Your to-do list after getting into an automobile accident can feel overwhelming. For example, directly after the accident you need to:
- Exchange information with the other driver and potential witnesses;
- Call emergency services and wait for the police to arrive;
- Move your motor vehicle out of the way if it is blocking traffic;
- Tell the police what happened once they arrive and answer their questions;
- Call a tow truck company if your vehicle is in bad condition;
- Figure out how to get home;
- Call an ambulance if anyone is injured;
- Seek medical attention for your own injuries;
- Inform your insurance company about the automobile accident; and
- Various other items that can make the situation seem even more stressful.
Thus, the best thing you can do after you have been in an automobile accident is to find and hire the right lawyer to take on your case. Once you have hired a lawyer, then you must prepare for your automobile accident consultation. You can do this by:
- Collecting documents related to the accident that could potentially be used as evidence;
- Drafting a list of questions you have for the attorney about your case;
- Writing down information about the accident, so that you do not forget to tell them important facts;
- Figuring out what you want to get out of a lawsuit or settlement, or alternatively, if you are being sued, whether you want to fight the claim at all; and
- Knowing how much you are willing to spend on a case in order to pursue damages.
What Documentation and Questions Should I Prepare Before Meeting with My Automobile Accident Lawyer?
There are many documents that a person should obtain before meeting with their automobile accident lawyer. Although a lawyer can also assist with the process of gathering evidence and may even provide advice on other items that should be collected to make a stronger case, an ideal client will already have most of this information prepared in advance of the meeting.
Some examples of documents that a client should collect and bring with them to the meeting include:
- Documents related to injuries, such as medical bills, treatment plans, timesheets for amount of work days missed, medical records for proof of injuries, photos of injuries, receipts for medical devices, home renovation costs to accommodate an injury, etc.
- Documents related to the accident, such as a copy of the police report, images or videos of the accident, notes about the accident, list of contact information for the other driver and possible witnesses, etc.
- Documents related to property damages, such as mechanic receipts, costs of car parts, appraisals for other property damage, photos of the damaged property, a list of items lost or damaged in the accident (e.g., sunglasses), etc.
- Insurance policy documents; and
- Any other accident-related documents that will help prove the client is not at fault and that they should receive damages.
In addition, the client should also prepare a list of questions before meeting with their automobile accident lawyer. Some examples of questions that a client may want to ask their lawyer at the meeting include questions about:
- The lawyer’s background (e.g., how long the lawyer has been practicing, their experience with automobile accident cases, etc.);
- Legal options and case strategy (e.g., does the lawyer expect the case to settle or go to trial?);
- Billing for the case like what type of fee structure the lawyer uses to bill clients;
- The law or procedural requirements in the case; and/or
- The client’s responsibilities, such as whether they need to collect additional evidence, appear in court, participate in the process, and so forth.
What Makes an Automobile Accident Case Strong? What Makes it Weak?
Some factors that can make an automobile accident case stronger include:
- Hiring a lawyer who has extensive experience with handling automobile accident cases;
- Preserving all evidence (e.g., medical reports, medical bills, photos of the accident and/or injuries sustained, mechanic receipts for car repairs, etc.);
- Obtaining contact information for the other driver and any potential witnesses;
- Seeking medical attention immediately after the accident;
- Filing a claim before the statute of limitations expires;
- Collecting enough solid evidence to demonstrate the elements of proof in the case; and
- Reviewing state law and checking which type of negligence applies (e.g., does the state follow the comparative negligence standard or the contributory negligence standard?).
On the other hand, some factors that could potentially make an automobile accident case weaker include:
- Not hiring a lawyer to oversee the case and negotiate with the insurance company;
- Destroying evidence that shows the extent of injuries and/or property damage;
- Not having any evidence from the accident (e.g., no pictures of the surrounding area, car parts, or injuries);
- Admitting fault or taking blame for causing the accident;
- Failing to mitigate injuries or damages after the accident;
- Ignoring state law and failing to identify which type of negligence applies (e.g., does the state follow the comparative negligence standard or the contributory negligence standard?);
- Not cooperating with law enforcement after the accident or leaving the scene of the accident before the police say it is fine to do so; and
- Agreeing to accept certain things from the insurance company without a lawyer present (e.g., agree to be recorded, agree to sign paperwork, agree to admit fault in exchange for false promises, agree to settle, etc.).
What are Some Dos and Don’ts for Automobile Accident Cases?
Some dos when it comes to automobile accident cases may include:
- Do call the police and remain at the scene of the accident until the police grant permission to leave;
- Do seek medical attention as soon as possible;
- Do write down contact information (e.g., name, address, insurance information, etc.) for the other driver and any potential witnesses;
- Do report the accident to the auto insurance company;
- Do take pictures of the accident, injuries received, property damage, and so on to use as evidence;
- Do keep copies of all medical records, receipts for treatments received, timesheets for missed work days, and cost of property repairs;
- Do hire a lawyer for representation in court and to negotiate with insurance companies;
- Do file a claim with the proper court immediately (if applicable);
- Do cooperate with all parties to the case (e.g., law enforcement, the other driver, the judge, courtroom workers, etc.); and
- Do ask questions about billing costs, possible remedies, and potential defenses when meeting with the auto accident lawyer.
In contrast, some don’ts when involved in an automobile accident case may include:
- Do not wait to file a claim related to the accident or else the statute of limitations might expire;
- Do not forget to report the accident to the insurance company, regardless of whether anyone was injured in the accident or not;
- Do not leave the scene of the automobile accident;
- Do not fail to mitigate injuries (e.g., do not refuse to seek medical treatment for injuries sustained in the accident);
- Do not destroy evidence;
- Do not attempt to negotiate with an insurance company without legal representation;
- Do not wait to hire an auto accident lawyer or retain a lawyer who has no experience with automobile accident cases;
- Do not forget to ask the lawyer about how they structure their fees; and
- Do not discuss the case with anyone except for the lawyer handling the case.
When Do I Absolutely Need a Lawyer for Automobile Accident Issues?
It is crucial that you hire a lawyer for further assistance with a lawsuit concerning an automobile accident issue. This is especially true if you were injured in the accident. A local car accident lawyer can assist you in gathering evidence, drafting necessary legal documents, and filing a claim. Most importantly, your lawyer will have some control over how your case progresses, which can have a positive effect on the final outcome.
You will also need a lawyer if you want to recover damages for an automobile accident issue. Your lawyer can help you present a strong argument as to why you should be entitled to damages and which types of damages you receive for your injuries.
In some states, your lawyer may even be able to aid you in recovering damages for loss of consortium if a loved one was killed in the accident. Such lawsuits are known as wrongful death suits and often require legal expertise.
Lastly, you may need to hire a lawyer to handle an automobile accident issue if it involves negotiating with an auto insurance company. Auto insurance companies typically have large legal teams that are comprised of very experienced lawyers who only focus on these types of issues.
As such, lawyers for auto insurance companies know exactly how to build a case that results in minimal damages awards and can easily take advantage of someone who does not have any legal experience or representation. Therefore, you will absolutely need a lawyer on your side to ensure that your rights are protected and that you do not miss out on the amount of damages that you deserve.