While there’s no legal requirement to hire a lawyer following a car accident, it’s almost always your best course of action. This is especially true if you’ve suffered an injury and wish to recover fair compensation for your medical bills and other losses.
A lawyer can deal directly with the insurance company for you. They can gather evidence and work to prove the strength of your claim, negotiating to increase the value of your settlement. A lawyer can even argue your case in court if need be.
And while your lawyer handles the legal side of things, you can spend time with your family and focus on your health and recovery. The following are seven significant ways that car accident victims may benefit from the help of an experienced car accident attorney.
1. Understand the Full Damages You Can Claim
In your car accident claim, you can usually seek to recover financial compensation for your losses: every way in which your health, property, and finances have been disrupted. The compensatory payments for these losses are called damages.
Without proper legal guidance and representation, claimants are often unaware of the full damages they have a right to claim. It’s important to understand that insurance companies have little or no incentive to help you understand the true value of your insurance claim. Quite the reverse: an insurer will often seek to minimize their payouts, including yours.
Car accident lawyers are there to fight your corner. They know the law and your full legal rights. A lawyer can investigate your accident and establish the full value of the special and general damages you can seek to recover.
There are two kinds of damages in a car accident claim. The first is special damages: economic damages with a clear and objective monetary value.
Special damages include the cost of medical bills for all treatment you’ve received for your physical injuries. Property damage, such as vehicle damage, may also be recoverable. This may include any amount you’ve been forced to pay to have your car fixed.
Lost income is another special damage commonly included in a car accident case. If you’ve been injured, it’s likely that you’ve missed work, lost earnings, and perhaps had your career or business seriously disrupted.
You may also seek compensation for any out-of-pocket expenses incurred. This might include hiring a tow company to remove your car, paying for transportation to and from the hospital, and other miscellaneous costs resulting from the accident.
Future Special Damages
Personal injury lawyers can also help victims calculate the damages for future expenses. If you’ve suffered a significant injury that requires ongoing treatment, you can sometimes seek compensation for all estimated future medical expenses.
It’s essential to do your best to recover all possible future costs as a claim cannot be repeated for the same car accident twice. Once you’ve accepted a settlement from the insurance company, you won’t get another payout, even if the initial settlement sum runs out before your medical costs do.
You may also be able to seek damages for any reduced capacity to earn a living in the future. If the other driver has left you unable to earn the same amount of income as before, you have a right to pursue compensation for all future lost wages.
Without the legal counsel of a car accident lawyer, claimants also sometimes fail to understand the value of their general damages. These are non-economic damages that lack a clear objective monetary value but may nonetheless be significant.
General damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, physical impairment, disability, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment in life. It usually requires a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to know which of these non-economic accident-related losses to claim damages for and how much each one could be worth.
2. Gather Evidence To Prove Your Damages
In almost any personal injury claim, the insurance company will dispute the value of the damages and sometimes the validity of the claim itself. They may offer a much lower settlement figure than expected, or they may refuse to pay compensation entirely.
To strengthen your claim and seek to win a fair settlement from an uncooperative insurance company, you’ll need to gather and present sufficient evidence. Good auto accident attorneys excel at collecting the evidence required to negotiate successfully.
Proving the Liability of the At-Fault Party
You’ll first need to prove that the at-fault driver was wholly, or at least mostly, responsible for the crash. To establish the facts of the car crash, you’ll probably need the police report from the incident, photographic and video evidence of the accident scene, eyewitness accounts of what happened, surveillance video footage, and more.
But directly after an accident, victims are sometimes in shock and in need of immediate medical attention. If this was the case with you, collecting evidence and pursuing legal action might have been far from your mind.
The Importance of Acting Quickly
Unfortunately, evidence needs to be gathered as soon as possible to build a strong insurance claim. As time passes, evidence often becomes harder to collect, records may be lost, and the memories of eyewitnesses become less reliable.
There’s also a statute of limitations placing a time limit on when a lawsuit can be filed following the date of a car accident. In Texas, the statute of limitations on personal injury claims is two years. This may seem like a long time, but car accident cases can sometimes drag on, especially when liability is disputed and multiple parties are involved.
A Car Accident Lawyer Can Investigate For You
When you hire a lawyer, they can leap into action, contact eyewitnesses, and begin collecting vital accident-scene evidence for you. They may even be able to retain a special investigator to visit the crash scene on the same day and establish exactly how the accident happened.
If days, weeks, or months have already passed since your accident, it may still be possible to salvage evidence and build a strong case. But this will likely be difficult to accomplish without a good lawyer.
Proving the Value of Your Damages
To maximize the settlement in any personal injury claim, you’ll also need to prove the full value of your damages. The cost of medical expenses for physical injuries is usually relatively straightforward to claim, provided you saved the bills and receipts from all medical professionals and pharmacy purchases.
But other more subjective damages, such as estimated future medical expenses, lost earning capacity, and non-economic general damages, are often harder to prove. This usually requires statements from employers and medical practitioners, plus a variety of expert witnesses.
3. Retain Expert Witnesses
When you hire a car accident attorney or law firm, you also gain access to their database of expert witnesses. Expert witness testimony can often be invaluable in strengthening a claim.
In a typical car accident case, an accident reconstruction expert can often recreate the event to help prove the liability of the at-fault driver. And to help prove the value of your damages, you might retain a physician expert, physical therapy expert, occupational expert, forensic accountant expert, psychology expert, or any other suitable expert.
Without an experienced car accident attorney by your side, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to find the right expert witnesses. It can even be hard to know which experts are required in the first place.
4. Avoid Dealing Directly With the Insurance Company
In the aftermath of a car accident, dealing with large insurance companies can sometimes be intimidating. The prospect of scouring through a complex insurance policy, learning legal procedures from scratch, and negotiating with an experienced insurance adjuster may be especially stressful if you’re also recovering from serious injuries.
As previously mentioned, the insurance company is rarely on your side. This is, unfortunately, the case whether you’re dealing with your own insurance policy and personal injury protection plan or the insurer of the other driver.
Dealing with insurance companies effectively is a skill that requires experience and legal know-how. Car accident lawyers deal with insurers every day and understand how to do it well.
Your lawyer can usually take over all communication with the insurance company, including filing the claim for you. The removal of this burden alone offers a great deal of relief to many victims.
Early Mistakes Can Often Harm Your Claim
Inexperienced car accident victims who fail to immediately seek legal representation frequently make costly mistakes while communicating with the insurance company. Such mistakes can sometimes harm your ability to later claim full and fair compensation.
The insurer will often ask for a statement, for example, in which they’ll attempt to persuade you to inadvertently admit fault for the accident. Once you’ve admitted fault to any small degree, your claim is weakened and sometimes even invalidated altogether.
The insurer might also offer a low insurance settlement figure, hoping you’ll accept before retaining a lawyer to negotiate for you. But if your aim is to recover compensation for your damages in full, it’s often unwise to accept any settlement figure before consulting an attorney.
5. Accelerate Your Car Accident Claim
Insurance companies are sometimes known to intentionally drag out the claims process following car accidents. These delay tactics serve several purposes.
Firstly, they increase the victim’s chances of accepting an initial settlement offer. As time passes, an exasperated victim might accept a sub-optimal offer because of the need to cover mounting medical bills and living expenses.
Delaying tactics also reduce the threat of a lawsuit as the statute of limitations deadline draws nearer. Also, delaying payouts keeps money in the insurer’s accounts for longer, which helps them with cash flow and profitability.
Examples of Insurer Delaying Tactics
These delaying strategies include reassigning a claim to another adjuster, who then needs time to get up to speed on the case. They might also falsely dispute your claim, overwhelm you with unnecessary paperwork, and simply become extremely slow to respond and difficult to communicate with.
Any experienced car accident lawyer knows how to deal with these delaying strategies and keep the claims process moving forward. If you want your case to be resolved as soon as possible, it’s usually wise to get a lawyer, especially for any crash involving multiple vehicles or severe injuries. Such claims tend to last far longer than more straightforward fender-bender cases.
6. Have Legal Representation in Court
The majority of car accident claims are resolved with an out-of-court settlement. But it is occasionally necessary to have the case decided before a judge and jury.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit might be needed if the insurance company won’t agree to pay a fair settlement amount. More complex or unusual cases also sometimes require a court hearing for the victim’s lawyer to formally make their case and fully explain what occurred.
Punitive Damages Often Require a Court Trial
Some car accidents involve extreme recklessness, such as drunk driving. In these cases, you may be able to seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages for your physical injuries, property damage, and other losses.
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the at-fault party rather than compensate the victim for their losses. And punitive damages are rarely part of an out-of-court settlement. In most cases, they’ll need to be awarded by a jury in court.
Whatever your reason for going to court, it’s usually advisable to hire a lawyer for a car accident case requiring a jury trial. Without the requisite legal knowledge and experience, most accident victims are unlikely to win a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party and their legal team.
It’s quite possible for an inexperienced claimant to make a mistake in court. Even a seemingly innocent slip-up in proper procedure can sometimes see a case thrown out.
Retain an Attorney With Court Experience
Not all lawyers have experience trying cases in court. It’s often best to seek out an auto accident attorney who has tried and won similar auto accident cases to yours in the courthouse.
This will help to prepare you for the eventuality that your case goes to court. It might also help with earlier settlement negotiations as the insurer will realize you’re prepared to go all the way if necessary.
7. Focus on Your Physical and Mental Health
Car crashes usually come out of nowhere, often with devastating consequences. And if you’ve been injured severely, your immediate focus should probably be to seek medical attention for your car accident injuries without delay.
The following days, weeks, and months of treatment and recovery are often crucial to your health and well-being. As the victim, you’re likely to be struggling with a variety of physical, emotional, and financial hardships.
These problems require all of your focus and as little additional stress as possible. Hiring a lawyer may remove a great deal of stress from the whole experience and help you gain peace of mind.
Your lawyer may be able to offer guidance, support, and someone to voice your legal worries and concerns to. They’re in your corner, prepared to fight hard to win the best compensation payout possible. And while they work to restore your finances, you can rest and recover your health.
If you’re looking for a car accident lawyer in Texas, contact Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC today at 936-251-5246. Our experienced attorneys can seek to win you the full and fair compensation you deserve.