1. Knowledge of state car accident laws
The laws and regulations related to car accidents are complex and vary from state to state. A Premier attorney in your area will have in-depth knowledge of the laws in your state.
Some state-specific aspects of car accident claim include:
- Fault-based or no-fault systems: States can have either a fault-based or no-fault system. In fault-based states, the at-fault driver is responsible for covering damages. In no-fault states, each driver's insurance covers their own damages, regardless of fault, and certain criteria must be met to “step outside” the no-fault system and file a lawsuit.
- PIP insurance requirements: No-fault states require you to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, so you get compensated regardless of who is at fault. Some “fault” states require PIP or medical payments coverage (MedPay) as well.
- UM/UIM coverage: Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage isn’t required in all states, but it’s highly recommended. This type of coverage can help you recover damages in a crash with an uninsured or underinsured driver. It also covers you if you were involved in a hit-and-run with an unidentified driver.
- Statute of limitations: Each state has a statute of limitations, which is a legal deadline to file a claim. In most states, this is two or three years. However, it’s as low as one year and as high as six years in some states.
- Comparative negligence: Most states follow a comparative negligence rule. This means that if you are partially at fault, you can still recover, but your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault. Some states follow the older “contributory negligence” rule, which blocks you from recovering entirely if you are even partially at fault.
- Reporting requirements: States often have specific requirements for reporting car accidents. These include reporting injurious or fatal crashes to local authorities.
2. Investigation and evidence gathering
A skilled car accident lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation of your crash. This includes gathering evidence that supports your claim such as:
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Medical records
- Crash scene photos
- Video footage
- Cell phone records
3. Legal advice and guidance
Your attorney will provide legal advice and guide you on the best course of action to take. This prevents you from making mistakes that could jeopardize your claim.
For example, they will likely advise you to:
- Refrain from speaking to insurance companies.
- Attend all medical appointments.
- Maintain consistent communication with your attorney.
- Avoid activities that could halt recovery or weaken your claim.
4. Evaluation of damages
A car accident lawyer will assess the full extent of your damages by including:
- Medical expenses: This includes current and future medical treatment, medications, rehabilitation, and therapy.
- Lost wages: If the accident has caused you to miss work or has impacted your ability to earn income in the future, you can recover lost wages.
- Property damage: Some lawyers will include the cost of vehicle repairs or replacement in your compensation.
- Pain and suffering: This includes physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish related to your crash.
- Loss of consortium: If a crash has affected your relationship with your spouse or family members, an attorney may seek damages for the loss of companionship, support, or intimacy.
- Punitive damages: In cases involving extreme negligence or intentional misconduct, an attorney may pursue punitive damages to punish the responsible party and deter similar behavior in the future.
5. Communication with insurance companies
Insurance companies use various tactics to protect their interests and bottom line. They may try to manipulate your statements or use them against you to diminish the value of your claim. They may also attempt to persuade you to accept a low-ball settlement that covers only a fraction of your damages.
It's best to let an experienced attorney deal with the insurance companies. They understand the fine print, policies, and procedures that insurance companies use. They'll handle all communications with them, so you don't have to. This will save you a lot of time and frustration, so you can focus on your recovery.
6. Timely filing of legal documents
Your attorney will handle all the necessary paperwork and ensure that deadlines for filing legal documents are met. This helps to prevent delays or potential dismissal of your case.
These documents may include:
- Complaints with the court to initiate a lawsuit.
- Summons to notify the defendant of the lawsuit.
- Discovery requests to gather information and evidence from the defendant.
- Settlement agreements with insurance companies.
- Trial briefs summarizing arguments, evidence, and legal points before going to trial.
7. Negotiating for a fair settlement
Your attorney will negotiate with insurance companies for a fair settlement that covers all your damages. Some steps in the negotiation process include:
- Presenting evidence to insurance companies.
- Preparing a demand letter.
- Analyzing any settlement offers you receive.
- Counteracting low-ball offers.
- Suggesting alternative dispute resolutions such as mediation or arbitration.
8. Court representation
If your attorney can't reach a settlement with an insurance company through negotiation, they will take your case to trial. Here, they'll provide representation in front of a judge and jury and fight for a fair verdict.
- Presenting evidence in the courtroom.
- Calling on witnesses, medical professionals, and accident reconstruction experts to testify.
- Highlight negligence and wrongdoing of the at-fault driver.
It's important to note that many insurance companies will offer a fair settlement to avoid going to trial.
9. Collaborative network
Car accident lawyers often have access to a network of professionals who can help strengthen your case. These include:
- Accident reconstruction experts
- Medical experts
- Forensic experts
- Private investigators
- Insurance claims adjusters
10. Compassionate support
Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be emotionally and physically challenging. A car accident lawyer offers compassionate support by understanding the physical, emotional, and financial toll that a crash can have.
They recognize that collisions can be traumatic experiences and will approach each case with empathy. They'll also take the time to listen to your concerns and allow you to share your side of the story.