When Should I Get an Attorney for a Car Accident?

July 5, 2023
When Should I Get an Attorney for a Car Accident?

Research has shown that car accident victims who hire a lawyer recover far more compensation than those who do not retain legal representation. Many people don’t contact a lawyer until later when they realize an insurance company wants to cheat them. That will work, but the earlier you hire a car accident lawyer, the better ideally, right after you receive medical care and before you notify any insurance companies.

In some situations, you really need to hire a car accident lawyer, such as if:

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There Were Fatalities

If a car accident results in the death of a loved one, consult a wrongful death lawyer.

The surviving family members or the estate of the deceased can bring a wrongful death claim for the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions that resulted in the death. It seeks compensation for the damages and losses suffered due to the untimely death of a loved one.

There Were Serious Injuries

If you or anyone involved in the accident sustained significant injuries requiring medical treatment, hospitalization, or long-term care, consult a lawyer. Severe injuries can lead to extensive medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and long-term implications.

Some common types of serious injuries from car accidents include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs): TBIs occur when the head experiences a significant impact or sudden jolt, damaging the brain. TBIs include concussions, skull fractures, and hemorrhages. Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, confusion, memory problems, and even long-term cognitive or behavioral impairments.
  • Spinal cord injuries: These injuries can lead to partial or complete paralysis, depending on the location and severity of the spinal cord damage. Paraplegia (paralysis below the waist) and quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs) are possible outcomes of severe spinal cord injuries. These injuries often result in significant physical and functional limitations.
  • Amputations: High-impact accidents may crush or severely injure limbs, leading to amputation. Amputations can significantly affect a person's mobility and daily functioning.
  • Fractures and bone injuries: Car accidents can break bones in the arms, legs, ribs, pelvis, and spine. Fractures can range from hairline cracks to more severe breaks that require surgical intervention. Recovery time and potential complications depend on the type and location of the fracture.
  • Internal organ damage: The impact of a car accident can damage internal organs, such as the liver, spleen, kidneys, lungs, or heart. These injuries may require immediate medical attention and surgical intervention. Internal bleeding can kill a victim if not promptly addressed.
  • Chest and abdominal injuries: A car accident can injure the chest and abdominal area, causing broken ribs, punctured lungs, organ damage, and internal bleeding. These serious injuries require immediate medical attention.
  • Whiplash and neck injuries: Whiplash is a common injury in rear-end collisions where the head and neck forcefully jerk forward and backward. It can cause neck pain, stiffness, headaches, and in some cases, long-term chronic pain and restricted movement.
  • Psychological and emotional injuries: Car accidents can also have psychological and emotional impacts. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions can develop after the accident.

The Accident Resulted in Long-Term or Permanent Disabilities

Injuries that result in long-term or permanent disability can significantly affect your quality of life, ability to work, and future earning potential. These injuries often require ongoing medical care, rehabilitation, prosthetics, durable medical equipment, or modifications to your home or vehicle.

Some accident-related disabilities include:

  • Cognitive impairments, such as memory loss or mood changes
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Limited or compromised mobility
  • Chronic pain
  • Debilitating PTSD
  • Organ damage resulting in failure
  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Nerve damage resulting in muscle weakness, numbness, and loss of sensation

Parties Involved in the Accident Dispute Liability

If a dispute arises over fault for the accident, or if the other party blames you, hire legal representation. A lawyer can investigate the accident, gather evidence, interview witnesses, and build a strong case to establish liability in your favor.

Proving Negligence in a Car Accident

To hold another person liable for a car accident, you must prove their negligent acts injured you.

The four elements of negligence are:

Duty of care: The first element establishes that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. In car accident cases, all drivers must operate their vehicles safely and follow traffic laws.

Examples of duty of care include:

  • Stopping at red lights
  • Maintaining a safe following distance
  • Yield right of way to pedestrians or other vehicles when required
  • Not violating the speed limit

Breach of duty: The second element involves proving that the defendant breached their duty of care. This means they failed to meet the expected standard of care in a particular situation.

Examples of breach of duty in a car accident might include:

  • Speeding or driving recklessly
  • Tailgating
  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Failing to yield right of way when required

Causation: The third element establishes a causal connection between the defendant's breach of duty and the plaintiff's injuries or damages.The plaintiff must show that the defendant's actions or negligence directly caused the accident and resulting harm.

Examples of causation in a car accident might include:

  • A driver who rear-ends another vehicle because they followed too closely, causing whiplash injuries to the occupants of the front vehicle
  • A driver who fails to yield the right of way, resulting in a collision with another vehicle and causing significant property damage and bodily injuries

Damages: The fourth element involves proving that the plaintiff suffered actual damages as a result of the defendant's breach of duty. Damages can include physical injuries, medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related losses.

Examples of damages in a car accident might include:

  • Medical bills for treating injuries sustained in the accident
  • Cost of repairing or replacing the damaged vehicle
  • Lost income and benefits due to missed work during recovery
  • Emotional distress or pain and suffering resulting from the accident

Multiple Parties Are Involved

You may not realize all the parties that may have contributed to an accident.

Your lawyer will investigate your case to identify all liable parties. The legal proceedings can grow more complex if the car accident involves multiple vehicles or parties. In such cases, a lawyer can sort out liability issues, deal with multiple insurance companies, and protect your rights.

Besides the at-fault driver, other parties who you may hold liable in a car accident include: 

  • Vehicle owners: If the driver of a vehicle involved in the accident did not own the vehicle, you can hold the owner held liable under certain circumstances. For example, if the owner negligently entrusted their vehicle to an unfit or inexperienced driver, they may share liability for the accident.
  • Employers: If the driver causing the accident acted within the scope of their employment at the time of the collision, you may hold their employer responsible. This typically applies to situations where the employee performed work-related duties or drove a company-owned vehicle.
  • Government entities: If hazardous road conditions, poorly designed roads, lack of signage, or other issues related to road maintenance or construction caused the accident, you may hold the government entity responsible for maintaining the road liable. However, pursuing a claim against a government entity can involve specific procedures and limitations, including shorter deadlines for filing a lawsuit.
  • Vehicle manufacturers: In some cases, car accidents may result from vehicle defects or mechanical failures. If a defect in the vehicle's design, manufacturing, or maintenance contributed to the accident and resulting injuries, you may hold the vehicle manufacturer or parts manufacturer liable for the damages.
  • Bars or restaurants: In Florida, dram shop laws allow you to sue establishments that serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated or underage person who injures you in an accident.
  • Contractors or construction companies: If an accident occurs due to negligent construction zone practices, improper signs, or inadequate safety measures taken by contractors or construction companies, you may hold them liable for any resulting damages.

The Insurance Company Fights Your Claim

Here are some common challenges that individuals may encounter from an insurance company after a car accident: 

  • Insurance company tactics: Insurance companies have a primary goal of minimizing their costs and maximizing profits. To achieve this, they may frustrate you and waste your time by offering low settlement amounts, delaying claim processing, or disputing liability.
  • Complex claims process: Insurance claims processes can involve extensive paperwork, documentation, and legal terminology. Navigating the process and providing all necessary information accurately and in a timely manner can overwhelm those unfamiliar with insurance procedures.
  • Insufficient compensation: Insurance companies may offer settlement amounts that will not fully cover your damages and losses. They may undervalue injuries, dispute the extent of property damage, or deny coverage for certain expenses. Negotiating for fair compensation requires the strong evidence and persuasive arguments that a car accident lawyer can provide.
  • Delays in claim processing: Insurance companies often impose strict timelines for filing claims, but they may delay processing claims themselves. Lengthy investigations, requests for additional documentation, and repeated follow-ups can significantly prolong the claim resolution process, frustrating and financially straining accident victims.
  • Policy limitations and exclusions: Insurance policies may contain limitations, exclusions, or thresholds that affect coverage. For example, the insurance company may cap medical expenses or deny coverage in specific circumstances. Understanding policy terms and properly interpreting coverage can overwhelm individuals without legal expertise.
  • Emotional toll: Negotiating with insurance companies, dealing with their bureaucracy, and facing disputes can exacerbate the emotional toll and prolong the healing process after a car accident’s injuries and financial losses.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today

Each car accident case is unique, so base your decision to involve a lawyer on the specific circumstances of your case. Consulting with a personal injury attorney in Tampa, Florida the early stages can help you understand your rights, assess your options, and determine the best course of action. Contact a car accident attorney today for your free consultation and case evaluation.

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