Why Do I Need a Lawyer After a Car Accident?

need a lawyer

You might not initially think you need a lawyer, but you do.

I hear this all the time. A conversation like this can start several different ways.  I talk to people who say they don’t need a lawyer after an accident because the other driver at the scene admitted fault.  He apologized and the police came out and took a report.  The police report even put the other person at fault.

But then, a few days later, the other driver’s story starts to change.  Now that person has had some time and has thought about how to put the blame on you.  Now the other person’s insurance company will not accept liability because they have a duty to defend their driver.

On top of that, you felt fine at the scene.  You refused an ambulance because you did not feel any pain.  But violent car collisions, even minor ones, create an incredible amount of adrenaline.  When the adrenaline wears off, now the pain starts to sink in.  Stiffness can set because you failed to treat any injuries because your body masked the pain.

So here you are now, a few days later, you are in pain and the other party is putting you at fault.  You have no evidence other than a police report, and only your statement about your pain.

Sure, you reported the accident to your insurance company, and they feel that you are not at fault and put the blame on the other person.  But what does that mean? It simply means that if the other guy sues you, they too have a duty to defend you.  Your insurance company will not seek pain and suffering damages from the other driver.

Other people call several weeks after an accident and tell me the other insurance company is not paying enough.  Then they consult an attorney and find they don’t have quite the great case they thought they had.  This is not because the injuries are not real or because the case is not worth money.  It is because the client failed to produce or protect evidence.

That is one reason you need an attorney.  A competent attorney will lead you through the process.  It is a process.  The evidence of the crash needs to be properly documented.  Photographs need to be produced.  Sometimes an expert in vehicle crashes needs to be consulted early to be able to prove fault.

Injuries must be proven in court and evidence of injuries must be preserved.  The average person has no way of knowing how to deal with this.  That is what the experts are for!

When you get into an accident, anyone who treated your injuries, the ambulance, the hospital, specialists, and most importantly your health insurance company, are entitled to reimbursement from the funds you receive.

To make matters more complicated, Medi-Cal, Medicare, or any type of federal health insurance are entitled to recover their costs as well.  Most insurance companies won’t even deal with you until these bills are finalized.

Now, imagine this.  After your car accident, you consult an attorney who took your case.  The evidence of how the crash occurred is preserved.  You are receiving treatment for your injuries.  Your bills are being tracked and saved.  Your medical records show the extent of your injuries.

When you hire a competent attorney, you don’t have to worry about anything.  All you need to do is get better.  Once you get better, now you have an itemized list of your injuries and the bills that go along with them.  You know how much your insurance company needs to be reimbursed and you have someone else dealing with it.  Many times, people come into my office with a stack of medical bills because it can be overwhelming.

Another scenario I come across is when new clients are already in the negotiation process with the other person’s insurance company.  The new client will call and tell me how offended they are because the other company does not believe them.  Insurance companies always claim that people “exaggerate” their injuries, or that “a small impact like this can’t possibly cause injuries.”

People do not like to be called liars, but insurance companies do it all the time.  A lot of people do not like to hear this.  Then they get upset and lose focus of the negotiation at hand.

When you deal with the insurance company on your own, you have no negotiation leverage.  If you cannot resolve your case, you must sue in civil court. Most people do not have any idea how to do this.  I go to court all of the time; I see people who try to file their own lawsuits or defend themselves.  It is never recommended.  I can spot a proper plaintiff just by the way they present themselves.  Paperwork is never done correctly, procedures are not followed, and this is usually just in the first appearance!

A lot of people tell me that they don’t want to hire a lawyer because they are not in that much pain, or that they will be fine later.  As discussed earlier, aches and pains, and other injuries may take time to discover.  But more importantly, any amount of pain and suffering is worth something.  Now, it may not be worth a lot, but it is worth something.

I have had several instances where clients have come to my office and tell me that they were not hurt that badly.  Then I look at their arms and they have burns from the airbag deployment.  The clients tell me it is not that bad, and it looks worse than it feels.  This is what I am talking about! “It’s not that bad” is still bad.  It still has value.  Let the insurance company claim it is not that bad (they will) and let your lawyer tell them that the client is entitled to compensation.

Probably the number one reason why people do not want to hire an attorney is that they do not want to pay an attorney.  People have a tendency, especially at the end of the case, to look at the final numbers and think, “Wow. The lawyers are getting paid a lot of money.  If I had handled this myself, I’d be getting all of this.”

This is the wrong way of thinking, and this is why.  Typically, a new client will call and tell me he was in a car accident recently.  He has done nothing to treat his injuries.  In fact, he has not even been evaluated by a doctor, but he knows he is in pain.  Plus, the other insurance company is disputing liability.

I take the case and advise the new client to get a diagnosis.  Plus, I can recommend good doctors in the area who specialize in whatever type of accident we are discussing.  Many doctors will not treat a client without an attorney vouching for the lien (Liens are an entirely different conversation for a discussion later).

The client now has evidence of his injuries and when he feels better, we have all the bills and documentation of his ailments.  Also, the first thing I did when I took the case, is have a traffic expert evaluate the case so I know that we can prove it was the other driver’s fault.

This example case goes to mediation or arbitration and settles at a value that is fair for this type of auto accident.  But now when it comes time to resolve the case, the client wants to know why attorney fees are cutting into his final number.

But let’s go back and look at his case.  Without a lawyer, he would not have gotten treatment for his injuries.  He could not continue to treat his injuries because no doctor will work on a lien basis for an unrepresented individual.  Plus, he would not have had a traffic expert who can prove fault for the other driver.  Without a lawyer, the insurance company would have denied liability or shared liability (known as comparative fault). The insurance company would have made a minimal offer that would end up in small claims court.

However, I can get this client an amount of money far more than he would have gotten on his own.  It did not cost him anything.  My advice and expertise are what led him to get the full compensation he had coming to him.  The most important thing though in these types of scenarios is that he is walking away with more money than he would have received on his own.

Sometimes, a client may end up getting a similar amount had they not retained a lawyer. But what is the harm in that?  At least you know that you are getting good advice and treatment for your auto collision.  If a client handles a case on his own, he will never know if he got a good settlement or not.  More often than not, I hear from potential clients who tell me what they settled for, and it is so much lower than what they are entitled to.  So, if you hire an attorney and end up with the same amount of money had you not hired an attorney, at least you know for certain you got a good deal and proper compensation.

I never let my clients end up in a worse position than if they handled a case on their own.  When a client leaves my office, I always make sure they were better off financially for hiring me than handling a case on their own or even going with another lawyer.  I make certain that the amount of compensation they receive is higher than if they handled an auto accident alone.

So now you know why you need a lawyer after a car accident.  Most accident attorneys give free consultations, so it does not cost you anything.  At the very least, an attorney will be able to tell you if you have a case and if it is worth pursuing.  When you hire a competent attorney after a car accident, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

If you need a lawyer, contact us today.

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