How a Lawyer Can Help You After a Car Accident
After a personal injury lawyer reviews the specifics of your car accident, you will receive an explanation of your legal options and have a better understanding of the value of your claim. With the assistance of a lawyer, you can improve your chances of maximizing your claim and avoid being pressured into settling for less than you may rightfully deserve. A skilled lawyer can do the following on your behalf:
Investigate All Contributing Factors to the Accident
An experienced lawyer will take the time to investigate all the potential contributing factors to a serious car accident. While the cause of the accident may seem clear, there may be multiple contributing factors, such as driver distraction, poor road conditions, lack of proper signage, or a vehicle malfunction. A car accident lawyer may work with accident reconstruction specialist to understand how the accident unfolded and all the contributing factors.
Determine All Responsible Parties
A lawyer will pinpoint the contributing factors as a means to identify all of the potentially responsible parties who may be liable for compensation. If the at-fault driver was driving a company vehicle, for example, his or her employer may bear some responsibility for your injuries. In cases where a vehicle malfunctions, such as a tire blowout, it could be a manufacturer who is partially at fault.
Deal with Insurance Company Adjusters
Your lawyer can deal with the insurance company adjusters while you concentrate on your recovery. Any information you provide to the at-fault driver’s insurance company adjuster may be used against you to minimize or invalidate your claim. Have a lawyer deal with the adjuster for you to reduce the risk of having your statement misconstrued.
Estimate Future Medical Costs and Accident-Related Expenses
A lawyer can help you assess all accident-related expenses, including estimated future medical costs. This is commonly done by consulting with your doctors and other medical professionals to come up with an estimate on what your future expenses may be based on the injuries you sustained. Without projecting future costs, you could miss out on compensation you are likely to need to complete your rehabilitation and recover fully from your injuries.
Deal with Hospitals or Debt Collectors Trying to Harass You About Medical Bills
After a car accident, your attention should be focused on your health and recovery. The last thing you should have to do following a car accident is deal with hospital staff or debt collectors about the payment of your medical bills. A lawyer can deal directly with the hospital or debt collector and inform them of a pending claims to put an end to harassment
Negotiate with the Insurance Company
An insurance company’s interest is in minimizing the amount its pays out in claims to protect its profit margin. The insurance company’s initial offer is likely to be far less than what a claim is actually worth. The at-fault driver’s insurance company is hoping you will accept the settlement offer and, in doing so, sign away your right to sue for further damages. Never accept a settlement offer from the insurance company without having a lawyer review it.
When Can I Handle a Car Accident Claim Myself?
Most people don’t need lawyers for very small cases. If they are comfortable gathering the evidence and documents themselves and negotiating the settlement, then it is probably in their best interests to do that. Then, they save the 1/3 contingent fee that most personal injury lawyers take.
The question is, what is a small case? And where is the line between a small case that you can handle yourself and a larger case for which you absolutely should hire a lawyer? As a general rule, if your medical bills total more than around $3,000, or if you were out of work for more than a week or so, you should probably hire a lawyer.
Types of Compensation You May Claim
In a car accident case, you may be entitled to claim four main categories of compensation:
- Medical Expenses – Includes emergency room bills, hospital stays, doctor’s visits, physical therapy, and medication
- Lost Income – Wages that you’ve lost when you miss work due to injuries caused by the car accident
- Pain and Suffering – Compensation for pain caused by your injuries and the loss of ability to enjoy and participate in the daily or life activities that you enjoyed before your accident
- Property Damage – Compensation to repair or replace your vehicle and other personal property damaged in the crash
What is the damage formula, and how does it work?
When negotiating a claim, the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster will determine the sum of all medical expenses resulting from the accident, which are known as medical special damages, or special damages. To determine the settlement offer amount for pain and suffering, emotional damages, and permanent disabilities (general damages), the adjuster will multiply the amount of special damages by roughly one and a half to three in situations where the injuries are minor. When the injuries are more severe and painful, the adjuster will multiply the amount by five or more in addition to lost income. In most settlements, that total becomes the starting point for negotiations.
Once the starting point for negotiations is established, additional facts about the accident and the injuries it caused will be revealed that will change the settlement amount. Since the multiplier can range from one and a half to five, there is a wide value range that can result from the damage formula.
Weekly payments for loss of earnings
The statutory weekly payments for loss of earnings are worked out as a percentage of your pre-accident income. Claims for statutory payments must be made within three months of the accident. For the first 13 weeks of payments, you can claim up to 95% of your pre-accident income, while payments for weeks 14-26 may be up to 80% of your income if you’re incapacitated and unable to work.
The motor vehicle accident payouts will end after week 26 if your injuries are considered to be “minor”, or if you were at fault for the accident. Minor injuries include soft tissue injuries and minor mental illnesses. However, the weekly payments for loss of earnings will continue for people with serious injuries and who were not at fault. After two years, you will need to be pursuing a claim for common law damages for the payments to continue.