When Do I Need to Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident?

Woman Reading Letter After Receiving Neck Injury From Car Accident.

When is it smart to hire an attorney after a car accident? If there was no injury in the accident, you probably do not need an attorney. For minor injuries that heal quickly and do not significantly interfere with life, you probably do not need an attorney, but make sure that a doctor has confirmed the true extent of your injuries. If you are reasonably certain that your minor injuries will not later intensify, the insurance company can take care of you.

Broken bones and herniated disks are not minor. It is also not minor if you are a primary caregiver of an adult and the injuries prevent you from continuing that care.

A good rule of thumb is to seriously consider hiring an attorney if your medical bills look like they will be growing to more than $1,000. Of course this would include fatal injuries.

Any complicated circumstances should involve an attorney as well as anything that is likely to require expert testimony to prove in court. Of course, if the other side has filed a lawsuit against you, you should hire an attorney to defend and make counter-claims. Also, certain specific factors in the accident can complicate matters, making an attorney all but necessary if you intend to receive a fair settlement.

These factors include:

  • Drivers that are intoxicated or “under the influence
  • Large trucks or buses
  • Insurance policies that fail to cover your expenses
  • Road construction
  • Defective auto parts
  • Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians

Moreover, if there is disagreement as to who is at fault for the accident, you should hire an attorney. You generally need legal expertise to know whether or not, given the facts of your collision, you can prove “fault” in a court of law. What seems obvious to you may not seem so to a jury. Also, you may not be allowed to tell the jury your “common sense” conclusions, even when they are based on first-hand observations. An attorney will know what kind of chance you will have in court.

If your injuries are of the sort that will interfere with your ability to concentrate and think carefully, you are much better off trusting an attorney to evaluate the important decisions for you.

If you do not have the time to learn the “rules of the road” when it comes to settling car accident insurance claims, do not hesitate to hire an attorney who already knows what he or she needs to do. Attorneys also do a lot of time-consuming legwork in personal injury matters. Communicating with medical service providers and the insurance company, gathering police reports, witness statements, medical records, and itemized invoices.

If you are concerned that you are being taken advantage of or if the insurance policy is unusual and confusing, you will want an attorney to be your champion. Although it is natural for the insurance company to challenge your claims for medical expenses, it is not natural for them to refuse to pay legitimate expenses. If your insurance company has so refused, you need an attorney. Of course, it would be smart to make the decision before you get too far in the negotiation process.

If you attempt to negotiate with the insurance adjuster first, and then bring in an attorney later, it could limit an attorney’s options. Once the insurance company has heard your version of events and reviewed your medical records, it has the evidence to build a case against you. This is especially the case if you have a previously existing injury similar to the collision-related injury. The insurance company will argue that any ongoing pain and suffering came from the earlier injury and was not related to the accident. If the insurance company has denied your claim and refuses to reconsider, hire an attorney.

If you have waited three years or more to file a claim, you definitely need to see an attorney. The Florida statute of limitations limits car accident claims (based on negligence) to four years from the date of loss.

Another common negotiation tactic of insurance companies is to offer a structured settlement instead of a one-time payment. This can get complicated. You will want an attorney to work out payment details.

If you want to claim lost income but your income does not consist of typical wages and your claim can not be proven by showing how much you are paid and how much work time you have missed, you will need an attorney. This happens with people who are paid commission, or own a business, or work as a consultant, or have part-time side businesses.