The Importance of Hiring an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney
If you are injured in a car accident in Pennsylvania, you might feel overwhelmed because of your medical bills and other related losses. While you may think that you need to try to handle your insurance claim yourself, you might also wonder whether it might be a good idea to retain a Philadelphia auto accident attorney instead.
Maybe you are wondering, “Do I need a car accident lawyer?” It might be a good idea to consult a lawyer at the Philadelphia law firm of Raynes & Lawn. We have represented auto accident victims for more than five decades and always place the interests of our clients first. To help you understand when and if you should consider retaining a car accident lawyer following a motor vehicle accident, we have compiled information for you to consider.
When Is it Important to Retain a Philadelphia Auto Accident Attorney?
Immediately after a collision, claims adjusters and lawyers from your insurance company and the insurer of the other diver get to work to investigate what happened. When serious injuries are involved, the other motorist’s insurance company will attempt to shift the blame onto you to reduce the company’s potential financial liability.
This makes it important to consult an experienced auto accident lawyer as soon as possible after you are injured in an accident to get answers to the questions you might have and receive guidance on how to deal with the insurance company representatives who will contact you.
It is important to talk to a lawyer when any of the following situations apply:
- You were injured.
- Your vehicle sustained significant damage.
- The other motorist’s actions possibly caused your collision.
- You received a settlement offer from the other motorist’s insurance company that seems shockingly low.
- Your injuries are permanent and severe.
- The at-fault driver was working for a government agency at the time your collision happened.
- Your immediate family member was killed in a motor vehicle accident.
If your accident was minor and no one was injured, you likely will not need to retain a lawyer and can probably handle the claims process on your own. In any other situation, however, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights.
Even when you think the other driver was clearly at fault for your accident or simply think that it is possible, it is smart to consult a lawyer. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will work hard to defend against potential claims and might try to blame you and shift liability from its insured to reduce how much money it might be forced to pay. In some cases, insurance companies take steps to try to avoid paying claims altogether. Competent auto accident attorneys understand the various tactics insurance companies use to try to evade liability and can take steps to counter them.
Similarly, some insurance companies send early settlement offers to accident victims that are unreasonably low. They might do this to try to convince accident victims that their claims aren’t worth very much in the hope that the victims will accept them. Insurance companies also know that injured accident victims are often faced with expensive medical bills and wage losses, so they might feel it’s necessary to accept early settlement offers to take care of their immediate expenses. However, accepting a lowball offer will foreclose your ability to ask for more money later when you find that what you received wasn’t enough to pay for your losses. An attorney can analyze your case and the extent of your damages so that you can understand whether an offer you receive is fair or unreasonable.
It’s especially important to retain an experienced Philadelphia auto accident attorney when you have suffered severe and permanent injuries. This is because your injuries might require ongoing medical care and treatment for the rest of your life, and you might also have other expenses such as home modifications. A lawyer can work to secure a full settlement that might cover all of your current and future anticipated expenses.
If the at-fault motorist who caused your collision was working for a government agency, you’ll have a shorter time to file a claim and have to meet other requirements. You should retain a lawyer who has experience handling claims against the government so that they can help you pursue legal action properly.
Finally, you will likely need to retain a lawyer if you lost a close family member in a car accident in which someone else was at fault. A lawyer can help you file a wrongful death action against the at-fault party to hold them accountable and help you recover compensation for your losses.
Now that you understand when you should consider hiring a lawyer for a car accident claim, here are some other reasons why having an attorney might be important for your case.
Benefit From Your Attorney’s Legal Knowledge
Attorneys must complete several years of law school following their completion of a Bachelor’s degree. They must then pass some rigorous exams and thorough background checks before they can be admitted to the bar and licensed. After an attorney is licensed, they must complete continuing education hours each year to keep abreast of important changes in the statutory and case law. Unless you have similar legal training and are a licensed attorney, you likely do not have the legal knowledge an experienced car accident attorney has about the laws that apply to your case. Even if you are a licensed attorney, it’s typically not a good idea to try to handle your case on your own because of the difficulty of maintaining objectivity when you are involved in what happened. An injury attorney should have a thorough understanding of the laws that apply and keep current with important case decisions that affect accident claims. This legal knowledge can help your lawyer understand the best way to approach your case and prosecute your claim.
Help Understanding Whether Your Claim Has Legal Merits
Not all car accident cases are legally merited. If your potential case doesn’t have legal merits, you won’t want to waste time and money to pursue it when it won’t result in compensation. A good lawyer should be able to analyze your case and explain whether it has legal merits. Being able to receive an honest assessment from a lawyer can help you understand whether it is worthwhile for you to move forward with a claim or not.
Have Your Crash Thoroughly Investigated
Getting fair compensation for the losses you have suffered from a car crash will require you to gather and present evidence to prove your claim. You will need to gather evidence proving the other driver’s responsibility for your crash and the types of harm you suffered as a result of their actions. You won’t be able to recover compensation if you can’t prove the other driver’s liability and the specific damages you suffered.
Your claim will only be as strong as the evidence you gather and present. An attorney will conduct a thorough investigation of what happened. During this process, your attorney will identify and gather critical evidence to support your claim and prove each of the legal elements. The following examples are some of the types of evidence that might be needed to prove your claim:
- Videos from area businesses, traffic cameras, or witnesses that captured your collision
- Photographs of your collision taken by witnesses, you, or intersection cameras
- Cell phone data from the other motorist when distracted driving might be an issue
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Your medical records
- Laboratory test results
- Imaging tests
An attorney might work with an accident reconstruction expert in some cases to determine how an accident occurred and who caused it. Other types of experts might be needed to prove a defective part or other factors contributed to an accident.
Car accident attorneys might work with investigators to interview witnesses, gather video evidence, obtain police and accident reports, and find and gather evidence. After an attorney gathers all of the evidence necessary to support your claim, your lawyer will compile it for you and include it to support your accident claim.
Avoid Making Mistakes That Might Harm Your Case
Following a car accident, some victims make mistakes that greatly weaken their claims. When you retain a lawyer soon after your accident, your attorney can help you to avoid making critical mistakes. Some of the types of mistakes people tend to make include the following:
- Apologizing for the accident
- Telling the other motorist or police officer they were not injured only to later learn that they were
- Failing to seek medical treatment immediately
- Talking to the at-fault driver’s insurance company
- Providing a recorded statement for the insurance adjuster
- Signing a medical authorization to allow the insurance company to access their medical records
- Missing deadlines for filing lawsuits
- Accepting lowball offers
- Posting information about their accidents and injuries on social media
When you retain a lawyer soon after your crash, your attorney can help to prevent you from making these and other mistakes. This can help to protect your rights to recover the compensation you deserve.
Rely on Your Attorney’s Negotiation Skills
When you file a claim with an insurance company yourself, it can be difficult to obtain the results you want. Insurance companies contract with many skilled defense lawyers who are prepared to vigorously defend against car accident claims. When you walk into a negotiation without legal representation, you will be on unequal footing with the insurance company. Even trying to negotiate with an insurance adjuster on your own is not a good idea. The job of an insurance adjuster is to protect the profitability of their employer, and they will try to get you to accept the lowest possible offer.
A skilled attorney understands how to negotiate with insurance companies to try to recover maximal compensation for their clients. They understand the laws that govern insurance companies and can analyze the clauses in insurance policies that apply to coverage, limitations, and exclusions. Your lawyer can present the evidence in your case to place your claim in the best possible light, which can encourage the insurance company to fairly settle your claim instead of continuing to fight against it.
Insurance companies often try to take advantage of accident victims by trying to dispute valid claims. If you try to negotiate with an insurance company by yourself, you are much less likely to recover full compensation for your losses. A knowledgeable car accident attorney can properly value your claim and negotiate with the insurance company to reach an agreement that includes compensation for all of your losses.
Understand the Value of Your Case
An attorney understands how insurance companies calculate the values of claims. Lawyers also can assess your damages and calculate how much your claim might be worth. After your attorney values your case, they can provide you with minimum and maximum values of what you might expect to receive in a fair settlement offer. Understanding the likely value of your claim can allow you to assess any offers you might receive and understand whether you should continue fighting for more compensation.
Be Prepared to Take Your Case to Trial
While most car accident cases are settled outside of court, there are some cases in which an insurance company will refuse to offer a fair settlement. Some companies might dispute the liability of their insureds altogether, leaving you with the only option to pursue a formal lawsuit in court. If the negotiations do not work out, your attorney should have significant litigation experience and help you file a formal lawsuit. While some injury lawyers simply try to settle all of their cases outside of court and have little courtroom experience, the attorneys at Raynes & Lawn are seasoned litigators with significant trial experience.
When an insurance company knows that your attorney has a long track record of success with jury trials, it might be likelier to offer a fair settlement instead of going to trial and risking a loss. Even if your case is forced to go to trial, having an experienced lawyer on your side can greatly enhance your chances of ultimately prevailing on your claim. Your attorney will know how to present evidence and examine witnesses to meet your burden of proof and increase your chances of receiving justice.
Civil courts have strict procedures that must be followed in a car accident lawsuit. Your lawyer can explain the process and help you navigate through it. They can handle all of the issues that arise during the discovery process, depose witnesses, conduct interrogatories, and help you construct a strong case of liability.
While the chance that you will have to take your case to trial is low, it’s a good idea to have a skilled litigator by your side who is prepared to fight for you in and out of the courtroom. An attorney with significant trial experience might anticipate potential defense arguments, object to the presentation of inadmissible evidence, and help to present your case in a way the jury understands and empathizes with.
Knowledge of How to Prove Liability
Winning an auto accident lawsuit requires you to present enough evidence to meet your burden of proof in court. As the plaintiff, it is your responsibility to prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence. To do so, you must present sufficient evidence to prove each of the legal elements of negligence. An attorney should know these elements and gather evidence to prove each one:
- The at-fault party owed a duty of care to you.
- The at-fault party violated the duty of care you were owed.
- Because the at-fault party breached the duty of care, your accident happened and resulted in your injuries.
- You suffered actual damages.
If you can’t prove one element but can prove the others, you will lose your case. A lawyer will know what might be required to prove each of these elements under the facts and circumstances of your case and gather evidence to support your liability claim.
Ensure You Meet All Deadlines
Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations for auto accident cases. This law sets a deadline for when you must file a lawsuit. If you don’t meet this deadline, you won’t be able to pursue legal remedies in court. Under Pa. C.S.A. § 5524, the general statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years. However, there are certain exceptions to this general rule that might either extend or shorten the deadline. Your attorney can help you understand the deadline that applies to your case and help to ensure you meet it.
Once a lawsuit is filed, the court will set other deadlines for discovery, hearings, and other matters. Your lawyer will help you meet all of the deadlines set by the court in your case to avoid potential problems.
Explain the Damages You Might Recover
When you don’t have a legal education and experience handling injury cases, you might not know some of the types of damages you might be eligible to recover in your claim. An accident lawyer can analyze how your accident has impacted your life and determine the types of damages for which you might be legally entitled to receive. Some of the types of damages that you might recover include the following:
- Medical expenses for your hospital stay, doctors’ appointments, prescriptions, surgical procedures, medical tests, assistive devices, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and other medical treatments to help you recover from your injuries both now and in the future
- Wage losses caused by missing work because of your injuries
- Reduced earning capacity if your injuries are debilitating and prevent you from returning to your job
- Vehicle damage costs
- Physical pain and suffering from your injuries both in the past and future
- Emotional distress you suffered because of your accident and injuries
- Disfigurement and scarring damages if your injuries left you disfigured
- Reduced ability to enjoy life
- Other damages
The particular types of damages that you might recover will depend on the facts of your case. Your attorney should explain the damages that might be available to you and how much they might be worth.
Get an Attorney’s Opinion For Free
Most car accident attorneys offer free initial consultations. You can take advantage of this to learn more about your potential case and the remedies that might be available to you. If you decide to retain a lawyer, your attorney will likely work on a contingency basis. This means that you won’t have to pay any attorney’s fees until and unless your lawyer successfully recovers compensation for you through a settlement or verdict in your favor. If you don’t win your claim, you won’t have to pay anything. If you do win your case, your attorney will subtract their fees from your settlement or award.
Speak to a Philadelphia Auto Accident Attorney
Retaining a car accident lawyer for a serious crash can provide multiple benefits. However, it’s important to ensure you choose the lawyer with whom you feel most comfortable and trust to handle your claim. At Raynes & Lawn, our attorneys have significant experience in and out of the courtroom, and we have successfully recovered tens of billions of dollars for our clients. We can help you understand the merits of your case and your next steps. To learn more, call us today to request a free consultation at 1-800-535-1797.
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