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Should I Get a Lawyer After a Car Accident?

Should I Get a Lawyer After a Car Accident?

A Texas Car Accident Lawyer Can Help Win Compensation

Being involved in a serious car accident can leave you injured, traumatized, and confused as to what to do next. Not only do you have to deal with your injuries and their effects on your life and your future, you may be hit with huge medical, rehabilitation and repair bills at a time when you are unable to work. You need help, and one of the first questions you may be asking is whether you should get a lawyer after your car accident.

The answer depends on the circumstances, as every case is different and not every car accident case requires an attorney. While in many cases hiring an attorney is the best decision, there are times when you may not need one. For instance, if you were in a very minor car accident in Austin, consulting with an Austin car accident lawyer might not be necessary for minor issues. However, if you did not have any injuries, you probably do not need a lawyer just to sort out a property damage claim which can be handled directly with the insurance company.

However, if you or a loved one has been seriously injured, are facing mounting medical and rehabilitation expenses, and are unable to work, you should speak to an experienced Texas personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

When Should You Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident?

You should hire a lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident. Unfortunately, even after a serious accident, many people don’t think they need an attorney. They believe that because they are going through an insurance company, they will receive the compensation they need quickly and easily. Regrettably, this does not usually happen, and it helps to have an attorney on your side from the start.

Texas insurance law requires drivers to be insured for a minimum of $30,000 per injured person – up to $60,000 per accident – and $25,000 of property damage per accident. But in a serious crash, that coverage may not be enough. When you are injured in a car accident, you might need surgery, require hospitalization, and need long-term rehabilitation care. You may also lose income if you have to take time off work. These financial losses can easily exceed the limits of a car insurance policy, especially if other family members were injured along with you, so you may need to bring a lawsuit to get coverage for all the damages you received.

If you were injured in an accident that was caused by another driver, their insurance company is likely to offer you a settlement to cover your medical bills and other monetary damages. However, insurance companies don’t care about you – they are out for profit. They have teams of adjusters and high-priced lawyers working on their behalf and have a slew of tactics they use to minimize or deny claims. They may come up with a lowball offer they hope you will accept quickly without asking questions. If you do, you must sign a release promising that you will not file any further claims. If your injuries get worse and you have more costs in the future, you will be out of luck. Also, insurance companies may try to trick you into saying something that indicates you were at fault for the accident, which can be used against you if you want to file a lawsuit.

Why is Important to Have a Car Accident Lawyer?

Having a car accident lawyer on your side from the start can make a huge difference. It makes sense to talk to a car accident lawyer before you speak to an insurance agent and get talked into signing a release or making statements that can be used against you. An experienced attorney can:

  • Keep you from saying anything that can be used against you
  • Evaluate the details of your accident and determine who is at fault
  • Give you a better idea of what your car accident case is worth by taking into account past, present, and future costs
  • Investigate your case and gather evidence such as from photos and traffic videos, interviews with eyewitnesses and first responders, and examining police and medical reports and documents
  • File all paperwork in accordance with deadlines and court requirements
  • Hire highway safety experts to testify about road conditions, experts to reconstruct the crash scene and determine fault, and medical experts to evaluate your losses and testify as to the care you may need into the future
  • Handle all communications and negotiate with insurance companies and their attorneys for a fair settlement
  • Build your case and take it to trial and advocate for you in front of a jury should that be necessary.

A good personal injury lawyer is skilled at evaluating how much in damages you should receive and knows how to negotiate with the insurer to receive a fair settlement. In most situations, it is desirable to have your attorney settle the case out of court, as it avoids the higher fees and unpredictability of a trial that could drag on for years. However, should negotiations break down, your car accident lawyer can help you file a lawsuit for the damages you received. If pursuing a personal injury lawsuit is the best way to go, your lawyer will advocate for you and represent you every step of the way, working to get you just compensation.

Damages You May Recover

In Texas personal injury cases, your car accident attorney may get you an award that covers both your economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages, also called “special” damages, are for the monetary costs you have from the accident. These may include:

  • Medical and rehabilitation expenses and costs of continuing care
  • Lost wages and earning capacity, both past and future
  • Property damage, such as costs of repairing or replacing your vehicle.

Non-economic damages, also called “general” damages, are awards to compensate you for losses that do not have a specific monetary value, but negatively impact your life, such as:

  • Emotional distress
  • Disability or disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship and consortium
  • Loss of quality and enjoyment of life.

There is a wide-range of settlements you can win in a car accident lawsuit, that may range from the thousands to millions of dollars.  The amount you may receive in your individual situation will depend on factors such as your actual costs, and the type, seriousness and permanence of the injury you received. For instance, if you or another family member suffered significant problems, such as a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury that resulted in paralysis and a lifetime of care, a settlement could be in the millions.

When is it Too Late to Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident?

While it is never too late to get a lawyer for a car accident, getting one after you were talked into signing a release or making statements that can be used against you makes it very difficult to win your case.

To win a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney would have to show that another party, the defendant in the case, was negligent and at fault for causing the accident that injured you. There is a legal obligation, called a duty of care, for responsible people to act in a way that does not harm others. If another driver or party failed in this duty and you were harmed as a result, that party may be held liable for the damages you received.

Your attorney must show the existence of the following elements to prove liability:

  • The defendant had a duty of care not to harm you.
  • The defendant breached that duty through actions or failure to act.
  • This breach was directly related to the accident that caused your injuries.
  • You suffered damages as a result.

In some cases, there may be multiple parties responsible for the accident. For example, in addition to the other driver, defendants may include:

  • The manufacturer of a defective vehicle part or tire that caused the accident
  • The maintenance company responsible for road repairs that neglected to fix a pothole
  • A municipality that failed to post warning signs for hazardous conditions on their roads.

Your attorney should name all potentially liable parties as defendants in the lawsuit, as they all may have insurance and assets that can go toward a settlement. If you wait too long to hire a lawyer, evidence may evaporate and witnesses may disappear, making it all the more difficult to prove another party’s negligence. If you have already said something to the insurance company that indicates you are at fault or contributed to the accident, the settlement amount can be reduced.  Texas state law uses “modified comparative negligence” (CPR Section 33.001) when determining damages. As long as you are less than 51 percent responsible for a crash, you may collect damages, but the amount will be reduced by the proportion of fault you are found to bear. If you are more than 50 percent at fault, you may not recover damages.

In addition, it may be too late to hire an attorney if too much time has passed since the accident.  Texas has a statute of limitations (CPR Section 16.001) that gives accident victims only two years from the date of an accident to file a claim. Once the statute of limitations expires, accident victims are typically barred from receiving any compensation at all.

While two years sounds like a long time, it’s not. Lawyers must collect evidence, gather documentation, consult with experts, and more. All of that takes time, which is why speaking to a lawyer soon after a crash is so important.

Get Help from A Car Accident Attorney in Austin, TX

If you or a loved one was a victim of a car crash in Texas that was caused by someone else’s negligence or fault, the experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyers at Evans/Reilley are available to determine the best way for you to get compensation for your losses. Even if you are not sure you want to file a claim, we encourage you to sit down with us for a no-obligation conversation about your car crash. That way, you will have a better understanding of whether you need an attorney for your car accident, how you want to proceed and what we can do for you.

At Evans/Reilley Law Firm, our Austin car accident lawyers know the complexities of Texas law, and how to deal with the insurance companies and their attorneys, the courts, and the system. We take the burden off you so you can concentrate on your recovery while we take care of all legal issues.

We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your individual situation, answer your questions, and show you how we can help. Do not worry about costs — you pay nothing unless and until we win a settlement for you. Contact us or call our car accident lawyers in Austin today at (512) 732-2727 to get started.

Attorney Chip Evans

Austin Attorney Chip EvansChip Evans is a partner at Evans & Herlihy. Chip brings to the firm more than 20 years of experience as a trial lawyer representing Plaintiffs. It is the desire to help individuals, not corporations, that attracts Chip to this side of the docket. [ Attorney Bio ]