30.6 million people per year in the U.S alone go to the emergency room as a result of unintentional injuries. Whether you’ve been in a car accident or suffering the effects of a workplace accident or were the victim of medical malpractice, hiring an accident lawyer can be essential to ensure your injuries don’t put a permanent dent in your wallet and lifestyle.
But what exactly does an accident attorney do? And what steps do you need to take before you call? Read on for a step by step guide on what you should do before you pick up the phone.
What is an Accident Lawyer?
Accident attorneys — or personal injury lawyers — are lawyers that specialize in personal injury claims, including settlements and lawsuits.
Personal injury lawsuits, also called tort claims, involve some sort of injury or damage to a person and/or property as a result of the wrongful or negligent actions of another person or entity. 20% of the Tort claim lawsuits filed in the U.S. are related to traffic accidents. Personal injury claims can also result from construction accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, or dog bites.
Most tort claims in the U.S. result in a settlement, meaning the claimant is given a sum of money as compensation for the damage and/or injury incurred. An accident attorney’s role, in cases of settlement, is to get you the highest settlement amount possible and then to make sure that the money is properly paid to you, medical providers and, in some cases, health insurance companies as required by law.
To do their job, accident attorneys need a number of things from you, and it’s often easier if you gather the requisite information before you get in touch.
But first things first:
Ask Yourself: Do You Need an Accident Lawyer?
You typically pay about one-third of your recovery in lawyer’s fees, so making sure your situation warrants the hiring of an accident lawyer is in your best interests.
Generally, it’s a good idea to hire a lawyer if:
- A serious injury or death has occurred in the accident
- Fault or negligence is clearly an issue
- The accident happened in a construction zone
- The police report puts you at fault or doesn’t describe the accident accurately
- Your insurance company involves its own attorney
- The accident happened at a business
- The accident happened because of a drunk driver
- A tractor trailer driver caused the wreck
If you’re organized, persistent, and smart, sometimes you may be able to negotiate a settlement on your own. In this case, even seeking an attorney’s advice on the settlement amount can be beneficial. Accident lawyers generally have a good idea of what sort of settlement a claim should reap – knowledge you, as a layman, might not have. However, because the laws governing repayment of health insurance providers is so complicated, you may still need an attorney to assist you with the disbursement of your settlement.
Take Down Witness Information
It’s important to take down the name and a contact phone number of anyone nearby who may have witnessed the accident. If police responded to the accident, then they may do this to include in their report but in some cases, key witnesses have already left the scene before the police arrive.
Ensuring you have access to all the available witness accounts will help you present an accurate representation of the events as you build your case.
Go to a Doctor
If you intend to report you were injured in the accident then going promptly to a doctor is one of the best things you can do for your case. Most insurance companies expect that if you incurred pain or injury in an accident, you will go to the doctor or hospital. Not doing so will give them an opening to argue you weren’t harmed.
If you don’t have health insurance then your best bet is to go to the emergency room of a hospital. They can assess your injuries, take x-rays if needed, and prescribe appropriate medication.
Take Pictures of the Damage
It’s important to take pictures of any injury and/or damages that occurred in the accident. Pictures give the most accurate representation of what occurred.
If your accident involved a motor vehicle, take pictures of any damage to the vehicles. Also, be sure to detail your own injuries. A seatbelt mark often gives a much clearer picture of the severity of an accident than just a photo of a dented bumper.
If any property, including handheld devices like tablets and phones, was damaged then be sure to photograph that as well.
Get a Repair Estimate
For car-related issues, in particular, insurance companies often have their own recommended body shops. But you can and should take your car to a repair shop of your own choosing.
Getting an estimate for repairs to damage incurred during the accident will help you gauge what sort of settlement you should be aiming for.
Order the Police Report
If police responded to the accident then they will have submitted a report. Obtaining a copy of that report is essential in pursuing your claim.
Calling the police station and asking for help in ordering the report is your best bet, as different departments often have different procedures. Information can often be found on police or highway patrol websites as well.
There is often a small fee for copying and processing the report to give to you.
If you’re not sure which police station or department to call, call the department of the city where the accident occurred. They can often point you in the right direction.
Collate All Information About the Accident
Write down every detail of the accident in one place and keep that list handy when you call the accident lawyer. No detail is too small when it comes to accident claims, so note down everything you can think of.
At the very least you should have:
- The date of the accident
- Who was involved
- Where it happened
- Whether police responded and if so, a copy of the police report
- The dates you sought treatment for injuries incurred in the accident
- The names and contact details of the medical professionals who treated you
- The names and contact details for all witnesses, passengers and any investigating officers
The more information you can provide to your attorney, the better legal advice and service you will receive.
Preparation is essential for tackling an accident claim, and that preparation starts before you pick up the phone to a lawyer. Ensuring you’ve collected witness details, sought medical aid, and taken photos of any and all damage will not only help your lawyer serve you best, it’ll put you in the best possible position to pursue compensation.
Ticked off everything on this list? Get in touch today for a free initial consultation.
For over 22 years Danny Glover Jr. has been representing individuals in all of northeastern North Carolina, including Elizabeth City, Edenton the entire Outer Banks, and the surrounding areas, in all types of accident cases. Contact Glover Law Firm today for an initial, confidential and free consultation.