We asked 16 attorneys to answer a simple, yet important question: “When do I need to hire a car accident lawyer?
Keep in mind that the insurance carriers have teams of lawyers and adjusters who begin evaluating your injury claim once they receive notice of such. Thus, it is essential you retain legal counsel immediately (assuming you are injured as a result of the collision) to level the playing field.
It is important to note that not all personal injury law firms are the same. In fact, many of the biggest advertising firms are little more than settlement mills. A settlement mill is a firm that relies on heavy advertising as the lifeblood of their business and litigate a disproportionate amount of their cases. Such firms do not rely on current or former clients to refer cases via word-of-mouth and can thus afford to employ a mill mentality to their handling of cases.
In fact, settlement mills tend to leave money on the table at the time of settlement as they are more concerned with resolving a volume of cases each month to pay their expensive advertising budget. Keep in mind that even an average trial lawyer is superior to a settlement mill as the insurance carrier must spend money defending a trial or a case that has advanced far in litigation. The goal of any insurance carrier is to save money and forcing them to run up costs gets their immediate attention.
The Dolman Law Group has decades of experience in protecting the rights of car accident victims all throughout Florida. David Neiser is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney and our firm has tried a number of cases before Florida juries. We have the financial resources to stand toe-to-toe with any insurance carrier or corporation. Our skilled and dedicated attorneys will fight to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your losses. Call (727) 451-6900 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation today.
[Read this article for answers to Frequently Asked Questions about PIP.]
If you have been involved in a car accident resulting in a physical injury, your likely next step is to file a claim with your insurance company along with the insurance carrier for the at-fault party. Since Florida is a no-fault state, a PIP insurance(Personal Injury Protection) claim will be opened in order to treat your injuries. You must also file a claim with the other driver’s insurance (if they were at fault) in order to pay for the medical bills and lost wages that exceed PIP’s $10,000.00 in maximum benefits.
This process is fairly routine and most people driving in Florida understand how it works. The “no-fault” system simply means that no matter who is at fault in the accident, you will treat under your own PIP benefits for the first $10,000.00 in medical bills. The purpose of the “no-fault” system is to enable an auto accident injury victim to commence immediate medical treatment without having to wait for a Court of Law to determine who in fact is liable for the car wreck.
Once you’ve filed a claim, it will be up to the insurance company to determine the value of such. The insurance carrier may also deny the claim completely. It can become complicated when filing multiple claims with different insurance companies, facilitating treatment and repairs, and ensuring that you’re getting the compensation you deserve.
If your injuries are minor, then you may continue to try to handle the case yourself. If your car accident injuries are more serious, then you will probably begin to wonder about the hiring process of a personal injury attorney.
We went out and asked 16 different attorneys a simple, yet extremely important question: “When should someone hire a car accident attorney?” Read their answers below.
When do you Need to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Individuals who are involved in a motor vehicle accident should hire an attorney as soon as possible. Car accidents have the potential to leave victims with serious injuries and tremendous damage to their property. Florida law allows people to recover financial compensation for these and other types of losses, but only if they are able to establish that their accident was caused by someone else’s legal negligence. Two of the most important reasons that car accident victims should retain an attorney immediately include:
- Sometimes, establishing negligence can be difficult – When liability after a car accident is contested, investigation may become necessary to establish negligence. A car accident lawyer will know where and how to look for evidence that supports your case.
- You may inadvertently admit fault – Insurance companies are in the business of making money and train their adjusters to minimize the amount they pay out, even on completely valid claims.
In some cases, an insurance company may try and obtain a statement from you or ask certain questions hoping that you inadvertently admit full or partial liability for an accident, which could have a significant impact on your ability to recover. When you retain an attorney, he or she will deal with the insurance company on your behalf and make sure you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.
Matthew Dolman – Dolman Law Group
The answer is short and simple: You should hire a car accident attorney when you are injured in a car accident.
No matter the property damage, severity of injury, or insurance situation–if a moment goes by after you are injured in a car accident when you are physically and mentally able to hire a lawyer, you’ve waited too long. As soon as an insurance company is notified of a car accident, they are figuring out how to devalue your claim. They make a lot of money using this business practice. The only way for you to level the playing field is to hire a car accident lawyer right away. If you hire the right car accident lawyer, you can actually gain the upper hand. If you wait, you’re late. They have a head start and now you have to catch up.
You have a life and you need to live it. Maybe you have a job, or a family to take care of, maybe you are a student with classes and tests. Everyone has responsibilities, so when you are injured by someone else’s driving, you shouldn’t have to take on the responsibility of handling that case on your own. It costs you nothing to have a trained professional handle every aspect of your car accident case. All you should be worried about is treating your injuries and handling your responsibilities. Let a car accident lawyer handle everything else.
Peter Tragos –Law Offices of Tragos, Sartes & Tragos
The only thing more important than hiring a lawyer after a car accident is seeking medical attention. Once you are stable, you need to find representation quickly. Insurance companies start working immediately after an accident to undermine your ability to recover for the harm you have suffered. Evidence from the accident can be lost in days and sometimes as quickly as a few hours. An experienced car accident attorney can ensure that all of the evidence is properly preserved.
Often times the insurance companies will reach out to you and try to get you to give a recorded statement. This is never a good idea. For one thing, the information you give can be used against you in later proceedings. Additionally, the information that you give shortly after an accident may not be fully informed and you may not yet realize the full extent of the harm you have suffered. All communications with the insurance company should pass through your attorney. Once the insurance company is notified that you have obtained an attorney they will no longer contact you and the persistent phone calls will come to an end.
One of the most important responsibilities of a car accident attorney is establishing and fully proving the harm that you have suffered. A good lawyer will recognize harms that you did not even realize you have sustained. These can include: past and future lost wages and loss to future earning capacity, future medical costs including treatment and surgery, a life care plan that lays out all of the future economic harms you will incur as a result of the accident and many others that are not immediately apparent. Your ability to recover for these types of harms can be severely diminished if proper representation is not secured soon after the accident occurs.
Gabriel Levin – The Levin Firm
If you have a serious injury or wrongful death case, you need to hire a lawyer immediately. There are too many potential facts that can disappear. Witness memories, skid marks and other reconstruction evidence, video records, and other information that is critical to your case can change or disappear. The defendants and their insurance companies are usually quick to collect and preserve this evidence. If you do not do so yourself – the right way – you are starting your case behind the eight ball.
The serious injury or fatality qualifier is an important one. The value that an experienced lawyer with a track record of success can deliver varies inversely with the size of the case. In a smaller case, an argument can you can get by without an attorney. It is risky even in a small case. But it is not always unreasonable to represent yourself. But it a serious injury or wrongful death case (where policy limits are not the controlling issue), the difference a good lawyer can make is critical. Our firm, and I’m sure most of the other lawyers offering advice here, have received overs that are more than 50 times the settlement offer given to our client before we took over the case.
Also remember to take advantage of the fact that most accident lawyers will offer a free consultation. There are some cases where a delay in hiring a lawyer – based either on the facts of the case or the fact that too much time has already passed – is not likely to be fatal to your claim. Getting good experienced counsel on the phone can make all the difference in understanding what is needed to be done in your case and how urgent it is that you hire a lawyer immediately.
Ronald V. Miller Jr. – Miller & Zois
After sustaining seemingly minor injuries in a car accident, many drivers believe they don’t need a lawyer. This line of thinking can be a dangerous and costly mistake—oftentimes, car accident injuries don’t appear for weeks or even months after the initial accident. If you’ve been in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence, it’s highly advisable to consult with an auto accident attorney as soon as possible, even if you think that you’re totally fine. A car accident lawyer can help you understand your options, and assist you in obtaining fair compensation for any medical and rehabilitation costs that may arise in the future, as well as repair fees, lost wages, and overall pain and suffering.
No-fault laws can make it difficult to secure adequate compensation, but an attorney can help you push for the settlement you need to ensure your long-term recovery.
John K. Lawlor – Lawlor, White, and Murphy
After enduring a traumatic car crash, many accident victims are too shaken to even think about hiring an attorney. But hiring a car accident lawyer is essential after sustaining even a seemingly minor injury in an auto accident if you want to protect your right to fair compensation. Navigating the no-fault insurance system and accident laws can be complex, and a seasoned attorney can help you understand your options, pursue your claim, and defend you against unfair settlement offers from insurance companies. It’s important to remember that insurance companies are first and foremost a business, so insurers will often try to pay the minimum amount of compensation possible to secure maximum profit for their company. Frequently, their settlement will not be enough to cover the cost of medical treatment and basic repairs.
An auto accident attorney can fight vigorously on your behalf, ensuring that you receive adequate compensation not only for medical and repair costs, but also for lost wages and overall pain and suffering.
Andrew Winston – The Law Office of Andrew Winston
The aftermath of a car accident is so stressful that hiring a lawyer may take a backseat to immediate concerns like addressing your injuries, dealing with your insurance company and repairing your vehicle.
Many accident victims don’t realize that retaining a lawyer in the days or hours after an accident means gaining an advocate to help you make critical decisions. It’s never too soon to consult an attorney after a crash. I’ve had clients call my 24-7 hotline from the scene of a crash to get advice on how to proceed. Those clients benefit from receiving professional advice about how to navigate the complicated post accident labyrinth of medical bills, physical therapy and vehicle repairs.
Many people don’t realize they have options in the aftermath of an accident. Most importantly, sharing information with insurance companies can be tricky. It’s critical to contact your insurance company immediately after an accident. However, it is generally never a good idea to speak to the insurance adjuster representing the other driver.
Typically, the other party’s insurer will ask you to give a recorded account of the accident as soon as possible. You have no obligation to give an official statement to the other driver’s insurance company. In fact, locking yourself into a version of events recalled while still under duress from the accident often hurts your damage claims down the line. Soft tissue injuries of the head may not be apparent immediately. As a result, you could make it difficult to recover physical therapy costs down the line if you initially report feeling fine.
Some clients don’t initially consult a lawyer because they trust that insurance companies will fairly cover their medical bills, vehicle repairs and lost time at work. Unfortunately, this is the exception to the rule.
Often clients consult me when they are at their wits end, feeling frustrated with delays or denials of liability from insurers. They are surprised to learn that insurance companies aren’t actually on your side; they are looking out for their bottom line and their shareholders.
If auto insurers can find a reason to deny your claim, they will. Hire a lawyer, so you can recover the compensation you deserve for the injuries, vehicle repairs and time lost to dealing with your accident.
Let your lawyer wade through the paperwork and hours of negotiating that accrues after a crash. Finally, make sure you put your case in the hands of a professional who is adept at dealing with the insurance companies. Only experienced personal injury lawyers understand how to handle the intricacies of a case to ensure adequate compensation.
Randolph Rice – Law Offices of Randolph Rice
You need to consult with an auto accident attorney immediately. The only thing that takes priority is visiting your doctor or hospital because prompt medical treatment is also essential.The good news is that you are never obligated to hire an accident attorney. But you can still benefit from hearing a thorough explanation regarding how a personal injury attorney might help you recover more money.
There are numerous critical problems with waiting to call a lawyer, including the destruction or disappearance of needed evidence or witnesses. Also, accident victims without lawyers usually do not deal with medical providers in the best way, nor visit all medical providers that they need quickly enough. Good lawyers will spend the time to educate their clients regarding how to navigate their medical situation, which is essential because medical records are probably the most important evidence presented during any accident lawsuit.
Additionally, accident victims without lawyers often make big mistakes when talking with insurance adjusters. Insurance adjusters pretend that they want to help, while trying to convince the injured victims to take often far less than they deserve after any car, truck, motorcycle, pedestrian, or bicycle accident. Make no mistake: the insurance company only cares about paying you as little as they can. So adjusters often do not mention legally available damages when an injured victim contacts them without an attorney. For example, the adjuster may not explain that you are entitled to future medical expenses, pain and suffering damages, as well as any lost wages.
Potential clients should also make sure they are not dealing with a settlement mill law firm, where case managers or paralegals dealing with hundreds of cases each have little incentive to help individual clients maximize their recovery.
Tina Willis – Tina Willis Law
There is no exact science as to when you should and when you should not hire a lawyer to represent you in your car accident case. As a general rule, if at any time you do not feel comfortable handling your claim on your own, for any reason, you should consult with and hire a car accident lawyer. Beyond that there are no hard and fast rules. We have come up with a few of our own that we advise potential clients on to help them make a decision whether to hire us or not. Below are a few of those.If you were not injured in the accident and therefore only have a property damage claim, you likely do not need to hire a lawyer. This is because insurance companies typically do not play games with the value of the property damage.
If you were injured in the accident then it is more likely that you will want to hire a car accident lawyer. Still there may be instances where you can handle the claim on your own. For example, if you have relatively minor injuries that do not require or did not require more than a few weeks of conservative treatment (i.e. no surgery etc.), then you may be able to handle that claim on your own. Much like the property damage claim, insurance companies tend not to play games with the value of minor injury claims. We typically tell potential clients that if your medical expenses are less than $10,000.00 then it is something you may be able to settle on your own without the need for a lawyer’s help.
If you were severely injured and/or your treatment has lasted well beyond just a couple of weeks, it is probably time to hire a lawyer. As your claim increases in value, so does the chances that the insurance company is going to dig in and fight to minimize your claim as much as possible. So if you have bills over $10,000.00 or found out you have a major injury like a herniated disc or broken bone, it is probably time to hire a lawyer.
In conclusion, remember the first rule that if at any point in the claims process, regardless of your injuries or the amount of your medical expenses, you feel uncomfortable handling your claim on your own, it is time to seek legal representation.
Ted Spaulding – Boling Rice, LLC
The world we live in has evolved into a technology based creature with evidence which may be favorable to both the prosecution and defense of your claim being collected all around you. Likewise the answer to question has also evolved over the past decades. We live in a world of street cameras, cell phones and event recorders located within our vehicles. If you are involved in a car accident it is likely that the electronic evidence contained on one or more of these devices may become a factor in your claim.Immediately following the car accident it is likely that police will be called to scene to investigate. You will likely be asked questions regarding what occurred or asked to complete a written statement. The officer may ask you if you were speeding. Talking on a cell phone? Texting? How you answer these questions could aversely impact your situation. You will have to make a decision on the spot whether you choose to answer these questions or complete a written statement.
It is always good sound advice to seek out an experienced car accident attorney. Regardless of the extent of your damages and the value of your claim you can learn a wealth of information about how to move forward and protect yourself from exposure in a disputed case. Most firms will offer a FREE consultation to individuals injured in a car accident regardless of situation. Therefore, you should strongly consider seeking out an experienced car accident attorney.
Clay Burgess – The Law Offices of L. Clayton Burgess
When you’ve been in a car accident, you suddenly have a lot to deal with that you hadn’t planned for. You are now injured, your vehicle is damaged and you have to navigate a claims process that is unfamiliar to you. Lawyers can reduce your stress of going through this process. Hiring an auto accident attorney to represent you means you will have a professional working for you. Often after a car accident, an insurance adjuster representing the other driver will contact you and offer money to settle your claim. But are they offering you fair value for your claim? Chances are they are not. You need an attorney who understands how much your case is really worth. An attorney who knows how and when to negotiate with the insurance company in order to get the full value of your claim.
Many attorneys will give you a free consultation, so contact an experienced one and see what they can do for you and your case.
Anthony Bruning Jr. – Bruning Legal
When you are involved in an automobile crash the first thing that comes to mind is what do I do now?You must do the following:
1) If you are injured get treatment at the scene or go to the hospital;
2) Obtain the other driver’s personal and insurance information;
3) Take pictures of the property damage and accident scene;
5) Give a statement to the police;
6) Do not talk to anyone other than the police.
Our firm believes the most important part of a personal injury claim is your health. If you are injured you need to seek medical attention immediately.
Hiring a personal injury attorney is important when you are injured. I know most people believe the insurance companies will take care of them in an automobile crash. However, most insurance companies are more concerned about the bottom line than the injured party. This is not in your best interest.
Your attorney will help you get a recovery that is equal to your damages.
Robert Clements – Clements & Clements
If you or your passengers have been injured in a car accident, or if you have sustained significant property damage, it is always a good idea to consider hiring a car accident lawyer. A good car accident attorney can help make sure that you get the medical care for your injuries, often without the co-payments or deductibles you face when using your health insurance. Often times, people don’t realize they are injured until the day after a car accident. By then, they may have spoken to an insurance adjuster and already said something to jeopardize their right to a full recovery. This is why we recommend anyone who may have sustained an injury or major damage to their vehicle consult a lawyer before calling the insurance company. Even if you are unsure if you need representation, most reputable car accident attorneys will offer a free, no obligation consultation in order to help assess your rights.
Stewart Guss – Stewart Guss, Attorney at Law
Contacting a car accident lawyer before you make your initial puts you in the best position possible. Auto accident claims are like spider legs, lots of moving parts and without coordination you can fall. Insurance coverage is hard to understand and coordinating your coverages for uninsured motorist, medical payments, liability and collision is difficult enough before you add a third party being liable, or health insurer wanting to get or your being told that your car is worth less than what you owe. Obviously there’s more to a car accident claim than a personal injury settlement.Good people think there is no harm in giving a statement to either insurance company because once they tell the truth the insurance company will do the right thing and pay what you are asking for. However, insurance companies are motivated by (1) taking in more money than they pay, and, (2) adhering to the terms of your policy. Therefore, what you and the insurance company see as the right thing may differ. Speaking with an attorney before providing a statement follows the old saying that “it’s not what you say but how you say it”. A responsible attorney can educate you on what the insurer is trying to find out and so you can give the adjuster the information in a way that does not jeopardize your claim. It’s not about lying – it’s about giving the correct information that allows maximum coverage.
Here’s a little known secret! Medical providers who have not been fully paid can be forced by law to settle for pennies on the dollar if you are working with an attorney. If you deal directly with the insurance company you can lose this privilege. The best time to contact an attorney is when you decide that you and your family want the maximum coverage possible with the least amount of stress. Statistically speaking victim net more with the help of an attorney than going at it on their own.
Kenneth P. Carp – Law Office of Kenneth P. Carp
Anytime you are injured in a car accident you should consult a car accident attorney. Doing so will ensure you get the best advice possible on how to proceed with your claim. Most of the time an attorney will be needed in order to get you the compensation you deserve. This is because insurance companies will attempt to pressure you into settling for much less than you deserve. They will use various tactics to convince you that what they are offering is a fair settlement, but what you must remember is they are looking out for their own best interests, not yours. That is why hiring a personal injury lawyer is imperative in these situations. Doing so will not only alleviate the stress involved with trying to settle a claim on your own, it will also ensure that you are adequately compensated. Pursuing a claim for serious injuries requires extensive resources that only an attorney will be able to provide.
In some cases where the injuries are so minimal that hiring an attorney would be against your best interest and an experience personal injury attorney will recognize that right away and instruct you to either settle with your insurance company on your own or file suit in a small claims court. Most small claims courts have specific instructions on how to handle your own claim and a personal injury lawyer can point you in the right direction.
Regardless, if you are involved in a car accident you should reach out to a car accident lawyer, most if not all offer free consultations and will steer you in the right direction.
William W. Hurst – Law Office of William W. Hurst
When do you need to hire a car accident lawyer? Before you have a wreck. Think backwards… think about those videos that move in slow motion backwards, the car in the video goes from crinkled to straight, the girls in the video go from scared to laughing, the shattered glass goes from shattered to smooth. The wreck happens, but backwards…In that backwards scenario, you need to have a lawyer. Not one you’ve written a check to and said “hey, if I’m ever in a wreck, here’s your check, represent me.” That’s not about what I am talking. What I am talking about is hire a lawyer in your mind, way before you need him or her. Read up on what you do if you are in an accident. Look at lawyer’s websites. Good lawyer, not the clowns. Look at the good lawyer sites and know that you shouldn’t talk to an insurance adjuster, know ahead of time that you shouldn’t take blame for the accident, and know that you should go to the hospital to get checked out for your injuries. Know that you should have a maximum amount of UM coverage.
Know what to do. Hire a lawyer in your mind. Have knowledge before the glass breaks. Learn about the best accident attorneys in your state today. Be ready. Don’t send in the joker lawyers, send in the best to represent. Hire them today in your mind, but hire them immediately after you have your injuries checked out after an accident.
Charlotte Christian – Charlotte Christian Law
People involved in a serious car accident frequently fail to recognize the fact that insurance companies for at-fault drivers begin defending building a defense for their cases almost immediately after an accident. Auto insurance companies have teams of accident investigators who are experienced with putting together information that can be used to assist them in defending or denying a legitimate injury claim.
Consequently, it is imperative that people injured in a car accident take steps on their behalf to protect their legal rights– by most importantly– hiring a lawyer to look out for their interests.
Hiring an attorney experienced with auto accident claims can substantially improve the chances that vital information from an accident is collected after a crash. When insurance companies see that an individual is represented by a competent attorney who is actively involved in the prosecution of the case, the chances of a successful outcome increase drastically. As I tell my clients, ‘prepare for war and hope for peace’.
Jonathan Rosenfeld – Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers
Retaining a lawyer immediately following a car accident can make the difference between keeping your life on track and facing thousands in medical bills. If you were involved in a car accident, seeking medical attention and focusing on your recovery should be your first step. Contacting and hiring a personal injury attorney is a very important second step.
The insurance industry is complex. Often, insurance companies will contact the victim of a car crash shortly after the accident offering a settlement amount or asking for a statement. It is wise to speak with an attorney before talking to the insurance company. Car accident attorneys are experienced in handling insurance adjusters. They know the questions to ask and evidence to collect in fighting for the most compensation possible for a car accident victim. The sooner you hire a personal injury lawyer, the sooner that attorney can investigate the accident, collect evidence to support your claim, find and talk to witnesses, and file necessary paperwork. In addition, many involved in car crashes are unaware of the severity of their injuries or the fact that they may be able to receive compensation for certain damages including lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Hiring the right lawyer can make all the difference. The attorney can estimate the compensation you deserve and fight for it either from the insurance agency or in the courtroom. After an accident, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible so they can do the work for you and you can focus on what matters – your health and recovery.
John Yannone – Price Benowitz
Short answer: ASAP
An accident victim should consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident. My colleagues in this article have already raised many important issues such as post accident investigation and the perils of giving a recorded statement, so I will touch on a couple additional issues that I have personally observed in the Chicago area.
Insurance carriers sometimes trick plaintiffs into settling injury claims immediately. They might offer quick money, in my experience usually $500-$2000. What they don’t tell you is that this is it, there’s no additional money for medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of normal life and lost wages.
They also may try to offer a small sum of money plus medical treatment for 30 days. That might sound good, but they are already responsible for medical treatment related to the collision. They are just fooling you into limiting treatment to 30 days.
An aggressive insurance adjuster might even try to record your acceptance of the offer over the phone, attempting to block you from subsequently consulting with an attorney. It’s questionable whether a recorded settlement would hold up in court, but you’re unnecessarily creating a significant hurdle for yourself.
All of these moves are made by insurance adjusters to try to limit your financial recovery and stop you from consulting with a lawyer before settling. If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact an attorney before you damage your own case. Remember, most injury law firms offer free consultations and there’s no fee unless you win.
David Abels – Abels & Annes, P.C.
Dolman Law Group
Deciding on Which Florida Car Accident Attorney to Hire
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, picking a car accident lawyer can be an added stress to the situation. Though the process of selecting an auto accident lawyer should not necessarily be difficult, it is an important decision. Some car accident lawyers use an assembly line system to get one client in, get them settled, and get them out the door. This settlement mill process almost always ends up leaving money on the table and a bad taste in the client’s mouth.
So when it comes to choosing an automobile accident lawyer, be sure that the firm you choose has the dedication, drive, and resources to pursue a case to the lengths necessary to ensure that you case’s fullest value is realized. The Dolman Law Group has the experience, the skill, and the initiative to get the job done while still maintaining a strong focus on the attorney-client relationship. Visit our Florida Car Accident Lawyers page for more information.