Victims of car accidents who suffer injuries may file a claim or lawsuit with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. However, doing so without having a car accident lawyer on board in your case can be extremely risky. If you represent yourself in a personal injury car accident claim, the insurance company and its adjusters will likely try to take advantage of you and limit your payment.
The insurance company will assume that you do not have the necessary skills to represent yourself and negotiate a favorable settlement offer. Moreover, they will think that you do not have the legal knowledge to represent yourself at a trial. Therefore, they are highly likely to make you a lowball offer in your case.
A personal injury lawyer often bases what they charge their clients upon a contingency fee. This means that the lawyer does not recover a fee unless or until they recover compensation for the accident victim. If the accident victim does not receive compensation from the insurance company, then the personal injury lawyer will not be eligible to accept a fee.
When you retain a personal injury lawyer to represent you, you will sign a contingency fee agreement that explains how the fee process will work. Your lawyer can answer all of your questions about the contingency fee agreement and will work with you to bring your case to a full and favorable resolution.
The Basis for a Car Accident Claim or Lawsuit
Victims of car accidents often suffer severe injuries. Those injuries can include traumatic hidden brain injuries, soft tissue injuries, bone fractures, internal organ damage, cuts and abrasions, bruises, spinal cord injuries, and paralysis. These injuries can lead to significant medical treatment, including hospital visits and stays, surgical procedures, family doctor visits, and physical therapy. This treatment can be costly and can lead to pain, suffering, and other symptoms.
When a person suffers one or more of these injuries in a car accident that resulted from another driver’s negligence, the accident victim can file a personal injury claim that seeks monetary compensation and damages.
To prevail in a car accident claim or lawsuit, the accident victim must prove all of the legal elements of their case. The at-fault driver does not need to prove anything in a personal injury legal action. Instead, the sole legal burden rests with the accident victim, who is the plaintiff in the case.
To recover monetary compensation for their injuries, the accident victim must demonstrate that another driver behaved in an unreasonable, careless, or reckless manner under the circumstances.
For example, the driver who caused the accident might have failed to yield the right-of-way at a traffic intersection, or they might have been driving too fast. Alternatively, the at-fault driver may have driven under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the collision, or they may have texted while driving or engaged in other distracted driving behaviors.
Suppose the accident victim can demonstrate that the other driver behaved negligently, that the accident occurred as a result, and suffered injuries and damages due to the accident. In that case, they may be eligible for monetary compensation.
One of the ways that a knowledgeable personal injury car accident lawyer can assist you by filing a claim with the insurance company on your behalf. Your lawyer can then work to negotiate a favorable settlement offer, and if the insurance company does not compensate you fairly, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court.
What Is a Contingency Fee Agreement?
If you have suffered injuries in a car accident that another driver caused, the sooner you have a personal injury lawyer involved in your case, the better off you will likely be. When you retain a personal injury lawyer to represent you, you must sign a contingency fee agreement, sometimes abbreviated as a CFA.
A contingency fee agreement is a legal contract between a personal injury accident victim and a lawyer. For a contingency fee agreement to be effective, it must be in writing, and the personal injury client must sign it.
Under the contingency fee agreement, a lawyer will not collect a fee or expenses unless the accident victim recovers monetary compensation for their injuries. If the case goes to trial and the jury does not return a favourable verdict, the lawyer will not be entitled to take a fee in the case under the terms of the agreement.
Suppose the accident victim does recover monetary compensation through a settlement, jury verdict, or arbitration award. In that case, the personal injury lawyer will collect fees based upon a percentage of the recovery that the accident victim obtained. If the lawyer needs to file a lawsuit in the court system, the contingency fee percentage may increase. If the case settles before trial or arbitration, the lawyer may charge less.
Reasonability of a Contingency Fee Agreement
For a court to enforce a lawyer’s contingency fee agreement, they must charge a reasonable fee arrangement. Generally speaking, this means that the lawyer must not charge more than 50 percent.
A lawyer will base the rate on the complexity of the car accident case, whether the case settles or goes to trial or arbitration, and the lawyer’s experience level.
Generally speaking, the more work that a lawyer puts into the case, the higher the contingency fee percentage they will charge. This is why a case that goes to arbitration typically garner‘s a higher fee than a case that settles long before the lawyer files a personal injury lawsuit.
Before signing a contingency fee agreement, ask your lawyer any questions about it. Your lawyer can answer all of your questions, but if you sign the agreement, they will assume that you understood everything.
What Can a Lawyer Do for You in a Car Accident Case?
Most lawyers and personal injury car accident claims collect payment through a contingency fee agreement. Since this is not an upfront cost to the accident victim, the lawyer has an incentive to work hard on your behalf and pursue the maximum amount of compensation that is available to you in your case.
Some of the activities that a lawyer can assist you with include:
- Investigating the circumstances of your car accident.
- Filing a personal injury claim with the insurance company.
- Filing a lawsuit in your case.
- Take your case to trial or arbitration.
Investigating the Circumstances of Your Accident
First of all, a personal injury lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your car accident and help you determine exactly how it happened. In some instances, it can be challenging to determine precisely who or what caused a car accident, and insurance companies sometimes put some of the blame on the accident victim.
Your personal injury lawyer can retain an accident reconstructionist, investigator, or another expert who can speak with witnesses, review the police reports, and piece together how your accident happened. The expert testimony may be beneficial at trial if the insurance company disputes fault or liability in your case.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim with the Insurance Company on Your Behalf
In addition to investigating the circumstances of your accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you file a claim in your case and negotiate a favourable settlement offer. Insurance companies will do everything they can to offer you as little as possible to settle your case. This is especially true if you do not have solid legal representation in your corner.
Your lawyer can file your claim with the insurance company and include all of the necessary documents, including copies of your medical treatment records and bills, lost wage statements, police reports, victim-impact statements, and photographs of your injuries and the property damage to your vehicle.
Your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company adjuster and pursue a favourable settlement on your behalf. If the insurance company refuses to compensate fairly, your lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf in the Alberta court system.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Your Case
Finally, if the insurance company adjuster is uncooperative, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court. Even after filing a lawsuit, your lawyer can still negotiate a good settlement offer for you. In fact, most car accident claims settle before they ever reach trial or arbitration. However, if the case has to go to trial, your lawyer can represent you from beginning to end and zealously advocate for your legal interests in court. Your lawyer will work to convince a jury that you deserve to recover various types of compensation.
Pursuing Various Damages on Your Behalf Through Settlement or Litigation
The compensation that car accident victims may recover as part of their claim varies depending upon the extent of their injuries and medical treatment, the length of their treatment, and whether or not they suffered a permanent injury in the accident.
Depending upon the circumstances, car accident victims can recover compensation for their lost earnings, out-of-pocket expenses, inconvenience, pain and suffering, loss of use of a body part, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of spousal companionship or consortium.
In addition, in some car accident cases, the accident victim can pursue and recover punitive damages. A jury might award punitive damages if the at-fault driver behaved particularly egregiously under the circumstances. For example, the driver might have been fervently weaving in and out of traffic or operating their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the at-fault driver in the case.
Finally, if the car accident led to a fatality, then the accident victim’s surviving loved ones can pursue wrongful death damages, including the decedent’s funeral and burial expenses, as well as the anticipated costs of the decedent’s lost wages and loss of companionship and care into the future. Your lawyer can determine which damages you might recover in your car accident case.
Talk With a Knowledgeable Car Accident Lawyer in Your Area Today
If you have suffered injuries in a car accident that someone else caused, you should not worry about lawyer fees. Instead, concern yourself about the risks of not having an experienced car accident lawyer in your case.
While you focus on recovering from your injuries, which is what you should do if you are hurt, a lawyer can handle your legal battles. In a car accident claim or lawsuit, your lawyer can advocate and work hard to pursue the compensation you deserve for your injuries.