Seriously injured in an auto accident? It’s worth it to consider hiring a lawyer. For minor injuries that heal quickly—within a week or two—you can probably let your insurance company take care of everything for you. They’ll handle the process that includes car repairs, medical bills, or other financial issues. And don’t be afraid to contact your insurance company’s representatives. Part of their job includes answering your questions and solving problems for you.
You do, however, want to provide information carefully so that you don’t inadvertently give them information that they can use against you to deny your claim or reduce the amount of your settlement.
Depending on the state in which you live, you may be able to recover settlement for pain and suffering or lost wages—but there are limitations on whom you can sue. Other states limit the settlements to victims who are suing a driver who’s been found at fault.
When hiring a lawyer probably isn’t needed
If you’re going to receive a settlement of $1,000 or less, you can negotiate the settlement yourself. Here’s a good resource to help you learn about the process. Generally, it’s not worth it financially to hire a lawyer to help with these small claims; if you don’t experience any issues acquiring the money from your insurance company, you likely don’t need an attorney. You should, however, expect that your insurance company will provide enough compensation to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and damages caused to your car.
Examine your car insurance policy carefully to see the limits—it may be worth the additional amount (often not more than $15-20 per month) to choose the full tort coverage option which offers you more protection.
What is full tort?
First, know that full tort is more expensive than limited tort; however, while it’s less expensive up front, if you do have an auto accident that leads to life-altering circumstances, you may not reap the full financial benefit you’d get from full tort.
Full tort coverage can mean a difference of thousands of dollars if you’re ever injured in a car accident. Life-altering injuries that can include disfigurement, serious impairment, death, or significant pain and suffering that restrict your ability to enjoy and live life to its fullest will receive a higher financial compensation with full tort.
Only full tort provides compensation for non-economic losses. Limited tort does not—and that includes situations that include insurance company settlements and lawsuits against the at-fault driver. Cheaper insurance means you’ve voluntarily surrendered your rights to pursue additional compensation. It is rare—but not impossible, just very difficult—to recover a higher compensation because of the challenges that limited tort cases present.
That’s why it may be in your best financial interest to maintain full tort auto coverage or to retain a lawyer if you’re involved in a serious auto accident and carry only limited tort coverage if you expect compensation to be more than $1,000.
When hiring a lawyer makes sense
Insurance companies don’t like going to court. But if you were seriously injured in an accident and expect your medical bills to surpass $1,000, or you were involved in an accident that involved any of the following, don’t wait to consult with an attorney.
- Defective car part
- Pedestrian or bicyclist
- Drunk driver or driver under the influence of some substance
- Head-on collision
- 18-wheeler or bus
- Road construction
- Permanent injury
- Missed work and wages for which you haven’t received compensation
- Inadequate coverage to cover the extent of your injuries or damages
It bears repeating: Should you experience any of these situations in an auto accident, start searching for an attorney right away. Why? The longer you negotiate with your insurance company, the more information they can collect from you, and the easier it is to build a case against you—which means a lower payout and less likelihood that an attorney will successfully win your case.
When you hire an attorney, he or she will send a team to investigate the accident scene; interview everyone involved; analyze statements and data to determine cause and fault—and use that information to build and support your case; help you navigate medical bills and paperwork; and work to secure more money from the insurance companies and, when relevant, the other driver.
Lawyer who specialize in auto accidents know when it’s best to settle out of court or take a case to court. Many attorneys don’t require up-front payment (a retainer) from their clients; they take a percentage of the winnings.
Still not sure?
Here are seven more reasons why you should hire a lawyer, from the mouths of 16 highly-qualified lawyers who specialize in auto accident law.
- Establishing negligence is challenging especially if liability after an auto accident is contested; however, auto accident lawyers know where and how to find evidence to support your case.
- Insurance adjusters are trained to minimize the amount they pay out, even on a completely valid claim; an attorney will help you to avoid inadvertently admitting fault.
- Insurance companies often work to undermine your ability to recover from your harm; evidence can be lost, but an experienced lawyer will ensure the evidence is preserved.
- Insurance companies may ask for a recorded statement—not a good idea, because that info can be used against you during settlement or court and you might not have all the information—nor know the extent of the damages you’ve suffered—immediately after your accident.
- An auto accident attorney’s job is to establish and fully prove the harm you’ve suffered; good lawyers recognize additional harms that you might not even realize yet, like past/future lost wages, future medical costs, or potential losses/reductions in future earning capacity.
- If you live in a no-fault state, it’s often hard to get adequate compensation, but an attorney knows how to use the law fairly to secure the compensation you need to cover all your medical costs and ensure a long-term recovery.
- Lawyers who specialize in auto accidents work as your advocates. They’ll advocate to help you make critical decisions about navigating medical bills, post-hospital treatment and recovery, vehicle repairs or replacement, and lost wages/time at work.
Insurance companies aren’t concerned about the people they insure—they’re concerned about their bottom line and their stakeholders. These companies’ goal is to acquire more money than they pay out. When you speak to an attorney before you give your statement to the insurance company, your lawyer will help you to give the insurance company the information they need without jeopardizing your claim. It’s not lying—it’s giving the correct information without accidentally implicating yourself so that you receive the correct compensation. Hiring an auto accident lawyer provides you with the extensive resources needed to pursue and receive adequate compensation for a serious claim.