Should You Hire a Lawyer After an Accident in California?
Depending on the specific circumstances involved, you may benefit from consulting with a car accident lawyer. Even if you believe the accident is too minor to warrant speaking with a lawyer, you may have a case that an attorney can help pursue. If another party was at fault, victims might be able to seek compensation for various damages sustained, including injuries and property damage.
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If you don’t know whether it is worth it to consult an attorney in your case, you need to know when to talk to a lawyer.
The Risk of Underlying Injuries
Although an accident may seem to have occurred without causing any injuries, you may sustain some injuries that do not become apparent until days or even weeks after the accident. However, many accident victims believe that they are not injured because they feel no initial symptoms, leading them to avoid seeking treatment.
Often, people associate accidents with more severe injuries that are immediately apparent, such as lacerations and broken bones. However, many injuries that develop may not become symptomatic until after the accident. For example, some victims may suffer stretched ligaments, strained tendons, tissue damage, nerve damage, or other injuries that do not exhibit immediate signs.
Following an accident, victims often experience an adrenaline rush that can mask pain, only for the pain to surface later.
See a doctor shortly after an accident to ensure injuries are not more serious than they appear.
The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you will be able to receive it and prevent injuries from worsening.
Keep in mind that seeking treatment and filing a report with your insurance and the police will help you build a stronger case. Conversely, if you wait too long to seek treatment and choose to file a claim or lawsuit, opposing parties may claim that you are exaggerating your injuries.
When You Should Hire an Accident Attorney
Insurance claims adjusters and attorneys start working on accident claims immediately after an accident. If the insured party was liable for the accident, their insurance company’s employees might attempt to prove that the other party was at least partially liable.
They may also work to undermine the claimant’s case to avoid paying out large sums of money. In the process, adjusters may offer the lowest settlement amount possible and hope that the claimant does not know the actual value of their claim.
By consulting with an experienced accident attorney, you can learn about the options available and determine how much your case is worth. You may also be able to receive help with negotiating with insurance companies and liable parties.
Specifically, there are several situations when you should consider hiring an attorney to handle your case. These include:
When You Suffer Injuries and Serious Damage to Your Vehicle
In cases where drivers and passengers are in a minor accident that does not cause anything beyond superficial damage to vehicles, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney. On the other hand, more extensive damage and injuries will make it worth it to hire an attorney.
A lawyer with experience handling car accident cases can let you know your legal rights and determine if you have a strong case. An attorney can also help calculate all of the damages resulting from the accident, including treatment for injuries, lost income, and certain non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
When Someone Else Is Potentially Liable for the Accident and Damages
In many cases, someone else’s negligence may contribute to an accident. If you are in an accident and believe that another party caused it, you may be able to prove that the other party was liable for the accident. Even if your vehicle loses control, this could indicate a problem with the vehicle’s parts and may indicate a liable manufacturer.
You Have Received a Minimal Settlement Offer
Insurance companies do not want to pay large amounts to accident victims when possible. Because of this, adjusters often try to make the lowest possible offer, even if the victims’ cases are worth more than the initial offer suggests.
This is why you may benefit from consulting an attorney to discuss the worth of your case and help negotiate with insurers.
An attorney can work to obtain medical records and other evidence that can support your case. Otherwise, if you accept a settlement before ensuring it is the right amount, you may be unable to request a new amount.
Injuries Are Serious and Long-Term
If injuries are permanent and severe, they could come with steep costs. Hospitalizations and surgeries may lead to significant medical bills. Other potential expenses include lost wages and earning capacity, modifications made to the home, physical therapy and rehabilitation, etc. With the help of a qualified attorney, you may be able to recover full compensation for these damages.
A Governmental Agency May Have Practiced Negligence
If a government entity is liable for damages, it is often more challenging to recover full compensation for damages that it caused. You will be able to increase your chances of getting the compensation you deserve if you work with a reputable attorney. The right lawyer will have experience handling cases involving governmental agencies and their employees.
You Lost a Loved One Because of an Accident
If a loved one succumbs to injuries sustained in an accident and another party’s negligence is responsible, you may qualify for compensation through a wrongful death claim. For instance, a negligent truck driver may cause an accident that injuries and leads to the death of multiple drivers and passengers. The victims’ families may be able to file a wrongful death suit to recover compensation for the resulting damages.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Regardless of the severity of an accident, there are specific steps you should take to handle it properly and maximize your chances of getting compensation through a claim or lawsuit. The following are some specific steps you should take after an accident occurs.
Remain at the Accident Scene
If you are involved in an accident, you should never leave the scene, as this can lead to serious legal repercussions and minimize your chances of receiving compensation. If the accident does not cause more than minor damage to the vehicles involved, it may not be necessary to file a police report before filing a claim with insurers.
However, if the accident resulted in injuries and more severe damage to vehicles, the next step would be to call the police. A police report can help support your claim by confirming your account.
If anyone sustains serious injuries because of an accident, contacting emergency services can also lead to immediate medical treatment.
Collect Evidence at the Scene
If possible, you should begin collecting evidence at the accident scene. This can include photos of the scene, vehicle and property damage, and injuries. Additionally, you should get contact information from everyone involved, along with witnesses.
An attorney may then be able to organize this evidence to help build a successful case. Suppose you cannot gather evidence at the scene immediately after the accident. In that case, your lawyer can return to the scene later to take photos or record video footage, which could include skid marks and remaining damage.
Do Not Admit Fault
Even if you believe that you are partially or entirely at fault for an accident, you should never admit fault. Often, one or more other parties may be at fault for an accident, but it can be difficult to gauge who is at fault until the people involved have had time to collect evidence and analyze the accident. Through a police report and legal representation, victims may be able to better determine who was at fault for the accident.
Seek Medical Treatment
As mentioned, even minor accidents can lead to underlying injuries that may not become apparent until days after the accident. If you suspect that you sustained injuries in an accident, seek professional medical treatment as soon as possible. A medical professional can perform a proper examination and give you a diagnosis that leads to treatment.
This will begin your recovery and generate medical bills to support your claim. Otherwise, waiting too long could make it challenging to prove that injuries resulted from the accident.
Speak with an Attorney Before Negotiating with Insurers
Insurance companies do not have accident victims’ best interests in mind. Adjusters are likely to make the lowest possible settlement offer. Instead of negotiating with insurers on your own, consult an attorney to learn more about your options.
A lawyer will calculate the actual value of your case and give you a better understanding of what type of compensation you may recover.
Look Closely at the Police Report
If an accident warrants a police report, review the report. Doing so can help you ensure the details in the police report match your claim. If you disagree with the facts in the report, tell the officers before signing it. This could lead to changes in the report that better reflect the events as they occurred.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
If your case is simple, you may not need the help of an attorney to settle it. However, if your case is more complex and involves steep costs, you may benefit from working with an accident attorney. This is particularly crucial if your case goes to court, as an experienced lawyer will be able to help prepare for trial with a strong defense.
Another benefit of hiring a lawyer is the ability to focus on recovering from your injuries. The stress of an accident case can hinder your ability to make a full recovery as quickly. Instead, consider hiring an attorney who can organize the evidence and handle the details of your case, which will allow you to spend time healing.
An attorney can work with all types of evidence to help support your claim, including:
- Accident scene photos
- Police reports
- Photos of damaged vehicles and other property
- Eyewitness statements
- Medical records
- Work records
- Vehicle event data recorder information
- Manufacturer records and information about recalls
- Electronic evidence such as phone records
In addition, an attorney can consult other experts to help further build your case. For example, your lawyer may work with an accident reconstruction expert who can relay the specific events of the accident, which could conflict with the defendant’s claims.
The Cost of Hiring an Accident Attorney
Some people may be reluctant to hire a lawyer because of the potential costs associated with them.
A reputable accident lawyer works on a contingency fee basis. This means that the attorney will not require payment until they settle.
Your lawyer will work to build your case and gather as much evidence as possible to support it while enabling you to spend money on recovering as you seek compensation. Your attorney will also let you know how much the cost will be at the end of the case, ensuring you do not encounter any unpleasant surprises through hidden fees.
Increase Your Chances of Compensation With an Attorney
If you are in a minor or severe accident, hiring an attorney to handle your case may be in your best interests. The right lawyer will be able to determine if you have a valid claim.
If the attorney decides to take on your case, they can begin gathering evidence and working toward building a strong claim. This will help increase your chances of getting the compensation you deserve and prevent insurance companies from taking advantage of you.
With the right attorney by your side, you can benefit from their knowledge and experience backing your case. Contact us today to begin your process.