The aftermath of a car wreck can be overwhelming and stressful. You are probably worried about your health if you suffered serious injuries and about how to pay your medical bills and basic living expenses if you must take time off work to recover. If you are like most car accident victims, you may have never needed to file a claim with a negligent driver’s insurance company before. Should you try to negotiate your settlement alone first or hire an attorney right away?
Here’s Why Hiring A Lawyer Early On Is The Right Decision
Waiting to hire a lawyer after a negligent driver causes your motor vehicle crash is not a good idea. Down the road, you may find that you actually hurt your case and reduced the amount of compensation you can obtain by delaying getting an attorney’s assistance. Here’s why you want to contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after your wreck:
Documentation of your injuries
Any documents—including those concerning your injuries and your medical treatments—can be more difficult to obtain as time passes. In addition, pictures of your injuries can be powerful evidence to convince a claims adjuster or jury of the seriousness of your injuries. If you wait to contact an attorney, your injuries may have healed or become less visible before you knew to take any pictures of them.
While you may have obtained contact information of witnesses at the scene of your collision, they may not be useful to you if you wait to contact them. If you hire an attorney right away, he can interview them while he knows where they are and their memories are still clear.
Other lost evidence
An attorney can investigate your accident more effectively if he is involved early on. He may want to hire experts—such as an accident reconstruction expert—who can visit the crash scene and review other important evidence that could help prove the other driver’s negligence before it is lost or destroyed. In addition, some vital evidence—like a business’ surveillance tapes—could be taped over or lost if an attorney does not obtain them quickly.
Chances are that you will not be able to settle your claim quickly with the negligent driver’s insurance company on your own—unless the adjuster talks you into accepting less than you are entitled to. While hiring an attorney is not a guarantee of a fast settlement, it increases the likelihood that disputes can be resolved more quickly so that you receive the settlement proceeds you need.
Lack of interest
The negligent driver’s insurance company may perceive your delay in pursuing your claim and in hiring an attorney as a lack of interest in your claim. In addition, the adjuster could question the severity of your injuries if you do not have an attorney pursuing your rights until months or longer after the crash.
Once the other driver reports your crash to his insurance company, their insurance adjuster will investigate your potential claim—and contact you directly. When you do not have an attorney handling your claim from the start, you will have to communicate with the other driver’s adjuster on your own. Adjusters are skilled at getting accident victims to agree to things—such as giving a recorded statement—or saying something that inadvertently hurts their claim. If you do not have an attorney negotiating your settlement for you, you could make a mistake that could hurt the value of your claim and force you to accept less in settlement.
Statute of limitations
The statute of limitations is the time period you have to sue the negligent driver for the compensation you are entitled to. You could miss this important deadline and waive your right to sue if you do not obtain the advice of an attorney quickly.
Value of your claim
While the value of your claim is mainly based on the extent of your injuries and the amount of time you must be off work, hiring a car accident attorney soon after your crash can potentially increase the amount of your settlement. If your attorney is experienced and has a reputation for taking a case to trial when the insurance company will not be reasonable, this could give you a negotiating advantage. The negligent driver’s insurance adjuster may be more likely to settle your claim for what you deserve rather than risk owing you more if your case goes to trial.
Have you ruined your case if you did not hire an attorney right away? The answer is probably no. A lawyer who has handled many car accident cases will have had experience dealing with this potential problem and many other more serious mistakes that accident victims make.
If you or a family member was injured in a car accident caused by another driver, contact us online or call us directly at 706.863.6600 to schedule your free case evaluation to learn about your legal options.