If you've been in a car accident, you probably have questions. What should I tell my car insurance company about the accident? Should I talk to the other driver's insurer? How will I pay my medical bills? Can I sue the other driver?
An experienced car accident lawyer can answer these questions (and more), and can often help you get the best result in your car accident case. An attorney can:
You might not need to hire a lawyer after a minor car accident. For example, if another car backs into you in a parking lot, causing minimal property damage and no injuries, you might be able to handle the insurance claim process on your own. But if you're injured in an accident, the medical bills are piling up, and the other side is digging in for a fight, an attorney can protect your legal rights. For a breakdown of five things to think about when deciding whether to hire a lawyer, check out: When Do You Need A Lawyer For Your Car Accident Claim?
If the expense of hiring a lawyer is holding you back, keep in mind that most accident lawyers get paid a percentage of what you win (under what's called a contingency fee agreement). That means if you lose, you don't pay a fee. And most injury lawyers will also initially "consult" (meet with you) free of charge. (Learn more about car accident lawyer fees.)
A car accident lawyer's job is to fight for the best possible outcome for your case. Depending on the timeline and the facts of your accident case, your lawyer will:
A lawyer will give you the information you need to make decisions about your case. For example, a car accident lawyer will explain the entire claim process to you and answer your questions. A lawyer will also offer an informed and realistic estimate of what your claim might be worth.
When you're recovering from a car accident, the last thing you want to do is talk to an insurance adjuster. A lawyer will strategically communicate with insurers for you. A lawyer might get a quicker call back and a better settlement offer too. There's nothing like the threat of a lawsuit to move a claim forward.
A lawyer might also communicate with your health care team to make sure you're getting the right treatment, the information you need to prove damages, and handle any payment and reimbursement issues that crop up with regard to health care providers and health insurers.
A lawyer will help you gather and organize records (like police reports, medical records, bills, and proof of income). A lawyer might also uncover new information by interviewing witnesses, looking at crash data for similar accidents at the same intersection, and digging into the other driver's background.
A lawyer might work with accident reconstruction experts to prove the other driver's negligence. An economist can figure out your potential financial losses, and a life planner can tally up future medical expenses like physical therapy, prescriptions, and care providers.
Negotiation is a skill. A car accident lawyer often has years of experience negotiating with insurance adjusters. A lawyer will almost always get a better settlement than a layperson. An experienced lawyer will know what your case is worth and won't be rattled or intimidated by insurance company tactics.
It's not about finding just any lawyer. You'll get the best outcome by finding an experienced lawyer you trust. Let's talk about how to begin your search.
You might have worked with a lawyer before. Or you might have a friend or family member who is a lawyer. Ask them to recommend an experienced accident lawyer. Lawyers commonly refer cases to one another, and most lawyers have someone in their network who handles car accident cases.
Talk to friends and family members who have hired car accident lawyers. If they had a good experience, consider hiring the same lawyer. But don't make decisions based solely on referrals and recommendations. Your accident case has its own set of facts and legal issues. And what works for your uncle might not work for you. He might want a loud and aggressive lawyer while you value a lawyer who calls you back and has a reputation for honesty.
You, like most people, will probably turn to the Internet to find a lawyer. Websites like All-About-Car-Accidents.com (and Nolo.com) offer reliable legal information and free case evaluations from qualified car accident lawyers in your area. Or browse Nolo's directory of Auto Accident Lawyers.
If you were in a minor car accident, you might not need a lawyer. If you have the time and energy to gather documents, learn about the law, and confidently negotiate with insurance adjusters, you might be able to handle your claim on your own.
But if you want a lawyer to do all the legwork and advocate for you throughout the claim process (and potentially in court) don't delay. Laws called "statutes of limitations" set time limits on your right to file a lawsuit over a car accident. And the sooner you hire a lawyer, the sooner they can get to work investigating your accident, gathering evidence to prove liability and damages, and getting you compensation.