We have all seen those TV commercial attorneys telling you that they are the ones to call after a car accident. However, most fail to answer the most basic question, “Do I need to hire a lawyer after a car accident?” Despite being in the personal injury field for over 28 years, my answer to this basic question is “Not always.” The truth is that not every person involved in a car accident needs to hire an attorney. In fact, there are many circumstances when a car accident victim is better off representing himself or herself and not hiring an attorney.
Here are some guidelines to help you decide whether or not you need to hire a lawyer after a car crash:
Situations When You May Not Need to Hire a Lawyer
1. If you were clearly at fault for the crash and have bodily injury liability coverage: In most situations, if you solely caused the car accident, your insurance company is responsible for handling the claim against you, including hiring an attorney at their expense to defend you in any lawsuit filed against you.
2. If the car accident was property damage only and no dispute as to who was at fault for the crash: If there are no physical injuries from a car accident, most property damage claims can be handled without having to hire a lawyer. The insurance companies involved can typically handle the property damage claims themselves without the necessity of you having to hire a lawyer.
3. The car accident only resulted in temporary injuries: Under Florida law, your car insurance company is responsible for payment of a large percentage of your medical expenses up to $10,000.00 under your PIP coverage. If a car accident caused only temporary (1 day to 90 days) soreness or injury, your PIP insurance should pay most of the medical bills associated with the car accident. Without an attorney, you can ask the at-fault driver’s insurance company to pay the outstanding balances. Most insurance companies will be willing to do this. However, this should not be done until after approximately six months after the accident to make sure there will be no flare-ups or exacerbations from the injuries caused by the crash.
Situations When You Need to Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident
1. When the other driver or insurance company will not take responsibility for the crash: Many times, even when it is clear who caused the car accident, the other driver or his or her insurance company refuses to take responsibility for their (or their insured’s) negligence. In these situations, you may need to hire a lawyer to hold them accountable for their negligence.
2. Your injuries have lasting effects (including pain or loss of bodily function): In many minor car accidents, there may be no or minimal injuries that go away relatively quickly. However, there are many other car accidents that may have minor property damage but major long-lasting injuries. If you have continual pain and symptoms despite active medical or chiropractic care, you may need to hire an attorney to protect your future. Nobody has a crystal ball as to what the future holds for an injury, but treating doctors are good at providing a prognosis within a reasonable degree of medical or chiropractic certainty.
3. The insurance company is ignoring you: I sometimes tell clients that I would be out of a job if the insurance companies simply did what they were supposed to do and treated those involved in a car accident with respect. Unfortunately, some insurance companies have business practices to ignore potential claimants in hopes that they go away. If you have attempted to get answers from the insurance company and simply cannot get a return telephone call, you may need to hire a lawyer to get answers.
So, not everyone needs to hire a lawyer after a crash. I have turned clients away after meeting with them and advising that they would be better off handling their claim themselves without paying me attorneys’ fees and costs. However, some clients certainly need to hire an attorney after a crash. If your car is totaled and you’ve sustained disabling injuries, you need to be concentrating on getting well, not on determining the value of your case. You will probably be better off with an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side.
If you decide that you need the help of a Tampa Bay personal injury attorney after a car accident, I suggest you ignore the TV commercials and ask your friends and family if they have someone to recommend. That input is far better than what you hear on television. Take advantage of free consultations and interview several lawyers until you feel comfortable with one of them. Don’t be swayed by promises of large sums of money. Choose someone who you feel is who you feel is trustworthy and experienced.
Personal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes represents those injured in car accidents, motorcycle crashes, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and other types of personal injury matters. He is a named partner at the Tampa Bay law firm of Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-796-8282 or complete the form on this page or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.