If you’ve been involved in a minor car accident that only resulted in property damage or negligible injuries, you might be tempted to resolve your accident claim yourself. After all, doing so can save you money on legal fees and get you a quick settlement to cover the resulting costs.
However, there are some situations in which seeking legal assistance is vital. Here are five reasons you should hire a car accident lawyer after a car accident.
What Happens in a Car Accident Claim?
Anytime a car accident causes injuries, the victim has rights under tort and insurance law. Since Florida uses a no-fault auto insurance system, insurance law determines when tort law applies and how much you can recover after an accident.
All registered car owners in Florida must carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. PIP coverage pays 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your income losses.
In Florida, you file a claim with your auto insurer instead of the at-fault driver’s insurer following an accident. Under the no-fault rules, your insurer pays PIP benefits even if you caused the crash.
In the event of a minor accident, your insurance policy’s $10,000 in PIP benefits will cover your financial losses. Under Florida law, you cannot file a liability claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver for minor injuries or accidents with less than $10,000 in damages.
But serious accidents can cause severe injuries. Florida’s no-fault system allows you to pursue a liability claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver when you:
- Have more than $10,000 in losses due to medical expenses and missed work
- Suffer a significant and permanent injury
In these situations, you’ll deal with the at-fault driver and their insurer in an adversarial process.
5 Reasons You Should Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
During your case, you could encounter a situation where you don’t know how to proceed or feel like the at-fault party’s insurer is treating you unfairly. A skilled lawyer will have the knowledge and experience needed to secure compensation for you in several ways, including:
1. Forcing Insurers to Play Fair
Insurance companies don’t serve claimants or policyholders — they serve their shareholders.
When you file a claim, the insurer sees you as a threat to its profit margin. The more insurers pay in claims, the less they have to invest and earn profits. As a result, they often go to great lengths to avoid paying a claim.
Tactics insurers might use to pressure you into taking a low settlement offer include:
- Slow-walking or delaying your claim
- Denying claims on technical grounds
- Accusing you of causing or contributing to the cause of the accident
Florida, like most states, has a version of the unfair claims settlement practices act. This law tells insurers what they can and can’t do when processing an auto insurance claim.
Lawyers ensure that claim adjusters follow these rules. When insurers fail to act in good faith to settle a claim, lawyers can remind them of their legal duties under Florida law.
Most importantly, a lawyer can file a bad faith insurance claim if the insurer doesn’t handle your claim honestly and fairly. This risk of a bad faith insurance lawsuit often stops insurers from playing games.
2. Overcoming Claim Denials
Insurers frequently deny claims. Sometimes, these denials are technical — for example, when you fill out a form incorrectly. Other times, they happen for legitimate reasons, such as when investigators conclude that the policyholder didn’t cause your accident.
In many situations, though, an insurer will deny a claim simply because it lacks certain information. The insurance company might want more details about your injuries, or it might have questions about the treatment or therapy you received.
When this happens, the insurer will often accept part of your claim and deny the rest. They assume that you’ll accept whatever they offer, even if it fails to cover your losses.
A car accident lawyer can respond to claim denials to make sure you get the full value of your case. The lawyer has experience in dealing with insurers and will be able to present additional evidence or legal arguments to overcome spurious denials.
3. Keeping Your Case Organized
Regardless of the circumstances of your accident, your case will involve a lot of paperwork, including:
- Medical records
- Wage records
- Accident reports
- Witness statements
If your case goes to court, court filings, depositions, and documents from the opposing party will also come into play.
A law firm can keep these records organized and use them to present the best possible case for compensation.
4. Negotiating Settlements
Insurers aren’t concerned about treating you fairly. Instead, they look at the risk of a lawsuit if they fail to settle the case. In other words, they want to pay you the minimum amount possible to prevent you from suing.
Even when a claim gets accepted, the insurer will often make a settlement offer far below the value of your case. In some situations, the offer won’t even cover your out-of-pocket expenses.
A good lawyer can evaluate your case and help you decide what a fair settlement would include, then negotiate with the insurer to settle your case.
5. Suing the At-Fault Driver
You may need to file a lawsuit if your lawyer can’t settle your case. A lawsuit is simply a way for a judge and jury to resolve your dispute.
Your lawyer will prepare and file the pleadings for your suit. Once the case is underway, they’ll gather evidence and file motions to set the ground rules for your case.
Throughout the case, their main goal will be to settle your claim, but if it goes to trial, they’ll be able to present your evidence and arguments to a jury.
Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in any of the aforementioned circumstances, there’s no reason not to hire a car accident lawyer.
Most personal injury lawyers work on contingency fees, which allows victims to receive legal representation and only pay based on the results that representation produces. This approach lets you benefit from having a lawyer on your side with minimal risk and no upfront expense.
Mark Roman is an attorney founder of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers, a Florida personal injury law firm with offices in Clearwater, Tampa and New Port Richey, he is a proud Tampa Bay native and attended Florida State University College of Law in 1986. He obtained a certification as an expert in Civil Trial Law, his main purpose is helping accident victims rebuild their lives. Contact us for a free consultation.
Phone: (727) 787-2500