Is it Worth It to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident?

Attorneys understand insurance companies' tactics and strategies to avoid paying out claims or reducing the compensation they offer. They can also help you understand your rights and recover for long-term, overlooked damages.

So you just got into a car accident, and you’re probably asking yourself a million things: Now what? Do I need an attorney to make sure I get a fair settlement? How much is an attorney going to cost me? While every situation is unique, there are several factors to consider when deciding whether to hire legal representation.

Some Reasons Why You Might Need an Attorney

After a car accident, you are likely suffering from emotional, physical, and financial stress. These factors can alter your decision-making skills and increase the chances of being under-compensated for your case. A car accident attorney is there to be your right-hand man. Their knowledge, experience, and understanding of the legal system allow them to take the proper steps for you to recover compensation.

You should seek an attorney if any of the following applies to your car accident case:

  • You suffered severe or life-altering injuries
  • A fatality
  • Medical costs outweigh your insurance caps
  • Your long-term work life is affected
  • The other party disputes the fault of the accident
  • The insurance company is acting in bad faith, or challenging to work with

An attorney can help navigate the complex legal system and ensure all deadlines and requirements are met, which can be especially important if the case goes to trial.

When an Attorney May Not Be Necessary

First, it’s important to understand that hiring an attorney for a car accident case may not be necessary in some cases. For instance:

  • If the accident was minor, resulting in no injuries or only minor injuries that don’t require extensive medical treatment
  • If the insurance company is cooperative and offers a fair settlement
  • All parties involved in the accident agree regarding the incident’s circumstances.

You may not need an attorney to negotiate on your behalf in these cases.

However, it’s important to remember that insurance companies are primarily interested in protecting their interests and may not offer you the total compensation you’re entitled to.

Ultimately, whether to hire an attorney should be based on your comfort level with the legal system and your ability to navigate it effectively. If you ever feel that you are not fairly compensated for your damages, reaching out to an attorney for legal advice never hurts.

The Costs of a Car Accident

The cost of a car accident goes far beyond just property damages like repairs or replacement.

Costs also include:

  • Medical bills
  • Physical therapy
  • Long-term treatment
  • Lost wages due to missed work
  • Emotional trauma
  • Insurance costs
  • Possible funeral expenses

According to Shapiro | Delgado, the average economic cost to individuals and families after a car accident is:

  • Death: $1,750,000
  • Severe Injury Resulting in Disability: $101,000
  • Less Severe Injuries: $23,900 – $29,200
  • Property Damage Only: $4,700

In 2019, motor vehicle crashes cost American society $340 billion, according to the NHTSA. And depending on the severity of the accident, these expenses can increase drastically. These costs can quickly add up and overwhelm you with financial and physical stress. This is where an attorney comes in to help you recover the costs associated with your case.

Determining Fault in a Car Accident

There are different types of legal doctrines to determine fault in a car accident, depending on which state you are in. There is a comparative fault, including pure comparative and modified comparative, and contributory fault. Your attorney will discuss the type of fault doctrine that is in place in your state and will walk you through the evidence process to determine fault in your accident.

Pure Comparative Fault

A pure comparative fault allows you to seek compensation for damages regardless of how much responsibility you have in an accident. For example, suppose you were determined to be 70% responsible for an accident. In that case, you can only legally recover compensation for the 30% fault of the other party. 13 states currently have pure comparative fault laws.

Modified Comparative Fault

Modified comparative fault laws allow you to seek compensation only if your percentage of fault is under a predetermined threshold. For example, if a state has a point of 50%, you can only recover compensation if you are 49% or less at fault. Thirty-three states have a modified comparative fault law; 10 follow a 50% threshold, and 23 follow a 51% threshold.

Contributory Fault

Contributory fault laws bar a contributing party from recovering compensation for their damages. For example, if a party is 1% responsible for a car accident, they are disqualified from pursuing compensation from the other party because they contributed to the car accident.

Slight/Gross Comparative Fault

South Dakota is the only state that adopted the slight/gross comparative fault doctrine. This hybrid of contributory and comparative laws allows a party to recover damages if their fault was “slight” and the other party’s fault was “gross.” If a distinction cannot be made, the party cannot recover compensation from the other party.

What Can an Attorney Do for Me?

An attorney is your guide to help you navigate the complex legal system and maximize your compensation. They are a handy tool to level the playing field between you and the big insurance companies primarily focused on minimizing their costs. Furthermore, attorneys understand insurance companies’ tactics and strategies to avoid paying out claims or reducing the compensation they offer.

They can also help you understand your rights and recover for long-term, overlooked damages. Car accident attorneys often allow you to receive more favorable settlement offers and avoid the risk of accepting an inadequate settlement that fails to compensate them for their losses fully.

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