After a car accident, finances may be the last thing on your mind. You are more concerned with your injuries, the loss of your vehicle or, if you lost a loved one, you might feel overcome with grief. You might have no idea how you are going to manage to pay the bills. You might not know where to start or what the next step should be. If you were injured, it might seem as though you will never recover. If your loved one suffered from a serious injury, the pressure of hoping they recover may feel too overwhelming.
But, help could be available. If you or a loved one suffered from a vehicle accident, a personal injury car accident lawyer might help you through the process and help you pursue any compensation you may be entitled to. The process may involve entering into negotiations with insurance companies or suing the at-fault driver. Regardless of the course of action that may be required, speaking with an attorney is advisable. Set up a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer today to speak about the details of your situation and determine where you can go from there.
Different Types of Lawyers Charge Differently
Most lawyers, regardless of the type of law they practice, will provide a free consultation to help them determine whether you have a good case and to let you decide whether the lawyer is a good fit for you. After that, the similarities end.
Corporate, criminal defense, family, and other types of lawyers typically charge either by the hour or by the case. A DUI lawyer or adoption attorney might charge a flat fee to handle your case, for example. In more complex cases, a lawyer may charge by the hour.
Most personal injury lawyers, however, work on contingency—they don’t charge you anything to take your case. If they don’t recover compensation for you, they don’t make money. If they do help you recover compensation, they receive a percentage of the settlement or judgment, plus expenses. In that sense, when a personal injury lawyer receives payment, the at fault party pays the fee, not you. You pay nothing out of pocket.
You’ll want to carefully review the contingency fee agreement so you know how your personal injury lawyer will calculate the fee and his or her expenses, and you’ll want to understand the rest of its terms and conditions before you sign it.
How Soon After an Accident Should I Contact an Attorney?
If you can, you should contact a motor vehicle accident attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you can relate the facts as you know them, the more you will remember and the more likely it will be that the relayed information will be accurate. Even if you are in the hospital, call an attorney if you can communicate. If you cannot communicate, your spouse may contact an attorney regarding your matter.
Additionally, you may want to try to settle with the insurance company, or companies if more than one person or company is responsible for the accident. The insurance companies involved may try to find a reason to deny your claim or offer you the lowest amount they think you might accept. Some might refuse to budge from their low-ball offer.
Some insurance companies may act this way because large payouts for catastrophic injuries could be worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Insurance companies are businesses, and paying out claims is a loss of money for them.
If the insurance company refuses to settle for a fair and reasonable amount for your case, you may decide to bring a suit. If you have a case, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim, according to Texas law. While two years might seem like plenty of time, you could run out of time if attempts to reach a settlement involve several insurance companies, if there is an insurance company that stalls the process to run out the clock, or if the case involves many complexities.
Why Would I Need an Attorney?
Cases, like personal injury cases, that directly involve the actions of another person can be complicated, even if there is only one defendant involved. Depending on the details of your case, you may pursue punitive damages after an accident if the defendant’s behavior is deemed to have been grossly negligent. How could you show gross negligence?
The law provides elements of actions that the court looks for in determining gross negligence. This is just one example of the way people can pursue damages to help cover their injuries and expenses. Contacting an attorney can be a beneficial step in this process, since they can help you better understand the laws involved and advise you further.
In some cases, many defendants face responsibility for the accident. For example, a dispatcher could have told a truck driver to deliver a truckload by a specific time and insinuate that the driver would lose his or her job if the driver does not meet the deadline. If the trip should take eight hours, but the trucking company only gives the driver six hours to reach the delivery point, the driver might have to speed and/or ignore the hours of service regulations. If the driver becomes fatigued and causes an accident, the court might find the dispatcher partially liable for the accident.
What Would I Need to Start Negotiations or a Lawsuit?
When you come in for a consultation, you will likely only have to bring yourself. However, it could help the attorney you are consulting with if you bring any documentation that could help determine if there is a case. Once the process is moving along, you may need to provide certain documents. If you have trouble getting these documents, the attorney might help you get a hold of them.
You will likely need:
- Medical records, especially if your doctors believe that your injuries caused or will cause a long-term disability;
- Invoices from doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals;
- The police report;
- Your insurance information;
- Your vehicle registration information;
- Any photos you took at the scene of the accident;
- Any photos you, or someone else, took of your injuries; and
- Any information pertaining to illnesses and diseases that your accident injuries may exacerbate.
Your attorney may ask you for different or additional documents, depending on your circumstances.
How Long Could My Case Take?
The length of time your case might take can depend on several factors, which may include:
- The willingness of the insurance company to give you a fair and reasonable settlement;
- The number of insurance companies involved in the settlement negotiations, or the lawsuit if you decide to pursue litigation;
- The amount of time it takes to get documents supporting your case for damages;
- Whether you are suing for non-economic damages for long-term injuries and/or punitive damages;
- The length of time it takes for the insurance company or companies to respond to the initial demand letter and, during negotiations, how long it takes the insurance company or companies to respond with an acceptance or counter-offer; and
- Whether you decide to accept a settlement or litigate your case.
These are just a few factors that could affect the length of your case.
What If I Need Expert Witnesses or We Have to Do Depositions or Mediation?
Speak with your attorney about who will cover the costs of depositions, mediation, and expert witnesses. They may cover those costs. If that is the case, once the insurance company settles or the court awards damages, the attorney will take a fee or costs he or she incurred on your behalf. If you were in an accident, contact an attorney for a free consultation.