When you get injured in a car crash, there are often a few ways to recover damages. In most cases, you will start with a car insurance claim, but many injury victims can also turn to lawsuits if the insurance claim does not seem to be going well. Throughout the case, there are many things that a car accident attorney can help with.
First and foremost, your lawyer can represent you and fight to prove your case and get you the damages you need, putting the weight of their experience and legal knowledge behind your claim. Your lawyer can also research your case and compile evidence to help maximize the damages you can claim. Lastly, your lawyer can help you understand when an insurance claim is not enough and take your case to court if the damages are insufficient, handling the entire court process from filing to trial.
How a Lawyer Can Help Argue Your Case
Many non-lawyers know enough about traffic laws to know when someone is at fault in a car accident. However, knowing that they did something wrong to cause your crash and being able to prove it in an insurance claim or a court case are two different things.
A car accident lawyer will be able to look up the traffic laws relevant to your case and determine which actions committed by which drivers qualify as fault for the crash. In many cases, even minor missteps that do not amount to an actual traffic violation could be enough to hold a driver accountable. In many cases, this might mean that you are also partly at fault, and it will be beneficial to have a lawyer on your side to help take the attention off any minor missteps on your part and hold accountable the drivers whose actions were truly dangerous.
In many cases, identifying exactly what elements of fault each driver bears is vital to the case. Especially in cases with more than one defendant, a lawyer’s help is often necessary to identify the right proportion of fault to assign to each party. In some cases, especially car accident cases involving a truck driver, taxi driver, or bus driver, you may also be able to file a claim against the transportation company that hired them. Determining what the trucking or bus company did wrong as compared to what their driver did wrong will be an important part of your case.
Lawyers – especially those who make car accident cases a substantial part of their practice – have legal training, bar certification, and experience that helps sharpen their skills in handling these cases. Plus, a car accident attorney’s goal is to put your needs first and advocate for you above any personal considerations like payment. Many car accident lawyers will even work on a contingency fee so that you pay them nothing until you win your case.
Your car accident lawyer will be able to research your case and look into the facts to uncover all damages that you can claim in your accident case. Whether you are filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit might affect how your damages get paid, but it is nonetheless vital to make sure that all damages are accounted for to maximize the damages you receive in your case.
Most car accident cases deal with damages for vehicle damage, hospital bills, and pain and suffering, among others. If your injuries kept you from work, you might also have lost wage damages and damages for other related costs, such as medical transportation and specific services you cannot perform yourself while recovering from your injuries (child care costs, house cleaning, etc.). Counting up these damages is the first step in making sure that your damages are paid in full – and some of these areas of damages might go overlooked without the help of an experienced car accident lawyer.
Proving these damages is also essential. Simply claiming that you suffered these damages is not enough to convince an insurance company or a court to pay these damages. Instead, you need to compile evidence of the value of these damages, such as bills and statements. In some cases, especially those involving future lost wages from serious injuries or disabilities, it is important to have a lawyer hire experts to project these future costs.
Determining Whether to Accept Insurance Payouts, Settle, or Go to Trial
As mentioned, most car accident cases begin with an insurance claim. Ultimately, most cases settle, but deciding whether to take the initial payment the insurance company offers or negotiate for higher damages is often something your lawyer can help you with. Additionally, if the insurance companies or at-fault drivers are being uncooperative, you may need to take your case to court to get the damages you need – which is much easier with the help of an attorney.
If you live in an at-fault insurance state (or “tort” insurance state), then you can typically file a car accident insurance claim against the driver who hit you. You also typically have the right to choose to go straight to a lawsuit instead if you want to. In no-fault cases, you usually need to file with your own PIP insurance to get damages, and you can only go to court if you meet certain requirements (e.g., having “severe” injuries or damages over a certain monetary threshold).
If the insurance company refuses to pay you what you are owed, then your lawyer can look for grounds to sue instead. All the while, a lawyer can negotiate with the defense and their insurance companies and try to argue for higher damages. If this does not work, then your lawyer can take your case to court and fight your case before a judge and jury to get you the damages you need. Pursing negotiations or a court trial without the help of a personal injury lawyer is often disastrous and tends to result in low payments or lost cases.