Should You Call A Lawyer After A Car Accident
Following an automobile collision, the victims involved might not know whether they need to retain a lawyer. While you aren’t required to hire a lawyer to pursue a car accident claim, having the help of an attorney can greatly increase the chances that you will recover compensation in the amount that you deserve for your losses. Injured accident victims who do not retain lawyers might be left to deal with quickly building losses at the same time they are trying to deal with serious injuries.
Insurance companies frequently employ a variety of different tactics to try to reduce the amounts they have to pay out in claims or avoid payments altogether. One common tactic insurance companies use with unrepresented car accident victims is to extend lowball settlement offers to them. They do this to try to convince the victims that their claims are not worth as much as they are and that they should accept them. If the victims accept the unreasonably low offers, they can’t come back later to seek additional compensation when they learn that their settlements were far too low.
While not all car accidents need to be handled by attorneys, those that involve injuries frequently do. Knowing when you need to retain a lawyer and when it might be okay to represent yourself is important for protecting your interests and your rights. Consulting the car accident attorneys in Philadelphia at Raynes & Lawn can help you understand the merits of your claim and whether you might need the help of an attorney. We offer free consultations and can review your case so that you know your legal options and the direction to take.
When Do You Need to Contact a Lawyer Following a Car Crash?
If your accident was only a minor fender-bender that didn’t result in any injuries, you can likely handle your claim with the insurance company on your own. By contrast, if you were involved in a severe collision that left you struggling with injuries or resulted in the loss of a close family member, you should contact an accident lawyer in Philadelphia as soon as possible after your collision. Getting help quickly allows you to understand your rights and helps you to avoid making mistakes that could potentially harm your claim. When you retain a lawyer soon after your crash, your attorney can gather evidence, investigate what happened, and begin building a strong case for you.
The following factors should prompt you to contact an attorney immediately after a collision:
- You suffered serious injuries.
- Your close family member was killed.
- It is unclear who was at fault.
- Your crash involved another motorist who you believe was at fault.
- The collision occurred in a school, work, or construction zone.
- You don’t agree with the accident report created by the responding police officer.
- The other motorist was uninsured.
- The other motorist only has a policy meeting the minimum insurance requirements of Pennsylvania.
- Your insurance company seems to be dragging its feet or sending mixed messages about your claim.
Most minor crashes won’t require the help of a lawyer. However, there are certain circumstances under which an attorney’s help might be important after a crash that initially seems minor, including the following:
- Any crash resulting in substantial property or vehicle damage even if you don’t initially believe you have been injured
- Any collision that results in any type of injury to you or one of your passengers
- A crash that causes you or a passenger to miss a significant amount of work
- A collision in which the insurance company is delaying payment or when there are issues with insurance limits
Even if you don’t know whether you want to file a lawsuit, it is still a good idea to consult an experienced car accident lawyer in Philadelphia at Raynes & Lawn as soon as possible following your crash. Getting help early can help you to preserve evidence that might otherwise be destroyed or lost and learn about your potential rights.
The Problem of Hidden Injuries
Immediately following a car crash, your body will flood your system with adrenaline as a part of the natural fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline helps your body prepare to react in dangerous situations. However, it also can mask pain signals, meaning you might not notice symptoms of injuries. Similarly, if you experience shock following a collision, it can mask injury symptoms.
When people think about car accident injuries, many imagine serious, visible injuries, including severe lacerations, broken bones, head trauma, and others. However, many types of injuries are not immediately visible and might not be initially noticed. Some of these might include whiplash, contusions, tendon damage, or stretched ligaments. Others might also include internal bleeding, organ damage, and concussions.
The problem of hidden injuries leads many car accident victims to avoid seeing their doctors right after their crashes because they don’t know that they have been hurt. However, if you fail to see your doctor soon after your crash, the insurance company will likely argue that your injuries occurred because of a different event instead of your car wreck. Any time that you are involved in a collision, you should get checked out by your doctor just to check whether or not you have been injured. Getting immediate medical care can help to show a link between your accident and your injuries and make it easier for you to recover the compensation you deserve.
What to Do After a Car Accident
There are several steps you should take right after a collision to protect yourself. If you are involved in a car wreck, do the following things:
1. Call 911 – Right after your accident, call 911. The dispatcher will alert the police and emergency medical responders about your collision. If the other motorist tries to talk you into handling the accident without involving the police, don’t listen. Failing to report an accident involving injuries or property damage worth more than a minimal amount can get you in trouble. If you don’t report your accident, it can also be difficult for you to prove it happened and recover damages for your losses.
2. Collect Evidence and Document the Scene – While you are still at the accident scene, you should try to document your accident and the scene as much as possible. Use your smartphone to take pictures of the vehicle damage to each involved car, the license plates of the other vehicles, nearby intersections, stop signs, traffic control devices, tire skid marks, and any other details that you think might be important. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses who saw what happened. All of these types of evidence might be helpful when your attorney is determining liability.
3. Seek medical attention – As previously discussed, see a doctor immediately to determine whether you have been injured and to receive immediate treatment for any injuries that might be identified. Prompt medical care can help to hasten your recovery while also protecting your claim.
4. Contact an attorney – After you have received medical treatment, contact a lawyer. You should avoid talking to the other motorist’s insurance company without first talking to an attorney. This can help you to understand your rights and how to avoid harming your ability to recover compensation.
What to Avoid Doing Following a Car Accirdent
Just like there are steps to take following a car accident, there are also some things to avoid doing. Do not do any of the following things:
- Failing to report your accident
- Leaving the scene of an accident involving injuries, property damage, or death
- Apologizing or admitting fault
- Failing to seek a medical examination
- Providing a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance adjuster
- Discussing what happened in your accident or talking about your injuries to the insurance adjuster
- Signing a medical authorization allowing the other driver’s insurance company to access your medical records
- Posting details about your accident and injuries on social media
Any of these types of actions can seriously harm your ability to recover damages. Leaving the scene of an accident can also expose you to criminal charges even if the wreck was not your fault.
Statute of Limitations and When to Contact a Lawyer
Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524, there is a two-year statute of limitations in place for injury claims. This is the deadline for filing a lawsuit that applies to most car accident cases. While there are a limited number of exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations, most cases must be filed within two years of when the accidents occurred. If you fail to meet this deadline for filing a lawsuit, your claim will be time-barred. This means that a late-filed claim will likely be dismissed by the court.
While you might think that two years gives you plenty of time to contact a lawyer, remember that a competent attorney will need time to investigate your accident and gather evidence to build the strongest case possible. Do not wait until it is close to the deadline. If you do, important evidence might be lost, and your attorney might not have enough time to investigate your case and file your lawsuit.
What to Bring to Your Consultation with an Auto Accident Lawyer in Philadelphia PA
To make the most of your consultation, your attorney will want to review information about your accident. Bring the following information with you when you attend your appointment:
- Copy of the police report from the investigating police agency
- Photographs you took at the accident scene
- Medical bills from the treatment you have received
- Diagnostic information and doctor’s notes
- Wage statements showing lost wages
- Written information about what you remember about your collision
- Your contact information
- Witness names and contact information
Your lawyer can review these documents and explain whether you might have legal grounds to pursue a claim.
How an Attorney Might Help
You might think that it will be easier and less expensive to try to negotiate with the insurance company on your own. However, insurance companies will do whatever they can to avoid paying you. You are much likelier to receive fair compensation for your injuries and losses when you hire an experienced lawyer.
Our experienced car accident attorneys in Philadelphia can provide all of the following types of help:
- Analyze your case and explain whether your claim has legal merits
- Investigate what happened
- Work with experts and investigators to locate evidence and build a strong case showing the other motorist’s liability
- Properly value your claim
- Help you get your medical records and other important evidence
- Identify all potentially liable parties and recovery sources
- Send demand letters
- Negotiate with the insurance company to try to secure a fair settlement
- Ensure you meet all relevant deadlines
- Prevent you from doing or saying anything that could hurt your claim
- File a lawsuit if a settlement offer isn’t reached
- Conduct discovery
- Depose witnesses
- Fight for you at trial if necessary
While you might worry that hiring an attorney will be too expensive, most car accident lawyers work on a contingent-fee basis. This means that you won’t have to pay attorney’s fees until and unless your lawyer successfully resolves your case through a settlement or jury verdict. If you win, your attorney will then deduct their fee from any settlement or award you receive. If your attorney doesn’t recover compensation for you, you won’t owe anything.
Talk to an Auto Accident Lawyer in Philadelphia PA
If you were involved in a car accident that you believe was the other driver’s fault, it is a good idea for you to speak with the experienced car accident attorneys in Philadelphia at the law firm of Raynes & Lawn. We offer free consultations and can meet with you about your case. We will fairly assess your case and explain whether it has legal merits. Our attorneys have represented accident victims for more than 50 years and have recovered billions of dollars for our clients. To schedule your consultation, call us at 1-800-535-1797.
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