Eight Signs for When to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident
When another driver’s behavior causes an accident that results in injury, injured victims may be entitled to seek compensation. Injured victims have a right to compensation for accident-related injuries, damage to their vehicle, and other expenses related to losses from the accident.
When do injured victims need an attorney to step in and help?
After suffering injuries in a car accident, an attorney may assist victims in calculating the value of their claim. Experienced car accident attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they deserve.
1. Accidents Resulting in Serious Injury
Car accident victims sustain a wide variety of injuries varying in severity. Among the most serious injuries are spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injuries, and amputations. Severe injuries entail extensive medical expenses and oftentimes lifelong limitations. For injured victims who require hospitalizations, surgical procedures, and long-term therapy, medical bills can quickly become significant. Unfortunately, insurance companies may be reluctant to compensate injured victims, even if the responsible party’s policy provides sufficient coverage.
Each year, across our firm’s home state of Florida, around 20,000 victims suffer incapacitating injuries in car accidents. Many thousands more get hurt across the nation. Luckily, experienced car accident attorneys know how to fight for injured victims to ensure they receive the compensation they deserve.
2. Multiple Parties May Share Liability for an Accident
In most cases, claims involving only one responsible party are likely to be relatively straightforward. On the other hand, when more than one party contributed to causing an accident, the claims process can become much more complex.
Multiple parties may share in liability even if they were not present at the scene of the accident. Injured victims may be entitled to include multiple parties in their car accident claim if:
- A mechanic recently worked on the vehicle that caused the accident, but failed to repair it properly. A mechanic who fails to properly repair a vehicle, resulting in an accident that causes substantial injuries, may bear liability for any accident-related damages.
- A mechanical failure occurred even though the vehicle was used properly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. Mechanical failures, including tire blowouts, can cause severe accidents on the road. Oftentimes, when a vehicle experiences a mechanical failure, the operator is unaware of the problem until it is too late. If a mechanical failure contributed to causing an accident, injured victims may need an attorney to investigate the source of the defect. Gathering evidence of past instances of mechanical failure in similar vehicles may entitle victims to pursue compensation from the vehicle or parts manufacturer.
- The driver’s company contributed to the accident. If a driver is acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident, his employer may share responsibility for resulting damages. For example, a truck driver may become fatigued and cause an accident because his employer forced him to work beyond the number of hours permitted by federal regulations. When employers ignore work-hour limitations, they may be responsible for damages resulting from an accident caused by a drowsy employee. If a truck is loaded improperly or cargo is not adequately secured, and the weight imbalance causes an accident, the loading company may share liability. Injured victims should consult an attorney if they have suffered injuries in an accident involving a commercial vehicle.
3. The Police Report States Indicates the Other Party’s Fault, But They Argue You are Responsible for the Accident
Officers who respond to the scene of the accident will compile a police report detailing their determination of fault for the accident, including any contributing factors observed at the scene. The police report serves to establish fault and additionally, provides crucial information about the time the accident occurred, where it occurred, and the contributing factors that caused the accident.
Unfortunately, sometimes, police reports contain errors and inaccuracies. The other driver’s insurance company may attempt to use the details of that report to claim that you are fully or partially liable for the accident.
If you indicate or accept partial liability, the amount of compensation you may be entitled to seek can be substantially limited. When appropriate, an attorney may help collect evidence from the scene of the accident to demonstrate that the injured party did not contribute to causing the accident. If you can prove you were not at fault, you may be entitled to seek additional compensation from the responsible parties.
4. The Police Report May Incorrectly Assign Fault
As mentioned, police reports frequently contain errors, especially if the officer receives inaccurate information at the scene of the accident.
Unfortunately, a police report that claims the injured victim caused the accident can make it difficult for them to obtain the compensation they deserve.
Injured victims may bear personal liability for the costs of their injuries and damage to their vehicles. An attorney may help collect evidence from the scene of the accident to help injured victims overcome the incorrect police statement.
Evidence that may prove a party did not cause or contribute to the accident may include:
- Witness statements. The sooner an attorney starts working to collect witness statements from the accident, the more accurate the statements will be. Witness statements can help establish a better picture of what occurred at the time of the accident. Witnesses may provide critical evidence enabling an attorney to shift liability back to the party who is actually responsible.
- Video footage. Dash camera footage from your vehicle can help show exactly what occurred at the scene of the accident. In many cases, dash camera footage has helped establish the actual causes contributing to serious accidents. If you do not have a dash camera, that does not rule out the usefulness of video footage. An attorney may help injured victims to access video footage from traffic cameras or security cameras located near the scene of the accident. Surveillance footage can help establish the events that led up to the accident or may show clear evidence of fault from the accident itself.
- Reconstructing the scene of the accident with an expert witness. An expert witness can help recreate the scene of an accident through careful investigation of the evidence left behind. Through analysis of each vehicle’s respective damages and skid mark placement on the road, experts may establish which party caused the accident.
- Going over logbooks. Commercial drivers typically keep logbooks of their travel time, either on paper or, more commonly, electronically. Logbooks contain vital information about the number of hours the driver has spent behind the wheel, when they last stopped, the truck’s cargo, and more. Often, an attorney can use that information to help establish factors that may have contributed to the accident, including factors that could shift liability to the driver’s employer.
- Evaluating the car for mechanical problems that could have contributed to the accident. Most experienced attorneys have developed a network of contacts, including certified mechanics who can examine a vehicle to determine whether a mechanical failure contributed to the accident.
In many cases, an attorney can gain access to information that injured victims may not have the capacity to obtain on their own. Attorneys can help their clients streamline evidence collection and in turn, the process of receiving compensation for their injuries.
5. The Insurance Company Offered a Settlement Soon After the Accident
Following a car accident, many insurance companies will contact the victim and typically issue a settlement offer as soon as possible. Settlements may entice injured victims because they efficiently offer much-needed funds. However, injured victims should use caution before accepting any settlement offer. Initial offers typically will not fully cover the full extent of accident expenses. Insurance companies may aim to minimize their financial liability for the accident, rather than providing the funds you really need.
If you receive a fast, early settlement offer, you should consider consulting an attorney before accepting it. An experienced car accident attorney can evaluate the fairness of the offer. They may compare the offer to the insurance policy that covers the claim, giving victims a better understanding of whether the offer reflects the true value of their claim. In many cases, an attorney may advise their client to negotiate for further compensation, rather than accepting the initial offer.
Once an injured victim accepts an insurance company’s settlement offer, they typically are required to relieve the responsible party from any future financial liability for the accident. Should one accept a settlement, despite its inadequacy, they will be barred from seeking further compensation for their injuries. Injured victims should always discuss their options and the settlement offer with an attorney before accepting to ensure their right to compensation is protected.
6. Significant Time Has Passed Since the Accident and No Claim Has Been Filed
It is not uncommon, in the aftermath of a traumatic accident, for time to pass quickly as individuals focus on their recovery. Injured victims may be focused on their injuries, or on their need to return to work, or on all of the other details of their life, and forget the need to file a car accident claim.
In some cases, injured victims may initiate the claims process, but never actively seek resolution of the claim. Some individuals may choose to wait to gather more evidence. Others, who experience more severe injuries may want to wait until they have a better understanding of how their injuries will impact their lives long-term.
If quite some time has passed since the accident, however, victims may need additional help collecting evidence or proving their claim. Contact an attorney to learn more about your rights, including what to do when you discover injuries from an accident long after the accident itself.
7. The Insurance Company Fails to Offer Adequate Compensation
Sometimes, insurance companies delay their response to an accident claim. Representatives may offer injured victims compensation, but the amount of compensation may be insufficient to fully cover the medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses related to the accident. Other times, insurance companies agree to acceptable compensation, but fail to issue that compensation promptly. Injured victims should not have to go back and forth with the insurance company to get the compensation they deserve.
Once a settlement offer has been formally accepted, the insurance company or responsible party has a limited amount of time to deliver the compensation agreed upon. If you find yourself struggling with the insurance company, an experienced car accident attorney can speed up negotiations.
8. Obtaining Information About Injured Victim’s Rights
Injured victims may not know the actual amount of compensation they deserve after suffering injuries in a car accident. They might have a vague idea of what the statute of limitations means, but not how it will impact their claim. An attorney can provide injured victims with valuable legal advice about their rights after a serious car accident, including how much compensation they are entitled to.
An experienced car accident attorney can help clients calculate and track the cost of their medical bills and predict lost wages and value pain and suffering. An attorney may also provide injured victims with a clear timeline of the claims process, so they will know when to expect to receive their compensation.
When to Contact an Attorney
Ideally, injured victims should contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. By contacting an attorney early in the process, they can easily gather critical evidence to demonstrate who caused the accident. Witnesses’ memories often fade quickly after an accident, especially if the event caused them trauma.
A car accident attorney may also find it easier to locate other evidence, including video footage or copies of the driver’s logbooks, if the investigation begins as soon as possible after the accident.
Do not wait. If you suffered serious injuries in an auto accident, contact an experienced car accident attorney today.