When Should I Get An Attorney for a Car Accident?
After an accident, car accident victims are often left to deal with serious injuries and rising medical bills on their own. Insurance companies often offer accident victims a low-ball settlement that is just a fraction of what they need to recover. These insurance companies don’t have your best interest in mind—the only people they have in mind are their shareholders and reducing their liabilities. They may pressure accident victims into signing a settlement too quickly and you could end up with less than you need to cover your injuries.
The moment your accident occurred, a clock started ticking. It’s a countdown to the first financial hit coming your way as a result of your injuries. For most folks, that first hit is a missed paycheck. Then the first medical bill comes in, and there won’t be just one. Pretty soon, you find yourself with a financial problem that you don’t know how to solve.
That’s why it’s important that you call one of our experienced car accident attorneys as soon as possible following your accident. This ensures that our team can collect important evidence and witness accounts that could be lost over time. It also allows our legal team to go to work quickly to build a strong case for you. The sooner you call, the sooner you can get the compensation you deserve for your accident.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Immediately after you are injured in a car accident, there are steps you can take to help you collect the compensation you need.
- Call 911 – Call 911 and report your accident, which helps alert both police officials and emergency medical teams to the scene of the accident. Your police report and your medical report will be invaluable when establishing fault and liability. Without them, it’s just your word against theirs.
- Gather Evidence – Gathering evidence can be done easily now that we have smartphones. Snap pictures of license plates, eyewitness information, vehicle damage, traffic patterns, intersections, and any other important information that could help your lawyer establish fault.
- Contact a Lawyer – Insurance companies will always seek to reduce their liabilities by offering accident victims a low-ball settlement offer. This is usually a fraction of what you need to recover. Contact an experienced car accident attorney immediately to begin building your case. Remember, contacting an attorney is not the same thing as filing a lawsuit.
What Not to Do After a Car Accident
While it’s important to know what to do after a car accident, it’s equally important to know what NOT to do. Immediately after your accident, avoid making these serious car accident mistakes.
- Not Reporting Your Accident – Sometimes it can be tempting to just exchange information with the other driver and go on your way, especially if you don’t believe you’ve been injured. Unfortunately, some car accident injuries can take days and even weeks to become fully apparent. Always report your accident and obtain a police report.
- Admitting Blame – It’s human nature to apologize – even when we are not wrong. Yet after a car accident, saying “I’m sorry” can be used to show that you admitted fault for the crash. Even if you believe that you were partly to blame, do not admit fault.
- Accepting Settlement – The insurance company will often use a “take it or leave it” approach to pressure injured accident victims into accepting a settlement that is far below what they need to truly recover. Don’t sign anything without first speaking with an attorney.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
In the state of Arkansas, car accident victims only have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim. While this may seem like a lot of time, three years can pass quickly after a crash. You may be injured severely and focused on recovery and on improving your life. You may be struggling to make ends meet and trying to help your family stay out of bankruptcy after an accident. During this time, valuable evidence might get lost or even destroyed. Contact an experienced lawyer for your car accident immediately to begin building your case and to avoid missing any critical deadlines.
When to Call a Lawyer
Not everyone who has been involved in a car accident will need to seek legal representation. However, if your accident was severe or complex, then it’s necessary to call a lawyer as soon as possible, so they can begin building your case. If any of the following apply to your situation, call a lawyer right away:
- Any accident that causes significant injury to you or someone else
- Any accident where fault is not clearly established
- Any crash involving another motorist, such as a pedestrian, other cars, truck, or cyclist
- Any collision in a school zone
- Any crash in a construction zone or work zone
- Anytime you disagree with the police report
- Any crash involving an underinsured or uninsured driver
- Anytime insurance companies send mixed messages or offer confusing answers to liability concerns
Small fender-benders often will not require the assistance of an attorney, however, there are special circumstances where an attorney’s services could be invaluable after a minor crash. These include:
- Minor collisions that result in significant vehicle or property damage
- Any injuries to a passenger in your own vehicle or to yourself
- Any significant work missed by you or your passengers
- Problems dealing with car repairs and insurance limits
The sooner you contact an attorney, the better. In the state of Arkansas, you only have three years to file a personal injury claim. While that may seem like a lot of time, valuable evidence can be lost or destroyed in just a few weeks. That’s why injured accident victims should call an attorney as soon as they are able, even if they’re not certain they wish to file a lawsuit.
What to Provide Your Lawyer
Make sure your meeting runs smoothly by providing your lawyer with the following information:
- Contact information
- Key facts about your case
- Police report
- Medical records
- Financial documents or medical receipts
- Photos of accident scene or damage
- Witness contact information and statements
When to File A Claim
Once you’ve met, your attorney will investigate all aspects of your case and begin negotiating with the insurance company. Remember, a personal injury claim is different from a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury claim is between you and the at-fault driver’s insurance company and involves a series of negotiations. At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our Arkansas personal injury lawyer are skilled negotiators who obtain maximum compensation for our injured clients.
If the insurance company plays hardball, however, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party to seek damages. This often occurs when the insurance claims adjuster denies who was at fault for the accident or doesn’t agree with the severity of your injuries. When negotiations stall and a settlement cannot be reached, the next step is a personal injury lawsuit.
Benefits of Hiring an Attorney
It may seem easier to handle the aftermath of a car accident by yourself. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Hiring an attorney can make your life and your recovery process easier and prevent unscrupulous insurance adjusters from taking advantage of you. Some of the benefits of hiring an attorney include:
- Taking on the Insurance Company – insurance companies don’t always play fair. That’s why you need an experienced Arkansas car accident attorney to fight for you during this time. Your lawyer can take on the insurance company and ensure that they are not acting in bad faith.
- Filing Necessary Paperwork – filing a car accident claim and filing a personal injury lawsuit involve paperwork and forms. These forms must be filed properly and on-time to ensure that your case proceeds accordingly and so you obtain a favorable outcome. Improperly filed forms or failure to file the necessary paperwork can add lengthy delays to your case and prevent you from receiving the money you need.
- Not Missing Deadlines – a car accident attorney will make certain that you do not miss any critical deadlines, such as the statute of limitations. In some cases, accident victims only have a small window to file a claim, so your attorney will act quickly to meet these deadlines and protect your rights to compensation.
- Increased Compensation – those who call a lawyer receive more compensation than those who do not. Lawyers know how to build a case to show the insurance company just how much money you need to recover. They aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with large insurance companies and they will fight to make sure ALL of your medical expenses are considered – both now and in the future.
- Contingency Basis – most car accident lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means that you owe them nothing unless they win or settle your case. Any injured accident victim can seek justice after an accident – not just those who can afford it.
- Thorough Investigation – attorneys have extensive experience investigating car accidents. They often use accident recreation teams, forensic specialists, and experts to uncover all liable parties, even ones not listed in the police report, such as the car manufacturer, the city responsible for maintaining the roads, or the bar that served the intoxicated driver.