If you drive on a highway or watch television ads, you have likely seen more than your share of advertisements for car accident lawyers who promise to fight for you when you get injured. They all promise to work for you to get financial compensation for your car accident injuries. However, many people do not understand what these lawyers do and how they add value to your case.
This misunderstanding becomes apparent in the number of people who try to handle a car accident case on their own. Here is what a car accident lawyer does and how they help your case.
Your car accident attorney begins to work for you at the initial consultation. Each attorney will speak with you entirely for free to learn the facts of your case and help you get started. No matter what, you should always talk to an attorney. It costs you nothing, and you will gain valuable knowledge about the car accident legal process. In addition, you will get to know your potential attorney and decide whether you want to work with them for your case.
An Attorney Investigates the Facts of Your Car Crash
To get a check for your injuries, you must prove that someone else was to blame for them. You must explain exactly what happened in the car accident and why the other driver did not do what we expect of a reasonable driver under the circumstances.
On your own, this is a difficult thing to do. Your car accident likely happened out of nowhere. Usually, a driver strikes an unsuspecting driver’s car with their own. You may have your side of the story and see some of what happened beforehand. However, the other driver may also have a different version of events that may not even reflect reality.
In any accident case, you must prove what happened to cause the crash. The average person may not be familiar enough with car accidents to know how to do this. If your claim comes down to your word versus the other driver’s, you may be unable to get a check because you have not proven negligence.
Your capacity to investigate your accident at the scene is limited. If you are filing an insurance claim for injuries, you may have been unable to interview witnesses at the scene or take your own pictures. Once all parties have cleared the accident scene, you can lose valuable evidence that you can use to prove your case.
After you hire an attorney, they will immediately investigate your crash and gather the proof that you need to show that someone else should pay for your injuries. An experienced lawyer knows how to quickly assemble the available evidence before it disappears. The longer you wait to call a lawyer, the greater the chance that you will lose critical proof. A lawyer will begin with the police report and interview witnesses, and possibly even work with car accident reconstruction experts.
The lawyer will help you determine the correct defendant against whom to file a claim. In most cases, this is the other driver. However, there is a chance that additional defendants, such as a company, contributed to your election. Then, your claim can lead to an even more extensive settlement check because there is more insurance coverage.
Once your lawyer assembles the evidence, they will present your side of the story to the insurance company in your claim. They will use the evidence to demonstrate how and why someone else was negligent. If they are successful, you will proceed to the next step of the process, which is negotiating financial compensation.
A Lawyer Will Estimate and Place a Value on Your Claim
Perhaps the most critical information in a car accident claim is how much money your case is worth. It is one thing to get a settlement check. It is another thing to get the right amount of money in your case. Settling a case for too little works against you because you have signed away your rights to any additional money.
There are many moving parts to a car accident case. Your check should reflect how your car accident injuries have affected you. While there is a formula for car accident damages, there is no one-size-fits-all number for your case.
It is incorrect to say that a broken leg is worth $50,000 because it can be worth different things to different people. A broken leg can be far more damaging to someone who works on their feet every day or someone who ran every day before their car accident. You will base your damages on your situation.
The insurance company knows how much your claim is worth because they have sophisticated software and company-wide knowledge. They are hoping that you do not have the same knowledge.
An attorney will analyze your damages before they file any claim on your behalf. They will learn your story to know how your car accident injuries have impacted you. The lawyer will review all aspects of your life to come up with a complete estimate of your injuries as your starting point.
Not knowing the exact value of your settlement leaves you vulnerable to the insurance company. For instance, you may not know how courts value pain and suffering in a car accident case. An attorney does, and they will push back when the insurance company is not offering you enough.
You Need Someone Experienced to Negotiate Compensation
The most challenging aspect of every car accident case is dealing with the insurance company. They are a self-interested party that views you as an expense. They do not care about you or your family and what you may be experiencing. An insurance company has the same goal with every car accident case—to minimize its financial burden.
Insurance companies have power, but they are not all-powerful. They do not get to set the terms of your case or any settlement agreement. They represent the other driver because their insurance contract gives them a duty to defend. In the end, the legal rights are yours.
However, if you approach an insurance company without a lawyer, their built-in advantages will give them power over you. They will have far more information and the knowledge that you may be unable to do anything about it when they try to use their usual tricks against you.
In any negotiation, knowledge is power. When you hire an attorney, you get their knowledge, which they will put to work for you. They will explain what is happening and what the insurance company is trying to do.
Most people do not know that they can negotiate with an insurance company, let alone know how to do it. There is a skill in dealing with these large companies that a lawyer has. The more valuable the claim, the harder the insurance company will work to underpay it. Economizing on your claim means higher profits for the insurance company.
An attorney will evaluate any settlement offer that you receive. They will compare it to the actual value of your case and give you advice on whether to accept it. If the settlement offer is low, they will present your counteroffer to the insurance company.
A lawyer will repeat these steps each time you receive a new settlement offer. An attorney’s knowledge and ability to say no to an inadequate offer can lead to new and higher offers.
A Lawyer Will Handle Communications with Insurance Companies
How you talk to an insurance company can dictate whether you receive financial compensation and how much you can get. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can jeopardize your ability to get a check or reduce your settlement size. Dealing with an insurance company is an adversarial process because they are certainly not your friend.
You can understand why the insurance company wants to talk to you. They can catch you saying the wrong thing. They are looking for statements or evidence that they can use against you. The insurance company knows the questions to ask and how to frame them to trap you.
Your lawyer speaks to the insurance company on your behalf and keeps them off your back. An attorney is your protector, preventing the usual insurance company ambush that snares far too many claimants. When you engage a lawyer, you can simply tell the insurance company to talk to them. The insurance company will need to go through your lawyer to speak to you, and any lawyer will advise you never to speak to them in the first place.
An Attorney May Take Your Case to Court if Necessary
Any negotiation is about sticks and carrots. In a car accident settlement negotiation, if the insurance company is being unreasonable, your best option may be to go to court. Lawsuits raise the cost of business for an insurance company. They need to hire lawyers of their own and pay them, and they may not always want to incur this cost.
You and your lawyer must follow an entire litigation process if your case goes to court. You must observe critical deadlines and make filings in your case. Although you are allowed to represent yourself in court, it is not advisable. An insurance company has defense firms that they work with that do nothing but defend these cases. In a court case, it is not just about telling your story; it is about proving it to a jury. The burden of proof is on you in any case. You do not get any extra consideration from a judge or jury if you represent yourself.
If a case goes to court, a car accident attorney will:
- Draft the complaint that states both the facts and the reasons why you are entitled to compensation
- Defend your case when the insurance company tries to get it dismissed from court
- Defend you when you are answering questions at a deposition and take the deposition from the other driver
- Present your evidence in court in front of a jury
Trial practice requires an experienced lawyer. Not every lawyer knows how to speak to juries and prove your case in court. Litigation attorneys are a different cut than other lawyers.
Hopefully, you better understand what an attorney does when they promise to stand up for you. You must follow a legal process to obtain total compensation for your car accident injuries.
If you try to deal with the insurance company by yourself to save money, you will cost yourself dearly. Not only will you get far less money, but you may not even get money at all. Hiring an attorney is a financial investment that can pay off through higher car accident compensation. Conversely, trying to handle your own case introduces far more risks than it is worth.