If you are involved in a car accident, you might be wondering how much of the process you can handle yourself. Keep in mind that if you decide not to work with an attorney, you will likely need to negotiate directly with an insurance company.

Sometimes this process goes smoothly and you reach a settlement amount that you are happy with. However, these companies are known to be tough negotiators. Many are known for their manipulative tactics, which are designed to minimize your payout. For that reason, you might consider hiring an attorney in order to help you get the compensation you deserve.

Compensation Available for Car Accident Claims

Bear in mind that an insurance company is interested in settling your claim as cheaply and quickly as possible. Because of this reality, they may not let you know all of the compensation that is available to you following a car accident.

It’s important to note that you are typically entitled to more than just your medical expenses and doctor bills, including:

  • Lost wages
  • Repairs to damage to your vehicle, or the replacement cost if your car is totaled
  • Rental cars
  • Pain and suffering, and
  • Wrongful death.

Note that as part of wrongful death, your loved ones can receive payment for your medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, pain and suffering you endured before death, your future lost wages, and loss of care and companionship.

As you might imagine, pain and suffering and loss of companionship are not exact dollar figures. These amounts are generally negotiated as part of settlement talks or decided by a jury after a trial.

In addition, in cases where you can show that the other driver was reckless or demonstrated willful misconduct, you may be entitled to what are known as “punitive damages.” Punitive damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer and would be amounts above and beyond your regular “compensatory” damages. These are typically seen in DUI or reckless driving cases.

Straight Forward Car Accident Cases

That said, sometimes car accidents are relatively straight forward. An example would be a collision involving only minor injuries where another driver admits fault. In this case, the driver’s insurance company may simply offer you a settlement amount.

However, remember that insurance companies do not have your best interests in mind. For that reason, it’s important to take your time and think about whether the offer is fair. You might consider speaking with an attorney before responding to the insurance company.

Many personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and can evaluate the strength of your case as well as any settlement offers. After being properly advised regarding your options, you can then decide whether to settle your case or decline the offer and move forward with your claim.

Complicated Car Accident Cases

Now, when a car accident case becomes complicated, it is always a good idea to reach out to an attorney. Here are a few examples of complex claims:

  • The car accident resulted in long-term disability with future medical bills.
  • The car accident resulted in the death of a loved one.
  • There were more than two drivers involved in the accident.
  • The other driver has served you with a lawsuit.
  • You are partially at fault for the accident.
  • It is not clear who is at fault.
  • The other driver was on the clock working for a company at the time of the accident.
  • The insurance company is offering a complicated settlement – like structured payments instead of a lump sum.

If you’re uncertain about anything related to your car accident case, it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.

How Soon After Accident Should I Contact an Attorney?

If you are involved in a car accident, it’s best to contact an attorney as soon is as reasonably possible. However, always seek out any emergency medical care you need first.

It’s important to keep in mind that the events that occur following an accident often become part of the legal case. This would include statements that you make to police, the information contained in your medical records, and even communications you have with insurance companies.

For this reason, it can be more beneficial to your claim to speak with an attorney before you talk to any insurance company representative. If you agree to a settlement offer and later decide that the amount was too low, you may not be able to get more.

Further, there are strict deadlines for filing a lawsuit that you should be aware of. These are referred to as “statute of limitations” and they are two years for injury to a person and four years for injury to property.