So, you have suffered injuries and losses in a car accident. Some people are telling you that you should call a lawyer right away, while others are saying it’s not worth it. The insurance company of the at-fault driver is giving you a hard time and doesn’t want to pay you the amount you’re requesting for your losses. You decide that you probably need the help of an experienced car accident lawyer, but you have many questions about legal representation.
The following are only some of the many questions you may have once you decide you likely need a car accident attorney.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer for My Car Accident Claim?
First, we’ll start by saying that no one NEEDS a lawyer to file an insurance claim or even a personal injury lawsuit. The law doesn’t ever require a person to have representation, and you always have the ability to represent yourself. However, it’s not always a good idea to do so.
Personal injury claims can be surprisingly long and complicated affairs, and insurance companies often employ and train adjusters and lawyers to protect their interests from car accident victims. Yes, you read that right—large insurance companies and their legal teams aim to protect their bottom lines from people suffering from injuries and facing extensive losses! While this may seem hard to believe, you only need to file a car accident claim to learn that these companies play hardball with injured claimants, and it’s wise for you to have a lawyer who won’t hesitate to play hardball in return.
If another driver caused your crash and your injuries, that driver’s insurance company will assign an adjuster and maybe even a lawyer to handle and defend against your claim. This means that you may have to deal with different professionals whose goal is to make your claim go away for as little money as possible, and who have many tactics to do so. Having an experienced car accident attorney on your side levels that playing field. In short, if you’ve experienced any problems with an insurance company, it’s a sign that having a lawyer will be highly important in your case.
Can a Lawyer Referral Service Help Me?
There are many so-called lawyer referral services across the United States that claim to help car accident victims like yourself find the right legal assistance. While some are reliable and may even be sponsored by a State Bar, others don’t always have the best interests of car accident victims in mind.
In particular, lawyer referral services that advertise heavily on radio or TV, may not be the best choice. These services often collect fees from attorneys to be part of the referral network, and they don’t select lawyers based on experience or skill. These services also often partner with chiropractors or other medical providers who provide services and then take payment directly from your settlement. Once you pay your attorney and the recommended provider, you likely will have nothing left over for your other losses.
When you call one of these services, you may feel like you lose control over your case and your future quickly. Many professionals in these networks have their own (and each other’s) interests in mind instead of the interests of their car accident clients. It’s often a better idea to do your own research and select a lawyer—and your medical providers—based on your own instincts.
How Do I Make Sure I Find the Right Car Accident Attorney?
When you decide to start looking for a car accident lawyer, you will learn quickly just how many options there are out there. Whether you talk to friends or conduct a Google search, you can find many options for personal injury law firms. How do you know you found the best one for your situation?
First, don’t choose a lawyer based only on a billboard, TV, or radio advertisements, as these ads don’t give you any genuine insight into the quality of the lawyer. You shouldn’t even choose based on the look of an attorney’s website. Anyone can pay money for a prominent ad or a flashy website, but this doesn’t tell you about the lawyer’s experience, approach, or values. You want detailed information about how a law firm will handle your claim, including whether they will push you to settle early (i.e., they are a “settlement mill”) or whether you’ll be dealing with an attorney or their paralegal and support staff.
A good place to learn real information is online resources, including legal directories. Read client reviews on Avvo, see if the firm has won any awards for leadership in the personal injury field, and more. It’s likely that people in the community have written reviews about the firm and these reviews can tell you a lot. You should also call the law firm directly and ask a list of questions you prepared. This can give you a better idea of a lawyer’s experience, competence, and more. While you can never be 100 percent sure you have the very best lawyer available for a car accident claim, you should be confident in your choice before you sign an agreement.
What Can a Car Accident Lawyer Do for Me?
After a car crash, you can be in a dire situation. You may have serious injuries to deal with as you watch your bills pile up. You need help getting back on your feet, but you don’t know what type of help a lawyer will actually provide. The following is only a sampling of things that a car accident attorney can do for you:
- Identify negligent parties who should be liable for your losses (this can be more than one party)
- Calculate the full value of your losses
- File an insurance claim against the at-fault driver or company
- Handle every step of your insurance claim process, including talking to adjusters and providing necessary documents
- Negotiate for the settlement you deserve
- File and handle a personal injury lawsuit
- Explain the law regarding your case
- Answer questions you may have about the legal process
- Represent you in settlement negotiations and in court
Overall, the main thing your lawyer can do throughout your case is to advocate for your rights. Whether it’s on the phone with an insurance adjuster or in front of a jury in the courtroom, your lawyer will work to stand up for your rights and make sure you get the outcome you deserve in your case. You don’t have to fight for your own rights when you have the right attorney on your side.
How Much Does it Cost to Talk to a Car Accident Attorney?
The office of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law always offers a FREE case evaluation to potential clients. We will listen to what happened to you, answer questions, and advise you whether we believe you have a possible case—all completely free of charge. We know you don’t need any additional pressure—whether it’s emotional pressure or financial pressure. That is why you never pay a DIME to speak to us and our consultations are free from obligation. You learn about possible paths for your case without paying anything out-of-pocket, and then can make your decision whether to hire an attorney at our firm.
What if I Don’t Have Money to Pay a Lawyer?
Most personal injury attorneys, including Stewart J. Guss and all of our attorneys, handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that a lawyer will not receive any compensation for their services until they successfully recover compensation for you. Most personal injury attorneys will not charge an upfront retainer for their services, and many will even cover the costs of your case in advance so you don’t have to pay anything until you receive your settlement.
State laws limit how much a lawyer can charge on a contingency fee basis. In addition, the ethical rules state that all fees, including contingency fees, must be reasonable based on the work completed. A contingency fee is generally taken as a percentage of the settlement you receive. If you don’t get any settlement or award, the lawyer doesn’t get any contingency fee.
Different lawyers charge different percentages of a settlement as their contingency fee. These percentages are often anywhere from 30 to 45 percent, with the industry standard being around 33 to 40 percent. This means that if you get a settlement for $30,000, the lawyer may get $10,000 as their fee. Percentages may be lower if your case gets resolved in the insurance claim stage, and will likely be higher is your case goes to court.
There are two main benefits for clients when it comes to contingency fees:
- You don’t need to have extra money to hire a lawyer to help you. After a car accident, you may already be stressed about finances, and this shouldn’t ever mean you can’t have the legal help you need in your car accident claim.
- A contingency fee aligns your interests with your lawyer’s. If your lawyer doesn’t get payment for you, they don’t get payment either, so you are working together toward a common goal.
My Injuries Are a Lot to Deal With—Do I Need to Call a Lawyer Right Now?
Even if you know you need the help of a lawyer, doing the research and making phone calls to talk to different law firms may seem like a daunting task. After all, you’re already attending medical appointments, physical therapy, and picking up your prescriptions on a regular basis. Your pain can be wearing on you, and your injuries are so exhausting that you can’t even work. You spend most of your time trying to recover physically and trying to figure out how to pay your bills. The last thing you want to do is add something else to your to-do list.
In addition, if you’ve never worked with a lawyer before, calling a law office can seem intimidating. You should know that car accident lawyers thrive by helping people just like you, and you should never hesitate to call a law firm because you think they will be rude or condescending. If you get that reaction from a law office, you should keep trying until you find the right firm who will treat you with the respect you deserve.
All of this being said, it can still be hard to make the first move and hire an attorney. However, you should realize that time is of the essence in this situation. This is because there are time limits for filing a legal claim after a car accident set out by law. Each state has its own statute of limitations for personal injury claims, and if you miss this deadline, you likely miss your opportunity for any compensation. Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, and that is NOT a lot of time. If you know you need a lawyer, act now.