How an Attorney Can Help After a Car Accident
Many drivers wonder if they always need an attorney for a car accident. For minor accidents with property damage only, you can probably represent yourself, as long as you carefully document your losses. But any time an accident involves injury to a person, you want to have professional representation.
The injury doesn’t have to appear serious at first for you to speak to an attorney. Remember, personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay them until you recover compensation for your injuries through a settlement or a court verdict. Since it costs you nothing for the initial consult, you should at least schedule to see your options.
Here are just a few ways an attorney can help you after a New York auto accident.
- Dealing with the insurance company — Under New York’s no-fault insurance laws, victims with minor injuries must first file a claim with their own insurance company. Initially, many such drivers feel there’s no need to talk to a lawyer, because they’ll be dealing with their own insurer, who has always been responsive to their needs. But that was when you were buying coverage.
You’re now in the position of demanding payment. You're in an adversarial position and won't be dealing with your friendly salesperson. You’ll be dealing with adjusters and lawyers whose job depends on limiting the amount the company pays out. Without an attorney advocating for you, the company will attempt to lowball a settlement and drag out the process until you give in.
- Protecting your right to sue — Your chances of a fair settlement increase dramatically if the insurance company thinks you’re willing to take your case to court. Unfortunately, under New York’s no-fault insurance law, you can only sue if you have a “serious injury” within the meaning of the law. If your injury is borderline serious, a skilled attorney can make the case that you qualify to get your case into court.
- Assembling the evidence — Whether you’re in negotiations or headed to court, the strength of your position depends on the evidence that weighs in your favor. An attorney does the leg and phone work to investigate your case and assemble crucial evidence. This can include accident reconstruction expert reports, eyewitness testimony, defendant admissions, medical records, medical expert testimony, and financial expert reports on lost income. An investigation is deliberate and detailed work, which you probably cannot do yourself, especially when you are recovering from an injury.
- Calculating future losses — Many accident victims don’t appreciate how much their injuries may affect them in the future. You may have additional medical expenses or diminished earnings over the course of your working life due to the effects of your injuries. An experienced attorney knows to include these future costs in your demand for compensation.
- Maximizing the amount you recover — The amount of compensation you recover largely depends on two factors: the certainty of the other driver’s fault and the severity of your injuries. Experienced attorneys know how to build a case that proves fault. We also know how to interview medical experts to build a record of testimony that explains the depth of your suffering. Moreover, a veteran personal injury lawyer knows how much similar injuries have been obtained in settlements and trial verdicts. These factors taken together prove why accident victims who retain professional counsel recover far more than those who attempt to represent themselves, even after subtracting attorney fees.
Finally, an attorney can keep you from making costly mistakes, such as admitting liability for the accident, filing an incomplete claim, or accepting an offer that is way below what your injury deserves. For all the reasons stated above, you should seek out the best available injury attorney for your auto accident claim.