If you were involved in a car accident and need legal assistance, you might be interested in calling a lawyer in your area specialized in car accident cases.
Car accident law firms provide many services. These services will depend on the stage of your case and what you need to resolve your claim.
Here is an overview of what a car accident lawyer will do for you and your case.
How Will My Car Accident Attorney Help During the Insurance Claims Process?
Almost all car accident claims begin with an insurance company. But whose insurer you contact will depend on the state in which you live.
No-Fault Insurance States
Only 12 states, including New York, use a no-fault insurance system. Under this system, car owners must generally purchase personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
After a car accident, you must file a claim with your PIP auto insurer regardless of who caused the accident. Under your PIP coverage, you receive a portion of your reasonable and necessary medical expenses and lost earnings.
The value of the benefits depends on the policy you purchased and your state’s minimum required limits. For example, New York requires drivers to maintain minimum PIP coverage of $50,000 per person, but many may choose to purchase a PIP policy with higher limits.
In no-fault auto insurance states, a lawyer can help prepare and file your no-fault claim. A lawyer can also negotiate a settlement with the insurance company and fight against unfair settlement offers. Finally, a lawyer will help you overcome a claim denial if the insurer rejects your claim.
If your losses fall within your policy limits, you cannot seek compensation from the at-fault driver. But if your losses exceed your PIP policy limits or you suffered a “serious injury” according to your state’s definition, you can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance or file a lawsuit. In that case, you must prove that the other driver was at fault. A lawyer can help you file a liability insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
At-Fault Insurance States
The remaining 38 states use a fault-based insurance system. Under this system, every car owner must purchase liability insurance coverage in their insurance policy.
In an at-fault state, when you have a car accident, you must file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer. The insurer will only pay your claim if the facts establish that their insured caused the accident. An insurer can deny a claim by asserting someone else, including you, was at fault.
In a fault-based claim, the lawyer will evaluate your case so that you know how much compensation you can expect. Based on this valuation, you can determine whether to pursue a case or not.
A car accident lawyer can help shepherd your claim through the insurance company’s claim adjustment process. The lawyer can fight claim denials and reductions. They will negotiate with the insurer to get you a fair settlement or tell you when the insurer has failed to make a fair offer.
An experienced lawyer will know when the insurer has negotiated in good faith and may settle your case. They will also know when continued negotiations will not resolve your case and you should file a lawsuit.
What Can I Expect During the Litigation Process?
If you cannot settle your claim with the insurance company, you need to decide whether to file a lawsuit or not. At this point, an experienced car accident lawyer becomes a critical part of the process.
Your lawyer will:
- Evaluate the merits of your case to determine your odds of success
- Estimate the damages you can reasonably recover
- Provide legal advice and counsel about your best legal strategy
These activities will help your lawyer build a case for why you deserve compensation under the law.
Assembling Your Car Accident Claim
To receive compensation, the lawyer must prove that the other driver was negligent in causing the accident. Negligence requires proof of four elements:
Duty of Care
All drivers have a legal duty to others, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists, to exercise reasonable caution while driving and follow traffic laws to avoid injuring another party.
Breach of Duty
A driver breaches that duty when they fail to drive with ordinary care under the circumstances. This does not necessarily require the driver to have broken a traffic law. It generally requires determining what a “reasonable person” would have done in similar circumstances. If the jury determines that the driver’s actions fell short of what a reasonable person would have done, the driver likely breached their duty of care.
Your lawyer will gather evidence to prove a breach of duty. Physical evidence, such as photos of the damage to the vehicles and the accident scene, can help the lawyer explain what happened. Skid marks can show how fast the drivers were going when they collided.
Opinion testimony can show why the at-fault driver should bear responsibility for the crash. For example, an accident reconstruction expert can explain whether anyone made an illegal or dangerous maneuver.
The lawyer must have a legal theory that connects the negligence to your damages. In other words, the lawyer must prove that the defendant’s actions were a direct and proximate cause of your injuries.
After a car accident, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention to help establish causation. If you wait too long to seek medical care, the insurance company or other party may argue that the accident didn’t cause your injuries or that your injuries aren’t as serious as you claim. They may also say that you failed to mitigate your injuries.
The last element of negligence that must be proven is that you suffered damages due to the accident. The lawyer will gather evidence showing the damages you suffered. The evidence will demonstrate your economic damages through medical bills, receipts, prescriptions, repair estimates, and wage statements.
The lawyer will also work to prove that you suffered non-economic damages due to the diminishment in your quality of life and your pain and suffering. Testimony from you, your friends, and your relatives will show how your life has changed as a result of your injuries. This will help the lawyer win damages for pain and suffering.
Presenting Your Car Accident Case
Your lawyer will present your case to the finder of fact. In most cases, you will request a jury trial, and your lawyer will present the evidence to a jury of ordinary people. The lawyer will also challenge and cross-examine the insurance company’s evidence. At the end of the trial, if the lawyer successfully proves your case, the jury will award damages to you.
How Do I Choose the Right Lawyer for My Car Accident Case?
Understanding what a lawyer does will help you pick the right lawyer for your case. You need a lawyer who has experience with car accident cases and insurance claims. You also need a lawyer who has tried injury cases in court before.
Most car accident lawyers offer a free consultation to new clients and work on contingency fee basis. Use your consultations to interview a few lawyers and find the one who best fits your needs.
About the Author: Jacob Oresky is a Bronx personal injury lawyer with over 30 years of experience. As the founding attorney at Oresky & Associates, PLLC, he has recovered $400+ million dollars on behalf of accident victims in Bronx, Queens, and across New York.