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Being involved in a car accident is a traumatic experience. When someone else’s negligence caused the collision, you could have the legal right to pursue a claim. Filing a claim against the other party’s insurance may seem pretty straightforward, but the claims process can become complicated rather quickly.

Knowing when to hire a lawyer after a car accident is essential. In most car accident cases, you need someone on your side who can protect your rights and help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

At Gerling Law, we understand how stressful and frustrating the auto accident claims process can be. Our car accident injury lawyers have decades of experience helping clients in Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois resolve all their personal injury claims, including auto accidents. Contact our nearest office to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help.

Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident

When Should You Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident?

Numerous accident scenarios warrant having an accomplished personal injury attorney representing you. The following are some of the most common examples of accidents where our legal team can help.

Someone in Your Vehicle Has Severe Injuries

If you or a family member sustained severe injuries in the accident, hiring an attorney is crucial. Cases involving extensive medical bills or a permanent disability are typically harder to resolve. There’s a greater chance that insurance companies will fight your claim as they have more exposure and financial risk.

Their goal is to avoid paying you as much as possible. You want an experienced attorney on your side who can keep insurance companies from unfairly reducing your claim’s value.

If your accident was relatively minor and you saw a doctor only once or twice, you may not need to hire a car accident injury attorney.

A Family Member Died in the Accident

If someone you love died in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, certain family members might be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims are typically complex. You need an advocate on your side who understands precisely how wrongful death claims work and can help you get compensation for your family’s loss.

Multiple Parties Involved

Multiple defendants can also complicate the negotiations process. Your attorney can determine who all the potential defendants are and help you hold all responsible parties accountable. For example, suppose you are involved in an accident with a truck driver.

In that situation, defendants could include the driver, the trucking company, and even a parts manufacturer if there are allegations that a defective part contributed to the accident.

Other Driver’s Insurance Denies Liability

In cases with disputed liability, you may need to file a lawsuit to get the other driver’s insurance to take you seriously. It’s not uncommon in disputed liability cases to see the other driver’s insurance company deny your claim outright.

They hope that you will accept the denial and walk away from pursuing the claim any further. Without legal representation, insurance companies know you will have a hard time funding the fees and costs necessary to proceed with litigation.

Retaining an attorney can help get the insurance company back to the negotiating table. If they still refuse to accept any responsibility at all, your attorney can start preparing your case for trial.

The Statute of Limitations Is Expiring

Another reason to file a lawsuit could be that the statute of limitations in your case is near expiration. The statute of limitations dictates how long you have before you are legally obligated to file a lawsuit in your case.

If you are negotiating with the insurance company and the deadline passes, your claim could be barred. Even if the insurance company extended you a settlement offer, they are under no obligation to pay you anything if you haven’t reached an agreement by the time the statute of limitations expires.

The Other Party Is a Government Entity

Filing claims against government entities requires specialized knowledge. Particular deadlines can apply in the claims process beyond just the statute of limitations. If you miss a filing deadline or make a mistake, the government will quickly deny your claim.

The Insurance Company Is Low Balling or Acting in Bad Faith

Insurance companies rely on the fact that you don’t have legal experience or know how the car accident claims process works. Some insurance companies cross the line in unfair tactics and wind up acting in bad faith.

They may wrongfully deny your claim or extend a low-ball offer for significantly less than your case is worth. When this happens, you need a car accident injury attorney who can evaluate your claim to determine whether the insurance company has acted in bad faith.

If you are negotiating directly with the insurance company and are only a few hundred dollars apart, you may not need an attorney. You would lose more in fees by retaining a lawyer to settle.

Tips For Hiring A Lawyer After A Car Accident

Here are 8 tips to keep in mind so you know when to hire an attorney after a car accident. 

Tip #1: When To Hire An Attorney After A Car Accident

Unless your car accident caused no injuries and little or no property damage, we strongly recommend that you consult an attorney. There are several reasons for this. For one, even minor fender-benders can result in expensive damage to your property, a pile of medical bills, and even lost wages. Second, an attorney has the legal expertise to serve as your advocate, help you understand your case, and work to maximize your compensation. They will also be familiar with how to persuade judges and juries in your favor. 

Tip #2: Don’t Wait To Get An Attorney

Sometimes people will wait to hire an attorney after a car accident because they’re worried about finances or want to try to figure things out on their own. 

Do not make this mistake. 

Getting a car accident attorney right away helps you preserve your legal options. Most states have a time limit called a statute of limitations that restricts your ability to file a claim after a certain period of time. So if you wait too long, your claim might be thrown out of court even if it is otherwise sound. Getting a lawyer immediately also helps protect you from being low-balled by insurance companies or hassled by any other third parties (like the other side’s attorneys). 

Tip #3: Do Your Research First

Not all attorneys are created equal. 

Some are experienced, while others are just out of law school. Others may have a lot of experience in another area of law, but won’t be very familiar with car accident claims. And some attorneys just have a bad reputation. 

For these reasons and more, it is important to research the attorneys in your area before contacting any of them. Look for attorneys that have outstanding reviews and years (or decades) of experience handling car accidents. Another good idea is to reach out to family and friends and learn about their experiences with local car accident attorneys. And while you can use online reviews, make sure that any reviews (positive or negative) are from verified customers, and not from anonymous sources. 

Tip #4: Consider What Size Law Firm You Are Looking For

Attorneys can either practice on their own or as part of a firm. Law firms range in size from having just a handful of attorneys to having hundreds of attorneys. There are advantages and disadvantages to both small law firms and large law firms. 

Generally, small law firms are likely to give you more personal attention. However, they are sometimes limited in the kinds of cases that they offer and can vary in quality. Larger law firms tend to have legal specialists and the resources to prosecute more complex cases. At the same time, large law firms are more expensive and also more likely to charge an hourly rate as compared to working with you on a contingency basis. 

Tip #5: Prepare For Your Consultations

Make sure you are professional, courteous, and thorough when you consult with an attorney.  No matter what kind of attorney you speak with, they will have questions about your claim.  Be ready to discuss the critical facts of your case and show the attorney any evidence you have. 

Tip #6: Speak With Several Attorneys Before Hiring One

It’s essential to find an attorney that you can trust and be completely honest with. If you are able to get along with your attorney, it will make their representation smoother and more effective.

Occasionally, an unsavory attorney might try to pressure you into hiring them before you consult with other potential firms. Avoid this kind of attorney at all costs. Also, make sure that you don’t sign any documents during a consultation unless you fully understand and agree to them. 

Tip #7: Ask The Right Questions

Before you hire any car accident lawyer, you need to ask several critical questions:

  • What are the various potential outcomes for your case?
  • Does the lawyer prefer to settle your kind of case or litigate in court?
  • How long will it take to resolve your case?
  • Does the attorney charge on an hourly basis, or on a contingency basis?
  • How much does the attorney charge?
  • How will the lawyer communicate the progress of your case with you?
  • How long has the attorney been handling car accident claims?

By asking these questions, you’ll quickly get a sense of whether the attorney is right for you. 

Tip #8: Set Boundaries

When you hire a car accident lawyer, it’s important to explain your expectations. Even the most skilled attorney won’t be able to guess how much you expect to receive from your case. Therefore, it’s best to discuss the following issues with your attorney:

  • Your ideal outcome for the case;
  • The minimum amount you are willing to settle your case for;
  • The worst possible outcome of your case; and
  • The potential disruptions to your life because of the lawsuit. 

By having these conversations, you can hopefully get a realistic sense of how your case will unfold. 

How Long Does It Take to Get Your Settlement After a Car Accident?

The time it takes to settle a car accident claim varies. Some cases resolve quickly, such as within a few months, while others may take years to resolve. If a lawsuit is filed, it can take even longer.

Once you reach a settlement with the insurance company, the amount of time it takes to receive your payment will vary. First, the insurance company will send your attorney a release of all claims to have you sign.

Once the executed release is received, the insurance company will issue your settlement check. The settlement check will be mailed to your attorney, who is required to deposit it in a specific trust account. Then, your attorney will issue payment to you.

If you did not have an attorney and negotiated directly with the insurance company, they will send the check directly to you after receiving the release. In many cases, the settlement check will be issued from an out-of-state bank, which could take longer to clear.

Assume that it might take another seven to ten days in some instances. This delay will apply if the check is being sent to your attorney as well. Attorneys have a legal obligation to ensure the check clears before they disburse funds to you, pay liens, or cover other expenses. 

Even if your check clears quickly, your bank could hold a portion of your funds. Check with your bank to determine if they hold funds for checks over a certain amount.

Should I Call an Attorney After a Car Accident?

Knowing why to get a lawyer after a car accident is as important as knowing when to get a lawyer after a car accident. When your collision involves severe injuries or fatalities, complicated liability, a government agency employee, etc., you need someone on your side who will protect your rights. Calling an attorney early on after the accident is essential.

If your accident involved only minor property damage and no injuries, you may not need to contact an attorney. It could be more cost-effective for you to resolve on your own.

Consult with an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today

Attorneys understand that you don’t necessarily know when to contact a lawyer after a car accident. Most car accident injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. That means there is no risk in contacting an attorney after your accident if you believe your case could benefit from legal representation.

If you are considering hiring a car accident injury lawyer, please give us a call to set up a no-obligation consultation. At Gerling Law, our team has over 50 years of experience and can tell you right away whether your case would benefit from hiring an attorney.

If you choose to retain our firm, we can begin working on your case right away. Our car accident injury attorneys are eager to assist and help you recover the compensation you are owed.

Contact Gerling Law today to schedule a consultation with our skilled legal team. Remember, Go with Experience. Go with Gerling®.

Author Photo

Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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