Being involved in an auto accident can ruin anyone’s day. Your vehicle may be damaged, or worse, you may be physically injured. It’s a safe assumption that no matter the severity of an accident, there will be paperwork and costs involved in recovery.
Should you get an attorney after a car accident? It really depends.
For a minor fender bender, you may be able to handle any insurance claim and correspondence with the other party yourself. For more serious accidents, hiring an attorney is a smart move. A skilled attorney will lessen the worry and confusion that come with trying to recover from an accident. Here are five things to consider when looking for lawyers for auto accidents.
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1. Start Your Search Immediately
Lawsuits live and die by deadlines. Every state has statutes of limitations, which determine how long you have to file a lawsuit for a particular injury. If you miss this deadline, you cannot recover monetary damages, with very few exceptions. Statutes of limitations for car accidents run from one to six years, depending on the state. Typically, for car accidents, the clock starts running on the day the accident occurs.
To complicate matters, statutes of limitations can have different time periods for different injuries. For example, you may have two years to file a claim for your physical injuries, but three years to file a claim for damage to your vehicle. The right attorney will help you navigate the law and hit your deadlines.
Though statutes of limitations are often in terms of years, remember that lawsuits can be complex and time-consuming. Another reason to get the ball rolling as soon as possible after an accident: You will have the most evidence available and best memory of what occurred.
2. Look For A Specialized Personal Injury Attorney
Have a close friend who is an attorney? It may seem like a good idea to call them when you’re involved in an accident. You may be able to get a deal on legal services from this person, or you may simply trust them. For everyday legal issues, or for a referral to a reputable attorney, this may be a good idea.
However, auto accidents fall under the area of law known as personal injury, which is quite specialized. Hire a personal injury attorney who is experienced in motor vehicle accident cases. They’ll likely know from the outset what evidence you should be documenting and when to document it, whether your case has merit, and other pieces of advice that can only be gained from experience.
3. Speak With Personal Injury Attorneys
Hiring lawyers for auto accidents can be a matter of trial and error (no pun intended!). If you’re wondering when to call a lawyer after a car accident, it can’t hurt to speak with more than one personal injury attorney either by phone or live chat as soon as possible. Every attorney is different, and one may be a better fit than another.
These conversations are also useful to assess the merits of your case. A good attorney will be honest when discussing the potential outcomes of a claim, but not every outlook will be the same. Do not be afraid to get a second (or third, or fourth) opinion.
4. Hire An Attorney Where The Accident Occurred
Say you’re involved in an accident near your home, and the other party also lives nearby. It makes sense to hire an attorney in your hometown who knows the court system and is generally available to meet with you.
What if the accident occurs in another state? What if the person you are suing lives in another state? Generally, a lawsuit must be filed either where the accident occurred or where the other party lives. A specialized attorney will help you determine the best place to file the lawsuit if there is more than one option.
Attorneys are limited in where they can practice. An attorney must be licensed in a particular jurisdiction to be able to represent you, with a few exceptions. However, just as every state has its own statutes of limitations, each also has its own body of laws surrounding personal injury in general, and you will want an attorney experienced in that jurisdiction’s set of rules.
5. Compare Payment Arrangements
Many personal injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will not pay anything unless (and until) your attorney collects damages. Then, the attorney simply keeps a portion of your damages, and you will not have to pay them out of pocket.
There are a few drawbacks to this arrangement. You may still be responsible for court fees and other costs, even if you and your attorney are unsuccessful in court. Additionally, the attorney’s share of the damages may end up being much more than you would have paid as a flat fee for a similar attorney. This is a chance most people are willing to take.
When choosing between lawyers for auto accidents, carefully read the payment terms in your contract. As you consult with more than one attorney, it may be wise to compare payment arrangement terms. No matter whom you choose, make sure the payment terms are clear and in writing.
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Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.