When Do You Need A Lawyer For Your Car Accident Claim?

If your car accident resulted in significant injuries, or key issues like fault are in real dispute, having a lawyer on your side can be crucial.

If you're like most people, you have far more questions than answers after a car accident. Should you see a doctor even if your pain is manageable? Who pays for your rental car if your vehicle isn't drivable? Then there's perhaps the most critical question when it comes to getting the best result for your car accident claim: Should you hire a lawyer? Here's what to know:

  • While the car accident claim process will almost certainly be unfamiliar territory to you, it's an experienced lawyer's natural habitat.
  • Getting the most out of your claim is often synonymous with a willingness to fight for the best result.
  • Whether you need a lawyer usually comes down to 5 key factors.

Navigating the Car Accident Claim Process

In order to prepare and present your strongest car accident claim to the insurance adjuster or the attorney for the other side, you'll need to take a number of steps that might be new to you, but for a seasoned lawyer they'll be second nature. The process includes:

  • gathering all necessary medical records and bills, pay stubs and other proof of lost income
  • compiling witness statements, police reports, photographs and other evidence related to the accident and how it happened, and
  • preparing an effective demand letter that paints a convincing fault picture (how and why the other driver is liable for the accident) and a detailed picture of your losses ("damages" in legalese), including the non-economic impact of the accident and your injuries (your "pain and suffering").

Advocating for Your Best Result

There's the procedure your claim will likely follow on the one hand, and on the other hand there's your willingness to do what it takes to come away from that process with the best result. That means not just putting your best case together, but also demonstrating sufficient:

  • patience to not jump at the insurance company's first offer
  • settlement negotiation skills to make the insurance adjuster take you seriously, and
  • willingness to continue the fight (in court if necessary) in order to get a fair result.

As with the process itself, the mindset required to navigate the claim procedure doesn't come naturally to most people, but an attorney brings all the necessary skills to the table.

Should You Hire a Car Accident Lawyer? 5 Things

As you're deciding whether hiring a car accident lawyer is the right move for you and your claim, it might help to consider these 5 things:

1. Is fault contested in your case, or do the other driver and their insurance company admit that the other driver caused the accident?

Where fault for a car accident is contested, if you cannot prove that the other driver caused the accident, you'll likely recover nothing. Don't take a chance in this area. If there's going to be a fight over fault, especially if that fight will be waged in a court that applies the technical rules of evidence, then there's too much at stake for you to go it alone, and you need a car accident lawyer's help.

2. How much are your out-of-pocket damages for such things as medical bills and lost income?

You might be comfortable settling your own claim if your out-of-pocket losses (medical bills, lost income, vehicle damage, rental car, etc.) add up to a few thousand dollars, but $10,000 or $20,000 or more is another story. You have to decide at what level your case is too big to handle yourself, and your personal point of demarcation may be higher or lower than someone else's.

3. How seriously were you injured and how long did/will it take you to recover?

If you had a serious injury such as a broken bone or a herniated disk that affected you for a long time, and especially if you have a permanent injury that could linger for years, you have a potentially large claim and should hire a lawyer to present it professionally.

(Note: Thee two above questions are different ways of saying that the larger your claim and the more that is at stake, the more critical it is to have a professional on your side. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the case, the harder the other side fights. Learn more about car accident claim value.)

4. Are you going to court?

If you have to take your case to court, and you cannot use an alternative dispute resolution such as small claims court, you need a lawyer who knows the court rules. That way you give yourself a fair chance to win and ensure that your legal rights are protected.

5. Are you willing to invest time learning how to settle a car accident claim, and then actually present your claim?

If you simply do not want to spend time figuring out the claim process and how to make your best case, hire a lawyer and let them to their thing.

Settling your own claim is do-able, and might even be profitable. Lawyers typically charge a legal fee equal to 1/3 of your recovery, so settling your own $10,000 case, for example, can put more than $3,000 extra dollars in your pocket. Of course, it your injuries are serious and/or you're not comfortable handling things yourself, turn the case over to a lawyer. Two-thirds of something is better than all of nothing!

Finding the Right Car Accident Lawyer

If you're ready to discuss your situation with a lawyer, you can use the chat and information submission tools right on this page to reach out to a lawyer in your area. You can also learn how a lawyer can be integral to the success of your car accident claim in our guide to hiring a car accident lawyer.

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