If you have suffered injuries in a car accident that resulted from another driver’s negligence, you should begin searching for a lawyer to represent you as soon as possible. Going at it alone following a car crash is usually not advisable.
If the at-fault driver’s insurance company learns that legal counsel does not represent you, it will assume that you do not have the necessary skills to represent yourself in the case. Therefore, they will likely lowball the settlement in your case and will not offer you sufficient compensation for your injuries and inconvenience.
By at least speaking to a lawyer as soon as possible following a car accident, you get a better sense of where your case stands. Having a lawyer represent you in your car accident claim as soon as possible sends a message to the insurance company that you take your case seriously and will not accept less than the full value of your claim. Also, by getting a lawyer involved in your case as soon as possible, you can focus all of your attention on getting better and making a full recovery from your car accident injuries.
During that time, your lawyer can begin gathering the necessary medical documents, bills, lost wage statements, police reports, and witness statements to start handling your claim.
In short, generally speaking, the sooner you get a lawyer in your car accident case, the better off you’ll be. An experienced car accident lawyer in your area can represent you throughout your case from beginning to end and will zealously advocate for your legal interests throughout settlement negotiations and litigation.
Seek Medical Treatment for Your Injuries First
The first step following your car accident, and before calling a lawyer, is to get emergency medical treatment with a doctor or at a nearby hospital emergency room or urgent care center if you require it. You should seek this treatment regardless of the initial severity of your injuries as sometimes seemingly minor initial symptoms can become more serious. Further, this initial treatment is critical evidence of your initial complaints.
Many injuries that car accident victims suffer start as minor injuries, but they become much worse if they go untreated. Common car accident injuries include traumatic head and brain injuries, soft tissue injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and paralysis injuries. In the worst car accident cases, the accident victim might succumb to their injuries and pass away, after which the accident victim’s surviving family members may bring a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.
The emergency room physician or nurse can perform a physical examination to determine the full extent of your injuries. Moreover, if you suffered a serious injury in your car accident, the emergency room doctor can render treatment, such as immediate surgery to repair a compound fracture.
The healthcare provider can also recommend follow-up care and treatment you should follow. For example, the physician might recommend that you follow up with your primary care doctor or with a specialist—such as an orthopedic doctor—if your symptoms become worse as time goes on.
After you seek emergency medical treatment, speak with a knowledgeable car accident lawyer in your area. Because of your need to mitigate your injuries, your lawyer might encourage additional medical treatment or physical therapy if you need it. If you continue to experience symptoms, your lawyer can also refer you for a permanent impairment evaluation. While you are receiving treatment for your accident-related injuries, your lawyer can begin representing you in your case and gathering the necessary documents to get your case ready to move forward.
Qualifications of a Good Car Accident Lawyer
When choosing a good car accident lawyer in your case, keep in mind that not all lawyers are the same. When you select a lawyer to represent you throughout your case, you want to select someone who has a significant amount of specific experience handling car accident claims.
Not all personal injury lawyers focus the majority of their attention on representing injured victims of car accidents. For example, some lawyers may focus primarily on representing victims of slip and falls and other premises accidents, while others may concentrate on medical malpractice and negligence cases. Some lawyers handle different types of legal matters such as family law, construction and general litigation in addition to practicing personal injury. Some lawyers only handle a percentage of personal injury claims in their practice. Ideally, you want a lawyer representing you who has significant experience in handling only car accident claims.
Your car accident lawyer should understand all relevant laws and know how to apply them to your case, including:
- Alberta accident benefits, called section B benefits
- Alberta Minor Injury Regulation (MIR)
- Alberta Insurance Act
- Alberta Standard Automobile Policy
You also want to make sure that the lawyer who represents you has a strong record of success settling car accident cases and favourably litigating them. You can ask a prospective lawyer how many car accident cases they have handled previously and how many settlements they have achieved previously. Success in handling and settling high volumes may be indicative of great skill that you need to move your claim along.
In addition, you want a lawyer representing you who has the highest ethical standards and who has a good reputation in the community. You want the lawyer you select to operate on a contingency fee arrangement. This means that the lawyer should only receive compensation if they can settle your case favourably or obtain a favourable trial verdict in court on your behalf.
How a Lawyer Can Help You with Your Car Accident Case
There are many ways that a lawyer can represent you and assist you throughout a car accident personal injury claim. The first thing that a lawyer can do is meet with you to discuss the circumstances of your car accident and how it happened. Your lawyer can review all of the police reports and eyewitness statements that are available to get a feel for how the accident happened and who caused it.
If necessary, your lawyer can also retain an expert investigator to go to the scene and determine how the accident occurred—especially when the at-fault driver’s insurance company contests fault for the collision.
In some instances, for example, lawyers will retain accident reconstructionists for this purpose. After reviewing the necessary information, your lawyer can determine whether or not you are eligible to file a personal injury claim and if you have a valid case.
If you are eligible to file a personal injury claim, your lawyer can assist you throughout the entire claims-filing process, ensuring that it is complete and correct. First of all, your lawyer can submit a demand package, along with a demand letter, to the insurance company. In most car accident cases, the insurance company that your lawyer will deal with directly is the at-fault driver’s insurer.
A demand letter makes a monetary demand for a settlement. In addition to the demand letter, the lawyer will also typically send a demand package.
A demand package will include several important pieces of documentation for the insurance company adjuster to review, along with the initial demand letter.
The settlement demand package will include copies of important documents, such as medical records, lost wage documentation, photographs of injuries, photographs of property damage, photographs of the accident scene, and victim impact statement.
Once the insurance company reviews all of this documentation – assuming they accept liability for the accident – they may make an initial offer to resolve the claim through settlement. Since initial settlements by insurance companies are routinely far below the actual value of the claim, your lawyer may need to negotiate with the adjuster several times to get an acceptable offer. If the insurance company does not raise its offer to settle the case, then your lawyer can litigate it in the court system.
Litigation begins by filing a complaint in the court system and serving it on the at-fault driver. The at-fault driver will then refer the lawsuit to their insurance company, who in turn will appoint a defense lawyer to represent them. The defense lawyer will file an answer to the complaint and will typically set up Questioning or discovery. These questions will deal with, among other things, how the accident occurred, the injuries that the accident victim suffered and the damages they claim.
In addition, both sides will typically request certain documents from one another to learn more about the other side’s version of the case before Questioning. Throughout litigation, if the matter proceeds to trial, the court may schedule one or more settlement conferences to bring both sides together and see if they can settle the case.
If the case does not settle, the parties can take the case to a trial, where the judge will decide the outcome, including any monetary compensation and damages for the accident victim. As an alternative to a trial, the parties might consider different types of dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration.
During mediation, a neutral mediator will facilitate settlement discussions between the parties to bring them closer together or resolve the case outright. An arbitrator, on the other hand, will listen to the evidence that the parties present and decide the issue of damages.
A knowledgeable car accident lawyer can help you throughout the negotiation and litigation of your case. Your lawyer can help you decide on the best legal options for your case, including whether or not you should accept a particular settlement offer. Your lawyer can also help you decide whether to accept a settlement or take your case to a jury trial or arbitration proceeding.
Getting Compensation for a Car Accident Claim
The sooner you get a lawyer on board in your case, the sooner you may pursue a personal injury claim or lawsuit that seeks monetary compensation and damages for your car accident injuries. Your lawyer can file this claim as soon as possible and will work to maximize the compensation that you can recover for your injuries.
The damages that a lawyer can recover for you depend on the severity of your injuries and the extent of your medical treatments. For example, if you suffered a permanent disability in your car accident, your claim may recover more compensation than if you suffered a minor injury from which you fully recovered.
Accident victims can pursue economic damages, including any out-of-pocket expenses they paid and any lost wages they incurred from not working following their car accident. They can also pursue monetary compensation in the form of non-economic damages.
You cannot value these damages in exact dollars or cents, but they can be significant in some cases, depending on the seriousness of the injuries they sustained. For example, the accident victim can recover compensation for their inconvenience, pain and suffering, loss of use of a body part, lost quality of life, mental distress, and emotional anguish.
A knowledgeable car accident lawyer in your area can determine which of these types of damages you might be eligible to pursue and can help you maximize the compensation that you receive in your personal injury car accident claim or lawsuit. If the insurance company is being difficult when it comes to monetary compensation, your lawyer can take the case to court and litigate it.
Insurance companies know that injured accident victims do not always know how to fight for maximum compensation, so they regularly take advantage of victims. Seek the legal help you need for the best possible outcome.