When Does a Car Wreck Require the Help of a Lawyer?

Zawn Villines | April 29, 2016

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Think you can manage your car accident yourself, without the assistance of a car accident lawyer? You may need to think again. Insurance works according to a fairly simple principle: the insurer profits by being paid more money in premiums than it pays out in claims. Insurers accomplish this by paying as little as they can to each claimant. Odds are extremely good that your case is more valuable than the insurer indicates.

This means that everyone can benefit from a car accident lawyer, or at least a consultation with one. Many such attorneys take cases on a contingency basis, which mean that you don't have to pay anything unless you win. Moreover, even an initial consultation can save you money by giving you a better idea of your claim's value. Still on the fence about hiring a car accident lawyer? Here are some other signs that it's time to seek legal help.

The Insurer is Prying Into Your Life

One of the easiest ways for an insurer to avoid paying your claim is to show that you were somehow at fault for the accident. They might request your cell phone records to assess whether you were texting or driving. Worse still, they may demand access to your social media accounts to learn what you've said to others about your claim.

This strategy can work even if you're not at fault, since most of us deeply value our privacy. Particularly if the car accident was relatively minor, you might opt not to pursue your claim to avoid handing over private information.

Before giving an insurer access to your accounts or responding to discovery requests, call a lawyer. Your lawyer might be able to get the requests thrown out of court. And at the very least, a good car accident lawyer will ensure that the embarrassment of providing personal data is far exceeded by the payout you get.

Your Claim Has Been Denied

The insurer is not paid to represent your interests, or to impartially assess the law. Indeed, insurers can deny claims as much as they want, even if doing so is illegal, so long as no one sues them. Even if you believe that your claim is invalid or think the insurer is being reasonable, talk to a lawyer if your claim has been denied. There may be rules you don't know about, and the insurer's denial could even help you negotiate a quick and fair settlement.

You've Exceeded the Policy Limits

No matter how good your case is, if you exceed the insurance policy limits you might be stuck with an insufficient payout. Don't take the insurer's word, though. A lawyer can help you assess whether you've really hit the policy limits. Your attorney might also find that there are other parties whom you can sue, thereby helping you recover as much as you can

Your Case is Going to Trial, Mediation, or Another Court Appearance

It's tempting to represent yourself in mediation or in court. After all, how difficult can it be? Very difficult. Difficult enough that it takes three years of law school, endless bar preparations, and lots of continuing legal education classes to prepare some of the nation's brightest minds to do it. No matter how much time you've spent reading about your case, no matter what legal advice sites or self-help gurus tell you, there is no substitute for the education can experience of a lawyer.

Doubt this claim? Consider this: the insurance company would never dream of showing up without a lawyer. Do you really think you can out-maneuver this person? Probably not. Even the playing field by getting a lawyer of your own.

You Got Into a Car Accident With an Uninsured Motorist

If you got into a collision with an uninsured motorist, you might be out of luck. You won't know that until you talk to a car accident attorney. Some policies cover you if you get into a collision with an uninsured motorist, but don't count on the insurer to give you reliable information. Consult with a lawyer, whose sole goal is preserving your rights—not turning a profit for the insurance company.

The Insurer is Not Offering Enough to Cover Your Expenses

Insurance is supposed to help you recoup whatever you lost in the accident, including:

  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical bills
  • Property damage, including not only the car but the items in it

If you're still struggling to recover from your accident and don't have enough money, it's a sure sign you need a lawyer. Don't forget that some expenses associated with a car accident are indirect. If you have to travel to a rehabilitation hospital and must stay in a hotel, your travel expenses—including mileage—should be covered in your settlement. The insurer may have undervalued your claim. You'll only know for sure when a car accident attorney takes a look at your case.

The Insurer is Not Returning Your Calls

In most cases, you have two years to bring a claim after a car wreck. If you delayed a while, the insurer might be trying to wait you out. Can't get a return phone call? You need a lawyer right away. Even if the car accident just happened and you're not concerned about a statute of limitations, unreturned phone calls are still a bad sign.

After all, no one wants to spend months litigating the minutiae of a car accident. When you hire a lawyer, you tell the insurer that you're serious about recovering your losses. Sometimes all it takes is a single phone call to get the ball rolling.

You Have a Sneaking Sense You're Being Manipulated

Trust your gut. You don't have to be a legal savant to know you're being manipulated. If you can't shake the feeling that the settlement offer is unfair, even if you can't point to a specific issue, contact a lawyer. You might be picking up on subtle red flags that the insurer is taking advantage of you. And because there's no cost to you, there's absolutely no reason not to at least pursue a consultation.

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Topics: Legal

Zawn Villines

Written by Zawn Villines

Zawn Villines is a writer specializing in health and legal journalism. Raised by a lawyer and lobbyist who advocated for spinal cord injury survivors, she is a lifelong advocate for spinal injury victims and their loved ones. You can connect with Zawn on Google+ below.

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