You just got in an accident. The police come and make a report. They ticket someone — maybe you, maybe another driver; they may even not ticket anyone. Insurance information is exchanged. Negotiations between the insurance companies and the parties now begin.
There are many reasons why you should hire a lawyer after you get in an accident. Five important considerations follow:
- Attorneys Create a Barrier Between You and the Insurance Company
Anything that you ever say to the insurance company or opposing party could be twisted in a way to favor them. Especially when the insurance company is asking for a statement about what happened from you. People are often surprised at just how their words are used against them when they were talking with the opposing party or insurance company. With an attorney, however, this problem is done away with: the attorney becomes a barrier between you and the opposing party and insurance company. After hiring an attorney, the opposing party or insurance company should not contact you directly about the accident without the permission of your attorney (and you can refer them to your attorney if they ever do try to contact you). Whatever your attorney says to the insurance company or opposing party is generally not admissible in court, and so it cannot be used against you.
- Insurance Adjusters and Attorneys are Experienced Negotiators
Insurance adjusters have one job: to save the insurance company money by paying less on claims than should be paid. They do this by getting people to accept settlements far below what should be paid. Insurance adjusters negotiate all day, every day. Insurance adjusters know enough of the law to make them dangerous to the average person.
Likewise, attorneys are experienced at negotiating. Attorneys have an in-depth understanding of the law, especially to how it would apply to your particular situation. They are equipped to explain the nuances that will win your case to the adjuster. Attorneys also deal with adjusters continually, and are also continually negotiating.
In contrast, most people involved in accidents do not negotiate continually, and do not have an in-depth understanding of the law as it applies to their situation. People who do not hire an attorney go into negotiations with an insurance company at an immediate disadvantage because of these facts, and usually come out on the other end having left money on the table.
- Attorneys Get More Favorable Settlements
According to a Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims done in 1999, injured victims received an average of 40% more money when hiring an attorney to represent them when compared to representing themselves. (“Paying for Auto Injuries: A Consumer Panel Survey of Auto Accident Victims,” Insurance Research Council, 1999, pg. 45-52).
- Prosecuting a Case Is Expensive
Trials are extremely expensive for all parties. Expenses begin to collect long before filing suit, with postage, medical expert reports (thousands of dollars), accident reconstruction experts (thousands of dollars), paying for medical records (frequently hundreds of dollars), research into the parties, the law surrounding the facts, and witnesses (often thousands of dollars). When filing suit, there is an initial filing fee (usually only a few hundred dollars), and service of process fees. After suit is filed, depositions of witnesses frequently need to be taken (usually over one thousand dollars each). Medical and other experts will need to be paid for their time in preparation for trial (frequently around $500 per hour). Discovery expenses also accrue. By the time trial arrives, many parties have spent many thousands of dollars in the hopes that they will be able to win a judgment at trial. Expert witnesses are particularly expensive at trial, and usually charge well over $5,000 for one day of trial. Trials often extend for many days, and expenses can accrue at an astonishing rate. Most law firms are equipped to handle these expenses leading up to a final judgment when necessary.
- Litigation and Trials are Extremely Complex
From knowing what you have to prove at trial to knowing how to get every piece of evidence admitted, trials and litigation are extremely complex. Lawyers spend years in law school learning the ins and outs of litigation and trials. Most people do not have the training to know what to do when it comes to litigation. Because of this, when most people threaten a lawsuit, it carries little weight. When an attorney threatens a lawsuit, insurance carriers and people listen.
There is little reason not to hire an attorney. Yes, attorneys do charge money. Most attorneys charge a contingent fee in accident cases (a percentage). Going alone in your accident case is like hunting deer with a knife instead of a gun — you save the expense of the gun and the ammo, but you also will have little comparative success.
To see what we charge for our cases, see our Legal Fees page.