Car accidents can leave pain, trauma, and a damaged life in their wake—not to mention mounting medical bills and potential disability for the seriously injured. Often, victims are left to fight for justice against glacially slow insurance companies or at-fault motorists who do not have their best interests at heart.
Lawyers, however, do have your best interests at heart. But how do you know when to hire an attorney after a car accident? Below, we discuss the points at which it is prudent to call an attorney.
When Someone Else Is at Fault for the Car Accident
California follows a fault system for car accidents. If someone else causes the accident, and you suffer injuries as a direct result of the accident, that person (or company, or government entity) who caused the accident is at fault. For example, if a driver passes another vehicle on a two-lane road when it is not safe to do so and hits your car head on as a result, that driver is at fault (or negligent, in legal terminology).
Why? Because drivers owe a duty of care to drive safely and follow all traffic laws so that others do not get hurt. Violations of the duty of care that directly result in harm to others constitute negligence, which in turn imposes financial responsibility, or liability, on the driver for the harm the negligence causes.
It isn’t just drivers who can have fault car accidents. At-fault parties can include virtually any individual, company, or public entity that engages in unreasonably dangerous conduct leading to a crash, such as car and component manufacturers (if malfunctions or shoddy manufacture cause the accident) repair companies (if a car repair inadequately performed cause the accident), or government agencies (if preventable, dangerous road conditions lead to a crash).
An experienced car accident lawyer can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your crash to determine who might have a legal liability to you for your injuries. It may surprise you to learn who the law can hold financially accountable for the harm you suffered.
When You Aren’t Sure How to Handle the Aftermath of an Accident
After an accident, you may deal with physical, mental, and emotional pain. You may experience a disability that prevents you from working or a lengthy period of convalescence.
Those harmful effects of a car accident can make it feel difficult and confusing to know where to turn for help paying medical bills and obtaining the support you need to regain your health and rebuild your life. An experienced car accident lawyer can answer your questions, investigate the facts, and develop a legal strategy best suited for getting you the money you need and deserve.
When You’re Not Sure How Much Money You Have a Right to Receive
You may know you deserve money for your injuries and losses from the at-fault party, but still might not have any idea how much the law entitles you to receive. Experienced car accident lawyers spend time evaluating the various ways that a crash harmed their client, to ensure that when they take legal action on the client’s behalf, they seek the maximum damages allowable under the law.
Every car accident has its own unique circumstances that affect the type and amount of money a victim can seek to recover.
However, generally speaking, in legal action for damages a victim may request compensation for:
- Medical bills, including doctor’s visits, emergency care, hospitalization, surgery, prescription medication, rehabilitative therapy, assistive devices, diagnostic tests, and retrofitting a home to accommodate an injury;
- Wages lost because of missing work while healing from an injury;
- Lost future income due to a disability;
- Other out-of-pocket expenses caused by the accident, such as replacing personal property or hiring help with daily activities that an injury prevents you from doing on your own;
- Pain, suffering, harm to personal relationships, and diminished quality of life caused by the accident and injuries.
By evaluating the harm you suffered and translating it into a dollars-and-cents figure, lawyers make sure you do not leave money on the table when the at-fault party’s defense lawyers or insurance company offer to settle your claim. Sometimes, those representatives will offer a settlement quickly, hoping that you have not yet hired a lawyer and that you will jump at any amount they offer (even if it is far less than what you deserve).
Do not make the mistake of taking the money without first consulting with an experienced car accident injury attorney who represents victims like you and knows how to keep defense lawyers and insurance companies honest.
When You Have Suffered Catastrophic Injuries
Although all car accident injuries cause pain, some injuries can have profound and lasting negative impacts on a victim’s life. Lawyers refer to these as catastrophic injuries—the kind that makes it impossible for a crash victim to return to school, work, or any other aspect of their pre-accident lives.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and spinal cord injuries sometimes amount to catastrophic harm. Amputation of a limb, or loss of eyesight, may also inflict catastrophic changes in a victim’s life.
Victims of catastrophic injuries are likely to need long-term, skilled medical care. They may need to move into a specialized facility, or may have to modify their homes to accommodate their new disability.
Experienced car accident lawyers work hard to make sure victims of catastrophic injuries receive the full financial and practical support they need to adapt to their new normal.
When You Need Help Dealing With Insurance Companies
Insurance companies get involved in the aftermath of virtually every car accident. By law, drivers must carry auto insurance, and most do. Other types of insurance policies may also cover injuries and expenses inflicted by a car accident, too. Victims of car accidents often need assistance understanding what insurance covers what expense, and obtaining the full amount of insurance benefits they deserve from both their own, and an at-fault party’s, insurance companies.
An experienced car accident injury lawyer can help by:
- Working with the victim’s own insurance company to ensure quick and full claim payment, and by holding insurance companies to account when they refuse to pay a valid claim; and
- Negotiating with the at-fault party’s insurance company and defense lawyer to seek a settlement of the victim’s claims for damages.
Do not let yourself get overwhelmed by insurance-related paperwork and complications after you suffer injuries in a car accident. Trust an experienced car accident injury attorney to represent your interests with insurance companies so that you get the money you deserve.
If You Need to File a Lawsuit to Get Justice
Injured car accident victims often need to take legal action—that is, file a lawsuit (or sue)—to force at-fault parties and their insurance companies to pay money damages. To make the most of your legal rights, you need an experienced car accident injury attorney to advocate for you in the courtroom.
A skilled attorney evaluates the facts and circumstances of your case, identifies the parties who have a legal liability to you, prepares legal filings, and takes the necessary steps to keep your lawsuit on-track. The lawyer takes discovery on your behalf, and stands up in court to argue your case to the judge and jury.
When You Need Evidence to Prove Your Case
To obtain compensation for your car accident injuries and losses, you need to prove someone else’s liability. To prove that liability, you need evidence of that party’s fault, and of the damages you suffered. Evidence is any statement, document, object, or other item of information that proves a fact.
In a typical car accident, it often includes:
- Police reports;
- Photos and videos of an accident scene;
- Statements by crash victims and eyewitnesses;
- The damaged vehicles;
- Medical records;
- Bills, invoices, and insurance statements;
- Employment records; and
- Electronic data from cell phones and vehicle computers.
Victims may have the ability to collect some of this evidence. (For example, if you can do so safely, always try to take pictures or video of everything you see at an accident scene, especially before first responders show up.)
However, oftentimes victims are either too hurt, or too burdened with the difficult task of healing, to gather evidence on their own, much less to get started on evidence collection as soon as possible to make sure nothing goes missing.
That is where the services of an experienced car accident lawyer come in. Lawyers know:
- What kind of evidence you need to prove liability and damages;
- Where to find that evidence;
- How to obtain that evidence through legal means; and
- When and how to use that evidence to your advantage in pursuing compensation for your injuries and losses.
Sometimes, lawyers will also work with professional investigators and forensic experts to gather detailed evidence that requires special skill to obtain and analyze.
When the At-Fault Driver Is Uninsured
In many car accidents, the other driver is at fault and owes you compensation for your injuries and losses. California requires all car owners either to buy insurance or to show evidence of financial responsibility to operate their cars on California roads. When an insured driver causes a crash, that insurance should step in and pay the victims’ damages.
But what if the other driver who caused your injuries broke the law by not carrying the required insurance? According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than 15 percent of California drivers may operate their vehicles without the required insurance. An accident caused by one of these drivers could leave the victims without a source of payment for their damages.
An experienced car accident injury lawyer can help victims of uninsured (or under-insured) drivers by helping them pursue claims against their own insurance policies (if they carry uninsured/underinsured motorist, or UM, coverage), by investigating whether the at-fault driver has other assets with which to pay damages, and by evaluating whether other parties may have a legal liability to the victims.
When a Loved One Dies
If your loved one died in a car accident, either immediately or as a result of injuries sustained, then California law may allow you to file a wrongful death claim for damages. Wrongful death claims are lawsuits that provide damage compensation to the family and/or estate of the deceased car accident victim.
Through a wrongful death action, the victim’s family and/or estate may recover compensation for:
- Medical hospital bills for the deceased’s final illness or injury;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Lost income, including potential income the deceased would reasonably have been expected to earn in the future;
- Loss of love, community, attention, affection, moral support, and guidance formerly provided by the deceased;
- The value of household services formerly provided by the deceased; and
- Loss of expected financial support.
The rules governing who can file a wrongful death action in California can get complicated. Always seek the advice of an experienced car accident wrongful death attorney to learn about your and your family’s rights.
Cost Is Never a Factor
Hesitant to hire—or even speak to—an attorney because of concerns about the cost? Don’t be. The initial consultation to discuss the accident and your injuries is entirely free. If you and the attorney decide to work together, the lawyers will virtually always work for a contingency fee. This means the lawyer will not charge you any money up-front, and will not bill you by the hour.
Instead, you and the lawyer will agree in advance to a percentage the lawyer gets to keep of any money the lawyer obtains on your behalf.
For more information, contact an experienced car accident injury lawyer today.
Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101