Do I Need a Lawyer for a Car Accident that Wasn't My Fault?
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You are not required to hire a lawyer after a car accident. However, you always have the right to speak with an attorney before you talk to an insurance company, and you may benefit from seeking out a car wreck lawyer. A personal injury lawyer can help you receive fair compensation for your accident while you focus on what is important: your recovery.
In most instances, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay for your medical expenses or repair costs. However, these cases can become much more complicated if you are severely injured, if the driver denies fault, or if the driver does not have insurance.
In those circumstances, you may benefit from a personal injury attorney’s help. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident that was not your fault, call Zinda Law Group at (303) 225-9846 for a 100% free case evaluation with our Denver car accident attorneys.
You May Be Entitled to Compensation
An injured party will be entitled to compensation for their injuries and damages if the party can successfully establish that the other party is legally liable for causing the accident. When calculating the amount of compensation to be awarded following a car accident, courts separate compensatory damages into two categories: Economic damages and Non-economic damages.
Economic damages are costs and expenses that can be quantified regarding your injuries. In a car accident case, economic damages may include medical expenses (e.g., present and future bills; prescription drugs, rehabilitation services, etc.), lost income and wages, and property damage (e.g., vehicle repair costs and personal property damages in the collision). Generally, severe accidents resulting in significant injuries and property damage lead to greater awards of economic damages than relatively minor accidents.
Non-economic damages refer to intangible losses and are subjectively evaluated by a jury in a car accident case. Non-economic damages are harder to quantify but may result in greater value than economic damages. Types of non-economic damages may include pain and suffering, emotional distress, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life.
If the at-fault party actions were especially reckless, egregious, or intentional, a court might award the victim punitive damages. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate the victim, but rather to punish the wrongdoer. In Colorado, punitive damages are limited to "one for one" against the actual damages. This means that regardless of egregiousness of the at-fault party’s conduct, the punitive damage award will be limited to the same amount as the provable actual damages, such as the cost of a replacement vehicle and hospital bills.
In Colorado, a person may seek damages in proportion to the degree of negligence of each party. This process first requires a judge to determine the amount of damages that would be awarded to the injured party if the injured party was not negligent at all. The judge or jury then determines the relative fault of each party. The amount of damages awarded is the total amount of damages minus an equal amount to the degree of fault assigned to each party. However, if the injured party is found to be more than 50% at fault, they may not be entitled to any damages.
What Do I Do After An Accident That Wasn't My Fault?
A car accident can be a frightening event. Even if you have not sustained serious injury, it is likely that you will be under a significant amount of stress immediately following the accident. It is therefore very important to familiarize yourself with what steps you should take following a car accident. Learning these steps can may help alleviate some of the stress that follows an accident.
1. Seek medical attention
Many car accidents result in some form of immediate injury. For instance, the driver of a vehicle that was rear-ended may suffer whiplash or another form of a neck injury. Other car accidents may result in a delayed injury. For example, the driver of a vehicle may have sustained a spinal injury that did not manifest until hours or days after the collision.
Because many car accidents result in some immediate or delayed injury, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. This is especially so for injuries that are severe and noticeable such as a broken bone or deep cut. Seeking prompt medical attention will allow your injuries to be properly treated, thus expediting your recovery process.
2. File a police report
The next step you should take is to report the accident to the police. This is particularly the case concerning car accidents that resulted in substantial vehicular damage or physical injury. Responding officers will file an accident report which will document all important details relating to the accident and how it occurred. Filing a police report is helpful because it will create an official record of the accident which may eventually be used to strengthen the value of your claim.
3. Document the Accident
A very important step is for you to keep an organized file of every document relating to the car accident. This file should include important documents and materials such as a copy of the police report, copies of your medical bills, photographs of the damage to your car, photographs of your physical injuries, car repair estimates, and copies of witness statements, if applicable. Documenting these materials can be used as evidence to strengthen the value of your claim.
4. Contact a Car Accident Attorney
Your final step should be to contact a car accident attorney. Having a car accident attorney on your side after a car accident can be beneficial to helping you get the maximum amount for your claim. In addition to providing valuable legal advice, an attorney will fight on your behalf to get you to seek fair and just compensation for your injuries and damages.
How Is Fault Determined?
Determining fault after a car accident is a critical part of the recovery process. This is because the determination of fault helps an attorney correctly the value of a claim. For example, if the other driver is entirely at-fault for causing the accident, you will likely be entitled to seek full compensation of actual damages that can be proven. However, if you were partially at fault for the accident (e.g., if you were speeding or driving recklessly), then the value of your claim may decrease. Typically, establishing fault in a car accident case does not require proof beyond all reasonable doubt. Instead, fault can be determined by a preponderance of the evidence.
Determining fault requires utilizing key pieces of evidence such as police reports, witness statements, traffic surveillance videos, and other forms of physical evidence. This is why it is important to keep an accurate and organized record of any materials relating to your accident and injuries. A personal injury attorney will use these critical pieces of evidence to build a case against the other driver. For instance, the attorney may combine witness statements with the police report to establish that the other driver was entirely at fault for the accident.
Determining fault also requires analyzing relevant statutes and traffic laws. A personal injury attorney will comb through these wordy statutes to determine how fault is determined in certain car accident cases. The attorney will then use the evidence to build a case in accordance with the governing statute.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me?
A personal injury lawyer may significantly strengthen your case and thus, the value of your claim. First, a personal injury will listen to your version of the events and provide valuable legal guidance. They will then use their access to many resources that can be utilized to gather evidence. Your attorney will then use this evidence to strategically build a case based on relevant laws and statutes.
If necessary, they will fight on your behalf by communicating and negotiating with insurance companies and insurance claim adjusters.
Finally, they will advocate for you in a court of law should your case reach the litigation stage. Collectively, these duties, efforts, and responsibilities of an attorney are carried out to boost the overall value of your case.
If you have been injured in a car accident, an experienced personal injury attorney will increase your chances of obtaining a fair settlement that covers your costs. Unless you’ve been in an accident before, you are most likely unfamiliar with the personal injury claim process.
If you are recovering from an accident, you have bills to pay, injuries to recover from, and a car to fix—you should not have to also learn the ins and outs of insurance companies.
Will a Lawyer Get Me a Larger Settlement?
Not every car accident requires hiring an attorney. Minor fender-benders or other relatively harmless accidents, which did not result in injury, may be successfully handled alone.
However, the fact of the matter is that many car accident cases are not minor and can benefit from an attorneys counsel. Although nothing can ever be guaranteed, allowing a personal injury lawyer who has experience dealing with car accident cases to handle your claim may increase your chances of receiving fair and just compensation for your injuries.
A Lawyer Can Help Figure Out What Damages You Deserve
You might have an estimate for how much it will cost to fix your car, or you may have a bill from the hospital waiting to be paid. These numbers will give you an idea of how much money you need from an insurance payout.
However, having a lawyer by your side will likely help increase your compensation. You could also receive compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, and future expected medical costs. A lawyer can examine the details of your accident and determine what damages you can successfully pursue.
Should I Talk to the Other Insurance Company After an Accident?
Following a car accident, you may have to file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. After filing a claim, the at-fault party’s insurance company will begin an investigation into the matter. During this process, the insurance company will likely try to find ways to minimize the value of your claim, thereby letting them off the hook for hundreds or thousands of dollars.
One way an insurance company may try to minimize or decrease the value of your claim is to get you to talk about the accident with a claim’s adjuster. The adjuster is an individual assigned to investigate the facts and circumstances of the car accident. Although an adjuster may seem friendly, it is important to remember that the adjuster is either an employee or agent of the insurance company and therefore operates with the insurance company’s best interests in mind, not yours.
As a result, it is a wise choice to consult with an attorney before discussing the accident with another insurance company or the company’s claims adjuster. As discussed in further detail below, an attorney will listen to the facts of your case and protect you from stingy or opportunistic insurance companies looking to pay as little as possible following a car accident.
How Will the Lawyer Handle the Insurance Company?
As previously discussed, insurance companies often look for ways to minimize their payouts. One way insurance companies accomplish this task is by taking advantage of inexperienced claimants. For instance, a person who was recently injured in a car accident may be short on cash and in need of money as quickly as possible to pay medical bills. An insurance company may be aware of this fact and offer a settlement amount that is well below the actual value of the injured person's claim.
Experienced personal injury lawyers can protect inexperienced claimants from insurance companies. One way a lawyer accomplishes this is by protecting a claimant throughout the discussion phase with the insurance company. During the discussion and investigation phase, an insurance company may trick a claimant into admitting fault for all or part of the car accident. This admission of fault may decrease or destroy the claim. A knowledgeable attorney will guide a claimant throughout this process, shielding the claimant from making any unnecessary statements that could hurt the value of the claim.
Perhaps most importantly, a personal injury lawyer will handle an insurance company by strategically negotiating the settlement amount. Often, insurance companies will propose an initial settlement that is less than the claim's actual value. Inexperienced claimants may see a large number and accept the settlement without hesitation. However, many claimants fail to realize that this initial offer can be negotiated. A personal injury lawyer will act on the claimant's behalf by negotiating a more favorable dollar amount for the claimant. Throughout this process, the lawyer will use careful advocacy and negotiation strategies, utilizing critical pieces of evidence such as the police report and photographs of the claimant's injuries.
A Lawyer Can Negotiate On Your Behalf
Insurance companies are notorious for trying to convince consumers to take low insurance payouts. Your claims adjuster may even tell you they can’t offer you any more money—which most likely isn’t true.
While insurance employees may pretend to be your friend, they also have been trained to offer you the lowest payout possible so the company makes money. The negotiation process can last months, even years, all while you have bills from your accident that are waiting to be paid.
A lawyer can take this burden off your shoulders by negotiating on your behalf. Experienced auto accident lawyers have seen insurance company’s tricks, and they know how to negotiate a claim efficiently. If an insurance company is still unwilling to cooperate, a lawyer can file a lawsuit to ensure you get what you deserve.
Get Help from Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers
At Zinda Law Group, our auto accident attorneys have helped thousands of victims seek justice and receive the compensation they deserved.
We are ready to help you navigate the insurance claims process, build the strongest case possible, and put this accident behind you. Your health matters, so let us take this off your shoulders.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a crash that wasn’t your fault, contact us at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation and learn how we can help.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.