Just as there are doctors that specialize in a particular field of medicine, there are personal injury attorneys that focus their practice on a particular type of accident claim. For example, some represent victims of slip and fall accidents, others premises liability, while others concentrate on medical malpractice cases. Therefore, if you have been injured in a car crash, you want to hire an attorney that has experience handling car accident claims.
Comprehension of Auto Insurance Policies
Almost every state requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance to protect against losses incurred in the event of an accident. A car accident attorney has an in-depth understanding of how these policies work and can hold an insurance company’s feet to the fire to make sure they act in good faith and uphold the requirements of the contract. They can walk you through the declarations page of a policy so you know what you are entitled to recover. The most common types of auto insurance coverage includes: bodily injury liability, personal injury protection (PIP), property damage liability (PDL), collision, comprehensive, and uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage.
Procedural Knowledge of Filing Car Accident Claims
The auto claims process can be arduous and complex. A car accident lawyer can help you navigate the amount of paperwork and hassle involved with filing your claim. They know the laws and procedures that must be adhered to throughout the claims process and can help make sure you avoid any legal landmines that could jeopardize your chances of collecting maximum compensation.
Settlement Negotiations with Insurance Company
Car accident lawyers are skilled negotiators who will vigorously fight to promote your interests. They know the tricks insurance adjusters will try to use to deny or delay a claim and can protect you from being taken advantage of. A car accident attorney will craft a settlement demand letter on your behalf indicating the amount you are seeking for compensation and will handle all subsequent negotiations with the insurance company.
Firm Grasp of Liability Laws: At-Fault and No-Fault
When it comes to determining liability in a car accident, states operate under a fault-based or no-fault based insurance system. As a consequence, where you live will play a role in how liability is determined in your case and how much you will be compensated. Most states have adopted the at-fault system which preserves a personal injury victim’s right to sue the negligent party for damages. Under a no-fault automobile insurance system, you would not need to prove that someone else was at fault in order to receive compensation. Rather, you could collect compensation for your medical bills, rehabilitation costs and lost wages through your own insurance up to its policy limits. If you live in a no-fault state, the no-fault portion of your policy is called PIP or personal injury protection.
No-Fault States: Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota Pennsylvania, Utah
Negligence is the basis for most car accident claims. There are various legal theories of negligence that vary state by state.
Comparative Negligence: The theory of comparative negligence enables drivers to collect damages even if they are partially at fault for the accident. The only caveat is their recovery is reduced by their degree of fault. For example, if a driver suffered $100,000 in damages and was found to be 30% responsible for the accident, their recovery would be $70,000. State that adhere to comparative negligence includes: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington
Modified Comparative Negligence: Some states follow the 50 percent Bar Rule, meaning that an injury victim cannot recover if they are 50 percent or more at fault. States that adhere to this rule include: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. Other states follow the 51 percent Bar Rule in which you can recover if you’re 50 percent or less at fault, but not if you’re 51 percent or more at fault. These states include Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Pure Contributory Negligence: A handful of states (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia) still operate under the old rule of pure contributory negligence which denies a driver the right to recover damages if they contributed in anyway to their own accident or injury. This is true even if they were just 1% to blame.
Expertise in Establishing Liability
An auto accident attorney will have the skills and resources needed to find evidence that validates the seriousness of your injuries and points to the negligence of the other driver. The process of building a strong claim often involves hiring outside experts to reconstruct the accident scene, scrutinizing police reports, seeking testimony from witnesses and medical professionals, gathering medical records and bills as well as any loss of employment or wage information.
Calculating the True Value of Your Damages
After your accident, the at-fault party’s insurance company may reach out to you in an attempt to offer you a quick settlement. Don’t accept! This is most likely a lowball offer that does not take into account the full extent of damages suffered. An experienced car accident attorney can protect you from accepting less than you deserve. They will have the training and experience to know when offers are too low and how to negotiate for a better amount. A car accident attorney can make you aware of all your rights to recovery which may extend beyond compensation for medical expenses and vehicle repair costs to include emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of companionship and any disability or disfigurement.
Representation in Court
When an insurance company refuses to negotiate, an experienced car accident lawyer will use their litigation skills to help you pursue a successful claim in court.