It is best not to expect any amount from a car accident settlement. While your attorney will calculate the cost of your damages and seek a specific amount of money on your behalf, there is no guarantee that you will receive the settlement you deserve.
Plus, each car accident case involves unique damages. You cannot base your expectation of a settlement on prior cases or what another car accident victim received for their damages.
The Wisest Strategy Is to Hire a Capable Attorney to Fight for Your Settlement
Setting expectations for a car accident settlement can be a recipe for disappointment.
What you can do, though, is hire a law firm that:
- Has extensive experience handling car accident cases
- Has a track record of getting substantial verdicts and settlements for clients
- You trust to fight for your financial recovery
If you hire a law firm that meets these criteria, you can stop worrying about how much money you deserve. Your lawyer will determine how much your damages are worth. They will then handle every aspect of your legal case, including settlement negotiations.
More Criteria for Hiring a Law Firm to Seek Your Car Accident Settlement
When choosing a car accident lawyer to handle your insurance claim or lawsuit, you certainly want a firm with relevant experience and case results.
- Their familiarity with your geographic location: If the law firm has handled cases in the area where your car accident took place, it may be familiar with local courts, judges, and civil defense attorneys. This familiarity can be beneficial as they lead your car accident case.
You may also choose a law firm based on:
- The impression they give during your consultation: Car accident lawyers generally offer free consultations. These consultations allow you to ask questions about the firm, interact with its representatives, and gauge its fitness to lead your car accident case.
- Client testimonials: Many law firms post client testimonials on their websites. While these reviews can be insightful, a law firm may pick only positive ones. For an objective look at a law firm’s client testimonials, you can look at public review forums.
- Word of mouth: If you have relatives, friends, or acquaintances who have hired a car accident lawyer in your area, speak with them. Those individuals may provide recommendations or warnings about the law firm they hired for their case.
A car accident victim must decide which law firm is right for them. Combine objective criteria (like case results) with your own impression of a law firm (through a consultation and other interactions). Hopefully, this will lead you to find the right firm for you.
How Does a Car Accident Attorney Help You?
A car accident lawyer leads every step of an insurance claim or lawsuit for their client. In some cases, an attorney may file and negotiate an insurance claim but later file a lawsuit. Each case is unique, and a lawyer’s responsibilities in each case are, therefore, unique.
A lawyer will generally assist a car accident victim by:
Collecting Any Available Evidence from the Accident
An attorney and their firm’s investigators will gather any relevant evidence in your case, including:
- Witness testimony about the accident
- Traffic camera footage, dash camera footage, security camera footage, or cell phone footage of the collision
- Testimony from experts in motor vehicle accident liability
- A police report
- Photographs of vehicular damage
Your attorneys may also hire an expert to reconstruct your accident.
Ensuring Their Client Gets All Necessary Medical Care
A car accident victim’s focus should be on recovery. Getting a thorough medical evaluation is also pivotal to a case’s success.
Your attorney can help you get any necessary medical care and will also:
- Secure a doctor’s diagnosis of your injuries
- Get copies of your medical bills
- Maintain a written account of all medical services you require
- Work with your doctors to understand your future healthcare needs (and related expenses)
As a general rule, more severe injuries cost more to treat. Your lawyer will pinpoint the exact cost of your current and future medical expenses, ensuring that they seek all of the compensation you deserve.
Documenting All Accident-Related Damages
Medical expenses are just one of the many damages a car accident victim may experience.
In addition to getting medical bills and records, your lawyer may also document your damages with:
- Invoices for all accident-related vehicle repairs
- Past pay stubs (or deposit records) proving how much income your accident has cost you
- Testimony from a mental health expert, who may explain the emotional and psychological cost of your accident
- Testimony from medical professionals explaining the nature of your injuries and future healthcare needs
- Bills for temporary transportation and all other accident-related expenses
The more documentation your attorney can obtain of your damages, the stronger their negotiating position may be.
Managing Communications and Completing Paperwork
Your attorney will lead case-related communications with insurance companies and other parties. By dealing directly with these parties, your lawyer will prevent them from violating your rights.
Insurance companies have financial incentives that don’t always align with a car accident victim’s. An insurer may offer a lowball settlement, delay processing your claim, and engage in other tactics that are detrimental to you.
In addition to dealing with insurers, your lawyer will complete all paperwork and other administrative duties for your case.
Negotiating a Settlement
The opportunity to negotiate a settlement is a critical one. Your lawyer may convince liable parties to cover your damages and resolve your case with a fair financial settlement.
Settlements are more common than trials in civil cases, especially personal injury claims. A capable law firm will be open to completing a trial, though, if it is the appropriate decision for your case. You should work closely with your attorney to determine whether accepting a specific settlement or heading to trial is the right move for you.
Completing a Trial (If Necessary)
If your attorney does advise you to let them proceed to trial, the law firm will lead your court case. They will then make your case in front of a judge and jury unless your case settles before the trial formally begins.
An attorney’s role at trial generally includes:
- Presenting evidence
- Questioning witnesses
- Arguing against the other side’s case
- Making opening and closing statements
While trials can be long and complex processes, your attorney will recommend going to trial for a good reason. They may believe that a court case is the only, or best, way to get the compensation that you deserve.
Why Do Car Accident Victims Hire an Attorney Rather Than Handling Their Own Case?
The effects of a car accident can be all-consuming.
Those with injuries and those who have lost a loved one because of a car accident generally:
- Find themselves with more day-to-day responsibilities than they normally have, placing their time and energy at a premium.
- Need to dedicate time and effort to physical, emotional, and psychological recovery.
- Are in a fragile state, meaning that stress can have an adverse effect on their physical and psychological health.
Furthermore, car accident victims may be unfamiliar with the process of completing an insurance claim or lawsuit. These conditions make it clear why car accident victims choose to hire an attorney.
By hiring an attorney to seek a car accident settlement, you:
- Let experienced legal pros fight for your financial recovery: Getting fair compensation is the clearest goal in a car accident case. An attorney with ample experience, training, and familiarity with car accident cases is in the best position to get the compensation you deserve.
- Put your health first: For those whose doctors urge rest and recovery, handling an insurance claim or lawsuit may not be smart. You do not know how stressful a car accident case will be, and hiring a lawyer is a certain way to protect yourself from case-related headaches.
An attorney can be an extremely valuable resource after a car accident. There is no shame in asking for help after your collision.
What Damages Should a Car Accident Settlement Cover?
Car accidents can produce a wide range of injuries. Some injuries associated with car accidents, including whiplash, may not present symptoms immediately after your accident. Therefore, a law firm will conduct a complete investigation of your accident and resulting injuries, documenting damages including:
Car accident victims may need:
- Ambulance transport
- Emergency treatment
- Imaging services
- Various doctor’s appointments
- Medical equipment
Your lawyer will seek compensation to cover these and all other accident-related medical services and items.
Pain and Suffering
A skilled car accident lawyer will determine the cost of your pain and suffering.
This form of non-economic damage can include:
- Emotional anguish
- Psychological distress
- Lost quality of life
- Physical pain
Some car accidents are severe enough to cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and other diagnosable conditions. A law firm may work with mental health professionals to diagnose the pain and suffering your accident has caused.
Injuries from a car accident can cause several professional damages, including:
- Lost income
- Lost earning power
- Lost productivity
- Lost bonus and promotion opportunities
If accident-related injuries cause lasting symptoms, professional damages may mount. A victim may lose their job if injuries prevent them from working for a considerable period.
Attorneys regularly see the professional cost of car accidents. They can accurately identify and value your professional damages.
Damage to your vehicle and any other property should entitle you to compensation. Your attorney will use repair estimates and invoices to calculate the cost of your property damage.
Factors That May Affect the Value of a Car Accident Settlement
When assessing how much compensation you deserve for a car accident, your attorney will consider:
- The type of injuries you have suffered
- The severity of your injuries
- The nature of your injury symptoms
- The duration for which you experience your symptoms
- The cost of your monetary damages
Attorneys have systematic methods for calculating accident-related damages. Your lawyer will ensure that your target settlement is accurate before they engage in settlement discussions.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Car accident lawyers typically work for a contingency fee. A contingency fee means the client does not pay any upfront money to the firm. Instead, the attorney who leads your case gets a percentage of any settlement or judgment they secure for you.
The law firm will also cover all of your case-related expenses.
The benefits of this contingency fee arrangement include:
- That you can hire a lawyer regardless of your current financial status
- That you do not have to worry about the cost of completing your case
- That your attorney only receives a fee if they provide effective representation
- That your law firm will have a great incentive to get compensation for you
While contingency fees are common among car accident law firms, you should confirm a firm’s fee structure before hiring one.
Is There a Deadline for Filing a Car Accident Case?
There are deadlines for filing personal injury and wrongful death cases in each state. For example, in California, CCP § 335.1 sets out the deadline for filing injury claims at two years from the date of injury or death.
There can be exceptions to these statutes of limitations, though they are rare. For this reason, always contact a car accident law firm, even if it has been more than two years since your accident. You can still be eligible to file a car accident case.
Another Reason Not to Wait Before Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
Your attorney will need to gather evidence from your car accident. If you wait too long to hire an attorney, valuable evidence can become lost, destroyed, erased, or otherwise compromised.
Set up a Free Consultation About Your Car Accident Today
It can be difficult to know what to do or expect following a car accident and injuries. A car accident attorney can review your rights and calculate your settlement value. This ensures you do not accept any less than you deserve.
There are no fees or obligations when you call, so don’t wait.