When to Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident

Not every accident requires an attorney. Knowing when to hire a lawyer after a car accident can save you a lot of money. In some cases, especially minor accidents with no injuries, the insurance companies may manage everything satisfactorily without an attorney. But you may want to hire a lawyer after an auto accident if you were at-fault or sustained major injuries. Read our guide to learn more.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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If you have just been in a car accident, the task of finding an attorney may not be the easiest thing to deal with on top of damage to your vehicle, calls from insurance companies, dealing with the other drivers involved, and healing from injuries. However, there are some cases in which contacting an attorney is highly recommended after you have been in a car accident.

Insurance companies have a team of lawyers working for them and the other driver, or drivers, involved may as well. In many situations, you will want to have your own legal counsel as well to make sure that you are not being taken advantage of and to ensure that you get what is fair.

First things first

Immediately after a car accident, you should contact the authorities, seek medical treatment, and exchange information with any other drivers and witnesses. If you can, take pictures of the accident and the area surrounding it, especially any street markers or stop lights.

Even if you do not think you are injured, it is worth being examined. Not all injuries are immediately apparent. In fact, the added adrenaline from being in an accident may temporarily mask potentially serious injuries. If you do need medical treatment, make sure to keep records of costs and treatments. Follow doctor’s orders regarding medication, testing, and follow up appointments to avoid arguments that the injury was not severe enough got you to follow through on treatment.

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Should you get an attorney?

Not every accident requires an attorney. In some cases, especially with minor accidents with no injuries, the insurance companies may be able to manage everything satisfactorily. However, there are several scenarios in which you may want to involve an attorney:

  • If there were any serious injuries and the other person was at fault, it is worth consulting with a lawyer to learn about your options regarding filing a personal injury claim.
  • In the case of fatalities, it is highly recommended to seek a legal consolation.
  • If you are accused of being at fault, you are not, and you are not in a no-fault state, it may be worth contacting an attorney to avoid paying damages for something that you did not do.

When should you contact a lawyer?

In all of these scenarios, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible, if not immediately. If you are delayed in contacting an attorney, try to get one before speaking with any insurance companies. They will want to contact you regarding the accident, and it is best not to give them any sort of statement or begin any type of negotiations until after you have received legal advice.

It is also unwise to accept a settlement from an insurance company until you know how much you are entitled to. In many cases, insurance companies will intentionally offer you as little as they possibly can. An attorney can help you to get what you deserve rather than what the insurance company is happiest with paying out.

What if you do not contact an attorney immediately?

There are still situations in which you may want to get an attorney involved even if you did not originally do so.

  • If you choose not to involve an attorney and are having trouble in coming to a reasonable agreement with the insurance company, you can also call one at that point to take over the negotiations for you.
  • You can also contact an attorney if the insurance company is refusing you claim despite your being covered, fail to pay you within a reasonable time, or fail to give a proper explanation as to why you are being denied.

However, it is highly advised that you contact an attorney before entering negotiations with an insurance company to avoid saying anything to them that can be misconstrued and diminish your case.

Also, keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations for many types of claims. In the majority of states, that limit is two years. After that time, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to sue for injuries. In addition, remember not to wait until the last minute. Your attorney will need time to research and build your case before they can file a claim with the insurance company. If they cannot reach an agreement with the company, then the case will need to go to court. Each part of the legal process takes time.

To help speed up the process, be sure to collect all of your evidence, police reports, insurance company information, medical and car repair bills, medical records, proof of missed income, and any other pertinent details. These will help your attorney and potentially shorten the length of time needed for them to get your settlement.

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Should you delay if you don’t have money for a lawyer?

The answer to this is simply, no. The majority of auto accident lawyers charge a contingency fee rather than a per-hour rate. This means that they do not get paid unless you do. The amount they charge may vary based on the attorney’s own rates and if the courts will need to be involved, but it hovers at roughly around one-third of the final settlement amount. When contacting attorneys, ask about how their fees work. In most cases, if they think your case is winnable, they will be happy to take it on at no cost to you.

Resources

Rules and regulations can vary from state to state. Be sure to check on the laws pertaining to the jurisdiction you are in to find out if you are within your rights to sue for injuries from a car accident.

To learn about what type of car insurance is required by law in each state, you can visit the Connecticut General Assembly’s state by state list.

To see what the statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits is, you can go to NOLO’s list that includes a state by state breakdown on various civil lawsuit limitations, including those for injuries.

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