You find yourself the victim of a motor vehicle accident. You immediately call a car accident attorney to set up a consultation about your claim and case. However, what should you ask about your car accident when you meet with the attorney?
As a crash victim, you will want to take full advantage of this initial meeting. After all, your impressions after this consultation and the information you learn about the car accident and potential compensation will help you decide whether to hire the attorney and how you will move forward in your case.
The initial case consultation is an opportunity for a motor vehicle accident lawyer to learn about the accident, your injuries, and the damages you incur. However, this first free case evaluation is also a chance for you to learn about the lawyer, their opinion on your claim and case, and possible strategies they may take when representing you in the matter.
The more you learn and understand about the car accident lawyer and their approach to handling car accident insurance claims, the better you will know what is best for you as you plan.
The following is a compilation of fundamental questions that can get you started when meeting with an attorney for the first time about your car accident.
Do You Have Experience Handling Similar Car Accident Cases?
Experience dealing with vehicle insurance companies and claims are essential when it comes to a car accident. Victims of injuries in an accident, whether it involves a vehicle or other scenario, will look to hire a personal injury attorney. However, not all personal injury attorneys handle the same types of cases. While some lawyers handle a wide range of accidents involving negligence, you should also ask whether they typically take car accident claims.
Motor vehicle accidents can create complicated situations where the fault may not always be apparent, and the losses on the line for a victim could be significant. Hiring an attorney who understands the car accident claims’ ins and outs will give you the best opportunity to reach a successful outcome.
Additionally, insurance companies each have their own approach to handling a claim. The more experience a lawyer has in dealing with certain insurance companies, the better they can manage your claim and case for you and help you understand what you can expect in the process.
Are Your Clients Often Successful in Resolving Their Car Accident Cases?
This is not a question about whether a lawyer wins every case and claim but rather more of a question of gaining insight into their success rate. You want a lawyer who knows how to get positive client results. While you may not get details or specifics on their cases due to client confidentiality and privacy, you can ask a lawyer about their experience with cases similar to yours and whether they were able to achieve a favorable resolution for their client.
Keep in mind that success in a case can look differently based on various factors, including the type of case involved, the amount of damages on the line, and how quickly the matter reached a resolution. Although some cases may be able to get a settlement outside of court for compensation of the victim, other cases may require the court’s involvement and a verdict. Ask your lawyer about their results during negotiations and in court in similar car accident cases to yours.
Are There Any Documents or Records You Need from Me Regarding the Case?
Car accident lawyers have the resources and the staff to investigate the accident and gather the evidence necessary to prove your claim once they accept your case. However, you may have proof in your possession that is beneficial to the case and can help kickstart this process. Ask your lawyer whether there is any evidence at your disposal that could benefit your claim and lawsuit.
It is common for car accident victims to have police reports, medical discharge papers or records, photographs or videos that may shed light on the accident, their injuries, and who may be liable for their losses.
As you wait to meet with your attorney after a car accident, set aside a space to collect the paperwork and other evidence relating to the accident that you may come across. When you meet with your attorney, bring what you have. They can use some of that information to understand the claim better and begin to prepare to communicate with the insurer regarding your damages.
What Can I Do to Protect My Rights After a Crash?
If you are preparing to speak with a lawyer about your car accident, you have already taken one of the best steps to protect your legal rights following a motor vehicle collision.
An attorney handling your case will manage your claim and prepare your case to seek maximum damages under the law. However, what you do and do not do personally following a car accident can also influence the outcome of your case. Ask your accident attorney what you can do to protect your rights as the claim progresses.
Your attorney will manage your accident claim once they accept you as their client. However, you can still have an impact on the success of your claim and case. For example, you should refrain from speaking with any interested party in the case. If you receive a call or communication regarding your claim, you should immediately forward that information to your attorney’s office so they may speak with the parties on your behalf.
An attorney can give you guidelines and recommendations as your claim progresses. It is common for victims to want to help the case as much as they can but often, the most important thing you can do following a crash to protect your rights is to consult with your lawyer and keep up with the medical treatment of your injuries.
What Is My Car Accident Claim or Case Worth?
As a car accident victim, this is one of the questions you are probably most eager to hear the answer to. The realization of the widespread impact and financial consequences of an unexpected motor vehicle collision can leave you worried and stressed about how you will pay for your medical bills and living expenses as you heal from your injuries. A car accident attorney can help you calculate your losses and determine the amount of compensation you may be eligible for under the laws of your state.
Although a lawyer cannot predict the ultimate offer of settlement or outcome of your case, they can give you an estimate of your damages and insight into expected outcomes in cases like yours. Determining the value of a car accident claim is a crucial part of the claims process. The insurance company will complete their own calculations of damages from their perspective, but your attorney will calculate your damages in accordance with your reality and experience to help you evaluate the strength of offers from the insurer and whether you will accept or counteroffer any offers made to you.
Will I Need to Go to Trial for Compensation in My Case?
Every accident victim hopes that their claim can resolve as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, quickly does not always equate to a fair outcome regarding the insurance claims process. It is common for insurers to make a quick but low settlement offer when they know they may be on the hook for significantly more compensation as the claim and case go on.
A car accident attorney will discuss the worth of your case and what strategy they recommend when dealing with the insurers. Although a lawyer will try to settle your case outside of court involvement, there are times when that may not be possible or may not be in your best interest.
Going to trial is always a possibility in a car accident claim and case. Your car accident attorney will first try to negotiate with the insurer and parties involved to get you the maximum compensation possible. However, suppose negotiations fall through or are not successful in achieving the desired compensation for your needs or in comparison to your losses. In that case, a trial may become the recommended next step by your attorney.
While your attorney will not know initially whether or not a trial may be necessary in your case, they can give you some insight into what could lead to a possible trial during the processing of your claim.
How Can You Help Me Manage My Accident Claim?
As an accident victim, you may want to know how your car accident attorney will help you with your case. An attorney brings legal knowledge and experience to the table when dealing with a car accident claim, but they also offer you services you may not have considered.
Your lawyer will not only represent your interests and make legal challenges when appropriate to the findings of an insurer, but they bring resources and work hours to help prepare your claim and lawsuit if necessary.
Ask your car accident lawyer what role they will play in your case and how they will manage the day-to-day aspects of your case that may pop up. Fielding phone calls, inquiries, and retrieving vital evidence are all common duties of a lawyer and their legal staff. This can be an excellent help for victims trying to focus on their recovery after a crash.
Lifting the burden of constant phone calls and questions regarding the accident is a great relief and also helps in knowing that the law office can handle these inquiries professionally and without risking the possible compensation in your case.
Is There a Time Limit to Filing a Car Accident Claim or Lawsuit?
Yes, there is, but the time depends on where the accident occurs. Jurisdiction for car accidents often is in the state where the accident happens. Each of the states in the U.S. has its own statute of limitations for cases ranging from civil to criminal matters.
Personal injury statute of limitations can vary greatly depending on your state. In some states, the timeline for filing legal actions for damages relating to an accident can be upwards of four years. In others, the time is much more restrictive and could be as little as one year.
Will You Accept My Car Accident Case?
Remember that a lawyer only represents you once you enter a formal fee agreement. A lawyer may offer you a free initial consultation, but this is not indicative that they will accept your case or that they are representing you. During your consultation, ask whether the lawyer will be representing you in the matter going forward. Once you are clear on whether the attorney accepts your case, you can review the fee agreement and the terms of their representation.
How Will I Pay for Your Services as My Car Accident Attorney?
In most car accident cases, attorneys will work on contingency. In a contingency fee arrangement, the attorney will only receive payment for their services if and when you receive compensation for the accident claim or case, whether through a settlement or court award.
Do not assume that a lawyer will be working on contingency. Misunderstanding a fee agreement could leave you in a difficult position if your case is unsuccessful and you do not receive compensation for your damages.
Thoroughly review the fee agreement provided by the attorney and the terms and conditions of that agreement. If you need clarification on any information, feel free to ask questions. Most reputable car accident attorneys will represent their clients on a contingency basis. If you come across an attorney that will not take your car accident case on contingency, you should consider looking for another car accident lawyer.
If you are a car accident victim, contact a car accident lawyer immediately for a free case evaluation to discuss the compensation available to you.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.