Car accidents are prevalent on highways worldwide, with around 3,700 individuals dying in crashes daily. That’s equivalent to about 1.3 million fatalities every year. Specifically, these collisions involve pedestrians, buses, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and cars.
In 2020, approximately 4.7 million passenger cars were involved in US motor vehicle accidents. Not all of these crashes result in deaths. But notably, 26,325 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in auto accidents in 2021.
These figures indicate how common car crashes are in the US and worldwide. Since car accident injuries are the leading cause of disability and fatalities, adopting preventive measures for a safe road environment becomes more crucial.
Every motorist has a legal duty to abide by all traffic laws and drive their vehicles safely. Suppose a driver violates this duty of care and causes an auto accident and another person’s injuries. The at-fault driver can be held negligent and legally liable for the resulting damages and losses.
Car accident victims can secure monetary compensation from the liable party. However, the initial shock and confusion after the crash can cloud one’s ability to take critical steps toward protecting and asserting their legal rights.
Have you or a loved one been injured in an auto accident due to another motorist’s negligence? It’s essential to understand what you’re legally entitled to and take steps to protect those rights.
In this article, The Personal Injury Center discusses the rights of car accident victims after the crash. Likewise, we examine the importance of consulting with a car accident lawyer and other ways to protect the injured victim’s interests in this difficult situation.
|Key Takeaways |
The Importance of Consulting With a Lawyer After a Car Wreck
Understanding the measures to take following a car accident can reduce stress. More importantly, it can help prevent further injuries and maximize potential compensation.
However, being involved in an automobile accident can be overwhelming. The shock may hamper your ability to think clearly. This increases the possibility of making mistakes that compromise your rights to a fair settlement.
Remember that anything you do or say after an auto accident can be used against you. Hence, you must know your options and how to proceed in the most beneficial way possible.
The first critical step is to consult a personal injury lawyer experienced in handling cases related to car accidents. Unfortunately, many auto accident victims hesitate to consult an attorney because of financial concerns. If you’re one of them, here’s why you should seek legal counsel after a car crash:
Assess car accident liability
Determining fault is one of the trickiest aspects of any car accident case. That’s because the allocation of liability for covering damages or injuries rests primarily on motor vehicle statutes.
Under the common law of torts, negligence is the most common legal ground when determining liability in motor vehicle accidents. It typically refers to careless conduct or behavior that causes harm to another individual.
In a car accident, a driver can be considered negligent when they do something they should not have done. Typical examples include running a red light, exceeding the speed limit, or making an unsafe lane change. Negligence may also involve distracted driving or drunk driving.
Likewise, motorists can be regarded as careless if they fail to take action to keep other road users reasonably safe. Common instances are failing to stop at a red light, failing to yield the right of way, or not turning on the headlights while driving at night.
Driver negligence can take many different forms. But regardless of the specific circumstances, a skilled auto accident attorney must prove the elements of negligence.
Establishing negligence in car accident cases can be complex, especially when several parties are involved. Depending on the types and causes of the car accidents and other specific circumstances, liability may rest with different parties.
Each state also has different negligence laws that can affect your compensation amount. In states with contributory negligence laws, you might not obtain compensation even if you’re only one percent at fault for the crash.
Thankfully, only the District of Columbia and the four states of Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia still adhere to the contributory negligence system due to its harsh outcomes. On the other hand, the remaining states follow the principles of comparative negligence.
In comparative negligence states, you can still pursue compensation even if you’re partly liable for the crash. However, the percentage of your fault will reduce the amount you’re legally entitled to recover.
An experienced attorney is valuable in examining the facts to determine whether the car accident resulted from someone else’s negligence and the corresponding degree of liability.
Protect what you’re legally entitled to
Injured victims have certain legal rights after the crash. However, other entities, like insurance companies, may try to exploit them. That’s why it’s crucial to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident.
It’s worth noting that what you’re specifically entitled to may depend on the car accident laws within your jurisdiction. Nevertheless, here are the general legal rights of car accident victims, as well as how a personal injury lawyer can help assert them:
Not providing a statement
As a car crash victim, you have the right not to provide a statement to insurance adjusters or the other driver.
Knowing this is critical, as the at-fault driver’s insurance company will most likely contact you for a recorded or formal statement. It’s common for them to speak to the police and ask about your statements. Hence, stick to the facts when talking to law enforcement or investigating authorities.
What you say can affect your rights to compensation. Insurance adjusters use this tactic to deny your claim or force you to accept the smallest settlement possible.
Politely decline to make any statement and contact a lawyer to speak on your behalf. Likewise, a car accident attorney can help you craft a statement that won’t jeopardize your insurance claim.
Car accident victims can seek monetary compensation from the at-fault party. This payout is legally referred to as compensatory damages. Generally, compensatory damages injured victims can recover fall into the following categories:
- Economic damages: These damages aim to compensate you for the actual financial losses you sustained after the accident. Typical examples are medical expenses for hospitalizations, medications, and physical therapy. It also includes lost wages and earning capacity, as well as property damage.
- Noneconomic damages: These damages seek to compensate you for the non-monetary losses you suffer due to your car accident injuries. These losses often involve pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, and worsening prior injuries.
Accessing the other driver’s information
In most jurisdictions, motorists involved in a motor vehicle accident must exchange information. For instance, under Florida Statute 316.070, drivers involved in a motor vehicle accident must exchange the following information at the scene of the crash:
- Name, address, and contact information of the vehicle’s owner and driver
- The vehicle’s license plate number
- Insurance information
Asserting this right is crucial, not only because the law requires it but also because it’s vital in processing your insurance claim or the compensation you’re legally entitled to recover. A lawyer can also clarify what information you shouldn’t share with another driver after a car crash.
Obtaining a copy of the evidence
Obtaining a copy of the evidence is also part of the car accident victim’s legal rights. You can request a copy from the local law enforcement agency that responded to the car accident scene. Typically, a police report comprises the statements of the witnesses and all the parties involved.
The requirements for accessing the police report may vary depending on the jurisdiction of the police department responsible for the incident. However, in most instances, you can request a copy by filling out a form online, paying an administrative fee, or going to the law enforcement office.
You may also have an attorney initiate the request for the report. They can help speed up the request process and get a court order for its release if necessary. Additional pieces of evidence you may access are medical records and traffic camera footage.
Getting legal representation
No law requires hiring an attorney for compensation after a car crash. Although you can opt to proceed with your car accident case on your own, having a lawyer significantly improves your chances of protecting what you’re legally entitled to.
You must remember that it’s part of your rights to get legal representation at any point in the insurance claims process or personal injury lawsuit.
Navigate the car accident claim
There are several things to consider when filing a car accident claim. Fear not, since a personal injury lawyer can help you navigate this complex and often intimidating process.
Below are the typical steps and ways a lawyer can assist you at each stage, ensuring you obtain the best outcome possible.
Seeking appropriate medical attention
Prioritizing your health is paramount after getting involved in an auto accident. Even if you think you didn’t sustain injuries, you should seek medical attention promptly. Finding the appropriate healthcare providers specializing in treating your injuries might take a lot of work. However, since attorneys often have an extensive network of medical professionals, they can refer you to top-notch and most suitable medical care services.
Collecting car accident evidence is usually the first step in filing a personal injury claim. It’s common for attorneys to visit the crash location to assess the physical environment that may have contributed to the incident. They may also work with medical experts, accident reconstruction specialists, and other expert witnesses to determine the potential cause of the car accident.
Notifying the insurance company
After gathering the evidence, you must inform the insurance company about the accident. But before notifying the insurer, it’s best to consult a lawyer and discuss your legal situation. An auto accident attorney can communicate with the insurance company without compromising your legal rights.
Negotiating a fair settlement
Although they offer financial protection, insurance companies are businesses themselves seeking to turn a profit. They use various tactics to pressure you to accept their low settlement offers before you can consider your options.
But an experienced lawyer accounts for everything, including any accident-related expenses in the future. They’re skilled at dealing with insurance adjusters and negotiating a fair settlement.
Suppose the insurance company denies your claim. Lawyers can negotiate a position that is most advantageous to you.
Fight for your rights in court
A competent personal injury attorney can take your car accident case to court if a fair settlement is not reached. They will build a solid legal strategy to support and advocate for your legal rights and interests.
Since they are well-versed in court proceedings, lawyers can present a structured argument and fight for the maximum compensation you legally deserve. They will also cross-examine witnesses to ensure the testimony’s accuracy and credibility.
Ways To Prepare When Consulting With an Auto Accident Lawyer
Most auto accident lawyers don’t charge a fee for consultations. These free consultations allow you to meet in person and decide whether they’re the right fit for your legal needs. It also enables the lawyer to ask about the facts of the accident and evaluate whether you have a viable case.
However, free consultations are usually short meetings, so preparation is essential. To help you make the most of it, here are ways you can prepare when consulting an auto accident attorney:
Examine the attorney’s profile
Before scheduling a consultation, it’s recommended you take the time to examine the attorney’s profile. This is crucial to ensure they meet your legal needs and preferences. Remember that not all lawyers specialize in cases involving car accidents.
Present relevant documentation
Presenting relevant documentation is also beneficial when consulting with a lawyer. During a case review, lawyers will look at several pieces of evidence and assess whether they’re sufficient to support your claim. The following are a few examples of records and documents you can bring to an initial consultation:
- Employment records
- Police reports
- Witness contact details
- Photos from the crash scene
- Medical bills and records
- Proof of your injuries
Prepare a list of questions
A consultation with an attorney is your opportunity to determine whether you should hire their legal services. During this meeting, asking more specific questions is vital for obtaining the information you need. Have a list of questions you want to ask and clarify aspects of your case.
How To Find the Right Attorney for Your Car Accident Case
With so many law firms and attorneys, it can be challenging to know where to begin. Understanding the qualities and terms you seek in a car accident lawyer can help streamline your search. Consider these factors when searching for the right attorney to represent you in your car accident case:
- Experience and expertise: Experience and knowledge are among the most critical factors when looking for an attorney. Choose someone with extensive experience in the specific type of car accident case you’re dealing with.
- Track record and reputation: Likewise, an attorney’s track record and reputation are crucial indicators of how good they are at their job. Research the lawyer’s history of success in auto accident cases. It’s also beneficial to examine online reviews and their clients’ testimonials.
- Availability and accessibility: Choose an attorney who is available and accessible so it’s easy to ask questions about your case. Search for a responsive lawyer who updates you on your case’s developments.
- Fees and billing practices: How a lawyer decides what amount and how often to charge you is another vital factor. Understand their upfront fees and billing practices before committing to their services. Consider looking for an attorney who operates on a contingency fee basis. They only get paid for their services if you win your car accident case.
Additional Steps To Protect Your Rights After an Auto Accident
Besides consulting with an attorney, injured victims can protect their legal rights and ensure fair compensation by taking the following steps after the accident:
- Contact law enforcement: It’s imperative to contact law enforcement right after getting involved in a car crash. Reports from the police are a critical piece of evidence you can use in your personal injury claim. Note that some states may have laws requiring you to report an accident to the police.
- Document the auto accident scene: If you can, document the scene of the auto accident by taking photos and videos. However, don’t attempt to move if you feel any pain or notice you sustained a car accident injury.
- Adhere to the prescribed medical treatment: Following the medical treatment your doctor prescribes is as vital as getting prompt medical care. Insurance adjusters use missed medical appointments as an argument to downplay your injuries.
- Keep all medical records: Insurance companies typically request medical records when evaluating car accident claims. These records can prove your injuries and losses from the car accident.
|Did you know?|
The economic consequences of road crashes range between 2 to 3 percent of countries’ gross domestic product (GDP) worldwide, exceeding $2 trillion annually.
Seek a Consultation With a Qualified Car Accident Attorney
Even minor car accidents can result in tragic aftermaths. Depending on the extent and nature of the car accident injury, recovery can be extensive and challenging. You have to deal with insurance companies, medical bills, and property damage while suffering several injuries and losses.
While you focus on recovering, a qualified car accident attorney can advise and walk you through the claims process or lawsuit, maximizing your chances of obtaining fair compensation. Seek a consultation through The Personal Injury Center today, and we’ll connect you with a car accident lawyer.
Be informed about your legal rights after a car wreck. Contact The Personal Injury Center for a free case evaluation.
FAQs on Auto Accident Lawyer
How much will hiring an auto accident lawyer cost?
Lawyers base their fees on different factors, so the cost of hiring one may vary for every case. It also depends on the legal fee arrangements agreed on. But for instance, for those who charge an hourly fee, the amount can span from as little as $50 to as much as several thousand dollars per hour. Others may charge a flat fee or work on a contingency fee arrangement.
Can you negotiate with the insurance company without legal representation?
It’s possible to negotiate with the insurance company without a lawyer. However, there might be risks when you proceed without legal representation. For example, you may not know the reasonable settlement amount for your case, or the insurance company may refuse or devalue your claims.
When should you seek legal counsel for a car accident?
It’s advisable to seek legal counsel immediately after a car accident. Here are some examples of situations where it’s necessary to call a lawyer when involved in a car crash:
- When you or someone else sustains a significant car accident injury
- When liability concerns are uncertain
- When dealing with uninsured or underinsured motorists