Real Trial
Lawyers
free case evaluation

Is it Worth Getting a Lawyer to Handle Your Car Accident?

San Diego Auto Accident Attorney

A car accident can change your life. When you sustain serious injuries, you must make immediate decisions that inevitably affect your future. In difficult situations, people often turn to experts by instinct. It makes sense when you want the best results. You seek medical treatment from skilled physicians and surgeons. You find the best body shop professionals to repair your car. However, many still wonder whether it is worth getting a lawyer to handle their car accident injury claim.

The inclination to DIY a car accident claim is likely connected to the idea of saving money on legal fees. While that may seem like a good idea in the early stages of the claim handling process, it can quickly become apparent how difficult handling a claim on your own is.

Even more, car accident claimants tend to realize how disadvantaged they are without legal representation. Before you decide whether or not to get a lawyer in your car accident case, you should weigh the costs and benefits for your specific case.

Personal Injury Attorneys Handle Car Accident Injury Cases Based on a Contingency Fee

Many worry they cannot afford an attorney for their car accident claim. This should not be a barrier. Unlike any other professionals, personal injury attorneys normally offer their clients a unique, affordable fee arrangement.

An attorney will provide months, and perhaps years, of legal services without ever sending you a bill. They receive payment only after they settle your claim or win a court award of damages. This contingency fee arrangement allows injured persons the opportunity to have legal representation, even if they can’t afford it right away. It allows you to present a robust car accident injury claim without paying upfront legal fees.

Your Attorney Protects Your Legal Rights

Before you consider handling your own auto accident injury claim, you should understand the potential for complex legal challenges that put your rights in the balance. From the moment you have an accident, many people will be trying to determine whose fault it is. Police officers and insurance investigators ask questions. By responding in the wrong way, you could jeopardize your right to recover damages. An experienced car accident attorney knows how to prevent this from happening.

Challenge Police Officers

Police officers can’t decide if an insurer will pay your claim. Still, they have the authority to document what they see and hear. They infuse their reports with subtle opinions based on your statements and their observations. When a police officer believes you’re at fault, they write their report in a way that makes their opinion clear. Attorneys can’t stop police officers from expressing their opinions, but they can challenge them when appropriate.

Intervene With Insurance Companies

When an insurance investigator says they need to take your recorded statement about your car accident claim, you might not realize that you have a choice. If you consent, you won’t necessarily understand the reason behind certain questions.

Investigators ask a slew of questions to probe your claims about liability and damages. They may ask if you wear prescription glasses, about your medications and sleep patterns, or your destination when the accident occurred. Your answers provide them with your recorded assertions, which they may try to use to fight your claim. Your answers may give the investigator grounds to challenge your claim based on visibility, substance impairment, and drowsiness issues. Whenever possible, insurance companies use your responses against you. They raise them as liability defenses during negotiations, depositions, mediations, and other proceedings.

Here are a few additional things you need to know about providing recorded statements and how they can sabotage your car accident claim.

  • Investigators suggest that you must give a recorded statement before they consider paying your claim. This is often false, as they already know the relevant facts.
  • If you agree, they might take your statement even if you’re on medication or in pain. This may be unethical, as you won’t necessarily have complete control over your responses.
  • They may try to put you at ease by calling your statement an “interview.”
  • They may ask the same question in different ways to see if you contradict yourself.
  • They may solicit information that you might not realize will prompt them to reject your claim.

When you seek immediate legal representation, your attorney deals directly with the insurance company. As your legal representative, your attorney explains your version of the accident and determines what information to provide.

Address Insurance Company Subrogation Issues

Many auto and health insurance policies grant insurance companies subrogation rights. This means that when they pay claims on your behalf, they have a legal right to recover damages on your behalf. If you handle your own claim, insurers usually execute their own recovery strategies. They attempt to recover 100 percent of the money they paid, even if it reduces your potential settlement. Regardless of their efforts, when you settle your claim, they expect reimbursement for the money they paid.

Attorneys understand subrogation rights. They review them with the appropriate insurers and protect them when they settle your claim. Attorneys often successfully negotiate subrogation claims down to a lower amount. This allows you to retain a larger portion of your settlement.

Attorneys Prepare Your Car Accident Injury Case

It takes a lot of effort to prepare a case for settlement negotiations or trial in a car accident injury case. Your attorneys begin the process as soon as you and the law firm establish a representation arrangement. Seasoned attorneys prepare as if they will have to present your case in a courtroom someday, even if the case is more likely to settle.

Investigate Your Auto Accident

A personal injury attorney actively and early on searches for evidence to support your claim. They often work with professional investigators who use the information you provide as a start.

They tailor their investigation to your accident and focus on obtaining relevant evidence, such as:

  • Police reports
  • Photographs or video footage of the scene
  • Witness statements
  • Driver statements
  • Property owner’s statements
  • Identification of all involved parties

Legal Evaluation

Every car accident claim case has legal issues. Sometimes they’re clear and easy to assess. Other times, injury claims involve multiple complex legal issues. A seasoned attorney listens to your account of the car accident, recognizes the issues, and uses your statements to pinpoint investigative needs to resolve those issues. Eventually, the lawyer can develop a theory about who all may be liable and how such parties were negligent in a way that led to your injuries.

This can be more complicated than it sounds. For instance, when your accident involves a trucking company, a corporate car, or an organization-owned vehicle, often more than one entity shares liability for your injuries. Attorneys determine who is responsible and how they share liability. They then place all responsible parties on notice of your claim, pursuing compensation from each such party and their insurers.

Evaluate The Value of Your Car Accident Injury Claim

An experienced car accident injury attorney understands that a claim’s value is unique to the case. To determine the value of your case, they obtain your medical records, doctor’s reports, and other documentation that addresses your injuries. Attorneys spend time with you to learn as much as they can about you, your injuries, and your recovery. They find out from you how the accident has affected your life. These issues are important when evaluating your injury claim.

Attorneys then do injury research. They look for court cases and past settlements for people with injuries similar to yours. When it’s time to negotiate your claim, they have a settlement range and the evidence and law to support it.

Attorneys Negotiate Your Car Accident Injury Claim

Before you proceed with negotiating your car accident injury claim by yourself, you should understand that it’s more demanding than you probably realize. Even if you have professional marketing, negotiating, or sales experience, such experience usually does not translate into personal injury negotiation savvy. The injury negotiation process is quite different from striking any business deal or marketing a product for the best per-unit price.

When attorneys negotiate settlements, they weave in all of the information they’ve learned over the life of your case. As they discuss liability and injury issues, they also assess the insurance negotiator’s strengths and weaknesses on the facts and the law. While you might not pick up on the telltale signs, attorneys can recognize when an insurance negotiator knows they are at a disadvantage.

Insurance Representatives May Use Your Inexperience as a Negotiation Tool

On the flipside, an insurance company, even one that knows it is at a disadvantage in some nuanced way, may try to take advantage of you if you represent yourself. They bank on you not being aware of the flaws in their position. They enter negotiations understanding that, for you, the process is probably a once-in-a-lifetime challenge. During your negotiation sessions, they treat you politely and listen to your arguments. In the end, they take advantage of your inexperience and settle your case for the least amount possible.

Is It Worth It to Sue After a Car Accident?

You get to decide if it’s worth your time and effort to file a car accident injury lawsuit. It is typically the only option when the responsible parties refuse to offer a fair settlement. If you’ve handled your own claim thus far, seriously consider consulting a personal injury attorney if you file a lawsuit in court. Courts allow you to file your own lawsuit. But the same disadvantages and more exist in trying to file and bring a lawsuit on your own, as opposed to having legal representation.

Even if you’ve never discussed your case with an attorney before, they will listen to you and offer advice. Based on the information you provide, they tell you whether a lawsuit may or may not improve your chances for a better recovery.

A Lawsuit is Often the Only Option

Attorneys understand that, when you’ve reached a negotiation stalemate, a lawsuit is often the only viable option. It sometimes becomes part of an overall legal strategy to get the best possible settlement. Also, if your case is nearing your statute of limitations—the deadline for you to file a lawsuit—you must file or lose your right to bring a claim. Either way, it forces parties on both sides to look at the potential cost versus the benefits.

You Must Measure the Costs Versus the Potential Gain

When your attorney files a lawsuit, they create a summons and complaint. Court documents show you as the named plaintiff. The people or entities who caused your accident become the defendants. Your complaint includes your allegations about the accident, your theory of liability, and a description of your injuries and prayer for damages. When you file your documents with the local court, a clerk charges a filing fee and enters it into the civil court system. From this point on, there are more or less many technical stages, and things become more expensive.

Litigation changes the level of activity in your case. When a lawsuit involves an auto accident, parties on both sides often file claims, pre-trial motions, and hearing requests.

They initiate discovery, which includes:

  • Document requests and production
  • Interrogatories
  • Depositions
  • Independent medical examinations

These and other discovery activities usually require upfront payments. Law firms have different ways of handling these inevitable costs. When a law firm has the resources, they can pay costs upfront on your behalf. Other firms request that their clients pay discovery costs before they proceed. Either way—you ultimately foot the bill for fees.

The contingency fee arrangement often changes as well if you have to go to court. Attorneys still charge you a fee based on the damages they recover, because the case requires more of their time and attention in litigation, their fee percentage often increases.

Lawsuits Don’t Always End In a Trial

Instead of taking a case to trial, attorneys can still attempt to resolve auto accident injury lawsuits by out-of-court means. Once an attorney files a suit, adverse parties often continue informal negotiations to see if they can bring the case to an end and avoid further litigation costs. Judges avoid trials by encouraging alternative dispute resolution (ADR:) options.

Some of the out-of-court processes that may avert the need for a trial include:

  • Settlement conferences: which is much the same as settlement conferences before you filed a lawsuit, though there might be new information to shape negotiations.
  • Mediation: This is a form of ADR in which a plaintiff, defendants, insurers, and attorneys meet in a location outside of the court to attempt to resolve the case. However, unlike a normal settlement conference, a neutral mediator presides, listening to each party’s positions and facilitating finding a middle ground. Mediations don’t always lead to settlements, particularly because a mediator does not have the authority to bind the parties. But mediations can promote cooperation among the parties.
  • Arbitration: This is another form of ADR. The parties present their evidence to a panel or single arbiter in a court-like proceeding. If the parties agree to binding arbitration, they agree to abide by the arbitrator’s decision. If they choose a non-binding option, they may accept or reject the results.

Attorneys Finalize the Paperwork

However you conclude your auto accident injury claim, you must properly execute the final documents. You must also make sure you receive the agreed payment and give your insurer their subrogated amount.

Attorneys can complete all of these tasks on your behalf, making sure the process goes the way it should so your final payment has no unnecessary delays. They exchange the completed release for the agreed payment, deduct their fees, address any subrogation liens, and send the rest of the funds to you. If your case involves a lawsuit, attorneys file a motion to voluntarily dismiss with the courts.

Do You Need an Attorney to Handle Your Auto Accident Injury Claim?

Yes—when a negligent driver causes you serious injuries, you need to give yourself the best chance possible to recover the compensation you need to pay for your injuries and property damage. While you can handle your claim on your own, it’s not usually a good idea. Attorneys intervene on your behalf to deal with insurers, responsible parties, and their attorneys. They work to produce the best possible settlement.

Call an experienced car accident attorney about your car accident case today. When you consult with an attorney, you don’t have to commit to making a claim or filing a lawsuit. You simply talk about your auto accident and learn more about your legal options.


Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619)-237-3490
Posted in: Auto Accidents
tell us about your case

no fees unless we recover money on your behalf

Recent Posts



Client Review

"They are experts in what they do and are a pleasure to work with."
Sergius A.
5 Stars

Contact Us background image

FREE CASE EVALUATION

No Fees Unless We Recover Money On Your Behalf

Practice Areas

Map Background image