A pre-determined, mutually agreed-upon percentage of the final court award or insurance settlement. Dealing with the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident is far from simple, and accident victims have much at stake. Without legal guidance, a crash victim can miss out on substantial compensation.
If you were recently injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be wondering if you need a car accident lawyer. What do you think about it? there is nothing to lose if you hire a lawyer and so much to lose if you do not.
A Lawyer Has Perspective
A car accident is an emotional issue.
A car accident attorney can rise above emotions and focus on complex and compelling issues with a tactical focus on value and results sound legal guidance and full and fair compensation for:
- Property damage
- Loss of income
- Loss of future earning potential
- Medical costs
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Car accident attorneys hold people and companies responsible for negligence. A skillful car accident attorney, either by a negotiated settlement, or a court trial, will advocate for their client to obtain maximum compensation. Is not this well worth the contingency fee?
Hiring a Lawyer Following a Car Accident Is Not a One-and-Done Solution
Calling a car accident lawyer is certainly not a one-and-done solution to navigating a pathway to compensation after a motor vehicle injury. Still, it is a significant step in the right direction. Financial compensation can stem from multiple sources.
A seasonal and knowledgeable legal advisor can give an accident victim insight and guidance when dealing with various liability insurance carriers, personal health coverage, state-specific laws, limitations, and the long-term costs associated with catastrophic injury.
The Substantial Losses Following a Car Accident
Legal services are expensive. Generally, car accident law firms operate on a contingency fee basis meaning legal fees will come from your winning settlement versus requiring any upfront costs. Leaving potential compensation out of the equation is often a mistake easily made by accident victims who choose to handle accident recovery independently.
A motor vehicle accident lawyer understands how to accurately value a severe car accident’s immediate and long-term costs. They know what to ask for (remember, you will only get what you ask for) and who to ask. The extent of financial losses can be staggering. In addition to financial losses, a fair settlement should reflect physical and emotional losses suffered by the accident victim and their family.
Even in a relatively minor accident, vehicle damages can be thousands of dollars. Having a family car out of commission for any length of time can grind daily life to a halt.
A car accident attorney understands the importance of helping an accident victim receive compensation for rental car fees and financial restitution for damaged property such as electronics, broken jewelry, damaged leather goods, and damaged clothing and eyeglasses. The law considers pets as property, so you should also include medical care for injured dogs and cats in a claim to the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Medical expenses following a car accident may include physician’s fees, the cost of ambulance services, emergency room fees, inpatient hospital care, surgical procedures, surgeon’s fees, prescription, and over-the-counter medications, mental health professional fees, rehabilitation, and adaptive equipment.
In addition, it is possible to claim the costs of:
- Invasive medical procedures
- Diagnostic testing
- Radiology services
- In-home health care
The long-term cost of severe injuries can run into the millions for lifetime care.
Examples of these catastrophic injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord damage
- Extensive burns
- Organ damage
Those injuries that will never fully heal, or those that leave an accident victim permanently disabled, will almost always mandate sufficient funds to compensate for a possible loss of full earning potential in the victim’s chosen profession or the devastating loss of independence. These physical injuries are life-altering and can often lead to a reduced life span.
Cases involving a catastrophic injury are complicated, and maximum compensation is almost always directly proportional to the car accident attorney’s ability to procure and preserve evidence that accurately portrays the changes and challenges a family will endure because of someone else’s negligence. These devastating injuries happen more frequently than most of us realize.
According to the Centers For Disease Control, over 600 people are hospitalized daily for a traumatic brain injury. Additionally, the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reports vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries.
An experienced car accident lawyer understands calculating the actual value of time missed from work due to a car accident should include:
- Annual salary prorated for the actual days missed
- The amount of expected overtime (if applicable) for the time missed
- Unemployment benefits
- Any expected bonuses, commissions, promotions, or raises
- The actual value of any used sick days or vacation days taken during the recovery process
- The loss of any company paid for perks such as a cell phone, company car, free meals, health benefits
- Profit sharing, savings plans, retirement fund contributions, stock options
Accident victims dealing with long-term catastrophic injuries, including the expected loss of or diminished future earning capacity, should be included in the compensation claim.
Lawyers can utilize their resources and professional connections to seek guidance from economists and financial planners to help determine the total projected value of lost earning potential based on:
- The victim’s age
- The victim’s educational background
- Past work experience
Pain and Suffering and Emotional Distress
Pain and suffering are subjective and hard to quantify. Emotional anguish can be even harder to explain and document. Nonetheless, you should not ignore financial compensation for these non-economic damages.
Pain hurts it is an expected side effect of a motor vehicle crash. Pain is often manageable and not always long-lasting. However, it is a consequential disruption in the accident victim’s daily life—and pain is compensable. A lawyer knows how to document and justify the pain and make its presence an integral part of an insurance claim.
Emotions themselves can cause physical symptoms. Those accident victims who have a high level of fear and anxiety after a wreck will often experience insomnia and headaches.
According to the Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (a division of the U.S. Department of Health And Human Services), accident victims may also:
- Develop an eating disorder
- Develop social withdrawal
- Have debilitating guilt
- Begin to show signs of substance abuse
Roadway traffic accidents can lead to functional and cognitive impairment and a loss of a good quality of life for the victim and their entire family. A car accident lawyer understands how to illustrate the shift in the dynamics of a household when a financial contributor is injured.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Is Possible After a Car Accident
Many motor vehicle accident survivors will experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the weeks and months following the crash. Seemingly ordinary and simple things (driving, being a passenger in a car, seeing an ambulance, hearing a siren, navigating heavy traffic) can trigger a panic attack.
Emotional symptoms are real, and emotional recovery takes time and money. Nobody wins when mental health issues are overlooked or discounted. An experienced lawyer can help make sure this does not happen.
There Are No Guarantees but There Are Certainties
While an accident victim who has hired a car accident lawyer is never guaranteed a successful outcome, there are a few things a victim with a lawyer can be sure of.
Everything starts with a police report. This document is accessible (it usually only takes a few days and a few dollars), but the rest of the process gets exponentially more complicated. Without financial and professional resources, it can be challenging to find and interview witnesses, obtain photos of the accident scene, locate video surveillance tapes, order and review an accident reconstruction, and request the preservation of crash scene debris.
Car accident attorneys have the skills and resources to:
- Curate and preserve evidence
- Hire medical experts to substantiate and validate sustained injuries
- Gather and review medical records from all of your doctors
Dealing With Insurance Claims Adjusters
The men and women who determine the settlement amount of an accident claim are the best of the best. They have experience being johnny-on-the-spot especially when liability is evident. Swooping in, sometimes even showing up at the scene of the accident, they hope to take advantage of the accident victim’s lack of legal knowledge and emotional and physical vulnerability.
They anticipate a victim will say or do something compromising the claim. Unfortunately, those without a lawyer often do. Are you going it alone? Are you prepared to deal with the underhanded tricks and tactics forthcoming from insurance companies?
Negotiations Are Not for the Faint-hearted
Without the benefit of legal precedence, a layperson is at the mercy of the insurance carrier. Negotiations can be a complex and time-consuming process. With the help and guidance of a qualified attorney, it is a give-and-take balanced paradigm. Without legal advice, it all too frequently becomes a give-as-little-as-possible outcome in favor of the insurance carrier.
Once an accident victim accepts an insurance settlement, there is no going back. Signed settlement agreement documents are non-negotiable. If the reader of this blog takes only one piece of advice from this article, it should be done not to sign anything without legal advice. This bears repeating, do not sign anything without legal advice.
You Have to Know and Follow the Rules
You must follow time limits, filing deadlines, and procedural mandates, and provide the required documents. Sometimes you only have one chance to get it right.
A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing
In 1709, in his essay on criticism, Alexander Pope said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Now, we say it again.
The average car accident victim does not know all that they do not know. The financial compensation in a motor vehicle accident can be extensive and come from multiple sources.
Victims have a right to full and fair reimbursement for loss of personal property and medically-related expenses, monetary consideration for loss of bodily function, and financial support when their livelihood is taken away or compromised.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. They stay in operation by taking in the cost of liability coverage premiums as much as possible and paying out as little as possible in claims settlements. An accident victim’s best chance for a comprehensive settlement is a dedicated and determined car accident lawyer.
When Should You Contact a Car Accident Attorney?
Sooner than later. Dealing with the legal system is not a do-it-yourself project. Yes, in theory, it is possible to receive some financial compensation by dealing with the insurance company on your own, but if the dollar amount offered is insufficient, can you handle litigation?
You should hire a lawyer when:
- You were in an accident that you believe was not your fault
- You sustained injuries in the collision
- Your injuries are permanent and disabling
- The insurance company refuses to pay
- The insurance company is contesting liability
- A government entity caused your accident
- The car accident resulted in a death
- The car accident resulted in the loss of a fetus
- Involved parties ask you to provide medical records
- Involved parties ask you to give a statement
Do not fight alone if you have involvement in a car accident. Reach out to an experienced auto accident lawyer today.
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.