Being injured in an unexpected car accident can throw your life into disarray. You will likely have to deal with the stress of getting a rental car, speak to insurance people, and meanwhile, you are in pain. Sometimes the last thing that you want to think about is the legal implication of what has happened to you.
When Is It the Right Time to Find a Car Accident Lawyer?
Generally speaking, you can never contact a lawyer too quickly after the accident. In fact, I am often called on my cell phone by clients at the accident scene and before the police even respond. But, not everyone has a cell phone number of a car accident lawyer. It is normally not necessary to speak to a lawyer before you report the accident to your own insurance company. And, if you were at-fault for causing the accident, there is very little that an injury attorney can do for you. But, if you were injured by the improper driving of someone else, you should not wait more than a few days to speak to a lawyer.
Why Should You Speak to a Lawyer Within a Few Days of the Car Accident?
There are two time-sensitive issues that begin to occur within the days after an accident. The first is that the insurance company for the at-fault driver will open their file and begin their investigation. This other insurance company has no obligation to follow the conclusions of the police. So, they will be taking steps to avoid blame or to place some of the blame on you if possible. As part of their investigation, they will also try to determine your injuries. They will look to see if you have had any prior accident claims. They will look at the accident report to see if the officer reported that you complained of injuries. And, most importantly, they will try and call you directly to ask you about your injuries.
Most people do not realize that they have no obligation to cooperate with the other insurance company, so they speak freely. While this is often not a problem, if you give an answer that is later contradicted in your injury claim, you will be penalized. For example, the insurance company will ask you about what areas of your body have been injured. This call may take place the day of or perhaps the day after the accident. You might answer that your knee hurts. The insurance company will note that in your file. Then, in the days or even hours to come, you might start experiencing soreness and pain in your back or neck. Maybe your knee even gets better. You may report to a doctor a few days later and tell them that your back and neck hurt, and not even mention your knee. When it comes time for you to submit your injury claim for the injuries to your back and neck, the insurance company will review their call to you where you only reported that your knee hurt. Your credibility and thus, your case will certainly be negatively affected. Therefore, while it normally does not hurt to speak to the other insurance company, if you had a lawyer involved, this type of conversation would never happen because the other insurance company would not be allowed to call you without your lawyer’s permission.
As mentioned above, there are two time-sensitive issues following a car accident. The second is your medical treatment. Who you see first and how long you wait after the accident is crucial decisions that impact the entirety of every car accident case. As to who you see first after the car accident, this is important because it dictates the type of treatment that you receive. If you go to a doctor who does not specialize in car accident injury cases, they may dismiss your complaints as not being serious or perhaps not order the proper type of testing. Thus, seeing a specialist is extremely important. Needless to say, if you have a car accident lawyer involved, that lawyer can refer to trusted professionals in the area that can help.
Perhaps just as important as who you see is the timing of the treatment. One of the most important self-inflicted flaws in a case is a delay or gap in treatment. These delays are often not because someone is not injured; instead, the delays are caused by ignorance as to where to go and the importance of getting in for treatment immediately.
What people do not realize is that the most common defense that an insurance company makes is that the claimant waited before being seen by a doctor for his or her injuries. They claim that you must not have been injured that badly if you did not get medical treatment immediately. And, the computer programs that calculate how much money to pay you to deduct significant money from each claim where there is a delay or gap in treatment. This doesn’t make sense to a lot of my clients because they know they have been injured and they don’t understand why waiting a few days changes whether they were injured. But, unfortunately, it does. One of my first objectives in every car accident injury claim is to make sure that my clients are seen as soon as possible by a medical specialist. If nothing else, it prevents the insurance company from penalizing my client by devaluing the claim.
Always Err on the Side of Contacting a Lawyer
In many cases, I am contacted by clients who have chosen to handle their case on their own and then are dissatisfied with the offer made by the insurance company. The only true way to avoid this problem is to have a lawyer involved as early as possible. Many people simply do not realize the complexity of an injury claim and what steps have to be taken along the way to avoid losing money. For example, two people may have the exact same injury but because of how the treatment is handled, documented and concluded, one may recover much more than the other. If you do not want to be the person who receives less compensation, then speak to a car accident lawyer. In twenty years, I have yet to hear feedback from a client that they could have achieved the same result without a lawyer. If you have any questions about your car accident claim, please feel free to contact me.