In the wake of a serious car accident, your injuries may feel insurmountable. While you may not know how, you might be aware that you are entitled to financial recovery if another driver was at fault for causing your injuries in a car accident. Getting a lawyer will give you the best chance at obtaining that recovery.
The right car accident lawyer should be able to help you deal with insurance company representatives, file your claim, and represent you at the discovery and trial stages. As compensation, most experienced car accident injury lawyers will use contingency fee structures, which get them paid more when they win more for you. You should start your search for qualified legal assistance as soon as possible after you have had your injuries treated.
What Services Should Your Car Accident Lawyer Offer?
An ideal car crash lawyer for your case should be able to represent you throughout all stages of your case. Even if you intend on settling from the outset of your legal journey, you should not discount the chance that your case becomes more complicated and goes through the trial process.
Your lawyer should be able to communicate with the other driver’s insurance company on your behalf to prevent claims adjusters from getting you to admit fault in an accident. Your lawyer can read over any settlement offers and negotiate the terms or submit counter offers that will get you the compensation you deserve.
If you don’t reach a favorable settlement agreement before trial, your lawyer should be able to file your lawsuit in court and represent you through the discovery and trial process. Remember, just because you file your lawsuit does not mean that you lose the opportunity to agree on a settlement. You can negotiate and accept a favorable settlement agreement at any point in your trial up until the court reaches a decision.
Your lawyer can offer assistance in obtaining expert witnesses. Expert witnesses are often a critical part of proving your case and winning damages. Therefore, having effective experts on your side is an important part of any case. Law firms should typically be familiar with a number of experts in the medical and financial profession that can help their clients.
What to Look for in a Lawyer’s Fee Structure
Most car accident injury attorneys can work on a contingency fee payment structure. When a lawyer uses a contingency fee, they get paid based on how much you recover in your case. You and your attorney will agree on a percentage of your recovery to determine their ultimate payment. This way, if you don’t ultimately recover anything in your case, you won’t have to pay anything in legal fees.
For instance, if your contingency agreement comes to 33%, and you win $300,000, your attorney will receive roughly $100,000 from the representation. While this may seem like a lot, your attorney will be more motivated to win you a higher settlement or decision than they would if they were charging you by the hour.
Some law firms will offer sliding scales for contingency percentages based on how far the case progresses. This shouldn’t scare you off. A sliding scale accounts for the amount of work that the car accident attorney has to do to proceed to each level of your case. For instance, the contingency percentage might be 25% if your case is settled before your lawsuit is filed, 35% if your case is settled during discovery or trial, and 40% if your case makes it to a court decision or through to the appellate stage.
When Should You Get a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
You should act swiftly to ensure that your claim is handled in a timely and effective manner.
Obviously, your health is your first priority, so you should seek medical care immediately after your accident to diagnose and treat your injuries. Without a medical record, estimating the value of your potential claim can be difficult. Leaving too much time between the accident and your medical care can open the door for an insurance company to claim that the cause of your injuries occurred after the car accident.
Once you have received thorough medical attention, you should look to get legal help as soon as possible for several reasons.
First, every state has a law that sets a time limit on your ability to file a car accident injury lawsuit. This law, called the statute of limitations, requires plaintiffs to file their lawsuit within some amount of time from the date of the accident. If the plaintiff doesn’t file their suit within the statute of limitations, their case will be thrown out. Preparing to file a lawsuit can be a complicated and time-consuming process, so you will want to get started well in advance of any deadlines. Your lawyer should be familiar with state laws that impact the timeline on your case and can help you avoid statutory bars to your recovery.
Second, lawyers become critical for your case well before the actual trial. You will likely be contacted by a representative of the at-fault driver’s insurance company shortly after the accident. They may try to get you to confirm a version of events that benefits their client. They may also give you an unfair settlement offer in hopes that you will panic and take it, losing out on your chance of filing your lawsuit. You can have your attorney do the talking for you and evaluate all settlement offers to prevent the insurance company from taking advantage of you in your vulnerable position.
It is also never too late to get a lawyer. Even if you have already filed your lawsuit on your own, you can still properly enlist (and benefit from) a skilled legal practitioner on your side.