When to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident

Nov 18, 2023 | Right Path Law Group
When to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident

A car accident can put you in serious pain, requiring extensive medical treatment, and force you to deal with the logistical headaches associated with your injuries. As such, your initial focus is probably on getting through each day.

But you should not delay speaking with a car accident attorney after a crash, especially if you’ve suffered injuries requiring long-term care, the at-fault driver denies responsibility for the crash, or the insurance company makes a low-ball settlement offer.

Working with a car accident attorney soon after a crash can improve your chances of obtaining the financial resources you need for car repairs, medical treatment, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.

While you focus on your physical and emotional recovery, a car accident attorney can work on your financial and legal recovery, pursuing your insurance and legal claims at the negotiating table or, if necessary, in court.

What Steps Should You Take After a Car Accident?

When to Get an Attorney for Car Accident

As you seek legal counsel to understand and pursue your legal rights after a car accident, you can also take proactive actions that help preserve your legal options and improve your chances of recovering compensation.

Take these steps to help your attorney secure every cent you deserve:

  • Stick to your doctor’s treatment plan and recovery instructions. Do not put off medical procedures or rehabilitation. Deferring treatment might jeopardize your car accident claim by giving an insurance company a reason to minimize your injuries and losses.
  • Report the accident to your car insurance provider and confirm the coverage offered by your policy, including optional coverages you may have purchased, like collision coverage or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
  • Keep a file of your medical and car repair expenses, including all bills, invoices, or receipts. Gather your pay stubs/income statements if you need to miss time from work or experience a reduction in your earnings due to car accident injuries.
  • Assemble any evidence you may have obtained from the accident scene, such as crash scene photos or contact information for eyewitnesses. Provide this to your attorney, who can also gather outside evidence like medical records and police accident reports. If you could not gather evidence at the scene, don’t worry – your lawyer can recover it after the fact.
  • Refrain from discussing the accident or your injuries on social media or posting photos/videos of yourself while undergoing treatment/rehabilitation. Insurance companies sometimes monitor social media for any posts claimants make that might contradict their previous statements.

Finally, contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible after a crash to discuss your legal options. The sooner you do, the sooner they can get to work pursuing financial recovery for your medical treatment, car repairs, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Signs You Need a Car Accident Attorney

If you’re like many car accident victims, you might wonder if you really need a personal injury lawyer.

The answer is yes, especially if:

  • You suffered injuries that require long-term treatment: You should seek legal representation if you require treatment in the days, weeks, or months after the car accident. The cost of this treatment can add up fast, and a car accident attorney can help you pursue the complete financial resources you need to pay for it. Compensation can also include money for future care you may need after resolving your car accident case.
  • The crash involved three or more vehicles: The more vehicles involved in a car accident, the more potentially liable people there are, the more complex the case is likely to be, and the more money could be available in compensation. Alternatively, a single at-fault driver might have limited insurance coverage or financial resources to compensate each injured accident victim, which means the quality of your attorney matters that much more.
  • The other driver(s) dispute liability for the accident: You need a legal advocate to stand up for your rights and interests if the other driver(s) involved in the crash deny fault for causing the accident or claim that you caused the crash. This is especially true if the other driver(s) also retain legal counsel.
  • The accident involves complex facts or evidence: An experienced car accident attorney is better equipped to prepare and pursue a legal claim if your case involves complex evidence, such as car computer logs, vehicle inspection reports, or surveillance/traffic camera footage. An attorney might also benefit your case by commissioning reports or testimony from accident reconstruction experts.
  • The insurance company haves undervalued your claim: If the insurance company tries to offer you less than the total amount of your losses or doesn’t offer you money for future expenses you will incur, a car accident attorney can aggressively negotiate for a fairer figure on your behalf.

What Does a Car Accident Attorney Do for You After a Car Accident?

Recovering from severe injuries sustained in a car accident can take up much of your time and energy. You might find it challenging to treat and rehab your injuries while fighting with the insurance companies to get the compensation you need and deserve. A car accident attorney can make the recovery process less stressful, allowing you to focus on your physical and emotional recovery.

The following are just some of the ways that a car accident attorney can assist you after a car accident.

Thoroughly Investigating the Accident

Proving liability for a car accident may require significant or complex evidence.

A car accident attorney will know what evidence could show fault for the crash and can secure that evidence, including surveillance/traffic camera footage or logs from the event data recorders from the vehicles involved in the crash.

An experienced attorney can review the facts and evidence from a car crash to identify the party or parties who might bear liability for the accident and your injuries. If necessary, a car accident attorney can work with accident reconstruction experts to review the evidence and prepare compelling reports and testimony.

Documenting Your Ongoing and Future Losses

A car accident attorney might help you maximize your financial recovery by thoroughly documenting the injuries and losses you’ve suffered in a car crash.

A lawyer can fight for the financial resources you will need after you resolve your claim, including by working with medical, vocational, and financial experts to explain what disabilities might result from your injuries or what future care you might need.

Filing Your Claims and Dealing with Insurance Companies

An attorney can file the necessary paperwork and communicate with insurance adjusters on your behalf. When accident victims try to handle their own cases, insurance companies often try various tactics to minimize or deny their claims.

A car accident lawyer can protect your interests and aggressively pursue the maximum compensation you need.

Pursuing Your Claims in Court

A car accident lawyer becomes particularly useful if insurance companies won’t agree to a fair settlement or you need to pursue claims directly against the at-fault driver(s). They can file a lawsuit and advocate your case in court if litigation becomes necessary to pursue a financial recovery.

How an Attorney Can Help You Deal With the Insurance Companies

How an Attorney Can Help You Deal With the Insurance Companies

The first step to recovering the compensation you need after a car accident is to file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s policy.

In Virginia, drivers must have liability insurance coverage with minimum policy limits of:

  • $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident of bodily injury/death liability coverage (increasing to $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident in 2025)
  • $20,000 per accident of property damage liability coverage (increasing to $25,000 in 2025)
  • However, Virginia allows drivers to drive without liability insurance if they pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee.
  • Drivers can protect themselves and their passengers by purchasing other operational coverages for their car insurance policy, such as:
  • Medical expenses/payments coverage: Medical expenses or Med Pay coverage can reimburse the costs of treating and rehabbing car accident injuries, regardless of who may have caused the car accident.
  • Collision coverage: A driver can obtain reimbursement for the costs to repair accident damage by purchasing optional collision coverage for their vehicle. Collision coverage can also reimburse the cash value of a car totaled in an accident.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: With uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, an injured driver’s or passenger’s insurance provider steps in to replace the insurance coverage of an at-fault driver who doesn’t have insurance, flees the crash scene, or has minimal liability coverage that doesn’t pay for all their victim’s losses.

However, insurance providers are for-profit businesses that will look for any excuse to deny a claim or minimize a payout and protect those profits. Instead of relying on them to do the right thing, engage legal counsel. A car accident lawyer can negotiate with them on your behalf, pushing back if they try to deny you the coverage you paid for.

Searching for a Car Accident Attorney

Searching for a Car Accident Attorney

Picking the right attorney can make a big difference in your car accident claim. But how do you choose the best attorney for you?

Fortunately, most car accident lawyers offer free initial consultations, which allow you to meet with the attorney and ask questions to help with your decision.

Here are some tips for selecting the right attorney to handle your case:

  • Obtain referrals to prospective car accident attorneys through personal connections (family, friends, past lawyers you’ve worked with), state/local bar association and online directories, or internet searches.
  • Look for attorneys with a substantial history in handling car accident cases. Ideally, you should search for lawyers with substantial courtroom litigation experience so your car accident attorney has the skills and knowledge to take your case to trial.
  • Ask prospective attorneys about their awards and certifications and read their client reviews and past certifications.
  • Ask attorneys questions during the initial consultations to better understand the attorneys’ working style, which may help you determine whether you might have an effective and productive attorney-client relationship.

Before you hire a car accident attorney, you should understand how their fee structure works. Most car accident lawyers handle cases on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing upfront to hire the lawyer.

Instead, the lawyer gets paid if they win compensation for you in a settlement or at trial, receiving a percentage of the money they recover for you, as detailed in your fee agreement. Some car accident lawyers who advance case costs might also collect reimbursement for those expenses.

Working With Your Car Accident Attorney

Once you’ve selected a car accident attorney to help with your case, you should understand what happens next. First, you should remember to share all relevant documents and information with your attorney, even if it might hurt your case.

Your attorney cannot adequately protect your rights and interests if they don’t have the complete picture beforehand. That could lead to a nasty surprise that costs you money.

You and your car accident attorney should also set realistic expectations about your case. An attorney cannot promise they will win your case or recover a specific amount for you. However, a lawyer can use their knowledge and experience to advise you regarding your case’s strength and chances of recovering compensation.

What to Expect During the Car Accident Claims Process

Although the timeline of a car accident claim varies from case to case, you should expect:

  • Thorough investigation of the accident
  • Filing insurance claims
  • Initial settlement negotiations and, potentially, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation or arbitration
  • Filing a car accident lawsuit, if initial negotiation efforts fail to reach a settlement
  • Discovery, which includes the exchange of evidence, documents, and witness testimony to narrow down issues for trial
  • Court-facilitated settlement negotiations or mediation
  • Trial and post-trial proceedings, such as execution/satisfaction of judgment or appeal
Car Accident Lawyer, Pierre Prialé
Pierre Prialé, Car Accident Lawyer in Fairfax

After a car accident, your primary concerns may focus on getting medical treatment for your injuries and repairing your car so you can get back to work and regular life as soon as possible. However, you also need experienced legal representation to help you pursue compensation for your car repairs, medical bills, and lost income.

Contacting a personal injury law firm in Fairfax as soon as possible after a crash gives you a better chance of obtaining the full financial recovery you need and deserve. An experienced car accident lawyer can investigate the crash, recover evidence, identify liable parties, and pursue your legal options through insurance claims or, if necessary, in court.