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When to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident

Written by Ankin Law Office

The consensus regarding when a person should get an attorney for a car accident is the sooner the better. Getting an attorney immediately after an accident can help a victim avoid costly blunders that most unrepresented people make in the claim process. Obtaining legal advice and representation from the onset enables the victim to concentrate on recovery and health while also pursuing compensation. The car accident victim has the right to obtain legal representation at any point throughout the process of filing an insurance or personal injury claim, though. 

How an Accident Attorney Can Help Victims Recover

Getting aggressive counsel and legal representation soon after a car accident increases the chances of a favorable outcome in the accident case. The attorney can advise the victim on what to do after the crash. The attorney evaluates the facts and circumstances of the accident. The attorney then explains to the victim his or her rights and the best action to take. 

The attorney compiles evidence to prove the other driver’s fault. The evidence may include a police report, witness statements, photos, traffic or surveillance camera footage, and medical records. The attorney also prepares the necessary documents, files them within the relevant statute of limitations, and initiates negotiations with the insurer on the victim’s behalf.

Negotiating with the Insurance Company After a Car Accident 

A car accident attorney starts by valuing the accident claim. The attorney then initiates settlement negotiations by sending a detailed demand letter to the insurer. The letter recounts the car accident, injuries sustained, the medical treatment obtained, the extent of damage to the vehicle, and other losses caused by the car accident. It also specifies the amount of money the victim is entitled to as compensation. 

In response, the insurance company will probably offer a lower amount than what is in the demand letter. The accident victim should understand that the insurance company is a profit-making entity and will try to bring the claim value as low as possible to maximize profit. An unreasonably low initial offer is often a tactic by insurers to test whether a claimant understands the actual claim value. 

An accident attorney knows this tactic and many other tricks used by insurance companies to offer lowball settlements. The attorney will ask the insurer to provide reasons for offering a low settlement amount in writing. The attorney will then reply to each of the reasons provided by the insurer and give an evidence-backed explanation why the accident victim cannot accept the offer. 

If the initial offer is fair but still low, the attorney may counter with a slightly lower amount than what was requested in the demand letter. Of course, the attorney will discuss with the accident victim before making this decision. If the counteroffer is reasonable, the insurer will be more inclined to compromise. 

When negotiating with the insurer, the accident attorney will focus on the victim’s strongest points. If the victim has sustained an injury that will call for long-term medical care, the attorney will focus on the impact of this injury on the claimant’s quality of life and financial situation over time. If the accident victim has missed work for a long duration, the attorney will concentrate on the total amount of lost wages and its effect on the victim’s family.

The accident attorney will take detailed notes or record all communications with the insurer. The attorney will ask the insurance company or adjuster to present all settlement offers in writing. Upon reaching an agreement, the attorney will have every detail put in a dated written contract and signed by all the parties involved. 

Preventing Legal Mistakes in the Claim Process 

Most car accident claims get resolved out of court. Despite that, an insurance claim involves more than the negotiation process. Knowledge and application of the law are a fundamental part of the claim process. A weak legal car accident claim puts the accident victim in a weaker bargaining position. Insurance companies are well aware of this fact.

Determining the liable party (or parties) for a car accident and calculating the losses incurred are crucial in the claim process. It is also wise to address other legal issues that may impact the case and compensation claim. Failure to file within the relevant statute of limitations, for instance, can result in claim denial or loss. In Chicago, Illinois, car accidents have a two-year statute of limitation, starting from the date of the accident. 

The liable party’s insurance company may ask for a recorded or written statement regarding the claim. An attorney can help the victim prepare statement that will not hurt his or her right to compensation. Insurance companies are always looking for ways to justify a low settlement amount or claim denial. An accident attorney will factor in all legal issues to strengthen the victim’s claim and bargaining position.

There Are No Downsides of Consulting an Attorney  

Most accident attorneys offer victims a free phone or in-person consultation to discuss their cases. An initial consultation provides an accident victim with an opportunity to discuss his or her situation with an attorney and learn the available legal options. It also helps the victim understand how the attorney can help. The victim also finds out the available payment arrangements. 

Most Illinois car accident attorneys offer their legal support and representation on a contingency basis. This payment arrangement allows attorneys to obtain a certain percentage from the settlement that the victim wins. In simple terms, the victim pays only after recovering monetary compensation. 

The initial consultation is not a chance for the accident victim to commit to working with the attorney. Instead, it is an opportunity for the victim to learn whether he or she needs an attorney for the car accident. It is also a chance to find out how the attorney will handle the case, and if that attorney is the best fit for his or her unique situation.

Leveling the Playing Field for the Accident Victim 

When a victim makes an accident claim, the victim is often up against a big insurance company, not the liable driver. Some accident victims worry about subjecting the other driver to agony or financial expenses, even if that driver was legally responsible for the accident. That is, however, not the case. Since most drivers have auto insurance, the victim will be dealing with the respective insurance provider. 

Insurance companies have plenty of resources and teams of professionals, including lawyers, medical practitioners, adjusters, and forensic scientists. They dedicate their resources and teams toward ensuring car accident claims are either undervalued or denied altogether. 

If the accident involves Uber, the playing field becomes even more uneven due to the addition of another company and its team of lawyers. Knowing how an uber attorney can help victims recover can help an uber accident victim get an attorney on board at the start of the claim process. 

A brilliant accident attorney can be instrumental in leveling the playing field in the victim’s engagements with the insurance company or rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. The attorney knows the bad faith insurance tactics that some insurance providers use to offer lowball settlements or deny accident claims. The attorney can also take care of the paperwork and other essential tasks associated with an insurance claim.

Victims considering settling injury claims without an attorney must have enough time, financial capability, legal understanding, and resources to stand a better chance of receiving reasonable compensation. Otherwise, they may be compelled to take low settlement amounts that cannot cover the full extent of their losses. 

Establishing Fault in the Car Accident 

The victim must present accident-related evidence to demonstrate the liable party for the accident and build a strong compensation claim. The evidence may include time-stamped photos of the accident scene, police reports, and medical documents detailing the injuries sustained and treatment received. The photos should capture skid marks, road conditions, and other hazardous conditions near the accident scene. 

Testimony from witnesses, accident reconstructionists, forensic scientists, and medical practitioners may be required to determine what caused the accident. This testimony may also help in proving certain aspects of the claim, such as long-term care needs. 

An accident attorney can collect the required evidence quickly while the accident scene is still fresh. The attorney can issue subpoenas to obtain evidence that may strengthen the case, such as cell phone records of the at-fault driver and surveillance cameras footage. 

If the victim was partially liable for the accident, he or she may still recover damages. Some states have adopted a comparative negligence rule. This rule allows an adjuster to lower the amount a victim gets in compensation by the percentage of the victim’s fault in the accident. Certain states, such as Illinois, follow a modified comparative negligence rule that bars victims who are 50% or more liable for an accident from obtaining compensation. 

An accident attorney can help the victim understand the state-specific fault rules. The attorney can also determine if the victim’s percentage of fault in the crash will still allow him or her to recover damages. 

Calculating the Full Extent of Damages After A Car Accident 

Many factors influence the amount of compensation a victim is entitled to after a crash. These factors include injury-related current and future medical expenses, cost of lost wages, vehicle repair costs, and the psychological costs of the victim’s pain and suffering. The victim may also be entitled to punitive damages if the at-fault motorist was grossly negligent. 

An Illinois car accident attorney considers all these factors when determining the amount of compensation that would reasonably and fully cover the victim’s injuries and losses. Depending on the facts of the case, the attorney can help the victim determine the available compensation sources. In most cases, the victim will pursue compensation from his or her insurance company or the at-fault party’s insurance company.

Exploring Available Options When Dealing with Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists 

In some situations, the at-fault-driver may lack an insurance policy or have a policy that does not fully compensate the victim. In such instances, an attorney can evaluate the losses incurred and explore the options available to the victim through his or her insurance policy. 

If the victim carries uninsured motorist coverage, the victim may recover most of the losses that the other driver’s insurance policy would have covered if it existed. The victim may recover compensation for medical and rehabilitation expenses, lost earnings, emotional trauma, and pain and suffering. 

The uninsured motorist coverage may not cover property damage unless the victim has collision coverage. It may not cover punitive damages, as well. 

Underinsured motorist coverage comes in when the at-fault party in the crash is not sufficiently insured to compensate the victim fully for the losses. This coverage pays the difference between the amount the victim demands as compensation and the amount paid by the underinsured driver. The victim’s insurance provider can pursue reimbursement by suing the underinsured driver. 

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit 

When the at-fault driver is underinsured or uninsured, the accident victim may not recover the full extent of damages or losses suffered. In this case, the victim has the right to recover the remainder by bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. 

The victim can also file a personal injury lawsuit if he or she feels the settlement the at-fault driver’s insurer is offering does not reasonably cover the losses. The attorney can help the victim decide the best time to file a lawsuit and take the necessary steps to meet the statute of limitations.

The victim must demonstrate the four elements of a personal injury lawsuit. An accident attorney can help the victim prove all these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Doing so will improve the odds of winning the case and obtaining a substantial settlement. These elements include:

  • Existence of a duty of care: The attorney must show that the other driver owed a legal duty to drive with reasonable care to prevent accidents with other motorists on the road. The law requires road users to exercise reasonable care for other users within their vicinity. 
  • Breach of a duty of reasonable care: This element involves demonstrating that the other driver failed to honor the duty of reasonable care. The other driver may have engaged in reckless driving, speeding, or drunk driving. 
  • Causation: This element entails showing causation. The attorney must demonstrate that the victim suffered an injury due to the failure of the other driver to honor the duty of reasonable care. 
  • Actual economic or non-economic damages: A personal injury lawsuit can be valid only when the accident victim has sustained injuries and suffered actual damages. The attorney can demonstrate damages or losses incurred by the victim through medical documents detailing diagnosis, tests, and treatments. 

Getting the Best Attorney for the Car Accident Claim 

A car accident victim should search for an attorney with a history and stellar track record of representing car accident victims. The attorney must have a reputation for thoroughly investigating facts of accident cases and helping victims recover reasonable and fair compensation. The car accident attorney must also have in-depth knowledge of state-specific personal injury laws and aggressively negotiate with the liable motorist’s insurer. 

A person who has sustained injuries or property damage in a car accident should get an accident attorney immediately after the crash. The attorney will explain the rights and legal options available to the victim. The attorney will also help the victim work through the numerous legal and administrative hurdles that often stand between the victim and reasonable compensation after a crash. 

Categories: Auto Accidents