The Association for Safe International Road Travel says that every year, 4.4 million Americans are hurt in car accidents and need medical care. Every year, drivers pay more than $380 million in direct medical costs. This doesn’t include other costs, like lost wages or damage to property.
If you were in a car accident, you could lose a lot of money and get hurt in ways that make it hard for you to work and support your family. If the accident wasn’t your fault, you might be able to get money for it. This guide tells you what to do after an accident, when to talk to a lawyer, and how to find the best car accident lawyer for your case. Here are some things we’ll talk about.
- Know that not every car accident is reason enough to file a lawsuit.
- Start your search for a lawyer by focusing on those who handle car accident cases.
- Use the attorney’s free first consultation to its fullest.
- Find out exactly how much the lawyer will charge you and how much of your settlement you will get.
- What you need to do and how to do it: what to expect during your case.
- Having to deal with car insurance companies.
Know that you don’t have to file a lawsuit after every car accident
Not every car accident requires a lawyer. A minor accident that causes $1,000 in property damage will probably be settled without having to file a lawsuit or go through long settlement talks. But if the insurance company ignores your claim, if you were seriously hurt, or if there’s a disagreement about who was at fault, a personal injury attorney could be a great help.
During a free consultation, lawyers can give you good advice and explain your options. You have nothing to lose. The first step is to find a good lawyer.
Start your search for a lawyer by looking at how they handle car accidents
If you were hurt in a car accident caused by another driver or dangerous road conditions and you need help getting paid for your injuries, you should talk to a car accident lawyer. Start by looking for personal injury lawyers or law firms that do a lot of work with car accident claims.
Look for people who have done a lot of settlements in this area and have a lot of experience. Read their blog and look at testimonials or reviews from past clients to find out if they handle a lot of car accident cases.
Never pass up a chance to gather evidence. It could be a key part of your case. If you can, write down what happened at the scene of the accident, including how the road and weather were, what damage was done to your car, and other details.
Get medical help as soon as possible, and ask anyone who saw the accident to give you their contact information. If your lawyer doesn’t have the right information, it might be hard for them to win your case.
Make the most of the free consultation that the attorney provides at the beginning of the case
Most lawyers who help people who have been in car accidents offer free consultations. There are two goals for the meeting. It gives the lawyer a chance to look at your case and gives you a chance to see if they’re the right person for the job. Here are some of the things you can expect to talk about.
- Damages: Initial case evaluations usually focus on how much your claim is worth based on the kinds of damages you might be able to get for things like medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Evidence: Your lawyer will probably ask if you have photos, videos, contact information for witnesses, or anything else that can help prove your case.
- Liability: Find out who is responsible for your injuries and financial losses by finding out about the other driver and what caused the accident.
- Timing: The statute of limitations tells you how long you have to file your case based on the time and place of the accident.
You can also interview potential candidates during consultations before you hire an attorney to handle your case. Here are some questions you can ask to make the most of your time.
When it comes to car accident lawsuits, nothing beats experience. Most accident lawyers will take on other types of personal injury cases, but their main focus is on cases involving cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles.
You should try to find a professional who has a lot of experience and who often deals with cases like yours. Here are some questions you should ask, and don’t be afraid to ask for a case history.
- How big of a part of your practice are car accident cases?
- How many cases involving car accidents have you worked on in the last three years?
- How many times have you been in this kind of car accident, such as a head-on, rear-end, or multiple-car collision?
A lawyer’s professional memberships and accomplishments can show how dedicated he or she is to personal injury law and the practice area of auto accidents.
Attorneys can get certifications from the National Board of Trial Advocacy, the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, and other state and national industry groups. Board certifications usually require a few years of experience in the field, a large number of cases, and a peer review.
- Do you have a license or certification from a professional board or state bar association?
- Have you been recognized for any great things you’ve done at work?
- When it comes to your legal practice, have you ever been in trouble?
What They Think About Your Case
The main goal of the first meeting is to find out if you have a case and, if you do, how much it might be worth. Once they have all the facts, lawyers should be able to quickly figure out what parts of your case are strong and what parts are weak.
They should also be able to give you a rough idea of how much you might get back in court or through a settlement.
- What kinds of losses can I get back?
- How much do you think my case is worth? Does the state put a limit on damages?
- How long do you think it will take to settle my case about the car accident?
- What do you think will be the hardest thing to do?
Attorneys can’t promise how a case will turn out, but their past successes can give you confidence that they can handle your case. Most lawyers’ websites have information about past settlements and verdicts, and they should be happy to answer any questions you have about their success rate, case history, or general way of representing clients. Here are some questions that will help.
- How often do you settle car accident cases before they go to court?
- How many cases does your firm have right now, and how many of them are about car accidents?
- Can I talk to a client who just left?
Different lawyers use different strategies and work in different ways. Some represent their clients one-on-one, while others use a team of paralegals and other support staff. Some lawyers may take most of their cases to court, while others think that settling cases outside of court saves time and money. Find out what qualities are most important to you and ask questions to see if their style fits your needs.
- Will you listen to me if we disagree about a settlement offer?
- If I hire your company, will I mostly talk to my lawyer or a paralegal?
- What tools does the firm have to help them take care of my case?
- How much do you want clients to help you?
- Will you keep me up to date?
How to Measure Success in the Past: Settlements and Verdicts
When deciding which lawyer to hire, look for someone who has won cases that are similar to yours. The professional should ideally have dealt with claims of the same size and severity before. Depending on the nature of your case, someone who knows a lot about motorcycles, tractor-trailers, or big over-the-road trucking companies may also be helpful.
You should also find out if the lawyer is willing to take your case to court or if he or she plans to try to settle it out of court. You can feel confident in the attorney’s ability to represent your interests throughout the process if you know how they work and what they’ve done in the past.
Find out exactly how much the lawyer will charge you and how much of your settlement you will get
Most car accident lawyers take cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that they don’t get paid if they don’t get you money. But if they reach a settlement or get a jury verdict in their favor, they may be able to get 30–40% of the total amount plus costs.
During the first meeting, the lawyer can give you an estimate of what you might be able to get back from the case. It’s also important to ask about the firm’s fee structure and who pays for things like filing fees that come out of your own pocket.
Personal injury lawyers often make sure that the settlement money is used to pay medical bills before it is given to the client. Here’s how a contingency fee structure works as an example.
- A lawyer works out a deal for a client that is worth $200,000.
- $10,000 in up-front costs are taken out of the total, leaving $190,000.
- From this amount, a contingency fee of 33%, or $62,700, is taken out.
- The client gets the rest of the money, which is $127,300.
Obligations and Procedures: What to Expect During Your Case
When you work with a car accident lawyer, you can focus on getting better while the legal team works on your case. At the very least, you’ll need to meet with your lawyer in person to talk about the facts.
A lot of personal injury lawyers will meet clients at hospitals if they need to, and they may also be able to set up a virtual meeting. Photos of the accident or your injuries, copies of your medical bills, and any other relevant documents are helpful for the lawyer to look over.
You might have to go to depositions and court hearings as the case goes on. Find out how involved the attorney wants you to be in the case during your first meeting. If you’re going to be in the hospital for a long time, you may need a law firm that can take care of all the details and keep you up to date on what’s going on.
Watch out for people who look for trouble. These shady lawyers may use information from hospitals or the police to get in touch with accident victims and try to sell them their services. Not only does this go against the rules of professional conduct of the American Bar Association, but it also goes against the law. Also, it’s against the law in most states.
How to Handle Insurance Companies
After a car accident, it’s important to remember that insurance companies don’t always look out for your best interests. Some companies, unfortunately, would rather keep their profits up and keep their investors happy than pay legitimate claims or make fair settlement offers.
There are also full-time legal teams that work for insurance companies and can fight your claim. That’s why you shouldn’t talk about your case with the other driver’s insurance company, and you should never sign any documents or settlement papers before talking to an attorney.
If you do, you could be undervaluing your claim and losing your right to ask for compensation in the future. When filing a claim for a car accident, you need someone on your side who will work hard to protect your interests.
A good lawyer can give you good advice, figure out if you have a good case, and help you get any money you may be owed for medical bills, lost wages, damage to your property, and other losses.