortunately, you don’t have to tackle this insurmountable task alone—a personal injury lawyer can do it all for you.
Many accident victims filing personal injury claims are doing so for the first time. If you’ve spent any time searching for information on the topic, you know this legal landscape can feel like an alien planet, complete with its own language and indecipherable proceedings. However, personal injury attorneys have dedicated their careers to this area of the law. As such, they’ve handled all manner of claims and dealt with a variety of insurers. Not only does this make them adept at identifying and obtaining the necessary evidence to strengthen your claim—such as collecting official accident reports, medical records, and lost earnings information—but it also makes them intimately familiar with the different strategies commonly used by insurance companies to devalue or deny claims.
During negotiations, your attorney may assist with:
- Determining the best time to conclude negotiations based on when you are expected to achieve maximum medical improvement (the point at which your injuries are not expected to improve, or your treatment has plateaued).
- Gathering and organizing evidence and preparing a settlement demand letter for the insurer.
- Negotiating a fair settlement offer with the insurance company and other liable parties. If you made any mistakes—for example, if you failed to mitigate damages—your lawyer may need to present evidence or consult with expert witnesses to counter related disputes.
- Filing a lawsuit with the civil court if the initial negotiations are unsuccessful.
- Handling discussions with other parties during mediation.
- Litigating your case in court.
As you can see, a personal injury case can go in several different directions. A lawyer will handle the hard work, lightening your load and giving you time and mental space to rest and recover from your injuries.
An Attorney Advocates for Your Best Interests
After a car accident, many victims feel incredibly vulnerable. Not only could you be dealing with tremendous pain and suffering, but you might also be facing medical bills, repair costs, and missed paychecks. With so much on your plate, it may give you peace of mind to know there is someone on your side willing to act on your behalf and for your benefit during settlement negotiations and beyond.
An attorney will be your advocate during these trying times. Whether it’s representing you in negotiations with the insurance company or making sure the judge and jury hear your side of the story, he or she will be acting in your best interests. Your lawyer will also be available to answer your questions, explain your role at every stage of proceedings, and update you on the progress of your case.
Your Legal Team Does the Math
As you prepare to pursue your personal injury claim, you may be wondering what your case is worth. This is a complex question with no concrete answer. There are many types of damages available to claimants as part of a personal injury claim. By conducting a thorough investigation, your lawyer can determine which losses may be recoverable based on the specific circumstances of your case. Below are a few types of damages your attorney may consider:
- Medical Bills: The cost of treatment, including expenses you’re likely to incur the future, may be recoverable as part of your claim. This could include the costs of past and future medical procedures, physical therapy, medication, and other healthcare interventions. Your lawyer may consult with various medical experts to help approximate a fair settlement for such losses.
- Lost Earnings: If your injuries prevented you from returning to work, you might be able to pursue compensation for lost wages.
- Income-Earning Capacity: If your injury has impacted your ability to do your job, your lawyer may review financial documents and consult with a vocational expert to determine the value of such damages.
- Pain and Suffering: These damages may be awarded to compensate you for any physical pain and mental suffering you have endured.
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages may be awarded if it’s clear the at-fault driver was behaving maliciously or recklessly. For instance, if the other motorist was driving under the influence, the judge or jury may consider imposing punitive damages.
Your Lawyer Can Help You Deal with Creditors
In the aftermath of a car wreck, you might not be able to return to work for quite some time. Combined with the additional costs of medical treatment, repairs, and other unanticipated expenses, these lost wages can add up to a world of trouble for your financial future. It’s not uncommon for claimants to sink deeper and deeper into debt. Your lawyer may advise you to contact creditors in advance to inform them of your situation and request that your payments are suspended until you are able to go back to work.
In many cases, creditors will be understanding and will make plans to have payments delayed. However, you might need to ask your lawyer to contact creditors to verify the details of the accident, and if necessary, agree to protect your creditor’s claim out of the proceeds of any settlement.
Speak with a Car Accident Attorney Today
If you were hurt in an auto accident, schedule a free consultation with the accomplished auto accident lawyers at Emerson Straw PL. Call (727) 821-1500 to speak with a member of our team.