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When Should You Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident

When Should You Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident?

No one plans ahead for a car accident. One moment you’re commuting to work, driving your kids to school, or running errands. The next, you’re injured and your car is damaged.Suddenly there are medical bills, car repairs, rental vehicles, and an endless number of other expenses to deal with. Insurance claims need to be submitted, and police reports filed. You might need to find a babysitter while you’re in the hospital or going to physical therapy appointments. Vacation plans may need to be canceled, and your work may suffer. All the while, responsibilities like paying bills and rent or caring for pets and children have to continue.

On top of all of this, you also have a big decision to make; whether or not you’re going to hire a lawyer.

Deciding when you need an attorney for a car accident and when you can handle things on your own can be tricky. Keep reading to learn more about making the decision and when the best time is to call for legal help.

What Happens and When: A Car Accident Timeline

Photo by Michael Jin

From the moment a crash happens to receive the final claims payout, there’s no shortage of things to take care of. Understanding the timeline of dealing with an accident ahead of time can help you stay calm and focused.


  • Get to a Safe Place and Check for Injuries
  • Call 911
  • Get Medical Attention

Get to a Safe Place and Check for Injuries

Before you start placing blame for the accident, the most important thing to do is to get everyone involved in a safe place.

If an accident occurs in heavy traffic, secondary collisions become a very serious threat. The same goes for accidents that occur in blind spots or sharp turns. After being involved in one accident, your car could be left disabled in the middle of traffic. This can lead to other cars hitting it. Every year, motorists dealing with disabled or wrecked cars on the side of busy roadways are struck by oncoming traffic.

The most important thing to do in the moments after an accident is to take stock of your location and, if possible, get everyone involved in a safe place.

Some states require that vehicles be moved off of roadways if they are able to be. If your car is disabled, get yourself and any passengers to the side of the road, away from traffic.

Call 911

If your or anyone else involved in the crash is injured, the next thing you need to do is call 911. When head, back, or neck injuries are a possibility, encourage the injured individual to stay as still as possible until paramedics arrive. If you or anyone on the scene has first aid training, help out in any way that you can.

If you are the one to call 911, give the dispatcher as much information as possible about what happened, who is involved, and where the crash is located. He or she may instruct you to administer first aid or to get some information from the injured individual to help paramedics administer care when they arrive.

Get Medical Attention

If you’ve suffered severe injuries in the crash, you may travel by ambulance to the hospital to get care. Follow the directions of the paramedics when they arrive; it’s far more important to get immediate medical care than it is to talk with police on the scene about the circumstances of the accident.

Later, you’ll have a chance to tell your side of the story and answer questions for the police report.

Deciding Whether or Not You Need an Attorney

Once you’ve received medical treatment, or if police have been called to the scene and you aren’t injured, the next thing you need to do is decide whether or not you think that you’ll need an attorney’s help.

If you know that you’re going to need legal assistance, calling a lawyer as soon as possible is important. He or she can help you understand your rights in terms of talking to the police and other people involved. They will talk you through gathering evidence at the scene of the accident, such as through taking photos of the cars involved and getting insurance information from the other drivers.

You can always choose to call an attorney later on in the process. But if you know that you are going to hire an attorney for a car accident, don’t wait to reach out.

When Should You Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident?

Not all car accidents require the help of an attorney. However, certain circumstances make the help of an experienced lawyer a must. Without them, getting the compensation you deserve, and having your claims paid in a timely manner can be a challenge.

So when do you need to hire a lawyer for a car accident? These are just a few of the instances when a car accident is best handled with the help of an attorney:


  • When it Isn’t Immediately Clear Who is at Fault
  • If You or a Passenger Was Seriously Injured in the Accident
  • When the Accident Results in a Death
  • If You are Forced to Miss Work

When it Isn’t Immediately Clear Who is at Fault

Sometimes it’s very clear that one driver made a mistake that led to an accident. Other times, who is at fault is less clear. The more vehicles involved, the trickier it can become to determine where the blame lies.

Unfortunately, when it’s tough to figure out who is at fault, it’s also tough to prove it. This makes it a challenge to prove to insurance providers who are responsible for paying for the damage.

Even in a no-fault state, determining who caused the accident is still important. This is especially true if a victim wants to pursue a lawsuit against the responsible driver.

If you aren’t sure who caused the accident, it’s a good idea to speak with an attorney. The same goes for cases when you’re confident that someone else caused it but know that proving it will be a challenge,

An experienced car accident lawyer will be able to investigate the circumstances of the crash. They will gather any available evidence and witness testimonies that could prove that another driver’s negligence caused the wreck.

Additionally, your lawyer will help you understand your rights. They may coach you on speaking with any involved parties so that you don’t wind up inadvertently admitting to something that you didn’t do.

If You or a Passenger Was Seriously Injured in the Accident

If you or one of your passengers, such as your spouse or a dependent, were injured in the accident, you will want to consult with an attorney. While you may be able to handle filing claims for very minor injuries on your own, the more serious the injuries, the more help that you’ll need.

One of the challenges of dealing with the legal process after a car accident is navigating that process while also coping with any injuries that you have sustained.

While you’re in the hospital, you’ll also be juggling calls with insurance companies. As you travel back and forth to the doctor, you’ll also need to get copies of the police report.

Amid any pain you’re suffering, you’ll be organizing photos of the scene of the crash. And while you’re struggling to adapt to life after the accident, you’ll also be worrying about whether insurance is going to pay your claims or deny them.

Depending on the extent of your injuries, you may be physically or mentally incapable of dealing with any of this. That’s just one of the reasons why you should call an attorney right away.

Besides taking over important tasks like communicating with insurance companies or gathering evidence, your lawyer will also help you determine what your settlement should be worth.

When the Accident Results in a Death

Every year, more than 38,000 people die in car accidents in the United States. If you lost a loved one as a result of a car accident, you’ll need to hire an attorney as soon as possible.

Besides the emotional strain of dealing with the legal process after losing a loved one, an attorney is also a vital tool in calculating a settlement and fighting to get your family the compensation that you deserve.

Odds are that if an individual causes an accident that results in a loss of life, they will lawyer up right away. The last thing that you want to do is let grief get in the way of doing the same.

While it can be tough to think about the legal side of things, hiring a car accident lawyer is essential in protecting your family and your future during this difficult time.

If You are Forced to Miss Work

Even a seemingly minor injury can result in days or even weeks of having to miss work.

Depending on the type of work that you do, you could be out for weeks, possibly without pay. While it is the responsibility of the person who caused the accident to compensate you for your lost wages, getting this compensation is rarely easy.

Most insurance companies will do everything in their power to avoid paying out claims or to lower the amount that they have to pay. They may try to prove that you were capable of going back to work or blame your lost wages on something other than a crash. Unfortunately, without legal training, proving otherwise and fighting for compensation can be a challenge.

Your attorney will take over all communications with insurance providers. An experienced lawyer will know every trick and tactic that insurance companies use to avoid paying claims, and will be ready to tackle them.

When Do You Not Need a Car Accident Lawyer?

A car accident attorney can be an essential tool when insurance companies refuse to pay or when you’ve been seriously injured in a crash. However, there are a few circumstances when you may be able to handle your case on your own.

Most personal injury lawyers, including those who deal with car accidents, work on a Contingency Fee. Instead of charging an hourly rate for their services, an attorney will take a pre-determined percentage of a final settlement. If the client loses their case, they will not need to pay the attorney.

However, despite this risk-free arrangement, there are other expenses that clients will need to pay for. This includes costs for routine administrative tasks. Examples include obtaining copies of police reports or the cost to bring in expert witnesses, if necessary.

In addition, the contingency fee requires giving up a portion of a settlement. For high-settlement cases, this is a good exchange for the professional help that an attorney can offer. For cases with a low settlement, this means giving a portion of the already low amount.

Some examples of times when hiring an attorney may not be necessary include:

  • Cases in which damage is minor and no injuries occur
  • When insurance companies pay right away for minor damage or low medical costs
  • If you were responsible for the crash and the accident was minor

Of course, even in these cases, an attorney’s help may be necessary later on. For instance, the insurance company may refuse to pay. Or you may later develop medical problems as a result of the crash. In either case, you should still contact a lawyer.

Determining When You Should Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident

Hiring a car accident lawyer is a great way to get help and to get the compensation that you deserve. Once you’ve decided that you need help, contacting them as soon as possible will help prevent any further delays. It will also help give them the best chance of building a strong case in your favor.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not you need legal assistance, a free consultation can help. A free consultation is conducted over the phone or in person. This informal meeting gives you a chance to get to know the attorney. You can ask questions about your case and find out how he or she would handle it. This is a great chance to ensure you’re making the right choice.

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