Introductory Note: I am grateful to lawyer Jared Staver for contributing this blog post, which offers very useful information for anyone considering the need for legal representation. — Maryann
Being involved in a car accident can be one of the most traumatic events in a person’s life. Furthermore, causing an accident can burden you with a painful guilt that’s hard to ignore. Most car accidents are avoidable; thousands of accidents happen every day as a result of some form of driver negligence. However, true accidents do happen.
My job as a car accident lawyer is to defend people who have been injured through no fault of their own. If you are determined to be at fault for causing a car accident, there might be a complex process ahead. Working with legal representation is a critical component to ensure that your best interests are protected, and your accident is managed appropriately.
Insurance Company Issues
Working with insurance companies on an accident case can be a mess. It’s a common misconception for drivers to be overly confident and assume their insurance company will defend them following an accident. Insurance contracts contain an implied agreement that the company will work for you in good faith, but this doesn’t mean they will truly defend you. In general, insurance companies always aim to pay as little as possible and have a far more narrow focus than an injury lawyer.
It’s important to keep up with your claim as the insurance companies argue the fine print. Having legal representation is never a bad thing when handling the aftermath of a car accident. Lawyers are accustomed to dealing with the red tape of insurance companies and can take much of that stress off of your shoulders.
If it is determined that you caused an accident and the other party is seeking compensation, your insurance company either needs to satisfy their demands or risk lawsuit. Insurance companies may deny coverage in cases of intentional driving errors, like DWI or texting and driving, but valid accidents should be covered.
How to Pick a Lawyer After an Accident
Selecting the right lawyer is a key step in determining how your situation will play out. Your attorney will be deciding on the actions you take throughout the process and will be your voice, so picking the right law firm to work with might be the most important step in recovering from an accident.
There are five factors I advise you to look at when determining what firm to work with.
- Experience – Each case will bring its own unique set of circumstances. It’s important to pick a lawyer with the appropriate type of experiences.
- Reputation – Check our law firm reviews and client testimonials online to ensure that you are picking a lawyer with a respectable reputation
- Legal Fees – Legal services are not cheap, take the time to research and discuss costs before committing to a law firm.
- Time/Resources – Lawyers typically have multiple clients at a time so finding a lawyer who has sufficient time and capability to take your case is essential.
- Jurisdiction – You should pick an attorney who practices in your area and is suited to handle the local court system.
I’m sure there are dozens of law firms in your area who would love to take your case. It’s important to find a firm that makes you feel comfortable and confident, and a firm that will fight for you.
Many firms will offer a free initial consultation as a way for potential clients to learn about the lawyer. The initial consultation will also serve as an opportunity to examine your accident, talk about potential next steps, and discuss legal fees. Having a trusted lawyer at your side should make the legal system more bearable.
The Legal Process
A personal injury case starts with what is known as the discovery phase. Discovery is often the largest amount of time spent on a case. Lawyers will start to gather evidence and fact check all relevant information associated with the case. This includes looking into medical records, verifying police reports, and even formal deposition interviews of people who were involved in the accident. Discovery is the part of the process where both sides of an accident get the opportunity to set up their case.
Next come motions, which are written arguments to the court that summarize a lawyer’s discovery in an effort to get a judge to rule in their favor. Settlement negotiations usually take place throughout the entire process. Often, before much discovery is completed, the plaintiff’s attorney will get a general idea of the case value and send a demand letter before investing a lot of money into discovery. Mediation is often held before motions to the court are made.
If a case cannot be settled, a courtroom trial will be set. Most car accident cases are settled before a trial is necessary, but it’s not uncommon to see personal injury cases go to court.
How a Lawyer Can Help You
Hiring a lawyer is in no way an admission of guilt. If you cause a car accident, the other parties involved will likely seek compensation for the damages. Recruiting a lawyer to your defense will ensure that you will not be taken advantage of as the process goes on.
Dealing with an insurance company on your own is a daunting task. An experienced lawyer will take the burden off of you and allow you to get back to your own life.
Having legal representation is essential following a serious accident and should not be put off. It’s a good idea to contact multiple lawyers in your area and examine your options. There is tons of information on car accidents across the Internet, but it’s a good idea to seek out consultation specific to your own circumstances.
Recovering from a car accident can be extremely difficult emotionally. Having a lawyer by your side will ensure that you can focus on your own well-being and get back to your pre-accident self without being taken advantage of during the recovery.
Jared Staver is a personal injury lawyer based out of Chicago, Illinois at Staver Law Group, P.C. Jared focuses primarily on car accident injury cases and has nearly twenty years of experience within the Illinois legal industry.