If you have been injured or your vehicle was damaged in a car accident, you are probably wondering whether you are better off hiring a personal injury attorney to pursue a claim for you or trying to deal with the insurance company (or companies) to settle the claim on your own. The answer to your dilemma depends on the particular facts of your case. The information that follows is provided by the Athens Injury Law Group’s team of experienced personal injury lawyers to help you make a well-informed decision.
Benefits of Hiring an Athens, Georgia, Car Accident Attorney
There are many benefits of hiring an attorney who specializes in representing people like you who have been hurt in an automobile collision. By far the biggest reason people choose to work with a lawyer after they have been involved in a car wreck is because they want an expert legal advocate on their side who will ensure that their rights are protected, and that they are fully compensated for the harms and losses that have been inflicted upon them.
Communicating With the At-Fault Driver's Insurer
A personal injury attorney should begin pursuing your claim by informing the at-fault driver’s insurance company of his or her representation of you. This will establish a line of communication with the insurance adjuster. The insurance company has tasked its adjuster with one job – to resolve your claim for as little money as possible. It is your lawyer’s job to provide the adjuster with information regarding your injuries, treatment, property damage, lost wages, and anything else necessary to achieve a just and reasonable resolution of your claim.
Gathering Evidence to Prove Liability
Another important responsibility that a personal injury attorney will take on in representing you is to build a strong case of liability against the at-fault party (or parties). In many car accidents, it is clear who caused the collision, and their insurance company readily admits liability. But when the events leading up to the wreck are unknown or disputed, much of your lawyer’s effort will be spent on uncovering the facts that paint the picture of what happened to cause you to be injured. A good personal injury attorney will begin with the information contained in the incident report, and follow up with the police officer who worked the scene and any witnesses. Mobile phone records will often show whether the other driver was talking or texting at the time of the collision. If your case warrants it, your lawyer may even engage an expert who specializes in accident reconstruction to perform inspections of the vehicles involved and the scene of the accident.
Supporting Your Claim for Damages
Even when liability is not disputed, a car accident lawyer can be a huge help in obtaining evidence of the damages you have suffered. This is especially true when you have suffered significant injuries in a wreck. It is crucial that you obtain all of the documentation related to your injuries. Unfortunately, however, health care providers are making it increasingly difficult for you to access your medical records and bills.
Although you have a legal right to this information, hospitals and medical practices generally do not make it their first priority to copy your records and send them to you. Smaller offices simply don’t have the personnel or the time to respond to requests in a timely fashion. Hospitals and other large health care providers are likely to have specific forms or procedures – which they don’t often publicize – that must be followed before they will even consider your request. And, even when your medical records and bills are provided to you, they may be incomplete. Many personal injury attorneys have staff members whose sole function is to obtain clients’ medical records and bills. They often have to request the same records multiple times, and follow up with the providers or third parties to whom they have outsourced their records for months before they have everything they requested.
Moreover, the doctors who treat you following a serious car accident often do not clearly document the cause and extent of your injuries or their prognosis. This is another aspect of your personal injury claim that an experienced personal injury attorney can assist you with. To pursue a personal injury claim successfully, you must have medical evidence showing not only what injuries, disabilities, and physical limitations you have, but also that they were caused by the automobile wreck. If your treating physicians have not mentioned causation and/or the extent of your injuries, disabilities, or physical limitations in your medical records, your car accident lawyer can meet with them and ask for a medical narrative report. A medical narrative report is essentially a letter in which the doctor states his or her opinion that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the accident caused the injuries for which you were treated. The doctor will often also provide his or her assessment of how long and to what extent you remain injured or disabled in the medical narrative report.
Negotiating With Leinholders
Insurers who provided health, disability or workers’ compensation benefits on your behalf as a result of the car accident will have a lien on your personal injury claim. What this means is that the lienholder is entitled to be repaid from the proceeds of any settlement or judgment you receive. An experienced personal injury attorney should be able to negotiate with the lienholder to reduce the amount of the lien. This is an incredibly important job on the part of the lawyer. Because of the way most contingency fee agreements between car accident attorneys and their clients work, all of the money that is saved by convincing the lienholder to accept less than the full amount of the lien is returned to you.
Negotiating a Settlement
An experienced car accident attorney is almost always going to be able to settle a claim with your insurance company for more money than you would be able to on your own. A good lawyer will know how much your personal injury claim is worth, and will fight tirelessly for you to recover that amount. He or she will know how to work up your claim and how to work with the insurance adjuster to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Litigating Your Personal Injury Claim
If the insurance company refuses to fairly compensate you for the injuries you suffered as a result of the car accident, your lawyer can pursue your personal injury claim in court. A good personal injury attorney will be familiar with the local judges and comfortable in the courtroom and trying cases before a jury. Your lawyer may also be able to put the insurance company in a situation where it could be liable for more than the limits of the applicable insurance policy by offering to settle within those limits prior to filing suit.
Should I Handle My Car Accident Claim Myself?
Most people will not benefit from the assistance of a car accident attorney if they have been involved in small accidents resulting either in minor injuries or property damage only. This is because the contingent fee and expenses that are paid to the personal injury lawyers eat up too much of your recovery.
There are many high-volume personal injury practices that will represent you regardless of whether it is in your best interest for them to do so. The Athens Injury Law Group is not one of those law firms. We represent victims of serious car accidents who have suffered catastrophic injuries through no fault of their own. Our car accident attorneys are highly selective and handle a very limited number of claims so that every client gets the personal attention that they deserve. If you or a loved one has been hurt or killed in a car wreck in or around Athens, Georgia, contact our personal injury attorneys for a free consultation today by phone at 706-559-0159 or online here.