What Does a Car Accident Lawyer Do?
Key characteristics of a capable accident attorneyBy Kimberly Lekman, Esq. | Last updated on July 18, 2022
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- Evaluate Your Car Accident Claim
- Gather Evidence
- Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement
- Take Your Case to Trial
A car accident lawyer specializes in helping victims of car accidents to recover financially for their accidents through personal injury claims. If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident that was not your fault, you may be thinking about filing a car accident lawsuit against the parties who were responsible. An experienced lawyer can assess the details of your crash and tell you if you have a solid legal claim. They can then gather evidence, build a personal injury case, and guide you through the claims process. The following overview will help you understand the many additional ways a car accident lawyer can help you after your car accident.
Evaluate Your Car Accident Claim
After a car accident, you may be unsure whether you have a strong enough case to take legal action. Personal injury attorneys typically offer a free case evaluation to help you decide whether to sue. At this free consultation, you will explain your accident to the attorney, and they will ask you some questions. The attorney will then give you some legal advice and tell you whether they think you have a valid legal claim. It’s also wise to use this meeting to ask about the attorney’s experience with car accident cases. An experienced car accident lawyer will know how to handle auto insurance companies and the specific fact patterns associated with car crashes.
If you were the victim of a car accident that was not your fault, you should seek medical treatment first and foremost. Next, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney as soon as possible. There may be a time limit (a statute of limitation) on your ability to file a personal injury claim for car accident injuries in your state. By contacting an attorney as soon as possible, you can preserve your right to file a claim.
If the cost of legal representation is a concern, you will be happy to hear that most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation and accept payment on a contingency fee basis. With contingency fees, the lawyer collects a percentage of the settlement or verdict you receive instead of charging an hourly rate. For many car accident victims, it’s reassuring to know that their attorney has a stake in the outcome of their case. Before you commit to an attorney, it’s wise to ask them about their fee arrangement.
After a car accident, your lawyer will gather as much evidence as they can. To get a general understanding of what happened, your lawyer will start by asking you about the crash. They will then collect evidence from a variety of sources, including:
- Medical records and medical bills: After suffering a car accident, you may find that you accumulate substantial bills for medical expenses. Your attorney will want a record of these bills and your medical record. These documents provide evidence of the injuries you suffered due to the car accident. Depending on the medical provider, medical records can take a long time to gather. Your attorney’s law firm staff might need to make multiple requests before the medical provider responds. Meanwhile, you can focus your attention on recovering from the accident.
- Police reports: When the police arrive at the accident scene, they will first make sure everyone is safe. Then they may need to redirect traffic, take photos, and possibly give citations. Before they leave, they will create a police report that includes details about the parties involved in the accident, the time and location, and a description of physical injuries. The report will also likely include a statement on what they believe caused the crash. Your attorney can use this document to determine who caused the collision.
- Accident scene reconstruction: With an accident scene reconstruction, experts look at vehicle damage, skid patterns, and other evidence to recreate the accident. Your car accident lawyer might determine that an accident scene reconstruction is necessary if there is insufficient evidence to prove a key element in your case. For example, if you and the other party have different opinions about the speed you were going, accident reconstruction can help establish this fact more conclusively.
- Photos of the accident: Your attorney will examine any photos you or eyewitnesses took of the accident. Photos are valuable evidence in car crash cases because they illustrate the positioning of the vehicles, the weather, time of day, and other environmental conditions. Further, they can provide visual evidence of the property damage you incurred.
- Eye witness statements: If there were bystanders at the accident scene, your lawyer will talk to them and get statements about what they saw.
- Video footage: Many major roadways have traffic cameras situated at regular intervals. If a video camera captured your accident, your attorney could request this footage. Video evidence of your accident can illustrate the sequence of events that led to the collision. Your attorney can use this video evidence to show fault.
Your car accident attorney will use this evidence to prove fault as well as damages. For example, if your attorney has video evidence that the other driver ran a red light before colliding with your car, this evidence shows the other party’s fault. If photos of the crash scene show dents in your vehicle and physical injuries, they can use this evidence to illustrate the damages that you have suffered. Your car accident attorney can then seek financial compensation for your injuries using this evidence.
Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement
After your auto accident attorney has gathered evidence pertaining to your accident, they will use this information to build your case. Once they have determined who was at fault for the collision, they will calculate your damages. Depending on your case, your damages could include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost earnings
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
- Punitive damages, in rare cases
- Wrongful death if you lost a loved one in a crash
If you have serious injuries or costly property damage, you should receive fair compensation from the at-fault driver. Having calculated your damages, your attorney will know how much your case is worth. They can use this information to negotiate a settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance adjusters.
Drawing on their experience, your attorney can reject low-ball settlement offers and present counteroffers. The negotiation process will probably go back and forth a few times before you and the other party agree on a fair settlement. Most car accident cases end this way, but in special circumstances, your attorney may recommend that you go to trial.
If the other driver’s insurance company asks you for a statement during the negotiation process, it’s wise to redirect them to your attorney. By seeking help from your attorney, you can avoid accidentally assuming responsibility for an accident that was not your fault. If you mistakenly say anything incriminating, the insurance company might try to use your misstatement to lower your payout. On the other hand, your attorney should know what to say and will have experience with handling insurance claims adjusters.
Take Your Case to Trial
The vast majority of car accident victims resolve their claims outside of the courtroom. However, your attorney will need to be prepared to go to trial if settlement negotiations break down. If you decide to go to trial, this is where your legal representation will be essential.
The other party’s insurance company will have skilled lawyers on their side. But an experienced car accident attorney will know how to argue against the insurer’s lawyers. They will represent you in a courtroom and argue the case on your behalf. Although going to trial is a stressful experience, having a trusted auto accident lawyer by your side can ease your mind.
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