Hiring a car accident lawyer is an investment. Even if you are working under a contingency fee agreement, meaning that they only receive a payment if you win your case, you will still pay for some other expenses.
This includes many expenses associated with building and filing your case, like obtaining copies of medical reports or resizing images to present as evidence. If you do win your case, a contingency fee will require you to hand over an agreed-upon percentage of your settlement as well.
For these reasons, many people will think twice before calling an attorney after getting into a car accident. Some trust in the legal system, and believe that insurance companies will pay out what they feel they deserve. Others simply do not realize what their medical bills, vehicle damage, and other expenses are really going to cost.
Before you choose to forgo legal help, it’s important to learn what a car accident can actually wind up costing you.
What Does a Car Accident Really Cost?
There are a number of factors that you will want to consider when you are trying to decide whether or not it is worth it to hire a lawyer. Following a car accident, each of these individual factors will affect what your accident could wind up costing you. Most of these factors should be covered by the insurance company of the person who caused the accident. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Insurance companies and attorneys for the responsible party will do anything they can to place blame for the accident elsewhere. The insurance companies will try to pay less than what you are owed for damages to your car. They may claim that some of your injuries were not caused by the accident. Attorneys may even try to pin some blame for the accident on you.
Without a car accident lawyer’s help, you might be left fighting back alone. In the best-case scenario, you will spend months or even years exchanging phone calls and submitting evidence. You may eventually get a settlement, though likely not for the full amount you were seeking. Worst case, your claims will be denied. You could be left paying medical bills, vehicle repairs, lost wages, and more out of your own pocket for an accident that you did not cause.
How much does this really amount to? These are just a few of the expenses you could face following a car accident.
Every year, more than 3 million people are nonfatally injured in car accidents in the United States. Injuries range from minor cuts and bruises to those that are debilitating and life-altering.
Even seemingly minor injuries can require extensive medical care, and carry hefty bills. Some common medical expenses you may incur as a result of an auto accident include:
- The initial ambulance ride to the hospital could cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. A $3,000 or more bill is not unusual for an ambulance ride, as many individuals do not realize that their local emergency services use private ambulances, which are often not covered by insurance.
- If your injuries are severe enough to require an air ambulance, the cost of that flight, minus what an insurance company will typically cover is $21,700.
- Visiting an emergency room after a car accident costs, on average, $3,300. This does not include the cost of transport via ambulance.
- A single broken leg can cost up to $7,500 to fix. Fixing a broken arm, as long as it does not require surgery, costs about $2,500.
- If you need to stay in the hospital for several days to recover and get treatment, your bills will easily reach into the tens of thousands. The average 3-day stay costs about $30,000.
If who is at blame for the accident is not entirely clear, your own insurance may pay your medical bills. But you will be left paying the difference. If you have a high deductible and have not used your insurance for many medical bills within the year, you could be left paying thousands of dollars before your insurance ever kicks in.
Ongoing Medical Costs
The cost of riding in an ambulance and getting treated in the emergency room is not the only medical bills you may face following a car accident. Depending on your injuries, you may also experience ongoing medical costs. Common ongoing costs you might incur following an automobile accident include:
- Physical therapy can help victims of car accidents regain muscle strength and recover from a variety of injuries. The average cost of a single physical therapy session ranges from $50 to $350. You may require anywhere from a few sessions to a few dozen or more to fully recover.
- In severe car accidents, brain injuries are not uncommon. In fact, auto accidents are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. These often require brain surgery. After surgery, rehabilitation costs an average of $46,000 for a 23-day stay.
- Spinal cord injuries are another common occurrence in severe car accidents. The lifetime medical cost for someone who has suffered a spinal cord injury cost between $428,000 and $1.35 million, depending on the extent of the damage.
What Your Own Insurance Won’t Cover
If you have medical insurance, this can help offset some of the incoming bills. But having insurance isn’t enough to save you from every cost.
The average deductible on an individual insurance plan in the U.S. is $1,655. Less than 40 percent of Americans have enough money stashed away to cover an emergency costing $1,000. This makes paying your deductible in full all at once a challenge. And many plans available today carry much higher deductibles, with most averaging between $4,000 and $6,000 for each individual on the plan.
Even after you have reached your deductible, you may still receive bills for things that your insurance provider does not cover. This could include things like out-of-network care or certain brands of medication.
Damages to Your Vehicle
Damage to your vehicle represents another major expense you will likely face following a car accident.
When two vehicles collide, it is very rare for there to be no damage. Sometimes that damage is minor, like scuffs or dents, though even this can be expensive to repair. Body damage alone can range anywhere from $50 to $7,500 to repair. This does not include any additional repairs necessary for damaged parts.
The insurance company of the person responsible for the accident should pay for these repairs. However, for older vehicles or if the circumstances of the accident are in question, they may try to avoid paying. Or, they may attempt to pay less than what the repairs cost. Sometimes they will try to argue that some damage was present before the accident.
Other times, the insurance company may claim that your vehicle is worth less than the repairs necessary. In this case, they will rule that your vehicle is totaled. Then, they will try to pay what your destroyed vehicle is worth. For older vehicles, this may be significantly less than what your vehicle is worth to you, personally.
A few thousand dollars, or worse, a few hundred dollars for your totaled vehicle may not be enough for you to purchase a new car. You will be left with no way to get around, which could affect your ability to get to work, take your children to school, and more.
Without an attorney, it will be up to you to fight for the settlement that you deserve in order to get your vehicle repaired or replaced so that you can get where you need to go.
Loss of Work
Whether you have to spend time in the hospital or need time to recover at home after a car accident, you may wind up missing work. From a couple of days to several weeks or longer, for many, missing work also means missing out on the pay that you would have received.
This can be detrimental to many family’s finances. Without that income, you might not have enough to pay the rent, buy groceries, or cover other expenses. Or perhaps you were saving up for a new car, a vacation, or a home. Losing even a day or two of income can be a major setback.
If someone else is responsible for the car accident, you can request the total cost of your lost wages from their insurance company. To do so, you will need to submit paperwork proving your income, work schedule, and more.
Navigating yet another set of forms and submitting even more evidence adds a lot to your workload, especially if you are also dealing with injuries. If the insurance company fights back, you will then begin the process of re-submitting your requests and fighting for the settlement you know that you deserve. A car accident attorney will not only take over this fight for you but will also be well-versed in requesting lost wages and prepared to take on the necessary paperwork.
Missing School and Other Activities
Work isn’t the only thing you might miss as a result of a car accident. If you are in college, play a sport, or participate in other activities that you pay for, you may miss a few days of these as well.
Missing these may not be as clear a loss as losing a day’s worth of wages. But you still paid for them, and missing days is a loss of your investment. A personal injury attorney can help you get compensation for these and similar expenses as well. Without their help, you will be left figuring out what expenses you can and cannot claim, and figuring out how to prove that you deserve compensation.
Some losses are harder to place a financial value on than others. Alongside your physical pain, you may also suffer emotional pain. Between the anguish of the accident, dealing with your injuries, and going through the process of filing claims, it should come as no surprise that many victims develop mental illnesses as a result of car accidents.
Studies have found that between 6 and 25 percent of children and adolescents experience post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, following accidents. Among adults, the rate is much higher. Nearly 40 percent of adults suffer some level of PTSD after an accident.
Obtaining treatment for these psychological disorders means yet another round of medical bills. Proving a mental illness, and proving that it was caused by your car accident, can be even more difficult than proving that other injuries have occurred.
Mental illnesses developed as a result of an auto accident may also lead to more missed days of work, trouble at home, or damaged relationships with family members and loved ones.
Not only are you entitled to compensation to cover your medical bills associated with your mental illnesses, but you can also receive additional compensation for your pain and suffering, But obtaining either can be a challenge without an experienced attorney on your side.
When is it Not Worth it to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Hiring a car accident lawyer can help you get your medical bills covered, your vehicle repaired or replaced, and get you compensation for emotional and physical pain and suffering.
An attorney can be a vital resource, even after minor accidents if insurance companies refuse to pay or you are struggling with injuries while trying to file claims. But there are a few situations when an attorney might not be worth the investment. A few examples include:
- Accidents in which no injuries have occurred do not require the help of an attorney. However, keep in mind that some injuries might not be immediately apparent. If there is any question about whether you may have been hurt, you should get checked out by a doctor right away.
- If you submit claims and the insurance company pays right away and the full amount you have submitted, you do not need legal help.
- Minor accidents may come with lower repair costs and medical bills. If this is the case, it may not be worth giving a cut of your settlement to an attorney. Even if you settle, it may be better to negotiate with the insurance company on your own.
- If the accident was your fault, you can’t exactly file a claim against yourself. So you likely won’t need legal help. If there is any question whether someone else could be partially responsible for the accident, though, you will want to get an attorney to help you prove that to insurance companies and in court if it comes to that.
Deciding to Hire a Lawyer for a Car Accident
In some cases, you might not need a lawyer to file your claims and get paid following a car accident. However, the investment it takes to get an attorney often far outweigh the potential costs.
Hiring a car accident lawyer not only helps ensure that you get the settlement that you deserve, but it can also help take some of the stress and weight off of your shoulders. You can focus on healing and recovering while your lawyer takes care of the paperwork, filing, and building your case.