When Should You Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
When you’ve just been in a car accident, the last thing you’re thinking about is whether you should call a lawyer. And yet, that initial step could save you time, money, and many headaches down the road.
Navigating the legal aftermath of a car accident starts almost as soon as the accident has occurred. There are seven common scenarios where hiring a car accident lawyer should be at the top of your priority list.
1. When You Don’t Have Insurance
Although it’s illegal in most states, it’s estimated that one in every eight drivers does not have auto insurance. In Florida, every motorist is required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and a minimum of $10,000 in Property Damage Liability (PDL) protection. Driving without PIP or PDL coverage in Florida can lead to hefty penalties such as fines, a revoked license and registration, and possible jail time.
Aside from the consequences of driving without insurance, if you get into an accident while uninsured and are found to be at fault, you could be held personally responsible for the damages to the other party’s vehicle and any injuries they suffered during the collision. On top of that, you can lose your driving privileges until the damages are paid.
For uninsured drivers found liable for an accident that results in the injury or death of someone else, Florida requires you to carry extra coverage with limits that can be 10 times higher than the statutory minimum. This penalty is significant not just because of the high insurance premiums, but also because it can be difficult to find a carrier willing to take on the risk.
If you’re an uninsured motorist who was involved in an accident, hiring an experienced car accident lawyer should be a top priority. An attorney can help you analyze the circumstances of the accident, identify whether you were fully at fault, and/or help negotiate the costs and consequences associated with getting into an accident without insurance.
Read: What Happens When There Isn’t Insurance After a Car Accident or other personal Injury? Find out here.
2. When the Other Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance
If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver in Florida, your insurance company may not cover all of your damages, leaving you with all or a portion of the medical bills, car repair costs, and lost income.
However, what the insurance company does not pay may be recoverable from the uninsured motorist. Regardless of the outcome of your claim, you’ll want to hire a car accident lawyer to help you determine what additional steps might be available for you to take.
In many cases, uninsured drivers have little money or assets, so legally pursuing them may cost you more than the damages are worth. Either way, you’ll want to talk with an experienced lawyer to discuss your options and decide whether it’s worthwhile to pursue legal action against the uninsured party.
3. When You Experience Pain and Suffering Following a Car Accident
While many injuries resulting from car accidents appear immediately after the accident, there are some symptoms that take more time to develop. Even if you feel fine after an accident, it’s important to get a medical evaluation to rule out any issues.
Even if you do get a clear bill of health right after the accident, sometimes symptoms may not become evident until days after later. These symptoms, which can include headaches, abdominal pain, back pain, or bruising, can all be signs of serious medical issues. If you experience any pain or suffering after an accident, it’s important to seek a second evaluation as soon as possible.
More long-term side effects may include emotional distress, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, fatigue, appetite loss, trouble sleeping, focus issues, depression, and panic attacks.
If you do show signs of any of these injuries or ailments, let your lawyer know about any associated medical expenses, so they can add your pain and suffering damages when negotiating a settlement with the insurance company.
If you’re worried about symptoms you’re having after the accident, consult your lawyer. It may be wise to hold off on settlement until you know the full extent of your injuries and have reached the point where your condition is not expected to improve significantly. This is referred to as your maximum medical improvement.
By hiring a car accident lawyer, you can ensure you have someone on your side who is willing to work with you to get the compensation you deserve for the pain and suffering you experienced due to the car accident and negligence of the other party.
Read: What Kind of Damages You Can Recover if You’re in a Car Accident? Find out here.
4. When You’re Not Sure That You Know All Of The Damages You Are Entitled To Recieve For Your Claim
While many people choose to navigate the claims process on their own after a car accident to save money, they aren’t always confident in their ability to reach a successful settlement (or an adequate settlement). After all, the objective of filing a claim is to recover compensation so that you are made whole again.
As soon as an incident is reported to the insurance company, the adjusters immediately begin to determine how to devalue your claim. Whether it’s because you told the other person you’re sorry in the moments following the accident or whether you agreed to give a statement immediately, these seemingly small details give insurance companies the ammunition they need to deny or disprove your claim.
If you want to avoid the hassle of chasing an insurance adjuster, then hiring an experienced car accident lawyer may be a good solution. With years of experience handling car accident claims, your lawyer will know how most insurance companies handle these claims. And, the additional money you receive may very well cover the attorney’s fees.
5. When There’s a Disagreement Over Who’s at Fault
Hiring a car accident lawyer becomes even more imperative when there is a liability dispute. These disputes often happen when drivers, or the accident report, do not agree about who was at fault for the accident.
In these cases, an experienced car accident lawyer will know how to gather admissible evidence about the accident, including security tapes, witness statements, accident reconstruction, and medical information, in order to build a strong case.
To help your lawyer, if possible, make sure you write down the names of witnesses, record anything the other driver says, and take meticulous photos of all parts of the accident scene.
Read: Why Should You Get Treatment As Soon As Possible After an Accident? Find Out Here.
6. When You Cause A Serious Injury or Fatality
Sadly, over 1.2 million people die in car accidents each year, and an additional 20-50 million become disabled due to accidents.
In the unfortunate case that you’re at fault for the serious injury or death of another person during a car accident, you’ll want to hire an attorney as soon as possible.
In a serious injury or death case, your car accident attorney will help determine whether or not you were negligent, careless, driving dangerously, driving illegally, or if you weren’t at fault for the accident. Depending on the facts surrounding the case, supported by evidence like police reports, security footage, statements, and medical records, your lawyer will be able to craft a case to defend you.
7. When Your Insurance Company Denys Coverage
Florida law protects policyholders from car insurance companies that go looking for reasons to avoid paying claims. Only if the insurance company has actual or constructive knowledge that you lied on your insurance application can they make that claim. And even in those cases, they have to act immediately to void the coverage and return any premiums already paid.
If the insurance company believes you’ve lied on your claim and continue to collect premiums or renew your coverage, it’s likely any coverage defense they present will be unsuccessful.
Just because your insurance company believes it has the information necessary to deny you coverage or deny your claim, there is plenty of case law that protects policyholders from an insurer’s unreasonable or bad-faith actions. An experienced lawyer will know how to prove to the insurance company and the court that you submitted your insurance application with material facts that were true or the information that was incorrect was not a material misstatement.
8. When Your Not Sure What You Should Tell Your Doctor or Other Medical Professional.
After the accident, you should initially move the vehicles to a safe place and ensure that everyone involved is okay. Immediately after seeking medical attention, you should contact a car accident lawyer. One of the most important things you should do, especially when you tell your doctor what happened, is to be honest. Be honest about your injuries and be honest about your past medical history. Insurance companies are very good about finding the truth and you don’t want to give them any reason to question your honesty.
Why Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, it can be difficult to think straight. If you don’t remember anything else, remember these reasons to contact an attorney.
A Car Accident Lawyer Knows the Law
Unless you’re an expert on Florida law, you can’t know which statutes or legal issues might be relevant to your situation, which means you’ll need to do research. Research means time away from family at a time when you’re trying to recover from an accident. An experienced attorney can quickly assess your situation, identify legal questions, and make interpretations of the law on your behalf.
You Don’t Have Much Time
You only have two years to file a personal injury claim following a car accident. For property damage stemming from a car accident, the statute of limitations is three years. That may seem like a lot of time but developing evidence in a car accident case can take a while. It’s best to contact a lawyer within a week or two of the accident when the facts are still fresh. Definitely contact an attorney before reaching any sort of settlement or agreement with the insurance company.
Insurance Companies Don’t Act in Your Best Interest
When it comes to injuries suffered in a car accident, insurance companies want two things: a quick turnaround and as little payout as possible. An experienced car accident lawyer can make sure a thorough examination of all the facts is conducted and that the evidence shows why you deserve the full compensation owed to you.
You Need to Protect Yourself from Counterclaims
Car accidents with multiple parties are messy. Liability can be spread around. Contacting a lawyer from the scene of the accident or immediately afterward can help ensure a level head is acting in your best interest from the very beginning. Accidents involving more than two people can get complicated, especially if several people are injured. Not only could you be subject to counterclaims and cross-claims, but you could also see any compensation owed to you reduced significantly.
You Need to Think About the Future
A typical settlement offer from an insurance company won’t account for future anticipated costs such as medical expenses, a reduction in long-term earning capacity, and pain and suffering. You could be owed much more than just your lost wages and medical bills to date. An experienced car accident attorney won’t overlook these details when assessing the situation and identifying the amount of damages to pursue. Choosing to forego an attorney and accept the insurance company’s first offer could shortchange your future.
You Don’t Need the Stress
Recovering from an accident can be draining, both emotionally and physically. Hiring a lawyer soon after the accident will ensure you only have to make top-level decisions and give you peace of mind that the details are being handled expertly and professionally. From the moment you hire a car accident law firm, you can send all correspondence, phone calls, and communication to them and trust they’ll know exactly what to say.
Whether you’ve experienced car loss, lost wages, or large medical expenses from injuries suffered during the accident, car accident lawyers know how to negotiate payments with insurance companies to ensure you’re fairly compensated.
Car Accident Lawyer Alan Sackrin Can Help
Since 1982, Alan Sackrin has represented clients throughout Florida in recovering monetary damages for car accident injuries. Alan is a Board-Certified Civil Trial Expert that strives to maximize the amount of compensation his clients receive for their claims. Alan brings a high level of skill and knowledge to his client’s car accident cases and he offers a free initial consultation.
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Learn More: See Our Car Accident Resource Page