There are four primary reasons why you should consider getting a lawyer after a car accident.
- Lawyers are experienced dealing with insurance companies
- Lawyers usually work on a contingency basis. This means you don’t have to pay anything upfront.
- Car accident cases can be complex with many different players – insurance companies, medical providers, multiple plaintiffs and even issues related to death.
- Lawyers can frequently get a higher settlement than you can usually get on your own.
1. Dealing with Insurance Companies
After experiencing a car accident, you will need to handle the claim through your insurance company as a first party claim or the insurance of the other driver as a third party claim. Typically the personal injury portion of your cases is handled separately from the property damage proportion of your case and you may be assigned to two adjusters and even receive two claim numbers. Many valid claims are denied or the settlement amounts offered are significantly less than what the case is worth. Insurance companies train their employees to settle cases for the lowest possible dollar amount to save the insurance company money.
If you’re lucky, the claims process is smooth and seamless and a settlement is proposed, but this is usually not the case. Following 9-11, the insurance industry changed. What was once a simple process of filing a claim and settling a case for a reasonable sum became a complex web of adjusters, claims specialists and claims supervisors serving as gatekeepers to the settlement funds. After 9-11, so many insurance claims were processed in the wake of the tragedy, that the insurance industry began to re-think how quickly and readily they settled claims. For a car accident victim, a denied claim can be extremely frustrating and therefore a skilled personal injury attorney can help navigate the complicated claims process.
2. Lawyers Can Take Cases on a Contingency Fee or Lien Basis
A quality auto accident attorney will typically take your case on a contingency fee or lien basis. meaning that their fees are dependent upon settlement. The standard fee is 33 and a third percent of recovery and 40 percent after discovery has commenced. When an attorney takes a case on a lien basis, it is helpful because you do not pay them anything unless they settle your case. This causes attorneys to be very selective on the cases that they take, however it also helps a client to avoid paying for services until after sums are available.
It is also wise to hire an attorney if you are involved in a complicated auto accident. Serious car accident claims may include extensive medical bills, auto damages, multiple plaintiffs and even issues related to fatalities. Even less serious accidents can result in extensive medical bills. A simple ambulance ride to the emergency room can cost upwards of $1500.00 and emergency room care is costly. Accident victims requiring surgery or hospital stays can face bills that exceed their insurance limits and these bills become due regardless of whether the case has settled. Your attorney can contact your creditors an advise them of the prospect of settlement, keep these bills out of collections (hence avoid adverse credit implications) and even negotiate the bills once a settlement is received.
Reaching the Statute of Limitations
Another complication can arise if you’ve waited too close to the statute of limitations, that is, the time period within which to either (1) settle your claim or (2) file a lawsuit to preserve your right to a settlement. This time period varies by state, but in California, the time period is (2) years. If a personal injury victim waits until after the statute of limitations, they will lose their ability to settle a case, regardless of how valid the claim.
Anytime there is a death involved, the case is more complicated. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a wrongful death claim can be filed. Wrongful death cases are almost always handled in court so having an attorney is almost a requirement.
4. Lawyers Can Often Get a Higher Settlement
According to a study by the Insurance Research Council, settlements with attorney representation were 40% higher than those without. Often attorneys have the appropriate language and information at their disposal to raise settlement amounts significantly. An attorney will put together a comprehensive settlement demand, communicate with medical providers to receive narratives that articulate all facts related to the accident, gather all medical records and billings and summarize wage loss claims. As mentioned earlier, if a case is taken on a contingency fee basis, an attorney is motivated to settle the case for the highest dollar amount because their recovery is greater.