Some people are fortunate enough to never face a situation where they have to think about hiring a lawyer. While lawyers can provide invaluable services to people in challenging situations, the thought of hiring a car accident attorney and participating in a lawsuit is an overwhelming feeling. After experiencing the stress and trauma of a car accident, hiring a vehicular accident lawyer may seem like an unnecessary step, especially if the person who was at fault has insurance to cover the claim. However, a personal injury attorney can take the stress away from you and work to get compensation for your injuries while you take the time to recover.
How is Fault Determined in an Accident?
Most car accidents occur because of negligence. Negligence occurs when a driver does not operate her vehicle in a reasonable manner and does something that cases and accident and injury to another person. Examples of negligence in a car accident include changing lanes without a signal, operating a vehicle which malfunctions because of poor maintenance, or running a red light. If a person is negligent and causes an accident, that person is referred to as “at fault”. The other person who was hit is “not at fault”.
Sometimes negligence is obvious, such as when someone runs a red light and hits another driver. However, in other cases, the cause of the accident is not as clear. There may be multiple drivers involved and more than one factor which contributed to the accident. As a driver who was involved in the accident, you may not be aware of all those factors and may be accused of being at fault yourself by the other driver’s insurance company.
The person who is at fault is responsible for paying for the damages caused by her actions, which includes damages to the cars, roadway, and medical expenses for injuries. They may also be responsible for other damages, such as lost wages for the not at fault driver if their injuries caused them to miss work.
Vehicular Accident Lawyer: Doesn’t Insurance Pay for Damages?
Drivers on California roads are required to have insurance which will pay for damages in the event of an accident. People who are not at fault in an accident may believe that the at fault driver’s insurance will give them fair compensation for their injuries and damages and that an attorney is not necessary. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many victims.
Insurance companies are in business for profit. Their goal is to keep as must profit as possible, and that means they will offer the bare minimum for claims, or even worse, they will attempt to avoid paying victims by claiming that the victim was at fault for the accident. They may also deny payments for certain medical procedures and refuse to pay for any damages related to lost wages, rental vehicles, or other common expenses suffered after a car accident. A car accident lawyers can advocate on your behalf to get the amount of damages you deserve, and they are experienced in negotiating with difficult insurance companies.
Some drivers do not have insurance coverage or don’t have enough insurance to cover all of the damages sustained by the not at fault driver. California’s minimum insurance coverage limits (meaning, the minimum amount of insurance coverage California residents are required to carry) are $15,000 for death and injury to one person, $30,000 for death or injury to more than one person, and $5,000 for damage to property. These limits are not enough to compensate victims after a serious accident. In those situations, there are sometimes coverages available from the victim’s own insurance company or the victim can sue the at fault driver directly to recover the additional damages. These actions require the assistance of an experienced vehicular accident lawyers.
Don’t the Police Determine Fault?
Usually, police respond to the scene of an accident. While there, they review the damages and position of the vehicles, talk to drivers and witnesses, and make sure that injured parties receive medical care. They also facilitate clearing the road. Within a few days, the police draft a report about the accident which includes a statement of who was at fault according to the police officer.
These reports can be used to support a claim regarding fault, but they are not the only factor used. Also, they can be incorrect. A police offer makes a quick determination based on a short review of the circumstances of an accident. A personal injury lawyer, on the other hand, spends hours reviewing the evidence, talking to witnesses, locating surveillance, and discussing the case with experts. While the police report will certainly be used during negotiations, it should not be relied on exclusively to determine fault.
What A Personal Injury Attorney Does
Personal injury attorneys complete the following tasks on behalf of their clients:
- Determine who is at fault in the accident
- Review insurance policies and other coverage available to the victim
- Request compensation for their client’s injuries, property damages, lost wages, and future medical expenses and loss of income
- Talk to police, witnesses, doctors, and other individuals to build a strong case
- Prepare expert reports, get second opinions for damage quotes, and assist with arranging medical care
- File a lawsuit if necessary
- Prepare motions and other documents on behalf of clients to file in court
- Attend mediations or trials on behalf of clients
When a personal injury lawyer is retained on a case, they work hard so that clients don’t have to stress about getting compensation. Clients should be focused on recovery and getting back to their lifestyle experienced before the accident, which isn’t possible if they are attempting to negotiate with insurance companies and adjustors on their own.
Cost of a Personal Injury Attorney
Lawyers have a reputation for being expensive, and after an accident, some might think they can’t afford to hire one. Fortunately, car accident lawyers don’t work that way. They get paid from the settlement funds collected on your behalf after an accident. They will also pay the expenses for the case up front, such as court filing fees, expert fees, and other costs necessary to litigate the case. After your case is successfully settled, the vehicular accident attorneys will deduct the costs and his attorney fees from the settlement amount and pay the remainder to you.
You may be thinking – doesn’t that reduce the amount I receive? While the short answer is yes, it is also true that the average settlement received for car accident victims is significantly higher when an attorney is engaged in the process. That is because attorneys are experienced negotiators and they know how much it actually costs for medical care, vehicle repair, therapy, and other expenses, and they can request lost wages and other compensation which isn’t usually offered by the insurance companies.
If you were in an accident which wasn’t your fault, you may be putting yourself through unnecessary stress and leaving compensation for your injuries on the table if you try to go through the settlement process alone. Personal injury attorneys generally offer free consultations, so you can discuss the facts of your case and determine whether an attorney can assist you, how much compensation you may receive, and ensure that you are getting proper medical care. There is no obligation to hire an attorney for your accident, but there is no risk in talking to one to see if it is the best option for you.