Did you know there are around 6 million car accidents every year in the US?
Of course, some of these wrecks are no more than minor fender-benders. At the opposite end of the spectrum, severe crashes can result in multiple fatalities.
The vast majority of accidents, though, fall somewhere in the middle. This “gray area” is where things get tricky. You might receive conflicting advice about whether to hire a car accident lawyer or try to handle things on your own.
If you’re unsure how to proceed after a car accident, keep reading. We’ll offer some sound advice to help you decide whether you need to retain a car accident attorney.
Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
Legal ads on TV would have you believe that every car accident will result in a huge lawsuit with millions of dollars on the line.
For the majority of accidents, this simply isn’t true. In some cases, you may be able to navigate the legal and insurance system just fine on your own.
Here are three circumstances when you probably don’t need to hire a car accident lawyer.
1. No One Was Injured
Was your accident a minor collision that occurred at a very low speed? Were you able to return immediately to work or school with no ill effects?
It’s normal to feel surprised and shaken after an accident, but you might have walked away with no physical injuries. Generally speaking, if your injuries are minor or non-existent, it’s probably not worth pursuing legal counsel.
Of course, be careful about diagnosing yourself as “fine” without getting checked out by a doctor. Some injuries, such as whiplash, may not show up until a few days later. Let a medical professional confirm that you’re uninjured before you make any final decisions.
2. The Claim Amount Is Very Small
It’s worth doing some math to determine how much you’d stand to gain from hiring a lawyer versus how much you’ll need to pay that lawyer.
For example, did the accident damage your 20-year-old high mileage vehicle that isn’t worth much? A lawyer could (theoretically) bump up that $5,000 insurance claim to $10,000. But how much good is that going to do you if you have to give one-third to one-half of your settlement right back to the law firm?
Even if your case goes to small claims court, you’ll have to pay a lawyer a set fee or a contingency fee for their services. This could quickly negate any extra amount you’re awarded.
3. The Insurance Company Offers a Fair Settlement
Yes, insurance companies generally try to pay out as little as possible. But this doesn’t mean they’re incapable of reviewing your case and offering you a fair settlement for your injuries and damages.
If you’re uninjured, you didn’t miss any time from work, and the settlement offer is more than enough to repair your vehicle, you may be better off accepting the settlement and moving forward.
Signs You Should Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
On the other hand, there absolutely are times when personal injury protection means hiring a lawyer. Let’s consider a few circumstances when you’d be wise to meet with a car accident attorney.
1. Your Injuries Are Severe
Did your injuries result in broken bones, brain or spinal injury, or other conditions that will require time to heal? Are you facing the possibility of full or partial disability? Have you missed time from work and you’re not sure when you’ll be well enough to return?
If any of these statements are true, Google “car accident lawyer near me” immediately. The same is true if anyone else involved was seriously injured or killed.
2. It’s Not Clear Who’s At-Fault
Rear-end collisions are pretty easy to figure out, but some accidents are more complex than that. Was there bad weather, a construction zone, or pedestrians involved? Can you clearly prove that the other driver is responsible, or are the facts murky?
Keep in mind that a driver can be anywhere between 0% and 100% at fault. The police report may (or may not) provide an accurate depiction of what happens and who’s responsible for the crash.
If you have any doubts about proving who’s at fault or the details of the police report, you’ll want to speak with a lawyer. The same is true if there are multiple parties involved in the crash (more than one other driver, cyclists, pedestrians, etc).
3. You Get a Lowball Offer From the Insurance Company
Depending on the other person’s insurance company, you may or may not receive a fair settlement offer. In some cases, there may be no offer to settle at all.
Any offer you receive should factor in your injuries and vehicle repairs, but those aren’t the only considerations. What about lost wages if you need time off work? What about emotional pain and suffering or the cost of future medical bills?
If you’re having any trouble negotiating with your insurer or the other party’s insurance company, it’s time to call a lawyer.
4. You Don’t Understand Your Rights or Your Insurance Policy
Let’s face it — the legal world is complicated. Insurance policies are purposely written to be confusing, vague, or misleading. And unless you have a background in law, you may have no idea what your rights are after a car accident.
Most lawyers offer free consultations, so take advantage of their offer. Even if you decide you don’t need to hire one, you can benefit by having some of your questions answered. There’s never any harm in making an informed decision!
Car Crash? Consider Hiring a Car Accident Attorney
If the accident, the damage, and your injuries were severe, hiring a car accident attorney is a no-brainer.
However, it’s not always so cut and dry. If you’ve been on the fence about seeking legal aid, use the points outlined above to determine the best course of action.
While you’re deciding if you should hire a car accident lawyer, there’s plenty more to learn. Keep browsing our site for more helpful tips and advice!