January 31, 2024
A car accident can be a life-changing event, inflicting debilitating injuries that may require prolonged medical treatment at substantial cost. A bad situation can become even worse if your injuries also prevent you from going to work, making it harder to meet the expenses you already have, much less the new ones you face from the car accident you never expected.
You may have seen ads for attorneys promising to get you big money for your car accident, or maybe you have friends or family members who hired a lawyer when they were hurt. But it is only reasonable to ask, “Is it worth hiring an attorney for a car accident? What can a lawyer do for me that I can’t do on my own for free? Should I get an attorney for a car accident if it will just mean another bill to pay?”
While you are certainly entitled to represent yourself, there are a number of advantages that a skilled car accident attorney can bring to the table that could reduce the difficulty of pursuing a case and increase the compensation you could receive.
An Attorney Understands the Law
Your understanding of the law may be limited to what you have read online or what you have watched in movies or on TV. An accomplished personal injury lawyer, however, has undergone extensive legal training and sharpened it through years or even decades of practice. Hiring an attorney for a car accident will allow you to put that education to work for you, which can be crucial in ensuring that your case starts off in the best position.
Your Attorney Knows How to Establish a Valid Claim
Your attorney will give formal notification in writing to everyone who may be responsible for your car accident. Typically, this would include the driver of the vehicle that injured you, its owner (if different from the driver), and the insurance companies with applicable coverage for the incident, though certain exceptions may apply. Delays in establishing a claim could hinder negotiations and limit financial recovery.
Your Lawyer Can File a Lawsuit
A lawyer can be invaluable if it is necessary to file a lawsuit for your car accident injuries. This will require a complaint to be filed in a court that has the power to hear your case and issue a binding judgment on the defendants, and every defendant named must be served with copies of the complaint as well. If a lawsuit is not filed correctly and in the appropriate venue, your case may be dismissed.
All Deadlines Will Be Met
You have a narrow window of time to take action against the parties at fault for your car accident, known as the Statute of Limitations, and there may be further deadlines in certain scenarios, such as when a collision involves a government entity. Failure to file suit or otherwise resolve a claim within the time permitted by law could forever bar you from doing so. This could happen very easily if you represent yourself and don’t know the deadlines you need to satisfy for your case, but should you get an attorney for a car accident, he or she will make sure that all deadlines will be met.
An Attorney Can Evaluate Your Car Accident Damages
The value of your car accident case will depend in large part on the damages you have sustained. But if this is your first crash, you may not be able to accurately evaluate your damages, much less convey them to an insurance company, judge, or jury, all of which can limit how much is awarded. This is where hiring a personal injury attorney for a car accident can be beneficial.
Your Lawyer Can Assess Your Injuries
Whether or not you have suffered a consequential injury before, chances are that you have never evaluated one in economic terms. You may have no idea how to determine what a back or neck injury in a car accident may be worth, or a fractured wrist, or broken ribs. And if you can’t assess your injuries, you probably won’t know if a settlement offer for them is too low. This would not be the case with well-informed lawyers, who will know to hold out for more because they know your injuries are worth more.
A Car Accident Can Have Long-lasting Consequences
An accurate assessment of your car accident will not be limited to present damages; it will take into account the accident’s long-lasting consequences as well, particularly when it comes to your injuries, which may sometimes emerge only gradually. An offer from an insurance company may seem reasonable to you when you think you are only suffering from a mild headache. But what if that headache is merely a symptom of an unidentified traumatic brain injury that will severely curtail your earning capacity? Without an attorney at your side who is familiar with the long-term impact of a “little” car accident, an insurance company could settle your case for pennies on the dollar, leaving you with a lifetime of regret.
Your Attorney Knows What Non-Monetary Damages Are Worth
A car accident can cause different kinds of damages. There are monetary damages that already have a price tag attached, such as the medical bills incurred and the days of pay lost because of the injuries sustained. Additionally, there are non-monetary damages, which are subjective losses that do not come with a receipt, like pain and suffering or psychological trauma. These non-monetary losses can sometimes have a greater and more enduring effect than monetary damages, but obtaining appropriate compensation for them can be difficult without the assistance of an attorney who knows their worth.
An Attorney Will Put Together the Strongest Case Possible
No matter how extreme your car accident damages are, you may never receive what you deserve unless you pursue every avenue of recovery and convey those damages compellingly. This is where talented legal representation can be a game changer if you are wondering “Is it worth getting an attorney for a car accident?” A capable attorney will put together the strongest case possible against all liable parties to maximize your recovery.
Every Defendant Will Be Identified and Pursued
There may be multiple parties who could be at fault for a car accident. There is the driver of the car that hit you, as well as the car’s owner (if different from the driver), both of whom could be financially liable.
Other parties could bear some level of responsibility as well, such as a company or organization for whose purposes the car was being used, a manufacturer of a defective part if the vehicle suffered a malfunction, or a government agency or construction crew if defective road conditions were a contributing factor.
A knowledgeable attorney for a car accident will identify every potential defendant, thereby uncovering every potential avenue of financial recovery, which is essential if you want to be fully compensated for your damages.
Your Attorney Will Gather the Necessary Evidence
Identifying every defendant will only get you so far if you do not have strong evidence of their liability, along with evidence that conveys the extent of your losses. A seasoned attorney for your car accident will know the evidence that will best support your case and work tirelessly to secure it, taking legal action to stop its destruction if the situation calls for it.
An Attorney Will Deal with the Insurance Company
Compensation in car accident cases will primarily come from the at-fault parties’ insurance carriers. How much you can receive will depend on the applicable coverage, along with how well you deal with the insurance company, which is something that an attorney will be better able to do for several reasons.
You Have Less Experience with Insurance Companies
If this is your first car accident, you probably have minimal experience with insurance companies at best. You may not know how to answer their questions when they call, what to say or not to say, and the effect all of this may have on your case – which could be significant.
The Insurance Company Will Take Advantage of Your Inexperience
This may be your first car accident, but it will not be the first for an experienced insurance adjuster, who has likely handled dozens of car accident claims or more, many that are just like yours.
The insurance company will take advantage of your relative inexperience to minimize the value of your case, turning anything you say against you. When someone asks how you are feeling, it is natural to respond “Fine” without even thinking, but that “Fine” could cost you dearly if you say it to an insurance adjuster, who can offer you less than your claim is worth or even deny it altogether.
Your Attorney Has Far More Experience with Insurance Carriers
But if this isn’t the first car accident for the insurance adjuster, it won’t be the first for your attorney either, who will also have handled dozens of car accident claims or more, many also just like yours. An attorney’s ability to meet the adjuster on a level playing field is one of the top reasons you should seek representation if you are still asking yourself “Why hire an attorney for a car accident?”
Your lawyer will know all of the insurance company’s tricks because he or she will have experienced them firsthand so many times before. A clever attorney can see the traps coming a mile away and steer clear of them, avoiding the rookie errors that can doom a car accident claim before it has even begun.
Your Lawyer Won’t Let the Insurance Company Settle for Less
Because of this familiarity with insurance industry tactics, your lawyer won’t let the insurance company settle for less. An attorney for a car accident will know what your case is worth and will fight to obtain it.
It is in the insurance company’s best interest to settle a case for the bare minimum, but it is not in yours, and a savvy lawyer will not allow it, no matter how stubborn the opposition may be.
A Denial Won’t Stop Your Attorney
Sometimes an insurance company won’t even make a lowball offer to settle a claim, but simply deny it entirely. The adjuster may cast doubt on the extent of your injuries or insist that you were more at fault than the insured driver.
A denial will stop most people in their tracks, especially if they have never dealt with an insurance company before. But a denial won’t stop your attorney, who will know the arguments necessary to overcome the insurer’s objections and the evidence that will best support them.
By assembling an airtight case that accurately conveys the defendant’s liability and the degree of your losses, your lawyer can motivate an adjuster to reverse a denial in order to avoid an unfavorable outcome at trial. And if the adjuster stands firm, your attorney can bring your car accident case before a judge or jury who will recognize its merits.
If your case is unreasonably denied, that is when to get an attorney for a car accident if you haven’t already. An insurance company’s “No” may feel like an end to the average person, but it is only the beginning for a formidable car accident lawyer.
An Attorney Can Maximize Your Settlement
People who ask “Do I need an attorney for a car accident?” are usually concerned about the cost involved, which is completely understandable after something as expensive as a major collision. But most car accident attorneys charge nothing up front and only seek reimbursement for their services and expenses after successfully resolving your case. Moreover, what your lawyers take will be far less than the value they add by radically increasing the level of compensation you receive.
Settlements Are 3.5 Times Higher with an Attorney
The Insurance Research Council found that injured people who hire lawyers obtain settlements or judgments that are 3.5 times higher than the ones obtained by those who try to resolve cases on their own.
Another study found that 85 percent of the money paid by insurance companies goes to claimants who hire attorneys to represent them. As the evidence shows, whatever money you save by representing yourself may pale in comparison to the money you forgo by not hiring an attorney for a car accident.
Your Attorney Will Obtain Compensation for All Your Losses
A veteran lawyer is far better than the average plaintiff at assessing the damages incurred in a car accident. Whether they are monetary or non-monetary, your attorney will try you get you compensation for all your losses, including:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional trauma
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive and wrongful death damages (if applicable)
The Future Cost of an Injury Must Be Considered
An injury can have both short-term and long-term costs. For example, a fractured hip can generate medical bills for treatment received shortly after the accident, such as casting, surgical fixation, and physical therapy, but its impact may last far longer.
Complications could develop that will require further treatment down the road. Victims may even have to shorten their careers or change professions because of permanent impairment, which can hamper their future earnings and general well-being.
While attorneys are familiar with the long-term economic impact of an injury and will work to ensure that they are considered, plaintiffs who represent themselves may accept settlements that do not include the future costs they will incur and end up having to cover them on their own.
An Attorney Can Take Your Case to Trial If Necessary
We have largely discussed what lawyers will do for you outside of the courtroom, but your case may have to go to trial, so it is important to hire an attorney for a car accident who can rise to the occasion.
Not All Cases Reach a Settlement
Most claims are able to come to a resolution without the need for a judge or jury. In fact, studies find that about 95 percent of car accident cases are settled prior to trial. Nevertheless, not all cases reach a settlement. Sometimes a trial is necessary, often because of obstinance on the part of insurance companies.
Insurance Companies May Force a Case to Trial
While a plaintiff’s attorney may need to go to court because an insurer is denying any liability at all, more often insurance companies will force a case to trial because they refuse to negotiate a settlement in good faith. An adjuster may consistently come back with lowball offers in the hope that a plaintiff and his or her lawyer will settle a case for far less than it is worth.
Unfortunately, this strategy can pay off, especially when attorneys are reluctant to take on the risk of going to trial, which far too many are, to the detriment of their clients.
Ask How Many Cases a Lawyer Has Tried
This is why it is important to ask how many cases a lawyer has tried when you are thinking about hiring an attorney for a car accident. The odds are that your case will settle out of court, but the amount of your settlement can still be negatively affected if your lawyer can’t credibly threaten to go before a judge or jury for a larger judgment or verdict.
Insurance companies know which firms fight for their clients and which ones always settle and will negotiate accordingly. An attorney with numerous successes at trial will have far more leverage than one who has rarely stepped foot inside a courtroom.
Your Attorney Can Present a Compelling Case in Court
Plaintiffs who represent themselves at trial (known as “pro se litigants”) have a staggeringly low success rate. According to the University of Chicago Law Review, pro se litigants win only about 4 percent of the time.
In contrast, plaintiffs with attorneys are more likely to win at trial than lose, though the amount of compensation they receive will depend heavily on how compellingly their lawyers present their cases in court. Only by painting a detailed portrait of your damages can you hope to get what is truly warranted, which is something that a battle-tested attorney is best equipped to do.
Your Lawyer Can Manage the Appeals Process
If a trial is not decided in your favor, you might be able to appeal the decision, though a number of restrictions may apply. You have limited time to file an appeal, and you need to have grounds beyond disliking the outcome, such as a critical mistake by a judge. Even when you win at trial, the defense may attempt to appeal the decision, with similar restrictions applying.
Once an appeal has been successfully filed by either side, the case may go before an appellate court. The court will review the facts of a case, assess whether or not the verdict was appropriate, and decide if there should be a new trial.
When a case goes into appeal, it is important to be represented by a lawyer who can manage the appeals process properly, since any mistakes made during this period can have dire consequences.
An Attorney Can Keep You Out of Debt
Serious car accidents can lead to serious debt, with medical providers and bill collectors hounding you for repayment. These demands will not simply go away even with a favorable car accident verdict, but an attorney can keep you out of debt by resolving your creditors’ claims.
Your Attorney Will Negotiate Outstanding Medical Bills
Your attorney can negotiate with medical providers to reduce the amount you owe on outstanding bills. Providers and their representatives will often accept a lesser payment that is fair and reasonable rather than hold out for a full payment they can never receive. This can bring the calls and collection notices to an end and keep your credit rating intact.
Liens from Other Insurers Can Be Resolved
It is not only doctors and hospitals who will insist on repayment. Other insurance companies who paid out on your car accident may place a lien for reimbursement on your file.
These may include your own auto insurer who covered repairs, a health insurance company who paid most of your medical expenses, or a workers’ compensation carrier who provided partial payment for missed work because your car accident occurred while you were on duty. Your attorney will strive to resolve all liens so that you can walk away from your case debt free.
FAQs: Hiring an Attorney for a Car Accident
Hiring an attorney for a car accident is a big decision, and a plaintiff can have many concerns that need to be addressed. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions that Hensley Legal Group receives from prospective clients.
What you do immediately after a crash can influence the success or failure of your case. You should consider calling an attorney for your car accident as soon as you can, ideally before you are contacted by representatives from the insurance company, who may twist the most innocuous comments you make in order to hurt your case.
Most car accident attorneys, including the dedicated car accident attorneys at Hensley Legal Group, work on a contingency basis. This means that you will not have to pay them anything up front, and they may even cover the initial costs associated with your case, such as the cost of obtaining a police report or filing a complaint. Only when they successfully resolve your claim will they seek reimbursement for their expenses and a fee for their work, usually as a percentage of your verdict or settlement.
Very often a minor car accident may end up being not so minor after all, especially if you suffer injuries whose symptoms take time to develop. If you accept what seems like a reasonable offer for a minor accident without first talking to an attorney who can evaluate your damages, you may be stuck with the bill when unforeseen expenses rear their heads.
As important as deciding when to hire an attorney for a car accident is deciding which attorney to hire, which can make all the difference in the outcome of your case, either positively or negatively.
Before selecting an attorney, reach out to family and friends who may have required the services of a lawyer for a similar situation. Testimonials can also be helpful in assessing an attorney’s reputation. For instance, satisfied clients have left nearly 3,000 five-star reviews on Google for Hensley Legal Group.
After completing your preliminary research, feel free to meet face to face with attorneys for your car accident so you can assess their ability and trustworthiness and get answers to important questions. How many cases have they worked on? How many times have they gone to trial? What were the results? What will they do for your case? You will be working closely with your lawyer for months or even years to come, so you need to be comfortable with the one you choose.
Every car accident case is different. How much you receive may depend upon a variety of factors, such as the facts leading up to your accident, the damages you incurred, the applicable insurance coverage, and the assets of the defendants.
A formidable attorney will always try to get you the maximum compensation for your losses, which may include the costs of your medical treatment, the wages you lost, and non-monetary damages like pain and suffering or psychological trauma. That being said, you should not trust any lawyer who gives you an exact number without knowing the details of your case, since there are too many elements that must be taken into account.
Hensley Legal Group Is Here for You
If you have been wrongfully injured in a car accident, Hensley Legal Group is here for you. Our car accident attorneys have been fighting for the everyday people of Indiana for more than 25 years. We are eager to get justice for you and your family.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a car accident attorney.