After a car accident, it is advisable to retain a personal injury attorney experienced in negotiating and litigating car accident cases. While many people think they will save money by negotiating on their own, they will lose money. Insurance companies are in business for one reason: To make a profit.
Paying out accident claims decreases the profit-and can significantly do so. Thus, insurance companies look for any reason to deny a claim. Barring a claim denial, they will offer the least amount possible. Car accident lawyers help prevent these shenanigans.
Damages You Might Miss out On
If you try to settle your car accident claim yourself, you could miss out on thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of your injuries. Catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries could affect you for the rest of your life.
If an insurance company offers just enough to cover your current medical expenses, you cannot go back and ask for more when you realize that catastrophic injuries turned into long-term or permanent disabilities that prevent you from working.
The court orders compensatory damages to make you whole and punitive damages to punish the defendant’s grossly negligent or intentional behavior.
Compensatory damages include economic damages and non-economic damages, including but not limited to:
- Past and future medical expenses.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of future earning capacity.
- Death-related expenses.
- Replacement or repair of personal property.
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
You could also recover other losses, such as the loss of companionship or consortium, loss of use, inconvenience, and compensation for amputations, excessive scarring, and disfigurement.
During the Free Initial Car Accident Case Evaluation
While making an appointment for your free case evaluation, your potential lawyer will make an initial evaluation of your case. If the lawyer feels there is a good chance you can recover compensation, they may suggest meeting in person or virtually to dive deeper. In many cases, lawyers can even visit you in the hospital while you recover from injuries.
The case evaluation will help your lawyer get to know you and your case. You can learn more about the person or team representing your rights. Before the case evaluation, you should write down several questions, including questions about the firm’s track record for settlements and litigation and any questions you have that pertain to your case. Your lawyer should also explain how the fee structure works. For most car accident cases, lawyers work on a contingency – in a nutshell, if you do not win, you do not pay any fees.
After You Retain a Car Accident Lawyer on a Contingency Basis
Once you retain a lawyer, they will start investigating your case. If you have not notified the insurance company that you were in a wreck, your legal counsel will do that. They will then visit the accident scene to take photos, contact witnesses, set up depositions for the defendant and witnesses, collect your medical records, medical bills, and the police report, and start to put a case together.
Your car accident lawyer will also investigate whether more than one person or entity is responsible for your injuries. For example, if a big rig hits you, the truck driver might not be the only one at fault. The trucking company, inspectors, mechanics, dispatchers, manufacturers, and others could share liability for your injuries and losses.
Once your legal team has everything they need, they will start negotiations with the insurance companies. They’ll keep you in the loop so that you know exactly how your case is progressing. If your lawyer does not believe the insurance company’s offers are fair and reasonable, they may advise you on whether to accept the offer or move on to litigation. Of course, the final decision is always yours to make.
During Settlement Negotiations
You do not have to worry about going back and forth with the insurance company. Your lawyer will do that for you. Your legal team should initiate settlement negotiations by sending a demand letter to the insurance company that lays out a set number of days to respond. Once they come back with a response – either a denial or a counteroffer, you and your lawyer will discuss the next step, whether you deny their offer and make another offer or you choose to litigate.
If You Have to Litigate
Should you decide to litigate, your lawyer will have already completed much of the investigative work. Your lawyer might have to take additional depositions and request additional evidence to prepare for trial. Once everything is complete, your lawyer will schedule a trial date and prepare you for trial.
After Settlement Negotiations or a Trial Award
Once you win a settlement negotiation or a trial award, your part in the case is almost over. Your car accident lawyer will have additional work to do, though. They will draft a settlement agreement, or the other attorney drafts a final judgment, depending on whether you settled or won a trial award. Once the documents are processed, the insurance company forwards a check to your lawyer’s office.
Once the check clears the bank, which could take up to 14 days, depending on the amount, your lawyer may:
- Pay all outstanding medical expenses.
- Reimburse your auto and health insurance policies, if applicable.
- Deduct attorney’s fees and costs.
- Write a check to you.
You will have to sign some documents, including the settlement agreement and a release for the insurance company. Once you complete signing the documents, you will receive a check. All that is left is for you to deposit the check.
After suffering injuries or losing a loved one in a car wreck, contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible.