You should consider getting an attorney immediately after a car accident. That’s because the statute of limitations limits how long you have to file a lawsuit. Once that time runs out, you could miss out on your opportunity to recover compensation.
There are many steps a lawyer must take to secure a fair outcome. They must investigate the accident, identify your damages, and negotiate a fair settlement. These actions take time. You want to give your car accident lawyer adequate time to build the strongest possible case.
The Importance of Hiring an Attorney Soon After a Car Accident
Hiring an attorney soon after the accident offers many benefits.
For instance, securing prompt legal help allows your lawyer to:
- Gather time-sensitive evidence.
Some information becomes unavailable with the passage of time. For instance, traffic camera footage usually gets deleted within a few days of the incident. Having a lawyer work on your case promptly offers access to the information you need.
- Interview witnesses.
Witness testimony carries a lot of weight in a personal injury case. People who saw the accident happen (or witnessed its aftermath) can prove invaluable in your fight for damages. Yet, the more time that passes between now and the accident, the less credible these statements could become.
- Build credibility with the insurance company.
You may hope to resolve your case through an insurance claim. This requires building a solid relationship with the claims adjuster. They’re more likely to take a case seriously when it’s filed immediately after an accident. Waiting weeks or months to file your claim can raise some eyebrows.
A Lawyer Can Build Your Case From the Ground Up
You want your case to have a good start. That means being mindful of what you share, understanding your losses, and seeking prompt medical attention after a car accident. You don’t want to make mistakes early on that could create a domino effect of complications. Having a lawyer manage your case from the very beginning prevents any issues that could reduce your compensation later.
How an Attorney Can Seek Damages After a Car Accident?
When an attorney starts working on your car accident case, there are several steps they can take to resolve it. They can:
Investigate the Cause of the Accident
The first step your attorney can take includes investigating the car accident. Learning the cause of your collision helps them determine fault and liability for your hardships.
Supporting evidence in your case may comprise:
- The police report
- Eyewitness testimony
- Information from field consultants
- Accident reconstruction data
- Traffic camera footage
- Black box data
- Forensic evidence
Your legal team may also use receipts, invoices, estimates, and billing statements when assessing your economic damages.
Identify the Liable Party
After your attorney identifies the cause of the accident, they can identify the liable party. The liable party is the entity that pays for your losses. For instance, another motorist might be at fault for the collision, but their insurer could be liable. Yet, this can sometimes get confusing, especially if multiple parties contributed to the collision.
For instance, consider an accident caused by faulty brakes. Here, the driver might not necessarily hold liability, but instead, the manufacturer of the brakes or the entity that sold them. Through a product liability case, you could seek damages for your out-of-pocket expenses.
Identify and Calculate Your Damages
Identifying your compensable damages helps your attorney determine what constitutes a fair settlement offer.
Recoverable losses comprise:
- Medical bills:
These include the cost of medical care, including emergency room treatments, doctor’s visits, medications, surgeries, and hospitalizations.
- Lost income:
Compensation for your lost income can include reimbursement for tips, bonuses, benefits, commissions, and contracts. You can also seek damages for loss of future earning capacity, if applicable.
- Property damage:
You could recover any costs associated with repairing or replacing your vehicle.
- Pain and suffering:
This is compensation for the physical pain and emotional trauma you endured because of your injuries.
- Emotional distress:
The law allows you to collect damages for emotional distress if you developed anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the accident.
- Loss of enjoyment:
This offers compensation for the inability to enjoy activities or hobbies you did prior to the accident.
- Loss of consortium:
If your loved one’s injuries caused them to pass away or remain in a vegetative state, surviving family members could recover compensation for the loss of their companionship and support.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of damages you can request from the liable party. Other compensable damages include funeral expenses, disability, and disfigurement.
Send a Demand Letter to the Liable Party
Once an attorney calculates your case’s value, they can send a demand letter to the liable party demanding they pay what you requested.
Your lawyer can write a strong demand letter by:
- Listing the facts of the accident, including its time and date
- Stating how much compensation you want
- Including evidence that supports your claim and damages’ cost
- Explaining the severity of your condition and the required treatment
It’s important to promptly send your demand letter following an accident. This may compel the insurer to settle or participate in negotiations. As noted, delaying the claims process could only complicate matters and give the insurer reason to discredit your story.
Negotiate a Settlement Agreement
A demand letter typically starts settlement negotiations.
After your attorney sends the demand letter, the other party has time to respond. It generally takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to hear back. If the insurer denies the terms of the demand letter, your attorney can negotiate a fair settlement agreement by relying on their experience and network of resources.
Lawyers have specialized skills they use during negotiations. They know how insurance companies try to trick injury victims into taking lower settlements than they deserve. With an attorney, you can avoid any tactics that aim to derail your case.
File a Lawsuit
If your attorney negotiates with the liable party and realizes a fair offer isn’t forthcoming, they can file a lawsuit. Once they file a lawsuit, an attorney can prepare your case for trial. After both parties argue their sides and present evidence, a judge and jury will determine how much compensation you could receive, if any.
Representing yourself in court poses many challenges. Not knowing the court’s procedures could cause you to miss out on recovering the compensation you deserve. Attorneys know the right protocols and procedures to ensure your case goes smoothly. They can also prepare you for trial, so you know what to share if you must give an on-the-record statement.
Frequently Asked Questions About Attorneys and Car Accidents
Having answers to your questions allows you to make decisions that benefit your case. Some inquiries you may have include:
Does the Cause of My Car Accident Matter?
Learning the cause of your car accident allows our team to determine liability for your injury-related expenses. So, in short, yes; the cause of your accident matters.Personal injury lawyers manage collision cases arising from:
- Distracted driving:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as any activity that takes a driver’s full attention off the road. Common distractions include texting, eating, talking on the phone, changing the radio, or manipulating a navigation system.
- Driving under the influence:
When someone drives while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they could face criminal charges on top of the civil case you file against them. Driving under the influence severely impacts someone’s ability to drive and constitutes negligence.
- Driver inexperience:
New drivers on the road often don’t have experience in high traffic or areas where it’s difficult to drive. Because of this, they could cause an accident due to their lack of defensive driving skills.
- Driver fatigue:
Drivers can drive while fatigued if they don’t get enough sleep or drive too many hours without a rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that driving while fatigued can cause the driver to nod off, forget the last few miles they drove, or drift from their lane.
- Reckless driving:
Some people drive recklessly when they get angry or run late. Reckless driving could include excessive speeding, running red lights, ignoring stop signs, tailgating, or weaving in and out of traffic. All of these activities could cause accidents.
How Long Is My State’s Statute of Limitations?
Without meeting with you and learning where you live, there’s no definite answer to this question. Yet, most states generally offer a one- to four-year filing period for personal injury lawsuits. Exceptions exist, however. For instance, some states pause an injured claimant’s filing period if they suffered injuries in a hit-and-run accident. Without knowing the at-fault driver’s identity, filing a lawsuit is close to impossible.
As mentioned, the statute of limitations is an important part of your fight for damages. If you wait too long to seek legal help, the deadline could expire, leaving you with few options.
What’s a Challenge I Could Face While Seeking Damages?
Insurance companies pose challenges in many personal injury cases. That’s because, contrary to how they market themselves, insurance companies aim to make money not to selflessly help people. They turn a profit by selling policies and collecting premiums. Paying for an injured person’s losses cuts into their bottom line.
You may see a claims adjuster bend over backward to deny or undervalue your claim. Your phone calls may go unanswered, or you could get misleading information from multiple representatives. You shouldn’t have to deal with these matters while recovering from your accident-related injuries. By entrusting your case to a lawyer, you can pass off your burdens to a professional.
You Can Get an Attorney and a Free Consultation
Many personal injury law firms offer free initial consultations.
During this conversation, a representative can:
- Answer your questions
- Explain if their legal team can help you
- Offer information on what to expect with your case
- Give information about the legal options you have
There is no obligation to partner with a law firm just because you called for a consultation. This is simply your opportunity to understand your options moving forward, including the benefits of hiring an attorney after a car accident.
Many Personal Injury Lawyers Work on a Contingency-Fee Basis
Personal injury lawyers typically work on contingency fees. This means you don’t pay any legal fees out of pocket. The firm finances your case from beginning to end, including its filing fees, administration costs, and other obligations. Your personal injury lawyer in Augusta also finds and works with consultants at no additional expense.
You don’t take any financial risk when a law firm offers free consultations and works on contingency fees. Rather than asking for hourly fees or retainers, payment for their help comes from your settlement or court award. Aside from any reservations you may have, there is no reason to put off working with an attorney following an accident. The sooner you connect with one, the better.