When to Get an Attorney for a Car Accident
If someone else caused a car accident that injured you, you may have legal avenues to recover compensation for the expenses and losses you incurred as a result. However, you may not know what options you have or what steps you need to take to obtain the compensation you deserve. A car accident attorney can explain your rights and options to you and guide you through the claims process, preparing you for what to expect at each stage. Reach out to a Miami car accident lawyer.
But how long after a car accident should you wait to speak to an attorney? Ideally, you should not delay retaining legal counsel. You have limited time to pursue certain legal options available to you. Waiting to get an attorney may result in the loss of certain rights or a reduction in the amount of compensation you could obtain in your case. You can maximize the money you recover for your injuries and losses from a car accident by working with a car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Car Accident Statistics
The Department of Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported 341,399 motor vehicle accidents in Florida in one recent year, including:
- 3,098 fatal crashes
- 92,247 hit-and-run crashes
- 12,462 accidents resulting in incapacitating injuries
- 127,705 accidents resulting in non-incapacitating injuries
- 198,134 property damage-only accidents
- 4,554 accidents with a drunk driver
- 708 accidents with a drugged driver
Common Causes of Car Accidents
Some of the more frequent causes of car accidents include:
- Tailgating/following too closely
- Reckless driving, such as excessive speeding, street racing, or swerving through traffic
- Aggressive driving/road rage
- Unsafe or illegal turns or lane changes
- Not using indicators or mirrors
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Disregarding traffic signs or signals
- Drowsy/fatigued driving
- Drunk or drugged driving
- Distracted driving
- Driver inexperience
- Poor vehicle maintenance leading to mechanical failure
Hiring an attorney as soon as possible after a car accident can give your lawyer the full opportunity to recover evidence from the accident to determine the cause of the crash before that evidence gets lost or destroyed.
Injuries Suffered by Car Accident Victims
An attorney can help you recover from the injuries you sustained in a car crash. Common car accident injuries include:
- Lacerations/abrasions and permanent scarring
- Degloving injuries
- Broken bones
- Dislocated joints
- Soft tissue injuries such as ligament sprains or muscle/tendon strains
- Herniated spinal disc injuries
- Nerve damage
- Burns and lung damage caused by post-accident car fires
- Facial, dental, and head injuries, including hearing or vision loss
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Crush injuries
- Traumatic amputation/limb loss
What Steps Do You Need to Take After a Car Accident?
You can protect your legal rights after a car accident and help your car accident attorney prepare your legal claim when you:
- Contact law enforcement to report the crash, ideally at the scene of the accident
- Exchange insurance information with each of the drivers involved in the accident
- Get contact information from anybody who witnessed the crash
- Take photos and videos of the accident scene, including details such as vehicle damage, your visible injuries, skid marks on the road, traffic controls at the location, and record road/weather/lighting/traffic conditions at the time of the accident
- Seek immediate medical attention to get checked for injuries you sustained in the accident
- Follow your medical provider’s treatment plan and instructions
- Gather your bills, invoices, and pay stubs/income statements to document your expenses and losses
- Request copies of the police accident report and your medical records
- Contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible to go over your legal options and begin preparing your compensation claims against the at-fault driver and insurance companies
Reasons Why You Need an Attorney for a Car Accident Claim
You could face various obstacles when pursuing compensation after a car accident that an attorney can easily handle on your behalf.
Hire a car accident lawyer for your case because:
- Multiple drivers may have caused the accident, making liability for your injuries unclear
- You do not know whether you or the at-fault driver has insurance coverage
- The other driver or drivers or the insurance company try to shift blame for the accident onto you
- The insurance company delays investigating or processing your claim
- The insurer denies your claim or pays you less than your total losses
- You have suffered serious injuries and need to undergo an extended course of medical treatment and rehabilitation
- You have trouble recovering evidence from the accident, such as police accident reports or surveillance/traffic camera footage
What Does a Car Accident Attorney Do in Your Case?
A car accident lawyer can handle all the aspects of pursuing your legal claims while you focus your time and energy on your physical and emotional recovery.
Your attorneys can take care of the details of your case, such as:
- Investigating the facts and circumstances of the accident to secure evidence in support of your legal claim
- Reviewing the evidence to identify at-fault and liable parties
- Evaluating your legal options for recovering compensation, such as seeking insurance coverage or filing claims against the driver or drivers who caused the accident
- Documenting your injuries and losses to ensure you recover full compensation from your insurance claims and legal cases
- Assisting you during your recovery from the accident, including helping with vehicle repairs/alternative transportation and getting specialist medical care for your injuries
- Handling communications with insurance adjusters, defense attorneys, or debt collectors on your behalf so you can focus on your treatment
- Preparing and filing your insurance claims/demand letters to begin pursuing compensation in your case
- Negotiating on your behalf for a fair and full settlement or going to court and trial if the liable parties and insurers won’t agree to settle
What Compensation Can You Recover in a Car Accident Claim?
You have several avenues for recovering compensation after a car crash. First, you can file a claim for personal injury protection (PIP) coverage from your or your car’s driver’s auto insurance policy. All Florida car insurance policies must provide at least $10,000 of PIP coverage. PIP coverage, available no matter who caused the accident, can help pay for your medical expenses and partially reimburse you for lost wages or income if you miss work due to car accident injuries.
If you have losses not covered by your PIP coverage, you may have the right to file a compensation claim against the at-fault driver or drivers and other liable parties, such as the owner of the car that hit you or the at-fault driver’s employer.
A car accident claim or lawsuit can provide you with money for your:
- Vehicle repairs or reimbursement for your totaled car
- Medical care and rehabilitation, including emergency room or hospital care, surgery, physical therapy, doctor’s appointments, and prescriptions
- Long-term care and other services for permanent disabilities you suffer
- Ongoing or future losses of earning capacity or lost income if you become temporarily or permanently disabled from work
- Physical pain and emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment or quality of life caused by physical disabilities or permanent scarring or disfigurement
What Evidence Does an Attorney Use To Prove Fault for a Car Accident?
An experienced car accident lawyer will have the knowledge and resources to investigate the crash thoroughly. Your attorney will want to secure all available evidence from the accident to identify who caused the collision and who you can hold liable for your injuries.
Examples of evidence that an attorney may use to prove your right to compensation include:
- Police accident reports
- Accident scene photos and videos
- Footage from surveillance or traffic cameras or vehicle dashcams
- Eyewitness statements
- Logs from each car’s black box or event data recorder
- Driver cell phone records
- Driver alcohol and drug test results
- Post-accident vehicle inspections
- Expert accident reconstruction reports
How Long Do You Have to File a Car Accident Claim?
In Florida, the statute of limitations imposes a deadline for filing a lawsuit after a car accident. Florida Statutes Section 95.11 allows a window of four years after the crash for you to file your car accident lawsuit. The trial court can permanently dismiss your case if you file a lawsuit after the statutory period expires on your car accident claim.
If you have a claim for a car accident with a state government vehicle, Florida Statutes Section 768.28 requires you to give notice of your claim to the Florida Department of Financial Services within three years of the accident. DFS has 180 days to evaluate your claim. You may only file a lawsuit against the state once DFS denies your claim or the 180-day evaluation period expires.
For this reason, you need to contact a car accident attorney immediately after the crash. Promptly obtaining legal assistance can help ensure that you timely file your claim or lawsuit and do not lose your right to recover compensation from the at-fault driver.
Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accident Cases
Other important questions that car accident victims have about their legal rights include the following:
Do You Need a Lawyer To Get a Settlement From the Insurance Company?
Although you have no obligation to hire a lawyer to pursue a settlement of your insurance claim, having legal representation will likely improve the amount of your compensation. Insurance companies use numerous tactics to pressure car accident victims into accepting an undervalued settlement.
A car accident lawyer will have seen these tactics before and will know what to do to counter the insurer’s efforts to minimize or deny your claim. Your lawyer can advise you if the insurer’s settlement offer seems fair or if you should demand more compensation. An attorney can negotiate with the insurance adjusters for you to fight for a maximum settlement that provides you with the financial resources you need for your physical recovery.
Do All Car Accident Cases Go to Trial?
Most car accident cases settle before reaching trial or even before ending up in court. A car accident attorney will understand your need for prompt compensation after a crash and can efficiently pursue the money you need in a settlement. However, an experienced lawyer will also advise you on whether going to court gives you the best chance of maximizing your compensation, especially when the insurance company tries to lowball your claim.
How Long Does It Take To Resolve a Car Accident Claim?
Unfortunately, your car accident attorney cannot predict how long it may take for you to recover compensation in your claim. Some claims may settle in just a few months, while others take a couple of years to reach trial.
Numerous factors will influence the duration of your car accident case, such as:
- The nature and severity of your injuries
- How long your medical recovery takes
- Whether other people also suffered injuries in the car crash
- The number of liable parties
- Whether the other driver or drivers claim that you share some fault for the accident
- The availability of insurance coverage
- The complexity of the evidence in your case
- Whether you need to file a lawsuit to pursue your claims
- The schedule of the trial judge assigned to hear your car accident lawsuit
A car accident attorney can help move your claim along by working on the details of your case while you recover from your injuries.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Most car accident lawyers represent injured victims on a contingency fee basis. In a contingency fee arrangement, a car accident victim does not need to pay any money upfront to hire a lawyer to handle their case. Reach out to a Miami personal injury lawyer.
Instead, the lawyer gets paid only if they secure compensation for their client in a settlement or by winning the client’s case in court. With contingency fees, car accident victims do not need to bear the financial risk of pursuing legal claims against the other driver or the insurance companies.