When you have been in an auto accident, you may not think immediately about needing an auto accident attorney. Your first thoughts should be to call for help, get a medical evaluation, gather as much information as possible, take pictures of the accident (or ask someone to do so for you). Get a copy of the car crash report from the police, call your insurance company, then call an auto accident or personal injury attorney.
If your crash was merely a fender bender and no one was injured, you can probably trust your insurance company to protect your rights. If you are uncertain about your need for an accident attorney, you have nothing to lose by calling for a free initial consultation. In that conversation, your attorney will gather information from you, review the police report, and review the pictures of the crash. At this point, the attorney can probably tell you if you have the basis of a lawsuit.
Under any circumstances, you should never discuss the accident with the other driver’s insurance company. This is the only way to ensure that you do not inadvertently make a statement that could be used against you. Never accept a low offer from an insurance company shortly after the accident.
When you NEED to consult with an auto accident attorney
There are certain conditions or issues about an accident that you should never try to handle on your own. In these cases, you probably need help beyond your auto insurance company, and you should call a personal injury or auto accident attorney.
- If you or someone else in your vehicle is seriously injured. Serious injuries typically generate a great deal of cost.
- If someone dies as a result of the accident.
- If you or a passenger sustains a moderately serious injury that will result in disability.
- If a minor (child) in injured at all (even mild injuries).
- If the crash involves a motorcycle or a bicyclist.
- If the accident was a head-on crash.
- If a commercial truck or other company vehicle is involved in the crash.
- Liability (fault) for the auto accident is disputed. For example, you believe the police report is inaccurate and puts you at fault.
- The crash was located in a construction zone.
- If you believe the events and fault in the accident turn on complex mechanical, technical, medical, or legal questions.
- You have no insurance, your insurance company claims that you did not pay your premiums, or your policy has low liability limits.
- If the crash involved secondary injury or damage – a pedestrian, another vehicle, or object.
- If there are other circumstances in your life that would justify demand for greater financial compensation. In these cases, you not know how to prove the circumstances and assess the level of compensation that is appropriate. For example, if you are the primary earner for a family and you will not be able to return to work, or if you are the sole caretaker for a child or an elderly person and you cannot continue to fulfill these activities.
- If your insurance agent informs you that they are bringing in their own attorney or your agent begins to behave oddly.
- If the conditions surrounding the car crash are complicated and may require expert investigation and assessment.
- If the other driver’s insurance company has refused your claim and you believe they have done so in error.
- If the other driver’s insurance company has made a settlement offer that is clearly inadequate.
- If 12 months or more has elapsed since the crash and you are not making progress toward an acceptable offer.
- If you have been served with a lawsuit by the other driver or his/her insurance company.
- If you are not a resident of the state in which the accident occurred.
When you SHOULD consult an auto accident attorney
Sometimes the above factors are not at play in the incident, but it would be wise to at least have a conversation with an attorney to ensure that your rights and your best interests are being protected.
- It is unclear which driver caused (is liable) for the accident or when some responsibility for the crash may be shared.
- If you do not (or think you do not) understand your legal rights.
- If you were injured and the insurance company adjuster asks for your medical records from before the accident.
- If your claim includes lost income that it is difficult to document.
- If you do not know how to evaluate your claim, or the amount of your demand.
- If you do not clearly understand all of the terms of your insurance policy
- If you lack confidence in your ability to successfully negotiate the best possible settlement on your own.
- If you are being offered a structured settlement in lieu of a lump-sum payment.
- If you are trying to understand the possible value of a settlement in a case of the same kind as yours.
- If you have received any reports, information, or requests for information that is confusing.
- If you think – but do not know – that there may be coverage available on another insurance policy (homeowners, umbrella policy, etc.).
- If you think your insurance agent or adjuster is acting in bad faith or is not in your best interest.
- If you have questions about how to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company.
Many auto accidents are sufficiently complex in some way that you are probably wise to take advantage of an offer of a free consultation with an auto accident attorney. Obtaining the assessment of an experienced auto accident attorney and having the opportunity to ask your questions will usually help you to determine if you need to hire an attorney to represent you. It is to your advantage and to your attorney’s advantage if you call an attorney as soon as possible after a car crash.
Many people will tell you that you need to find an attorney who has handled a large number of auto accident cases. But just handling a case does not necessarily mean winning cases. You need an experienced attorney who has earned a reputation for strength, discipline, persistence, and fighting for her clients.
In the aftermath of a serious car crash, you will certainly ask yourself at some point. “Do I need an auto accident attorney?” Bettina Altizer and her team of experienced professionals are ready to meet with you and to help you evaluate the merits of your case. The people you will work with at Altizer Law, P.C., are caring and compassionate people. More important in terms of the outcome of your case, they are people who fight aggressively and tenaciously for the best possible outcome for every client.