You are never required to hire a lawyer to help you process a car accident claim. In some circumstances, when there is no insurance available, a lawyer isn’t able to do much. However, the world of personal injury law is complex. Unfortunately, there are many opportunities for an insurance company to take advantage of someone without a lawyer. To be safe, I recommend that everyone who has been injured after a car accident that wasn’t their fault at least speak to a lawyer for a consultation. The truth is, many insurance companies have incentives to pay you less than the value of your claim. They will not volunteer information to help you, so having someone with experience on your side is really the best way to protect yourself.
Why You Should Speak to a Lawyer Before the Car Insurance Adjuster
You have no obligation to speak to the insurance company for the driver who caused the accident. Now, I encourage my clients to speak directly to the other insurance company to handle the property damage portion, but never about their injuries. Alternatively, you have an obligation to cooperate with your own insurance company. During these conversations, I encourage my clients to be as vague as possible about their injuries. The reason why the injury issue is so important in car accident claims is that the insurance company throws up more roadblocks before they will pay. For example, they will always try to ask you what areas have been injured. If you forget to mention an area or downplay the injury, you have just lost credit for that injury once you make a formal claim. Additionally, in many of the interviews that your insurance company requires, they will ask you about prior accidents or injuries. Many of my clients get caught off guard and are unable to accurately answer that question. Regardless, the insurance company is laying the foundation for the defense of their case based on any inconsistencies that you give. Again, these are just two examples of tips that a car accident attorney can help you with during the claim.
A Lawyer Helps You Figure Out What Damages You Are Entitled To
Figuring out the damages that you are entitled to collect after a car accident is another complex area. A layperson would think that simply sending over the medical records and medical bills to the insurance company is sufficient. In fact, I currently have a case that I took over after my client negotiated with an insurance adjuster for months. The injuries were worth well in excess of her insurance policy, but she was offered half. When I asked her to bring the medical bills and records to me, she told me that she didn’t have any. She told me that the insurance adjuster was supposed to have retrieved all of that for her. Of course, I was surprised that she would trust the insurance company to do what she should have already done and trust them to do it correctly. But, more importantly, there is much more to a car accident claim than just medical bills and records. In the injury claim I just referenced, my client had serious injuries that will cause future medical bills and permanent impairment. My client did not know to ask her doctor for this information, so it was never presented as part of her claim. She simply didn’t know to do this and the insurance adjuster certainly didn’t suggest that she get it done.
Damages in Car Accident Claims:
There are many different types of potential damages in a car accident claim, but the following are the most common:
- Past medical bills– self-explanatory, but the insurance company may claim that you can get reductions on the bills and pay less;
- Future medical costs– you will need an estimate from a doctor about your future medical costs before they can be recoverable;
- Lost wages and/or reduced earning– there are specific requirements to prove up these lost wages. You will need a statement from your employer, pay stubs and/or your tax returns. The insurance companies never make it easy.
- Pain and suffering– although this is a subjective area, pain and suffering depends on the type of injury, your treatment and the permanency impairment rating from your doctor;
- Punitive damages– in certain cases punitive damages are available. These are most common when the driver that caused the car accident was DUI.
Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer for a Car Accident That Wasn’t Your Fault
My office is in St. Petersburg, but I routinely handle car accident cases around Tampa Bay. If you have been injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, there really is no risk to at least calling a lawyer and asking about what you should do. Most lawyers in St. Petersburg are honest and reputable and will give you a free opinion or consultation. I meet with several clients every week whose cases I do not take. But, they always appreciate the honesty and a frank assessment of their cases. Not every case is worth a lot of money, but there are almost always ways that we can increase the value of a claim. Our fees are on a percentage basis of the recovery, so if we don’t recover anything, you do not owe us anything. We are happy to discuss your car accident at any time, even if you have already spoken to the insurance company and failed to reach a deal.