If you have caused a car accident, there are probably a lot of questions running through your mind. One of the first things you’re probably wondering is if you should hire an auto accident attorney or not. Depending on your situation, and the details of the accident, hiring an attorney can be an important factor that can help you avoid fines and even jail time.
If you are in this situation, here are some ideas about when you should think about hiring a lawyer for car accident.
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in 2009 over 2.6 million Americans were treated for non-fatal injuries stemming from car accidents. Hiring a lawyer for car accident is a must if you have injured someone and been to be found at fault. Accidents that involve injuries can be difficult to navigate, especially if you were exhibiting reckless behavior such as driving while under the influence or texting while driving before the accident.
In cases of injury where you were doing your best to be safe, you can still be sued by the injured party if they wish to seek additional compensation that your insurance company isn’t willing to provide in the settlement. If this happens, hiring a law firm that is experienced with auto accidents will be your best defense.
However, if you don’t do this, you can be appointed a lawyer via your insurance company. While this may seem like it can save you time and money, ultimately these lawyers are out to benefit your insurance provider and not you. Essentially, they will be representing your insurance company and not you, as it will be your insurance that will have to pay the largest amount.
An outside attorney for car accident, hired by you, will instead be putting your interests first, as you are their primary client. This means that they will examine the case and find the best strategy to leave you with the best result possible.
When it comes to being sued in the event of injury, there are a few key damages that you may be liable for. Such as:
- Vehicle damage and auto repair costs
- Financial loss and lost wages
- Medical bills
- Medication bills
- Pain and suffering
When being sued, the amount that you will end up being left to pay will depend on whether or not the amount is greater than what your policy allows. For example, if your policy has a $30,000 per accident minimum and the costs exceed that, you will be left to cover the remainder. This can also increase depending on future costs of injuries if a car accident doctor has determined that the injuries are severe enough to warrant ongoing treatment.
It is worth also noting that if you don’t have the money to pay for the additional amount owed, the court may look at outside assets that can be forfeited to cover the cost. Things such as vacation cabins and boats can be seized and used to cover the costs of the injured party.
Parents can also be held to account for accidents caused by their teenagers, which could end up putting the whole family’s assets at risk if the coverage isn’t enough to cover what the plaintiff is asking for. In cases where a teenager is at fault, hiring a lawyer will be especially important as it can not only set you back as a family but could also have significant ramifications for your teen’s driving record. A lawyer can help you navigate the case and get the best outcome possible for both you and your child.
That all being said, if a person has been fatally injured in a car accident that you have caused and ended up passing away, things can get even more complicated.
According to the Institute for Highway Safety, over 34,000 people died in car accidents in 2009, and hiring a lawyer for car accident is even more important if someone was fatally injured and passed away due to the collision. If this has happened to you, your first concern will probably be whether or not you will end up going to prison as a result of the accident. However, this isn’t always the outcome and whether or not this punishment is on the table will depend on the accident itself and the legal system’s evaluation of it. What makes it even more complex is that some evaluation standards can vary between jurisdictions and states, making a local lawyer a necessity.
Manslaughter charges can be brought against someone who took the life of another person without intention, i.e. via an accident. Unless the court finds that you had ‘malice aforethought’, which means that you intended to do something malicious whereby a homicide charge can be brought against you, you usually won’t have to worry about this more significant charge.
Manslaughter, however, is still significant and it is something that you will need a lawyer to help you navigate to prove your innocence. This is especially true since the exact definition of the charge can vary depending on the jurisdiction. Nevertheless, most regard this charge as the accidental taking of life, which in most car accidents is labeled as involuntary manslaughter, meaning it was a total accident and not something malicious, pre-planned, or intended.
With that being said, not all accidents that involve death will mean charges will be brought against you, and it is only if the court establishes that the death was caused by reckless or negligent behavior that you will be charged. Negligent behavior, as it refers to a car accident, can mean not watching for pedestrians, not signaling properly, not using your headlights at night, or not yielding when merging.
Gross negligence is a bit different, and this describes behavior such as speeding in an area full of pedestrian traffic or driving while under the influence. This is more severe than simple negligence, and a DUI attorney will be needed to help you navigate the following legal proceedings effectively. In cases of intoxication, you may be booked into jail and will need your attorney to help you with your bail bonds. You may also ask your attorney about attorney bonds, which can help ensure that you will be released from jail before your trial. However, not all states allow this, so it will depend on your location.
In addition to all of this, there is also vehicular manslaughter, which is similar to the above charges and is usually brought up with the death of a second party due to negligence. However, in cases of freak accidents, poor weather conditions, and other circumstances out of your control, it is unlikely that you will face this charge. Instead, factors like reckless driving, failure to get proper brake repair, or texting while driving will usually be what causes this charge to be brought up.
That said, what constitutes reckless driving, can also be somewhat subjective depending on where you are. For instance, if you briefly took your eyes off the road to grab something off the floor, this can constitute negligence. Individual state statutes will also be considered, such as states that mandate having a clean windshield. If an obstruction was the cause, such as a large crack that wasn’t repaired or a large pair of fuzzy dice hanging in the way, this can also constitute negligence.
Additionally, even driving while tired can be considered negligence in some areas, which makes it very important to have a lawyer on your side who knows the unique statutes and road laws in your area. If you are facing charges like this, it may also be a good idea to consider the best criminal lawyer in your area, preferably one with experience in navigating criminal charges as they relate to auto accidents.
Fault States vs No-Fault States
If you live in a fault state, which has specific laws dictating that the person responsible for the car accident must be held liable for any damage or injuries, then both you and your insurance company will have to pay for losses. However, if you live in a no-fault state, then the insurance companies of both drivers will cover the losses.
Depending on your state, this can be a complicated process, as both methods include varying ways of settling accident cases. When hiring a lawyer for car accident, you should always ensure that they have experience and are able to navigate the laws in your area effectively. You can gauge this by reading reviews from past clients and speaking with them about past cases during your consultation. You should also ask about the outcomes of those cases to see whether or not they have a track record for success.
Partial fault is also something to consider when girding a lawyer for a car accident, as it will be up to them to help present your side of the story in a way that benefits you. For instance, if you and the other party were both backing up in a parking lot and collided, the fault of both parties will be determined. Depending on who is least at fault, the settlement will be determined, granting that person a greater share.
Because of this determination process, hiring a lawyer is essential as they can help ensure that you get the best outcome possible, even if you had a majority of the fault.
When Should You Hire Your Lawyer
Preferably, you should hire a lawyer as soon as you become aware of the severity of the case. While minor accidents with no injuries may not require a lawyer to solve them, if there was an injury — or a fatality — hiring a lawyer should be one of the first things that you do.
The longer you wait, the more time you give the plaintiff to prepare and the less time you will have to do so. Even if the cards are stacked against you, professional legal advice can help you navigate it for the best possible outcome. An outcome that will almost always be better than if you tried to represent yourself.
However, before hiring a lawyer for car accident, you should keep in mind the type of lawyer and the type of experience that you will need. A lawyer specializing in family law isn’t someone that you want to talk to. When possible, try to find a lawyer that specializes in car accident cases so that you can be sure that you’re getting the knowledge and advice that you need.
You may also consider lawyers with experience in DUIs if you have been charged with negligence due to driving under the influence. These additional charges may be best handled by someone with additional experience with these types of cases. You should also never accept a lawyer provided by your insurance company if you can help it. Remember, those lawyers aren’t working for you, they are working for your insurance company and they will be after the deal that benefits them most.
Although car accidents can be scary enough, if you are at fault, the aftermath can be just as harrowing. However, with the right legal counsel, you can make the most of your situation. Though it might sound difficult, the best thing you can do is keep calm and be honest, both with your attorney and with the court. Admitting fault is never a fun endeavor, but trying to hide the blame will only lead to worse consequences.
With all of this in mind, you can be better prepared in the event of a car accident that you are at fault in.