Contacting an attorney after a car accident is probably the last thing on your mind.
Your focus is on fixing any vehicle damage, healing from injuries, and getting back to the status quo. Even a minor fender bender can be disruptive. A major accident can be life-altering.
The short answer to the question posed in the title is that you should get in touch with a lawyer after any accident, even if you think it’s not necessary. Most attorneys offer a free consultation to evaluate your case and recommend a course of action.
In particular, there are seven situations in which working with an attorney is a smart idea.
1. Three or More Parties Were Involved in the Accident
Determining liability when an accident involves two parties can already be challenging. When you factor in additional parties, negotiating a claim and figuring out a fair settlement can get even more complicated.
As you probably know, the other parties’ insurance companies are not on your side. They’re in the business of making money by paying out as little as possible for auto accident and personal injury claims. They also have a team of lawyers looking for any reason to devalue, and even deny, your claim.
An attorney will help you understand your options, inform you of your rights, and help level the playing field.
2. The Car Accident Resulted in Serious Injury or Death
The more severe the injury, the more complex the case becomes.
There are a lot of variables that go into determining compensation for car accident injuries. Medical bills, property damage, and lost wages are just the tip of the iceberg.
Several other factors that must also be considered, and an experienced attorney will be able to look at all possibilities to determine what a fair settlement would be. This includes reviewing medical records, reading the police report, and evaluating how the injuries and damage you sustained will affect your life in the short and long term.
3. You’ve Received a Settlement Offer that Seems Low
The other party’s insurance company wants to pay you as little as possible in order to make you go away. Again, that’s how they make money.
They’ll move quickly to submit a “low ball” offer. They assume you’re in a desperate financial situation, eager to get back on your feet. By promising a quick settlement, you could be leaving money on the table.
Another reason you might get a quick settlement offer is to prevent you from getting a prognosis of the full extent of your injuries. It’s possible that your injuries could worsen or manifest themselves in new ways later down the road. This could affect your ability to earn an income, and even your quality of life. It takes time to assess and treat your injuries, and it’s best to get a comprehensive picture before accepting a settlement from the other party.
4. Your Ability to Work is Compromised
If your injuries will require long-term care or affect your earning potential, this will affect the amount of compensation you’re entitled to. Again, the other party’s insurance company will try to minimize their payout or conveniently overlook factors that affect how much they should pay for a claim.
An attorney will look at all possible angles and eventualities to determine a plan of action to help you recover financially.
5. There’s Not Enough Evidence to Clearly Determine Fault
If there’s any debate about who’s at fault in a car accident, it could wipe out a potential claim. As you know, the other party’s insurance company will work with their attorneys to minimize or deny their client’s fault. In these circumstances, you’ll want an advocate on your side who’s skilled in looking at the evidence.
6. The Accident Occurred Months (or Years) Ago
If the injuries you sustained in the crash were minimal, you might not have thought a lawsuit was warranted. Down the road, however, that “minor” injury could end up wreaking havoc on your health. What are your options? In Oklahoma, the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit after a car accident is two years, and the clock starts ticking on the date of the accident.
There are exceptions. If the accident resulted in someone’s death, the timeframe is two years from the date the victim died. This, in effect, could be months or years later after the accident.
If you did delay in seeking legal counsel, the other party is bound to point out the delay and cast suspicion. Your attorney can argue on your behalf to explain why you might have waited.
7. You Need to Go to Court
Cases end up in court, it can happen if there’s a dispute about the settlement or the insurance company tries to deny your claim. As you can imagine, trying to navigate the paperwork and negotiations is not ideal while you’re in the midst of recovering from an injury or painful loss.
It costs you nothing to hire an attorney to represent you in a car accident case. Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means we don’t get paid unless we successfully resolve your claim.
If you or a loved one has been in a car accident, call the law firm of Bryan Garrett today at (405) 839-8424 for a complimentary consultation.