“Oh, my goodness! There’s been a terrible accident! Call for emergency help!” If you’ve heard those scary words before, then you know what it’s like to be involved in a terrible accident yourself or be a witness.
In 2018, more than 36,000 people died in car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and that number is actually only a fraction of the number of auto accidents that happen each year in the United States. Some estimates indicate that as few as 20 million and as many as 50 million auto accidents happen every year on U.S. roads and highways. The NHTSA also estimates that as many as 10 million accidents go unreported every year for a variety of reasons.
In cases with injuries and major property damage, it may be necessary to rely on the expertise of an attorney to help you navigate the legal issues related to the accident. If the worst happens, you want to be prepared. Check out these tips for finding a good lawyer after a car accident.
Most minor car accidents don’t require the services of a lawyer. These types of accidents, which are often referred to as “fender benders,” frequently occur in parking lots and other areas where vehicles are moving slowly. The individuals involved can often resolve these slight scrapes by sharing their insurance company information, without having to worry about legal action. In some cases, they may even resolve it between themselves without notifying their insurance carriers.
However, major accidents involving trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and other drivers and passengers may require legal assistance to help the drivers sort out liability and then collect compensation from the driver who was responsible. An attorney could also be hired by the responsible driver to try to minimize the amount he or she has to pay for damages.
Scene of the Accident
At the scene of the accident, you should not admit fault of any kind, even if it’s pretty obvious that your car completely smashed into another vehicle. It’s important to make sure all the drivers and passengers are okay and then contact the police and wait to talk to an officer.
Once the officer arrives to take statements from everyone, you should note that an accident occurred, but don’t try to provide reasons for the accident. If a police officer tries to get you to admit to something, you can simply say that you aren’t sure what happened. There are two simple reasons for this approach. First, you have no idea what was happening in the other car(s) or what traffic laws were broken in the few minutes leading up to your accident. Second, auto accident insurance investigators are trained to determine fault in the accident. They can uncover information that you can’t. Let them do their jobs.
If you admit fault at the scene of the accident, and it goes into the police report, then you could be held partially responsible, even if the investigators uncover facts that exonerate you. Your lawyer could have a hard time defending you and winning a settlement for your damages.
Get the Police Report
After an accident, you and your insurance company should get a copy of the police report to ensure that all the details of your accident are correct. If you spot any errors, contact the police officer who wrote the report to correct any wrong information, such as time of day, style or model of car, and more.
Choosing a Lawyer After a Car Accident
Next, do some research to find reputable auto accident attorneys in your area. Ask your friends on social media and read plenty of real consumer reviews for the different lawyers. This is a critical step. Hiring an experienced attorney can increase your chances of winning possible compensation for your losses from the accident, including lost wages, hospital costs and auto repair expenses.
After you have done a sweep of lawyers in your area, make a short list and place phone calls to their offices. You want to ask several questions, including those related to the lawyer’s availability to take your case in a timely manner. You also need to know if the lawyer has handled cases like yours before, what the fees are, and whether he or she is willing to work on “contingency.” This means the attorney’s fees are paid from your settlement.
You may already know a lawyer who can help you. Call that lawyer and find out if he or she can represent you in an auto accident court case. If the lawyer is unavailable or unwilling to take your case, ask for a recommendation.
Many people need attorneys after accidents to ensure they receive fair compensation for injuries and vehicle damage. However, if you are determined to be the driver at fault, it’s also recommended that you hire a lawyer to protect your interests and minimize the financial impact to your wallet.