5 Reasons You Need a Car Accident Lawyer
December 5, 2022 @ 6:29 pm
We’d all like to think that if we’re involved in a car accident, auto insurance will give us the financial resources we’ll need to return our lives to normal. We think that if it’s our fault, our insurance will pay, and if another driver is at fault, their policy will. We may even think that we won’t need the services of a car accident attorney. However, insurance companies are not always eager to assume their obligations and may try to minimize their costs at your expense.
Part of the problem comes from how different states view some parts of auto insurance. Claims regarding personal property damage are typically straightforward. If you’re at fault in an accident, your insurance covers the other person’s car, and as long as you carry collision and comprehensive on your vehicle, your car will be covered too. Establishing the values of damages to property is a fairly straightforward and objective process. Data and computer programs calculate exactly how much a repair will cost versus the value of the vehicle. The insurance company cuts a check, and vehicles are repaired or replaced.
What’s more difficult to assess is how an insurance company will handle personal injury claims. How do they determine how much it will cost to heal a person and restore their life to pre-accident condition?
- This is such a difficult issue that some states have chosen to become no-fault states, where insurance policyholders are required to carry personal injury protection—PIP. In an accident, each driver’s PIP covers the driver and their passengers regardless of who is at fault.
- Louisiana, however, is an at-fault or tort state. This means that insurance companies must pay compensation for both property damage and personal injuries up to a policy’s limits according to each driver’s amount of fault.
In either case—no-fault or at-fault—getting an insurance company to acknowledge the full extent and ramifications of an injury can be daunting. You will probably need to prove not only that you suffered injuries and damages but also that the injuries are serious and that the other person was responsible.
Building a successful personal injury claim can be time-consuming and complicated. Meanwhile, you may no longer have a car or reliable transportation. You may be injured or immobilized in the hospital, or you may be suffering from the ultimate loss—the death of someone you cared about. An experienced car accident attorney will know how to file a claim that will get results—without making costly mistakes. Here are the major elements for filing a claim—each of them a solid reason why you’ll need a good car accident lawyer.
1. Collecting Medical Records
Tracking down a complete, unaltered copy of your medical records that is authentic and admissible as legal evidence can prove challenging—especially if multiple specialists are involved. Healthcare professionals are concerned about their own liability and may keep some records separately. Physicians may be very careful about documenting an opinion regarding the cause of certain medical conditions or a patient’s future needs or prognosis. Persistence may be needed to access all of the records that you’re entitled to.
Privacy laws governing patient-physician privilege limit who is authorized to request a copy of the records. Nevertheless, patients—or their representative—are entitled to a copy of their records within 15 days of the request per the Medical Request Act. Attorneys use specific requests like subpoenas, for example, to ensure that they have all of the information in a form that could be used in a formal suit if necessary.
2. Documenting and Organizing Testimonials and Eye-Witness Accounts
Testimonials and eyewitness accounts fall under the category of testimonial evidence—a very convincing, very valuable type of evidence that can stand alone and be admissible in court. Testimonials are given under oath, affirmation or promise. To be considered competent, a witness must have first-hand knowledge about the matter in question and a clear recollection of what they perceived—what they saw or heard, for example. They must also be able to relate or narrate what they experienced while honoring the obligation of truthfulness.
Attorneys can gather that documentation, ensuring that witnesses are competent and credible and that accounts are complete and relevant. While testimonials can be used by both sides in a lawsuit, having solid testimonial evidence correctly prepared is leverage that may mean that you won’t have to go to court.
3. Accounting for All Dimensions of Compensation
Insurance companies often have standard amounts they may immediately offer clients to settle a claim. Initially, that sum may seem like a lot, but in reality, it probably won’t be nearly enough. Insurance companies often use known expenses in their calculations—current medical bills and lost income, for example. However, you really won’t know what you’ll actually need until you reach what’s termed “maximum medical improvement”—MMI.
MMI is the point when your injuries have healed as well as can be expected and continued or additional medical treatment would offer no significant improvement. Even though you reach MMI, you may continue to need special care, therapies or assistance. You may experience secondary conditions that are slow to present but nevertheless debilitating. You may no longer be able to work. You may have substantial pain and suffering attributable to your injuries that will be long-term in nature. An experienced personal injury attorney will know to wait and ensure that compensation will address not only past and present expenses but also future needs and quality of life issues.
4. Negotiating With Insurers
Many people don’t realize that you have the right to speak with a lawyer before speaking with insurance company representatives. This is a good time to take a lawyer up on the offer of a free consultation. You also have the right to handle negotiations with the insurance company on your own. However, if your case is serious or complex, it’s often simply necessary to have a lawyer negotiate with insurers to actually receive compensation.
Insurance companies may attempt to drag out negotiations or piecemeal payments in hopes of running out the statute of limitations or other deadlines. They may try to deny some medical expenses, for example, or deny that your injuries are the result of the accident you were involved in. They may hire their own medical experts to discredit what your own doctors have documented. They may even try to redistribute the blame to you or deny that you have coverage even though the policy says that you do.
All of these things can be infuriating and cost you time and money when you can least afford it. Car accident attorneys are used to dealing with these kinds of tactics and know how to anticipate, document and work through them.
5. Navigating Legal Statutes and Procedures
While most personal injury claims are settled out of court, having an attorney can be key in ensuring not only that you’ll get the best settlement possible but also that you’ll be prepared to go to court if necessary. A lawyer will know exactly what you need to be able to prove, be able to warn you about possible obstacles or problems, know the laws and rules associated with evidence, and understand the conventions and procedures associated with lodging a lawsuit.
Much of the documentation needed to prove a claim to an insurer is the same as what would be needed to prove your case in a court of law. However, you want to be sure that whoever handles the documents gathered or created maintains their integrity so that they remain admissible in court. You also need to be aware of the timelines involved with being able to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Our Car Accident Attorneys are Here to Help
In Louisiana, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is just one year. Insurers know this, but so do we. Professional bona fides get results when the insurance companies know that you’re prepared to sue if you have to.
When a car accident threatens to alter your life and living, you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to the car accident lawyers at Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett & Haik. Schedule your free consultation, and let us do what we do best—get you the compensation that you need and deserve.
Medical records https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1201015/
Assessing compensation needs https://howe.law/how-do-insurance-companies-calculate-personal-injury-claims/