Car accidents can happen in many ways, with many factors leading to the traumatic event. A negligent driver causes most crashes.
A claim is a route people usually take if they sustained one or more injuries because of someone else’s careless behavior. However, the aftermath of an accident can become busy. You might not know when you should get a lawyer, but our experienced car accident attorneys will guide you through the process.
What to Do Immediately After a Car Accident
On average, six million car accidents happen each year. Crashes lead to roughly three million injuries annually, many of them permanent. Many people feel confused about what to do after a car accident.
If you follow several steps, you can help your health and your potential car accident case. The first action is to pull the vehicle to the side of the road if you can. If you cannot move your car, you can turn on the hazard lights to alert other motorists of the collision.
Some people equip their vehicles with flares for emergencies. The flares can be beneficial in case the event occurs at night. Once you are in a safe place, assess any injuries you or any passengers may have. You should check to see if the occupants of the other vehicle are okay.
If someone is unconscious or experiences leg or back pain, you cannot move them. Movement can worsen some injuries. Do not leave the accident scene. Instead, dial 911 and report the incident.
An ambulance will arrive to provide initial treatment for the people involved. A police officer will show up to record details of what had happened. The officer generally fills out an accident report, and you can get a copy later for your case.
If the police cannot come, you can go to the nearest station to report the collision. While you are at the scene, you must collect as much information as possible. Get the other driver’s name and insurance details, the officer’s badge number, and the phone number of any witnesses.
If you can, take pictures of your injuries and your car. After you leave the area, visit a doctor for a full medical evaluation and get in touch with a car accident lawyer as soon as you are physically able.
What to Avoid
Regardless of what type of collision you were involved in do not argue with the other drivers. An argument would not get anyone anywhere. If the accident was due to road rage, the situation could escalate with an agitated motorist. Everyone needs to remain safe and calm.
You should avoid taking any blame for the incident. Many people like to apologize to be polite even if they are not at fault. If you say you are sorry, the other side could use your apology as an admission of guilt. You could have a difficult time when you try to prove liability.
A few people exchange information and continue with their day instead of reporting the accident. Most states require people to report even a minor incident if an injury is present. A person could get into trouble if they do not.
You might not inform the authorities if you do not see any injuries on yourself or anyone else. However, a condition can take days or weeks to manifest. You should have a police report ready to help you obtain compensation for the injury.
The insurance company might try to contact you soon after the crash. They could pressure you to accept a settlement right away. The amount of the offer typically is lower than what you deserve.
The agent might convince you to make a statement instead. Do not sign any papers or say anything until you have hired an attorney. Learn more how a car accident settlement works by speaking to an attorney about your specific case.
When to Get a Car Accident Attorney
If a car collision resulted from another motorist’s carelessness, you should reach out to an attorney. Complex cases where liability is not clear can especially benefit from the services of a firm.
You should get the help of a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident. Obtaining the services of a lawyer will ensure you start your case before the statute of limitations ends. The deadline to file a claim varies by state, and your lawyer can answer any questions you have about the limitations of the law. Time can go by quickly when you are busy with recovery, so contact a lawyer and let them take over.
Some states offer exceptions to the statute of limitations. For example, the clock could pause if you were a minor at the time of the accident. A meeting with a legal firm can help you understand if your situation qualifies for an extension to the deadline. Your lawyer can get the paperwork ready while you focus on your personal life.
Additionally, an attorney can gather sufficient evidence as soon as possible. Several pieces of evidence can deteriorate, or a person might lose them at some point. Witnesses are crucial to any case, but memory can fade over time.
You should schedule a consultation with your nearest vehicle accident attorney. Even if the crash was minor, you could use the meeting to ask questions. Most consultations are free, and you can learn how the attorney can benefit your case. review our video on what to look for when choosing an attorney?
The Benefits of a Lawyer
Hundreds of thousands of people file a civil lawsuit without an attorney present. Annually, roughly 2,702 personal injury cases use self-representation. The fees can turn people away from any law office, but an attorney comes with multiple benefits.
When you start a car accident case, you have to file various forms. Filling out documents can take up a considerable amount of your time. A car accident lawyer can handle the necessary paperwork for you. You can avoid delays due to incomplete or improperly filed forms.
Of course, your lawyer can prevent missed deadlines as well. Another benefit is the potential for increased reimbursement. Not everyone can calculate what they should get in a settlement accurately. An attorney can build a strong case to show how much you should receive from the insurance company.
Lawyers conduct thorough investigations into car collisions. They obtain the aid of accident reconstructionists, forensic specialists, and doctors. Your attorney might use other experts to demonstrate what happened in the accident.
The chances of success increase. A majority of vehicle collision lawsuits settle outside of court. As a result, you can save on additional litigation costs. Most lawyers use contingency fees, so you do not have to pay them unless they win your case. An injured victim can seek the justice they deserve.
Damages You Can Claim in a Settlement
A vehicle collision can devastate a person’s livelihood. A personal injury claim can help someone obtain the financial resources to make life more stable. Your vehicle can sustain minimal or severe damage. Regardless, you likely have to pay for repairs or a replacement.
The average amount in auto insurance claims for property damage is $4,711 a year. The value of your claim depends on the severity of the accident. You can get the money back in a settlement, and broken electronics and other property count as well.
Many victims have to take multiple days off from their jobs to heal. The wages you could have made during your recovery contribute to the awarded damages. Debilitating injuries can prevent someone from returning to work. A person can claim loss of future income as a result.
Visit a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Injuries can worsen if you do not get treatment in time. You can discover how much money to request when you establish a claim as well. Some people have to spend thousands of dollars for hospitalization and therapy.
Medication prescriptions and medical devices can be expensive for victims. Healthcare costs often factor into the value of your lawsuit. Non-economic damages can increase your compensation as well.
Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium are options. Car accidents tend to affect victims emotionally. You deserve money for the mental anguish you experienced.
Who Can You Sue in a Car Accident Case?
The success of any vehicle collision lawsuit depends on if the plaintiff proves the defendant holds liability. The defendant in question can be one or more parties. Commonly, victims sue the other driver for negligent or reckless behavior.
Another person might have lent the car to the driver. In a few cases, the owner could share responsibility for your injuries. For instance, the owner is at fault if they knowingly gave the vehicle to an intoxicated driver. A lawyer can inform you if negligent entrustment applies to your case.
Auto manufacturers have a duty of care to customers who buy their products. They have to ensure the vehicles and auto parts are functional and safe. Otherwise, one or more people experience harm from a sudden collision.
You can file a lawsuit against a manufacturer if the investigation shows evidence of a malfunction. A mechanic could be at fault for a vehicle error as well. The auto repair shop might have failed to fix a part correctly, or the mechanic did not inform you of an issue.
In many states, victims can sue a government agency if a government worker was negligent while on the clock. You could have to follow different pre-litigation procedures when in a claim against a municipality.
Common Attorney Fees
Contingency fees are a common form of payment among firms. When a case wins, the attorney receives a percentage of the settlement. The portion varies from lawyer to lawyer, but the standard amount is roughly one-third of your compensation.
In some cases, the rate might change as the case progresses. The contingency fee could be lower for a pre-trial settlement, but it could increase if you go to trial. While you do not have to pay the fee if your lawsuit loses, you might still have some other expenses to pay.
Some law offices might charge a client an hourly rate. In this scenario, your car accident lawyer will keep track of how many hours they worked on a case. The lawsuit and location of the firm can determine the rate and whether you also cover paralegal fees.
Some lawyers apply a retainer fee, which acts as a deposit for legal services. They can ensure they will receive a payment. A client cannot receive a refund, but the court has invalidated unreasonable retainer fees in a few instances.
Most people have to pay certain litigation costs. Costs can include the expenses for filing paperwork or hiring expert witnesses.
Usually, you and your attorney will discuss the fee arrangement before you file a case. You can ask for clarification on the terms and expectations before committing to a case.
What You Can Do if You Cannot Afford a Lawyer
The legal services of an attorney are worth the fees if you have a complex case. Many people still might not be able to afford the cost. A few options exist for people to take advantage of when they need help.
Many cities and counties have pro bono clinics where lawyers can offer advice for free. If you need representation in court, a local legal aid society might assist you. You would need to meet specific income requirements, and organizations have criteria for cases.
Law schools tend to have programs for people who need advice. Up-and-coming law students can provide some services to help you understand what steps you can take. Another option is to contact your state or county bar association.
You can call at specific times to ask any legal questions you may have. You have the opportunity to schedule a consultation for a fee as well. Of course, you can choose to represent yourself in court.
Ask around for an affordable car accident lawyer who operates on a contingency basis. Some attorneys allow you to negotiate the rate before they take on your case.