Why do I need an attorney for my auto accident claim? I can handle this myself, right?
Maybe, although it's not likely - there are some circumstances when you may not need the advice of an attorney - for example, if you were in a minor accident with no injuries and the insurance company is willing to pay for the property damage to your vehicle.
But, when there are medical bills, pain and suffering, trauma from a serious accident, or the need for future medical care, you are more likely to recover full and fair compensation when you have an experienced car wreck lawyer handling your case.
Similarly, when there are potential issues as to liability or potential defenses that the insurance company will capitalize on, your claim may be dead on arrival without an attorney...
Your Myrtle Beach auto accident attorney at Axelrod and Associates will protect your interests, make sure that you do not make costly mistakes during the claim process, negotiate with the insurance company to ensure that you are fully compensated, and take your case to trial when the at-fault driver's insurance company refuses to pay full compensation.
When You Don't Need an Auto Accident Attorney
If you were involved in a minor fender bender and no one was hurt, insurance companies will usually pay for the property damage to the vehicles with no problems.
This may be one situation where it's just not necessary for you to hire an attorney - if no one is hurt, there are no medical bills, there are no liability issues, and the at-fault driver's insurance company is offering a full and fair settlement to cover the damage to your vehicle, there's no need for a personal injury lawyer to step in and advocate for you.
If you aren't sure, however, it doesn't hurt to talk to an auto wreck lawyer and get their opinion as to whether you should proceed on your own or retain counsel...
When You Do Need an Auto Accident Attorney
Any adult who is mentally competent can represent themselves and handle their own car wreck case, although courts may encourage you to seek counsel before your case gets derailed...
However, even lawyers who attempt to represent themselves are often told, "Anyone who represents themselves has a fool for a client..."
Why is that?
You Need Immediate and Competent Advice
As soon as the wreck happens, and the dust clears, you may find yourself standing on the side of the road or lying in a hospital bed with questions you don't have the answers to:
- Whose insurance policy is going to pay for the damage to my car and my medical bills?
- What is the difference between a property damage claim and a personal injury claim?
- Should I settle the property damage claim separately?
- Should I pay for my own medical bills or should I use my medical insurance?
- What type of treatment should I seek - are certain types of treatment not compensable?
- How do I prove that the accident was the other driver's fault?
- What kind of evidence should I be collecting, and will it be admissible in court?
- What are the categories of damages that I am entitled to recover?
- How do I maximize my damages claim and prove it in court?
- Do I need expert witnesses to prove my case?
These and many other reasonable questions may be swirling through your head, along with the knowledge that, if you get it wrong, you may lose all or part of your recovery. Your attorney at Axelrod and Associates will answer your questions and give you advice at every step of the way, from the scene of the accident through the settlement or trial of your case.
Communication with Insurance Adjusters, Defense Lawyers, and Witnesses
The first and possibly most valuable piece of advice most auto accident lawyers will give you is: "Don't talk to anyone about your case. Let your attorney talk for you."
What you don't know can hurt you...
The claims rep from the insurance company is trained to get statements from you that will show fault on your part so that they can deny or limit your claim. They are trained experts whose job is to save as much money as possible for their company.
Although they will go out of their way to appear friendly in the beginning, they are not looking out for your interests, and they will take advantage of your inexperience with the claims process and the fact that you do not have counsel representing your interests.
The claims rep will often pressure you to settle your case quickly and to sign release documents that protect the insurance company. They will engage you in conversation, ask questions, and they will not tell you that they are looking for evidence that they can use to limit your recovery.
What are some other reasons you should let your attorney speak for you?
- Anything that you say can be repeated in court - in hearings or at trial - and you can easily make statements that hurt your case without realizing it;
- When you talk to witnesses yourself, you are opening yourself up to allegations of witness tampering or coercion; and
- Insurance adjusters and defense lawyers for the insurance company will take advantage of your inexperience - they are advocating for their client, not you, and their goal is to pay you the least amount of money possible.
Effective Auto Accident Investigations Can Win or Lose Car Wreck Cases
What kind of evidence do you need to collect and how do you preserve it so that it is admissible at your trial?
Your attorney will know what documents to look for and whether you need an accident reconstructionist, medical experts, economist, or life care planner. Your attorney knows when to begin the formal discovery process, what to ask for, and how to force the other side to turn over evidence.
Your lawyer will also know when and how to schedule depositions of the other driver, witnesses, and experts, what questions to ask them, and how to handle objections or delay on the part of the defense lawyers.
You Need a Car Wreck Attorney to Maximize Your Settlement or Verdict
Usually, insurance companies are not just going to write you a check after a serious auto accident. If they are willing to write you a check, you can bet it won't be for an amount anywhere near what you are entitled to receive.
How can your car wreck lawyer help you to maximize your settlement or verdict and ensure you are getting full and fair compensation?
Your Attorney Knows How to Evaluate Your Case
Before you can make a demand for payment, you need to know how much the other side owes you and how much they can be forced to pay...
There are many factors that go into determining the value of each case. Knowing how much to demand from the insurance company comes only from experience, knowledge of the law, and knowledge of how trial courts and appellate courts have previously decided issues like the ones in your case.
- How do questions as to liability affect the value of your claim?
- When can an expert witness increase the value of your claim and which experts do you need to retain?
- What types of damages are available in your case?
- Are punitive damages a possibility at trial?
Insurance Adjusters and Insurance Defense Lawyers are Trained in Negotiation
Most likely, you are not trained in negotiation... insurance adjusters are.
The insurance adjuster and the insurance defense lawyers know what their potential defenses are, what they are obligated to pay, and what your potential claims are - but they aren't going to tell you...
They are not going to explain South Carolina's comparative negligence laws or how they intend to use the information they get from you. In some cases, the claims rep will retain a private investigator to conduct surveillance of your activities following an auto accident, and they will use video evidence against you to limit your claims.
Insurance company claims reps do not want you to consult with a personal injury attorney because they know that you will insist on full compensation once you know what you are entitled to under the law.
Whether You are Prepared for Trial Impacts the Amount of Your Settlement
Most importantly, the insurance adjuster or insurance defense attorneys will not take your claim seriously if they know that you are not going to take them to trial over any disputes.
Whether you have an attorney and who your attorney is makes a difference when insurance companies calculate the amount of any settlement offer - if you don't have an experienced auto wreck lawyer who can take them to trial, why would they offer you full compensation?
When you put your auto accident claim in the hands of a trial lawyer at Axelrod and Associates, what you get is peace of mind - we handle all the details of your case, from investigation to resolution, allowing you to put the stress of the accident and litigation out of your mind so you can focus on your recovery and your family.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an auto accident, schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyer on the Axelrod team. Call us at (843) 916-9300 or fill out our contact form to speak with an attorney about your case today.