After experiencing a car accident, many people decide they don’t need the assistance of an attorney. Some may initially feel confident in handling the insurance claim process on their own, perhaps assuming the other driver’s culpability is obvious.
Unfortunately, the insurance company might disagree that the other driver was at fault – even if the police report says they were.
Depending on local laws, the insurance carrier might be able to reduce your settlement or deny it entirely based on your perceived fault. Or, they could make you a settlement offer that grossly undervalues your damages.
Can a Car Accident Attorney Help You Avoid Common Difficulties With the Insurance Company?
Yes. To secure the rightful compensation you deserve, we encourage you to consult a car accident attorney before you make any decisions.
By doing so, you gain access to a legal expert who can comprehensively explain your rights and assist you in accurately assessing your damages. Additionally, your attorney will take charge of negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf, striving for a reasonable settlement to cover your losses.
Assessing Your Damages
Many people who handle their own insurance claims are underestimating or overlooking some of their damages without realizing it. This is easy to do, and the insurance company adjuster is not going to point it out to you.
However, your lawyer will talk with you about your injuries and work to include all your damages at their total value. These damages include:
- Medical care. Whether you just needed an X-ray to ensure nothing was broken or you require long-term care for a severe injury, you have a right to compensation for your medical costs. Keep in mind that you should also take into account your future costs. Your lawyer will wait until they’re sure your treatment is finished and you won’t need any more care before settling your case. That’s because they don’t want you to get stuck with more bills later. On the other hand, if your injuries are severe and permanent, you may need long-term care, in some cases, for the rest of your life. In these situations, we will estimate your future medical costs and include these in your damages.
- Lost income. After an accident, your injuries may keep you in the hospital or otherwise prevent you from working for days, weeks, or even months. You could use all of your paid time off if you have any, or you might have to accept taking unpaid time off if you don’t. Either way, you deserve compensation for this lost time at work.
- Lost earning potential. In situations where you have a permanent injury, you could suffer a loss of earning potential. This might mean that you can’t work at all anymore, or that you can’t work as many hours, or you have to take a lower-paying job doing less physically strenuous work. If any of these situations apply, you can seek compensation for loss of earning potential.
- Damage. There are many ways that insurance companies can underestimate the damage to your car, including overlooking the car’s diminished value after an accident. Other personal objects damaged in the crash, like a laptop or phone, can also count as part of your damage claim.
- Pain and suffering. A car accident can cause a wide variety of injuries, including broken bones, head injuries, neck and back injuries, internal injuries, and more. As a result, you may suffer physical pain or emotional distress for an extended period of time. Your attorney will seek an appropriate amount for your pain and suffering.
- Permanent disability or disfigurement. If you have a permanent injury, be sure to tell your attorney. Even if you’re able to continue working, you still have a right to compensation for any permanent alteration to your life.
- Wrongful death. Sadly, many people die in car accidents. If you’ve lost a loved one in this way, you can seek compensation for funeral/burial expenses, final medical bills, loss of financial support, loss of consortium or companionship, your own pain and suffering, and more.
Who Is Liable for Your Car Accident Damages?
Once we have a clear picture of your damages, we’ll help you identify liable parties so we can seek compensation. Many people tell us that the other driver was at fault, but fault can be complicated in car accident cases for several reasons:
- You and the other driver could disagree about fault. It’s very common for both drivers to insist the other caused the accident. Sometimes, there are no witnesses, but in other situations, the witnesses also disagree about fault.
- Local laws affect how fault is applied in car accident cases. Depending on where your car accident occurred, it may be possible for both drivers to be partially responsible for a collision. In these cases, the driver who is more responsible is usually considered liable, but the lesser-responsible driver’s percentage of fault is subtracted from their recovery. There are also states where you can’t collect any compensation if you were even 1 percent at fault in an accident, and “no-fault” states where everyone carries Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance up to a certain monetary amount of damages. Your lawyer will explain your state’s laws and how they apply to your case.
- Fault is not definitively decided by a police report. While it’s often helpful to your case if the police report indicates the other driver was at fault, police reports can be challenged in court. The report contains the officer’s opinion of what happened based on evidence and witness interviews. In many cases, the officer has only a short time to investigate and receives conflicting accounts from the drivers and sometimes witnesses. They do the best they can with this information but sometimes may arrive at an incorrect conclusion.
Does That Mean You May Not Be Responsible for Damages in an At-Fault Accident?
It depends on local laws and the specific details of your case. In some instances, we may be able to challenge the police report by showing evidence that the other driver was actually at fault or more at fault.
If you believe the police report for your accident was inaccurate in some way or that the other driver was really at fault, we recommend speaking with an attorney about your specific case. They can interpret how local laws apply and may be able to investigate the accident further in search of more evidence.
Is Fault Always Decided in a Court Case?
No. In fact, most car accident cases are settled out of court.
If you don’t have an attorney, your car insurance company and the other driver’s car insurance company will probably settle the matter with minimal input from you.
Your car insurance company will likely argue that you weren’t at fault because they don’t want to pay the other driver’s damages. The other driver’s car insurance company may claim you were at fault for the same reason.
In a shared fault state, your car insurance company might concede that you had some fault because they won’t have to pay if you were the less responsible driver. But this could cost you a percentage of your damages.
Another problem with leaving the insurance companies in charge of settling damages is that both insurers are inclined to undervalue the damages you claim and ignore additional damages you didn’t think about.
No matter who ends up paying for the accident, you’re likely to be offered less than your damages are worth. For this reason, we recommend consulting a car accident lawyer before accepting any offer from the insurance company.
We’ll go over your damages and compare them to the offer you received; if it doesn’t match up, we can negotiate with the insurance carrier for a better deal.
If you haven’t received an offer yet, your lawyer can begin the claims process for you. We will first gather additional evidence so we can present the strongest argument possible for why the other driver is at fault.
This may include the following kinds of evidence:
- Witness testimony. Officers who respond to your accident will do their best to interview everyone at the scene, but this isn’t always possible for multiple reasons. Sometimes, witnesses have left the scene before they arrive. Or, the area is crowded, and it isn’t clear who actually saw the accident and who showed up afterward. Our investigators will visit the accident scene, observe it, and check to see if anyone who lives or works nearby saw what happened.
- Other witness statements. We may also interview people who didn’t see the accident but can shed light on the events leading up to it. For instance, a witness may tell us if the other driver was drinking or appeared intoxicated shortly before the accident. While we usually have Blood Alcohol Level (BAL) results as evidence in drunk driving cases, this additional testimony can help in situations where a third party might be liable for serving or overserving a driver who later caused an accident.
- Video evidence. Canvassing the scene has other benefits – our investigators will look for doorbell, security, or traffic cameras and seek out footage from the time of your accident. In some cases, we can recover a video of the accident to show exactly what happened. There’s no time to waste, though – video from these kinds of cameras is often deleted regularly, so the sooner we get to work on your case, the better.
- Electronic evidence. In car accident cases, we often seek data from both cars’ event data recorders (EDRs), which are sometimes called “black boxes.” EDRs capture a large amount of data used by car manufacturers to improve safety features in cars, but this information can also be helpful in showing what occurred during an accident. For example, it may tell us the speed and direction the other car was moving and what actions the driver did or didn’t take. After we file a lawsuit regarding the car accident, we can request this data as part of the discovery process.
- Smartphone data. If we have reason to believe the driver who hit you was distracted, we can request their smartphone records to learn if they were using their phone at the time of the accident.
Although most cases don’t go to trial, the evidence we gather is crucial in supporting our negotiations with the insurance company. The stronger your case is, the more the insurance adjuster will be inclined to settle for a fair amount – they don’t want to spend time and money on a trial only to pay all your damages anyway.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Your initial consultation should be free – there’s no reason you should pay anything to discover your options.
Most car accident lawyers work on contingency, which means that they only get paid an agreed-upon percentage of the recovery. In other words, you don’t have to pay them anything until they win or settle your case.
This allows injured people to get help with their car accident claims even if their injuries have caused them financial difficulties.
How Can You Get Help From a Car Accident Law Firm Today?
Please contact The Personal Injury Lawyers ™ at (312) 999-9990 for a free, confidential consultation about your case. We’ll review the details of your accident, answer your questions, and explain the possibilities for pursuing compensation.
There is no obligation, and if we do take your case, you won’t owe us anything until we win or settle it.
Lead attorney Robert S. Fakhouri founded The Personal Injury Lawyers ™ to protect the legal rights of those harmed by the negligence of others. A graduate of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, he served as a legal clerk and litigation associate and was one of the youngest people admitted to the Illinois Bar.
Since founding The Personal Injury Lawyers ™, he has worked tirelessly for his clients, recovering millions for victims of car accidents and other personal injuries. When he’s not in the courtroom or negotiating with insurance companies, you can find him discussing legal issues on social media.