There are plenty of things that you are required by law to do after being involved in a car accident. It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident, even when it is very minor. When the police arrive, you have to tell the truth about what happened, to the best of your ability, and give your real information.
There is no law that says that you have to get an attorney following a car accident. However, depending on the circumstances of your case, getting one can be the difference between getting a settlement for your injuries, pain suffered, and damages to your property, or having to cover those expenses yourself.
So how do decide when to hire an attorney for a car accident? These are a few indicators that your situation calls for the help of a car accident lawyer, as well as a few situations that do not.
When Do You Need to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Figuring out when you need the help of a car accident lawyer is not that complicated. Instead, there are a few specific situations that almost always call for the help of an attorney.
It Isn’t Clear Who is at Fault
Sometimes it is very clear who is at fault for an accident. A car runs a red light and t-bones oncoming traffic. A motorcycle tries to dart between lanes and clips another vehicle. Someone fails to stop at a stop sign and rear-ends the car in front of them.
Other times, the culprit of the wreck is less than clear. A police report may be able to sort it out. But if you disagree with the report, or who is at fault remains unclear, it might be time to get an attorney.
A car accident lawyer will help you sort through the details of the case. If you feel that you were the victim, your lawyer will help you fight for the settlement you deserve. They will use carefully collected evidence and testimonies to make the details surrounding the accident more clear. Then, they will use that evidence to fight back against insurance companies, and, if it gets to that point, in court before a judge.
You Were Injured in an Accident
Medical bills can pile up very quickly after a car accident. Even a seemingly minor injury can turn into thousands of dollars worth of bills.
For instance, say that you broke your arm in a car accident. Bills you are likely to accumulate include:
- Depending on where the accident takes place, an ambulance ride could cost you between $224 and $2,204.
- If it does not require surgery, fixing a broken bone in a hospital will set you back about $2,500.
For a broken arm alone, you could face bills of nearly $5,000. More serious injuries can cost several times that. The average cost of a hospital stay is a whopping $10,000. And that number does not factor in an ambulance ride, surgery, medication, or other costs.
In some cases, you might also be faced with ongoing medical bills. This may include rehabilitation, medications, outpatient care, or follow-up visits. You may also suffer emotional pain, which is difficult to place a dollar amount on but can lead to very real mental illness, including depression or PTSD.
Hopefully, the insurance of the person responsible for the accident will payout. But if they fight back, try to offer less than what you deserve, or refuse to pay at all, you could be left dealing with those medical bills on your own. A car accident lawyer can help you fight for a fair settlement so that you do not have to pay medical bills brought on by someone else’s negligence.
You Were Forced to Miss Several Days of Work, School, or Other Activities
Medical bills or damage to your vehicle are far from the only expenses that you may incur as a result of a car accident. A hospital stay or serious injuries may cause you to have to miss work. In fact, depending on the kind of work that you do, even a minor injury can require time off to recover.
Missing other obligations, like college courses or sports, may not cost you upfront. However, these are activities that you have paid for, and missing them is a loss of that investment that you made.
If you have had to miss work, school, or other activities because of the car accident or the resulting injuries that you sustained, those losses can be included in the settlement that you are asking for. But unlike your ambulance or hospital bill, they can be a bit harder to prove. A personal injury lawyer can compile the proof that you need to present to insurance companies and the court if your case goes that far.
Someone Died in the Car Accident
Any time that someone died during a car accident or as a result of their injuries, an attorney is a must. This is true both for the surviving victims of the accident or the family of the deceased, as well as for the individual responsible for causing the car accident.
If a driver’s negligence resulted in the death of a driver or passenger of another vehicle, an attorney is always necessary. But sometimes a driver may cause an accident, but not be fully at fault. Ice or water on the road, a dog running out into traffic, or similar circumstances can lead to an accident.
A car accident lawyer can help their client prove to the court that they are not solely responsible for the accident and that they were not negligent in causing the wreck. Without an attorney, individuals may be led to give statements or admit guilt under duress from insurance companies and even law enforcement.
If a loved one died as a result of a wreck, a car accident lawyer will help you receive the settlement for the pain and suffering, hospital bills, funeral costs, and more that your family deserves. It won’t bring back your loved one or even make up for the pain. But it can help minimize the financial burden that your family will suffer as a result of your loved one’s death.
The Insurance Company Refuses to Pay
Following a minor accident, you might initially decide not to contact an attorney. After all, who is at fault for incidents like fender benders or even a t-bone accident are often clear cut. With a police report in hand and claims filed to the insurance company of the person responsible, you might think that the case will resolve itself. And in some cases, it may.
However, many insurance companies will do anything that they can to avoid paying out claims. They may try to stall payments. They may attempt to pay less than what you are asking. In some cases, this means refusing certain aspects of your hospital bill. Or they may try to claim that your car is worth less than the repairs that it needs, offering to pay a much lower sum for your vehicle instead.
When insurance companies refuse to pay or offer less than you are asking, you can try to fight them on your own. But this often turns into an endless stream of submitting claims and evidence and getting denied. In the meantime, you might be left without a vehicle, or left dealing with minor injuries and medical bills on your own.
If an insurance company refuses your claims or tries to short-change you, it is time to get legal help. A car accident attorney understands every tactic that insurance companies use. He or she will be ready to fight back and get your settlement, or else take the case to court.
When Do You Not Need an Attorney for a Car Accident?
A personal injury lawyer can be vital in helping gather evidence surrounding a car accident, compiling statements, and working with insurance companies to get them to payout. But is an attorney always necessary?
There are a few instances when it may not be worth the cost of hiring a lawyer. These are a few such circumstances.
No Injuries Were Sustained in the Accident
Every year, more than 6 million car accidents occur in the United States. These accidents vary from minor fender benders to major collisions. Just as the accidents differ, so too do the injuries they cause. The Center for Disease Control reports that 3 million people are nonfatally injured in vehicle accidents in the U.S. each year. Another 38,000 people are killed.
But there are also thousands, if not millions of motor vehicle accidents that lead to no injuries. Whether the accident is minor or your vehicle and it’s numerous safety features prevent any damage to you or your passengers, walking away from an accident unscathed is always a wonderful thing. And in some cases, it may mean that you will not need to contact a personal injury lawyer about your case.
If no injuries were truly sustained in an accident and there is a police report taken, it may not be worth it to hire a personal injury lawyer for your case.
However, it is very important to make sure that you were not injured. While this may seem simple enough, it can actually be more complicated than you think. To start, the adrenaline of an accident, or the shock, can hide injuries initially. You might feel fine immediately following the accident. But the next morning, you could awake to find that the adrenaline has worn off and the pain has set in.
Additionally, some injuries may not be visible from the outside. What you mistake for sore muscles or whiplash could be serious internal injuries. If there is any doubt about whether you were injured, or if an accident was bad but you feel no pain, see a doctor right away.
The Insurance Company Pays Out Right Away
It is true that many insurance companies will do what they can to avoid paying a claim. However, sometimes that is not the case. If claims are submitted to insurance and paid right away, there is no need to get a personal injury attorney involved in your case.
But if the insurance companies appear to be dragging out payments, or are trying to pay less than what you know is fair, it is a good idea to seek legal help.
You Caused a Minor Accident
Accidents do happen. This is especially true of minor car accidents. Whether you were looking down and bumped the car in front of you at a stop sign or got too close to a parked car on a narrow street, causing a minor accident isn’t the end of the world.
If no one is injured and it is clear that you caused the accident, you do not need to call an attorney. Instead, answer the police’s questions and file the necessary claims with your insurance company.
However, in some cases, you may wish to get an attorney. Some instances include:
- If the victim of the crash gets a lawyer and begins a fight for a higher settlement.
- Serious injuries were sustained.
- If the accident occurred under special circumstances, such as in a construction zone.
Additionally, if there is any doubt that you were 100 percent at fault, you can speak with a lawyer to learn what your options are.
For instance, say that you ran a stop sign and hit another vehicle. But you feel that the stop sign was blocked by overgrown trees and brush. You may have a case against the city responsible for maintaining that stop sign. They could be partially responsible for the accident that occurred. You will likely need an attorney's help to prove that in court.
Getting a Car Accident Lawyer on Your Case
Whether you suffered serious injuries, the insurance company is refusing to pay, or who is at fault is unclear, a car accident lawyer is an essential resource. They can help you compile evidence, take statements, fight back against insurance companies, and prepare your case for court, if necessary. If you have recently been in an accident, or even caused one, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney to help guide you through the legal process and fight for the settlement that you deserve.