It’s not always necessary to hire an attorney after an auto accident. If you’re settling a relatively routine claim (e.g. fault is evident or there are minor injuries), you can generally do your own investigating. If that’s the route you choose, you have to be prepared to to present your case and defend it with confidence if it becomes aggressive.
But, with a lawyer, the legwork is taken care of. No researching jargon or procedure, no negotiating, and no filling out paperwork. Before you make any decisions, take a step back and review these factors. Ask yourself:
1. Are you comfortable negotiating a claim independently?
Evaluate what’s at stake and gauge your own comfort level with the claim. If you’re having any doubts, feeling overwhelmed, or you have questions, it’s in your best interest to get in touch with a lawyer. Of course, you can couple this with your own research about the process, but we advise you gather as much information as you can from professionals.
2. Has there been a physical injury or fatality?
Bear in mind that it’s not always necessary to hire a lawyer if you’ve been injured from the accident. When injuries are minor, you will most likely have a good handle on it. The determining factor will be the severity of your injuries and/or the other driver’s injuries. Serious injuries have the potential for out-of-pocket expenses to skyrocket for all parties involved. So, when out-of-pocket expenses start creeping up in cost or the injuries sustained are permanent and/or cause a loss of wages, things can escalate quickly.
3. Do you fully understand your settlement offer?
Don’t let insurance companies fool you: A settlement offer is always negotiable. If you’re offered a settlement that doesn’t cover your medical bills or other out-of-pocket expenses, come back with more. You’ll receive more pushback if you don’t have a lawyer, though. Insurance companies bank on the fact that you don’t know the legalities and will likely take advantage of you.
The second you accept an offer is the second you lose the right to sue the other party again. It’s so important that you fully understand the settlement offer (or if it’s even the best option) given the circumstances of your case.
4. Can you prove without a doubt that the other driver was at fault?
Here’s a scenario: Say you run into a parked car. Your car has pretty extensive damage and your neck’s been aching since the accident. You’ve been written a ticket and the other driver’s insurance company already contacted you. To the naked eye, the fault seems clear: you hit the car. But no one mentioned the fact that the car you crashed into was parked illegally, and, it turns out that driver didn’t receive a ticket.
In this case, the lines are blurry. Hiring a lawyer to conduct an independent investigation on your behalf might be a good option. You want someone on your side with an agenda where you’re the focal point; someone who can sharpen the blur and get you what’s rightfully yours.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
Whether you decide to hire an attorney or not, keep in mind that you never want to risk losing something you could have easily gained with just a little guidance. Contact the attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham to learn how we can help.