Ultimately, the decision to hire a lawyer—or not—will be yours alone to make. Because virtually all personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation, however, it makes sense to explore all your options before you decide.
Today’s improved passenger vehicle design and safety features make it easier for drivers and passengers to walk away from a car crash unscathed. Nevertheless, being involved in a car accident—even a seemingly minor collision—can leave you with serious injuries and a long, expensive road to recovery.
If you were hurt in an accident that wasn’t your fault, pursuing a legal claim from the responsible party can help you recover compensation for your damages. A settlement can cover your medical treatment and compensate for any income losses you incurred if your injuries left you unable to work. Because this legal process can be challenging, having a car accident lawyer on your side can be invaluable—but do you always need an attorney to assist you?
In many cases, seeking help from an experienced personal injury attorney can provide significant benefit. In other cases, however, you might not need to hire a lawyer to get the results you’re looking for. Here are the key questions to explore to help determine whether you should enlist the help of a car accident attorney.
How Serious Were Your Injuries?
Any time you’re involved in a motor vehicle collision, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately—even if you don’t think you’re seriously hurt. In the aftermath of a crash, victims can go into shock and may not realize that they’re injured. Conditions such as whiplash and other soft tissue or internal injuries might not be apparent to you right away. A comprehensive evaluation from a qualified medical professional is the only way to ensure that you get the treatment you need.
After a full medical evaluation, you can better determine how seriously you were injured. If an emergency room or urgent care doctor was able to patch you up and send you home to recover, you might not need a lawyer to pursue a legal claim against the at-fault party. However, if you required more extensive treatment—or if you will require further treatment—it might be too early to make that determination.
What Other Types of Damages Did You Sustain?
The severity of your injuries is only one of the factors you should consider when deciding whether to hire a car accident lawyer.
For example, did you experience significant emotional trauma as a result of your accident? Or maybe you lost your job because your injuries prevented you from working. Some injury accident victims lose the ability to perform their job duties, leaving them unable to earn a living.
If your vehicle sustained only minor damage, you should be able to get the insurance company to cover the full cost of the repairs. If your car sustained more serious damage, however, you might have trouble getting the insurer to compensate you fairly. This is especially true if you drive a newer model vehicle or one that carries a higher value. When it comes time to trade in or sell your car, a potential buyer will be able to pull a car history report and see that it was involved in an accident. That can translate directly to a financial loss for you.
If none of these types of factors apply to you, you might not need to hire a lawyer to handle your case.
How Challenging Will It Be to Obtain a Fair Settlement?
Even if you did sustain serious economic and non-economic damages, you might be able to negotiate your own settlement successfully if the insurance company is willing to work with you. If the accident was clearly the other party’s fault, some insurers will move forward to settle the claim quickly. This might make good sense for you too, as you’ll get a check in-hand as soon as possible.
The caveat here is knowing whether the settlement they’re offering is fair. If your damages are limited to vehicle damage and the medical treatment costs and lost wages you already incurred, that could be a simple calculation. However, if you will need ongoing medical treatment or if you potentially sustained any long-lasting or permanent injuries, the value of your damages could be harder to determine.
Keep in mind that the first settlement offer the insurance company makes is likely to be undervalued (sometimes called a “lowball” settlement offer). Don’t be afraid to negotiate to try to get to a better offer.
If the insurance company won’t negotiate with you or agree to a settlement that you think is fair, you might benefit from having an experienced negotiator working on your behalf. If the insurance company won’t negotiate at all, you might have to file a lawsuit and take your claim to court. In that case, you’ll want to seriously consider getting a lawyer on board to handle this complex legal process.
Consider Talking to a Car Accident Lawyer Before Making Your Decision
Ultimately, the decision to hire a lawyer—or not—will be yours alone to make. Because virtually all personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation, however, it makes sense to explore all your options before you decide. By consulting a lawyer, you won’t be out anything but a little bit of your time, and you might learn some valuable information.
An experienced lawyer can evaluate the viability of your case and provide you with an estimate of what your potential claim value might be. If taking on your case doesn’t make good legal sense, the attorney will let you know.
Ask questions and get the information you need to make an informed decision about your case and what it might mean to your future.