Should I get an attorney after my car accident?
In some cases, an attorney is absolutely necessary. In other cases, your claim may be resolved quicker and with fewer steps by not getting an attorney involved. Many attorneys—including the Joe Lopez Law PC, where I practice personal injury litigation in Austin, TX—do offer free consultations to evaluate the prospects of your case with you.
This blog post serves to give a general understanding of how to evaluate your options.
I only feel like I sustained minor injuries along with the damage to my vehicle. Should I get an attorney?
Whether you consider your injuries “minor” or more serious, you should absolutely seek out a free consultation from an experienced bodily injury attorney practicing in your area.
When talking to adjusters—and most have phone lines which auto-record conversations—your words can be scrutinized for consistency, making explaining yourself difficult, especially if you’ve been shaken up, stressed out, and/or injured following the car crash
Any inconsistency early on—or missing information—could interrupt or even undermine your bodily injury or property claim later. Insurance companies and their employees will use any reason they perceive as substantive in order to avoid paying for costly medical bills.
What problems can come with handling a claim myself if I am injured?
- Not receiving compensation for medical bills incurred directly after the crash
- Not receiving adequate compensation for future medical bills to treat lasting injuries caused by the accident
- Not receiving compensation for the full extent of the damage to your property/vehicle
Some accidents are minor in nature. However, even low-impact car crashes can cause severe and permanent injuries which can be difficult to assess until after the initial shock and soreness wears off.
I personally resolved a claim in which my client was rewarded the $100,000 limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy when my client was severely hurt by a low-impact car crash from behind. Initially in the hours following the accident, she mistook her aches for strain and soreness.
The insurance adjusters discounted her complaints of pain and injury because they did not believe she could have been significantly injured based on the photos of her vehicle damage. However, like kicking an anthill, the impact caused a tearing of her shoulder that could only be repaired through surgery estimated at $61,000.00.
What initially seemed like a minor accident was quickly recognized as a major problem, and our firm was able to advocate on our client’s behalf to obtain the policy limits of $100,000.00.
Most bodily injury attorneys will oversee the handling of your property damage claim (and vehicle repair/replacement) as a courtesy during the course of handling your personally injury claim.
More, we handle your bodily injury claim on a contingency basis, meaning you do not have to pay any money up front. Our fee is a percentage of the final gross recovery. For more information, see my previous post, WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CONTINGENCY-BASED ATTORNEY FEE AGREEMENT.
The only damages were to my property or vehicle. Should I get an attorney?
It is likely not necessary to hire an attorney because the claim can usually be resolved without one. Generally speaking, the claims process for property damage is routine enough to get your vehicle repaired or replaced to resemble the “same like and kind” as it was before the accident.
Property adjusters are employed by the insurance company. Their job is to resolve the claim as quickly and as inexpensively as possible for their employer. The good news about this is that the actual cost to repair a vehicle can be professionally estimated using a reputable repair shop. If there is any difference between the repair shop’s estimate and the adjuster’s own expected cost, the auto repair shop will often negotiate on your behalf—and their behalf— to get full margin for the repair. The cost to replace property can be researched using online databases such as Kelly Blue Book.
However, if you were mistakenly found at fault due to dishonesty or false statements of the other driver(s) or due to a lack of research by the investigating insurance company, hiring an attorney may be your only option.
What should I do if I was found at fault?
Fault is determined by the insurance company during the investigation following the crash. They make this determination by taking statements from you, the other driver(s), and any witnesses following the crash. They also investigate for any other evidence, such as photographs or videos taken, driver history, and any statements made by first responders.
Unfortunately, people can and do make mistakes, miss things, or make false statements to hide their accountability for their actions. If you have been falsely found at fault due to oversight or deception, an attorney may help you evaluate your options for litigation.
What resources do I have to help me proceed through this process?
Despite input from friends, family, or employees of the insurance company, only you can make your fate after someone violates a law and crashes into you on the roadway. However, an attorney is an experienced legal professional whose education and knowledge of the jurisdiction and insurance company protocols, and reference to hundreds of cases either personally resolved or reviewed is invaluable for someone who is not very experienced in a claims process themselves.
We handle the claims process for property damage and bodily injury every day. We tend to get more money in property compensation and vastly more money in rewards for bodily injury bills, pain, and suffering. An error when making a property claim could cost thousands of dollars in unrecouped losses. An error when making a bodily injury claim could cost tens of thousands of dollars in uncompensated medical bills.
We are here to help. You have general questions or would like to discuss a free consultation, please call us at 512-580-9962.