Car Accidents Happen So Why Are Attorney's Involved?
Most car accidents just don't happen by themselves. They are the result of someone's carelessness, recklessness, hazardous conditions or defective products. Very often, accidents cause injury to people, damage property and create expenses that typically innocent parties have to be responsible for.
When the person responsible for the accident refuses to take full or prompt responsibility for it, very often an attorney's services can help recover what the law allows.
In many cases, an attorney's involvement also tends to have the person or company responsible for the accident, take corrective action, so someone else will not be similarly injured in the future. For example, if a bus company allows its drivers to speed, or does not comply with safety standards, and an accident occurs, an attorney can seek legal action that may cause the company to crack down on speeding or take stronger safety measures, thus helping others from being injured from future bus accidents.
Do You Need An Attorney For All Accidents?
No. Where the injury is slight, the damages are very minor and the circumstances that caused the accident are unlikely to reoccur, it usually makes sense to work through it without the assistance of an attorney.
For example, it it's a minor fender bender, your auto insurance company might take care of everything but the deductible or the driver's company may do so. It might be worth your while to try to get your expenses back through Small Claims Court.
But what if the accident is serious? Or you sustain a serious injury? What if you have major property damage? You may incur large medical fees not covered by your health insurance, have a permanent scar, be unable to play your favorite sport, work, or incur other expenses. If the matter is not minor, or the circumstances are likely to occur again -- perhaps to someone else, then you should consult with an attorney, at least to have the attorney assist you to consider your options.
If you and your attorney conclude that you do in fact have a case, then he may help you recover for the injuries, expense and damage you sustained, and, at the same time, possibly prevent a similar accident from happening to and injuring others.
Do I have to pay the attorney in an accident case up front?
Generally, attorneys handle accident cases on a "contingent fee" basis. That means that they do not charge you any fee, until and unless they recover money for you. They then receive a percentage of what they help you recover.
In some states, depending on the type of case, the maximum percentage the attorneys may charge is fixed by statute. In others it is what you and the attorney work out between you. Similarly, in some states the attorney may advance the expenses of obtaining medical records, accident reports, taking testimony, retaining experts out of his or her pocket, and you may not have to repay the advances unless you win. However in other states, laws require the client to front the out of pocket costs, or obligate the client to repay the lawyer for them, regardless of the outcome of the case.
If I Am In An Accident Do I Have To Speak To The Other Side's Insurance Company?
No. If you get involved in an accident and the other person has insurance and reports it to his insurance company, it is quite likely that the insurance company will promptly contact you, by telephone or in person.
You do not have to speak to them, and frequently it is wise to speak to an attorney first. Especially if there are personal injuries, it often pays to speak with an attorney first and have the attorney represent you in your dealings with the insurance company. Most of the time you'll be far better off.
Should I Try To Settle With The Other Person's Insurance Company?
If you, a family member, or one of your passengers, has suffered any personal injury, or even if there is a possibility that someone will claim an injury, it is generally NOT wise to deal with the other side's insurance company. In such cases you certainly should not settle your claim without speaking to an attorney who practices accident or personal injury law.
Here Are Some Questions You Should Ask Yourself:
- Do you know the full extent of your injuries, or might there be some late developing symptoms? Do you know how long the effects of the injury may last? Do you know how difficult the recovery process might be? Do you know what therapy may be needed, or what it will cost? Are you sure you understand what the long term impact of your accident or injury might be on your ability to earn a living, enjoy recreational activities, play sports, do household chores, and so forth? Do you understand what is customarily awarded for the "pain and suffering" you went through, and the loss of companionship and the extra care your family members provided? Do you know how much income you might lose, regardless of any disability insurance you have, not just in terms of the time you are out of work, but afterwards? Do you know how much of what the other side's insurance company might pay you will have to be paid over by you to your own auto or health insurance company, or union or employer health plan, to reimburse them for the expenses they paid on your behalf?
- Do you know how much money is traditionally recoverable by persons who are similarly injured who have legal representation? Probably you know none of these things. But the person from the other side's insurance company knows the answers real well, and the other side's insurance company or adjuster will never tell you, or never tell you the truth. You would be negotiating in the blind, without any idea of what you may be entitled to recover. And anything you say to the other side's insurance company would be marked down and recorded and used against you in terms of the other side's negotiating strategy and in trial if it ever got that far.
- Although you do not know the answers, you can easily speak to an experienced attorney who knows the answers and can represent your interests, not the insurance company's. And in personal injury cases, attorneys generally do not charge for an initial consultation, and then if they take the case, they are paid on a contingency fee basis, from what they recover for you.
- On the other hand, if you are sure that there is no personal injury, and all that is involved is some damage to your car, feel free to speak to the other side's insurance company. But if there is BOTH personal injury and damage to the car, speak to an attorney, and don't be in such a rush to get the car fixed that you prejudice the far more significant personal injury claim.
For more information on how Cliff Hill can help you in a car accident, call him today at 256.534-4502 in Huntsville, 256-233-3328 in Athens, or toll free 877-534-4502.