Nobody wants to be involved in a car accident, but with thousands of car collisions every day, there’s a good chance if you drive regularly that, eventually, you’ll have to deal with one. The good news is that most car accidents aren’t fatal. Even if your car is totaled and you walk away with some injuries, you’ll likely live to tell the tale. The biggest problem you’ll face in those situations is figuring out how to get compensation for your car and your personal injuries.
If the at-fault motorist has insurance, you’ll typically get an offer from the insurance company to cover the damages. However, if you talk to a car accident lawyer, you may learn that there’s another option—seeking legal action. Working with a lawyer, you may be able to negotiate a higher settlement, and if you take the case to court, you could wind up with a much higher payout.
The question is, when is it appropriate to seek legal action after a car collision?
First, you need to think about fault. The concept of “fault” works a little differently in different areas. In some states, there’s a “partial fault” concept that allows fault to be distributed between parties. For example, you and the other driver may be found to each be 50 percent responsible for the accident, or you might be found to be 30 percent responsible, while the other driver is 70 percent responsible.
If you’re the one responsible for the majority of the accident, you may want to seek a defense attorney, but otherwise, it’s not a good idea to seek legal action against the other party (unless you suspect that fault has been determined inaccurately). If the other party is responsible for most of the accident, you may want to hold them accountable for the damages they caused.
You’ll also need to consider your insurance offer. If the other driver is at-fault and insured, their insurance company will come up with a settlement offer, which you can take as full compensation for the damages you sustained. If the offer is generous, covering every bit of damage to your car and your body, you may wish to take it and avoid a further lawsuit. However, most initial insurance offers are intentionally low; if this is the case, you may need a lawyer to get the compensation you deserve.
If the other driver doesn’t have insurance, things get a bit trickier; you may need legal support to get what you need.
Injuries and Death
Also think about the extent and nature of the injuries you and your other passengers sustained during this crash—including whether anyone was killed in the accident. Insurance companies aren’t good at providing adequate compensation for injuries and deaths. They fail to consider the long-term costs associated with injuries, such as lost wages from not being able to work, or ongoing physical therapy costs. The more extreme and extensive your injuries are, the more prudent it is to seek legal action.
Similarly, you’ll want to consider the extent and nature of the property damage that resulted from the accident. How badly was your car damaged? Was it totaled? Were any other pieces of your personal property damaged in the incident?
There are other situations that should push you to seek legal action. For example, if you were the victim of a hit-and-run, the normal course of getting an insurance offer won’t apply to you; a lawyer may be able to help you track down the driver responsible for the accident and hold them accountable for their actions. If the other driver was driving under the influence of alcohol, especially if they’ve had a prior record, a lawyer may be able to help ensure they’re prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Why You Should Talk to a Lawyer
Regardless of which of these considering factors apply to your situation, it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer. Most lawyers offer an initial consultation for free, which means you won’t face any risks or financial responsibilities by getting your questions answered. A lawyer will also be able to review the evidence of your case, including your current insurance settlement, to help you determine if a lawsuit is your best course of action.
So what’s the bottom line here? It’s appropriate to seek legal action in any car accident where you weren’t totally at fault and where you sustained non-negligible damage to your vehicle and/or your body. If you want more information, or if you’re not sure if legal action is the right next step, make sure you talk to a lawyer to find out more.