Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Minor Car Accident?
When you're involved in a minor car accident, like a fender bender that causes a small dent or breaks a taillight, it's easy to assume you didn't sustain substantial injuries. You may prefer to move on with your day instead of making a big deal out of it. However, even minor motor vehicle collisions can result in costly medical expenses down the line. While you may view the accident as simply disruptive and inconvenient, you should really take the time to get a medical evaluation following any car accident. A doctor can perform an exam that will reveal if you have any injuries that might not be apparent.
Furthermore, in many states, you have the right to seek financial compensation for car accident injuries, even seemingly mild ones, when the other driver is totally or partially at fault. The exception is in states that observe no-fault insurance laws or that bar claimants from compensation if they bear degrees of responsibility.
If you're asking the question, "should I hire a car accident lawyer for a minor crash," the answer is a yes, for various reasons that we'll go over. Insurance companies can be highly dismissive of claims of pain and injuries, especially when there isn't a lot of damage to the vehicles involved. When you feel discomfort and require medical care or miss days of work because of an accident, you shouldn't have to foot the bill for your losses. Morgan and Morgan have helped thousands of clients recover compensation for accidents deemed "minor" by insurance companies.
To get started, contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
What Should I Do After a Minor Car Accident?
Get a police report - We understand that if property damage is minor and you don't feel hurt, the last thing you want to do is stand by the side of the road waiting for police to arrive. You might feel like it's a colossal waste of time. However, waiting for the police to show up is crucial because a police report matters when it's time to negotiate compensation.
In many states, it's a legal requirement, and you may get cited if you leave the scene. Another reason to get the police involved is so they can document the facts of the accident. It would be hard for the other individual involved to claim later they suffered substantial bodily and property damage if it weren't true and witnessed by police.
Even if you and the other party agree that the issue is minor and you go your separate ways, there is nothing to keep them from filing a claim against you later. At this point, it becomes your word against theirs, which isn't a good position to be in when you're in a courtroom. Evidence is vital, and a police report can be used as evidence in many cases. Suppose the other party exaggerates or falsifies their damages. In that case, an experienced car accident lawyer and a police report could make the difference between you collecting compensation or owing it.
Don't admit fault - Even a minor car accident can shake you up. It can be scary, especially if you're on a busy road. Suppose the other party had kids in the vehicle, and you're just glad everyone is okay. It's normal to want to say, "I'm sorry," and start up a friendly conversation with the other party. However, it's best to keep banter to a minimum and never admit to being at fault in an accident, even if you think you are responsible. Frankly, you don't know if you were at fault. Even if you rear-ended the other party, you might have missed other things in that split second before the collision. For example, they may have had faulty brake lights or slammed their brakes on purpose to get an insurance payday. Who caused the accident, or who is mostly at fault, can be very consequential when reaching a settlement. In some states, you would be barred from compensation if you're determined to have any responsibility. A car accident lawyer can help to minimize any culpability you have to maximize your payment.
Seek medical care - With today's healthcare costs, it's understandable wanting to avoid the doctor's office. You may also think the only injuries that warrant medical care include damage like broken bones, deep cuts, apparent spinal injuries, or head trauma. However, that's not the case. You could suffer from hidden injuries, some of which can be life-threatening. Spinal and head trauma may not manifest for hours or days after your car accident. Likewise, soft-tissue injuries such as bruises, stretched muscles, and ligaments can be very painful. Enough so that you may not be able to work for a few days or even a few weeks. Medical documentation is vital if you seek compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses down the road.
Consult with a car accident lawyer before accepting a settlement - Let's assume you did things by the book and got a police report, and went to see your doctor. You file a claim, and the insurance adjuster finds the other party at fault and offers you a settlement. That all sounds great until you realize the settlement doesn't cover all your losses. Insurance companies do a great job of handling minor accident claims quickly because once you sign the agreement, you waive your rights to any further damages.
As a layperson, you may not have accurately calculated your damages to encompass all the costs associated with the accident. For example, your lost wages may not have included the regular overtime you received. Instead, the insurance company used your hourly wage to guide them. Likewise, you may have lost out on accrued benefits or been passed over for a promotion you were expecting. Maybe you missed a sales goal by a few thousand dollars while recovering and had to forfeit a big yearly bonus.
As for medical expenses, you may not have thought about future treatment. For example, you may need physical therapy because your knee was sprained. Or you may need six months of chiropractic treatments to alleviate the accident-induced back and neck pain. Maybe you had to buy ice packs, heating pads, and medical braces. All these things add up, and you shouldn't be responsible for paying for them when someone else's negligent actions were the cause.
Insurance companies know that people want to move on and often see this as an opportunity to wiggle out of their commitments. You may think they're offering you a fair settlement when in fact, it's anything but fair, and there is still a substantial amount of money left on the table. When you're working with Morgan and Morgan, your car accident lawyer will look at the totality of your losses, even those you didn't think of, and negotiate for a better settlement.
What Keeps People on the Fence Over Hiring a Lawyer for Minor Car Accidents?
The costs - Yes, it's true, attorneys require payment in exchange for their services. Generally, car accident lawyers take about 33 percent of your settlement. While that may sound like a lot, you have to think about what you might miss out on if you don't work with legal counsel.
As we touched on previously, car insurance companies don't expect people to have lawyers working on their behalf for minor car accidents. In fact, it's in their best interests if you don't because they aren't going to explain how you're entitled to the totality of your losses. Not just the bills in front of you at this moment. Likewise, you're not as likely to argue for significantly more compensation for pain and suffering.
Additionally, you may have lien holders involved. For example, if you didn't have health insurance when you saw the doctor, they may have a lien against your insurance settlement. An experienced car accident lawyer can negotiate to lower your lien so that more settlement money goes into your pocket.
Insurance companies have released their own research that reveals claimants who are represented by lawyers statistically not only get their claims approved, but they also get more than those who represent themselves. While we admit that not everyone involved in a car accident will benefit from working with a lawyer, it literally costs you nothing for a free case evaluation to find out if you might. Let us explain your options, and we can determine if you stand to gain more compensation by allowing us to work for you.
Expecting the insurance company to be fair - Putting your faith in an insurance company is a mistake. You can't expect that even your own insurance company will be fair to you if you have to make a claim because the other driver was uninsured or underinsured. In that case, they treat you the same as a third party. You'll be expected to prove the extent of your injuries and losses.
The reality is that insurance is a business, and businesses are in the game to make money, not lose it. In fact, most insurance companies are worth billions and are owned by shareholders who expect to make a profit. We're not saying that insurance companies are inherently the bad guys, but we are saying that their primary interest is in reducing their costs and maximizing profits. They achieve this through a variety of means. They are not obligated to tell you how to get the most for your claim. Your Morgan and Morgan lawyer, however, is. That's their job, and looking out for your best interest is their business.
When you represent yourself, you're at a disadvantage because you haven't dealt with thousands of claims and don't necessarily know how insurance companies work. Plus, insurance companies have the technology and databases at their fingertips to provide immediate objections to your arguing points that you may be unable to overcome. Still, you can level the playing field by hiring a car accident lawyer who is equally equipped with the knowledge, experience, and skill it takes to combat objections.
I'll wait to see if things get complicated - We understand that hiring a lawyer is not a top priority if you think you can handle things yourself. In plenty of instances, like when there's minor property damage, you're probably right. Still, waiting to hire a lawyer until the last minute could put you in a dangerous position. For example, there are deadlines that must be met, some as little as 90 days after the accident. Suppose you're busy handling it on your own, and an important deadline you're unaware of is looming. In that case, you could forfeit your right to compensation, even if you got a lawyer involved at the eleventh hour.
Similarly, you may not know what evidence to collect or how to get access to information that is not available, like the other party's insurance policy limits. A lawyer can ensure that evidence is preserved. If more information is needed, they can submit legal documents to compel the other party to comply.
Again, at Morgan and Morgan, it costs you nothing for a case evaluation. Even if we don't take your case, we might be able to inform you of important dates to be aware of so you're not caught off guard.
Contact Morgan and Morgan With Minor Car Accident Questions
It's much better to have your questions answered by a live legal professional than doing your own research on the internet. There's simply no way to convey answers to every question in a web article when countless scenarios can exist. Every case is unique, with factors that will influence what the best path forward will be. Still, we believe that when someone else's negligence results in your injuries and losses, they should be held accountable. Allow us to review your case so we can lay out your options. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. You're not obligated to pay for our services unless we recover compensation.