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What Do Car Accident Lawyers Do?

by John Gomez | Last Updated: November 18, 2021

car accident attorney in california

You had a car accident, and you need to file a claim. You may find yourself wondering whether you should work with a lawyer especially if you suffered severe injuries. What exactly does a car accident lawyer do, anyway? Can having a car accident attorney on your side benefit your case enough to make it worth it?

Take a look at some of the services that an experienced car accident lawyer can offer after an accident and how they may impact your peace of mind, your ability to negotiate with the insurance company, and even the compensation you can recover after the incident.

The Services a Lawyer Offers

A car accident lawyer may offer many services, depending on when you contact that attorney and how long it takes to move forward with your claim.

1. A lawyer can help you understand the compensation you might deserve for your injuries.

The average person will get in a car crash just once every 17.9 years. Most of those crashes, while they may involve significant property damage, will not involve serious injury. As a result, when you do suffer serious injuries in a car accident, you may have no idea how much compensation to expect from those injuries. Just how much does auto insurance cover? Does injury fall under a different category from property damage, or should you expect delays in getting your vehicle repaired or replaced if you have to wait for compensation for your injuries?

A lawyer can help break down the compensation you really deserve for your injuries, from the compensation you actually deserve for your medical expenses to how much you can claim for lost wages and pain and suffering related to the incident. Once you know how much compensation you should expect, it can make it easier to determine whether you should accept a settlement offer or move forward with negotiation to pursue the compensation you really deserve for your injuries.

Insurance Settlement Offers: What You Should Know

If you have never dealt with a serious car accident before, you may assume that the insurance company will provide a fair estimate of the damages you deserve and that a settlement offer, even one that comes soon after your accident, will reflect that estimate. If you have had to have a car repaired through auto insurance in the past, for example, you probably had little trouble getting the cost of repairs covered. When it comes to injury claims, however, car accident claims through an insurance policy can become much more difficult to manage. In the case of serious injuries, you may have immense medical bills that keep adding up as you go through treatment and recovery. The insurance company does not want to have to pay for all those medical services.

Often, an initial settlement offer will reflect just a percentage of the compensation you really deserve for serious injuries. Some insurance companies use an AI program that will calculate the settlement offer based on a fraction of the actual damages you have reported. Even your adjuster has relatively little room to negotiate within that offer immediately after issuing a settlement.

A lawyer, on the other hand, can go over the insurance policy to evaluate the compensation you deserve based on your real expenses, not on what the insurance company wants to pay out. Often, as a result, working with an attorney can get you a better settlement offer.

2. An attorney can help look for evidence related to your auto accident.

Sometimes, you may have clear evidence that establishes exactly who caused your accident. The other driver may have run a red light, driven while distracted, or failed to stop fast enough at a stop sign. No external factors contributed to the accident, the other driver accepted liability at the scene of the accident, and the police report clearly reflects the facts of the accident, with no errors. The insurance company may even accept liability on the part of its driver without argument due to the clear chain of evidence.

Other car accident claims, on the other hand, might be much more complicated.

The other driver denies liability.

If the other driver denies liability, it can be much more difficult to establish exactly what led to the accident. The police report may clearly show that the other driver caused the accident, and you may have obvious evidence that helps show it. However, if the other driver disputes liability, it may take longer to process your claim. A lawyer can help put together the evidence that establishes the other driver’s liability, which may move your claim forward more effectively and prevent it from bogging down.

Seeking evidence can become more difficult in cases where you cannot clearly prove who or what caused the accident. For example, a collision in an intersection could have disputed liability on the basis that it can become difficult to establish whether one driver failed to stop.

In those cases, your attorney can help look at traffic records, witness statements, and photos from the accident to build the case. Your attorney may also want to bring in an expert witness to take a look at the scene, evaluate the damage to the two vehicles, and offer a better idea of who may have caused the accident.

External factors contributed to the accident.

Sometimes, driver error or negligence clearly causes an accident. You can see that the other driver’s decision to text and drive, or the other driver’s high rate of speed, ranks as the top cause of the accident, or at least one of the major contributing factors. Other times, however, your lawyer may discover that external factors also contributed to the accident.

Suppose, for example, that the other driver suffered a brake failure. They might have had adequate room to stop, had the brakes worked properly; but since the brakes failed, they plowed into your vehicle. As a result, you may have serious injuries or more serious injuries than you would have suffered if the other driver had brought their car to a stop or slowed it down as intended. Sometimes, the manufacturer of the brakes may bear liability for that failure, particularly if it occurs on a newer vehicle or part. Other times, the mechanic that installed the brakes may bear liability for the accident because they failed to install them properly or failed to note a problem with the brakes that could have caused the accident, despite clear evidence that the brakes could pose a danger.

A lawyer can help investigate those external factors that may have contributed to the accident and give you a better idea of whether you may have the right to pursue compensation from another source, based on the potential causes of the accident and the factors that contributed.

A commercial driver, or other driver performing work duties, caused the accident.

When a commercial truck driver causes an accident, it may involve a much more complex investigation than the average accident involving just passenger vehicles. Commercial drivers must adhere to stricter regulations on the road than the average passenger vehicle driver, and their companies must do their part to ensure that they have safe vehicles and follow those rules and regulations, even when it might not be as convenient for the company.

Truck drivers must, for example, adhere to a federally-mandated number of hours that they can spend on the road each day: in general, 11 hours out of a 14-hour shift, after which the driver must take a break.

Federal law also mandates a break after eight hours on the road. A company that discourages its drivers from taking those breaks, or even a company that does not monitor those breaks and institute consequences if the driver does not follow through, may bear liability for an accident caused by a drowsy or distracted truck driver. Trucking companies also bear liability when they fail to properly maintain their vehicles.

Following an accident with a commercial vehicle, an attorney may need to conduct a much more in-depth investigation than after an accident involving only passenger vehicles.

A commercial vehicle accident investigation may include a look at the driver’s logbooks, their record, and even the company’s policies and accident history. It can take longer to build a claim against a trucking company, but those claims may also ultimately have a higher value than the average passenger vehicle accident claim, due in part to the more severe injuries often caused in truck accidents.

Other employers who require drivers to take to the road as part of their work responsibilities may also share liability for an accident.

For example, suppose a pizza delivery driver admits that they do not feel confident driving in heavy fog, snow, or rain, but the company forces them to stay on the clock anyway or risk their job. In those cases, the employer may share liability for any accident that occurs. A lawyer can help investigate the driver’s company and collect vital evidence that will establish whether you may have grounds for a claim against the company as well as the driver’s insurance.

3. A lawyer can help put together your claim in a more effective way.

Putting together your claim correctly can make a huge difference in the way the insurance company responds to your accident claim. An experienced car accident lawyer can put together a claim in a clear, compelling way that establishes your right to compensation, how much compensation you deserve, and why the liable party bears liability, in this case, for the accident and your injuries.

Often, a lawyer can put together a much more effective claim than you can on your own. Lawyers know the right language to use, whether they need to appeal to the insurance company or appear in court to help you seek the compensation you deserve.

4. A lawyer can represent you if your claim does have to go to court.

Most of the time, even auto accidents involving commercial vehicles and high dollar amounts settle out of court. However, in some cases, a claim may need to go to court to seek the resolution the victim really deserves for those injuries.

The insurance company may fight harder in cases of disputed liability or cases in which the insurance company may dispute the extent of the victim’s injuries. If you need to go to court to manage your claim, having an attorney on your side can provide you with critical support. A lawyer can present your case, lay out the evidence, and show the clear validity of your claim, increasing the odds that you will ultimately receive the compensation you deserve.

5. A lawyer can take over communication and negotiation with the insurance company.

Even a small slip can end up costing you when it comes to your car accident claim. Dealing with the insurance company directly could decrease your odds of recovering full compensation for your injuries, since the insurance company may look for even minor mistakes in what you say about your accident and your injuries.

For example, the insurance adjuster may try to lower the compensation offered after you talk about weekend plans that seem to contradict the limitations created by your injuries, even if you have taken care to make it to that event despite your injuries.

The insurance company may also apply a great deal of pressure to you, which could leave you feeling uncomfortable, out of sorts, or unsure about what steps you should take next. A lawyer can take over those vital communications and decrease your stress following your accident.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Handle Your Car Accident?

Any time you suffer injuries in a car accident, or if you have trouble getting the insurance company to offer and pay out the compensation you deserve for damages to your vehicle, a lawyer can help. Contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation that will help you learn how a lawyer can benefit you after your accident.

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