After a car accident, you’re dealing with a number of different things. Car repairs. Medical appointments. Missed work. Insurance claims. Lots of paperwork and forms. All while you’re trying to heal yourself and get back on your feet.
Insurance companies don’t care what you need—they want your case settled and off their books quickly. Give in, and you’ll lose out on compensation you need to heal.
You may be thinking it’s time to find a lawyer to help you through the difficult process of the aftermath of a car accident. Before you pick up the phone, here are a few things you should know.
· Have all the accident information available—to get started, you’ll need the relevant information from your car accident: the time, date, the location, the other parties involved, their insurance company and any injuries sustained. You should also have:
- Related medical bills
- Information on injuries, including pictures
- Police report
- Photographs of the accident scene (if you’re able; most cell phones now have full camera functionality)
- Names and contact info for any witnesses
- Road hazards that could have contributed to the accident
- How much work and/or wages you’ve missed due to the accident
- Your auto insurance policy
- Any possible automotive defects that could have contributed to your accident
- Any other evidence you may have that’s relevant
Assembling this information before you call and hire an attorney will give him or her a good start on your case.
· Be aware of the time constraints—West Virginia allows two years to file your claim for most cases. Known as the “statute of limitations,” if you wait until the end of the two years to get started, you may run out of time. The first ninety days after an accident are crucial for gathering important evidence and building your case. Hiring an attorney soon after your accident can help preserve important evidence as well.
· Comparative Fault—West Virginia is one of the states that uses “comparative fault” when dealing with accidents. This means that if you’re found to be partly responsible for your car accident, your settlement could be reduced. For instance, if you were texting while you were driving, but weren’t a primary cause of the accident, you could be assigned 25% of the fault, reducing your settlement by 25%. If your settlement is $10,000, you’ll lose $2,500, bringing your settlement down to $7,500.
· Be very cautious when talking to and dealing with insurance companies—again, insurance companies do not have your best interests in mind. Use extreme caution in what you say to an insurance company any time they call. Your call is most likely recorded, and saying the wrong thing that can be construed as admitting fault. An adjuster will work hard to use anything you say to dismiss your claim. Don’t sign anything without fully understanding what you’d be signing—you could be signing away your rights to compensation! Insurance companies have teams of lawyers working for them and against you—so it makes sense for you to be able to defend yourself. Finding the right car accident attorney at the beginning can save you from making mistakes like these.
· Don’t pick your attorney from a TV ad—you’ve probably seen a number of ads on TV for attorneys begging you to “call today!” Sure, they talk a good game—but what about when it comes to your case? Many of the firms that advertise in heavy rotation are simply “settlement firms,” and rely heavily on bringing in new cases and getting them settled quickly. These firms may not get you the best settlement, and may even leave money on the table.
Talk To More Than One
You may not want to hire the first attorney you talk to. If you’re not sure, you can “interview” car accident attorneys before you hire one. You’ll want to find the right one, and one you can work with, so an interview works two ways. Word-of-mouth is an excellent way to find leads. But without meeting with them to discuss your case, you won’t know if you’re getting the right attorney for you.
If you’re speaking with an attorney who doesn’t adequately answer your questions, or you just don’t feel like it’s a good “fit,” don’t be afraid to keep looking. Review their websites, and find out what kind of experience they have with car accidents.
Most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation, and will discuss your case with you with no obligation. After you’ve taken care of yourself and seen a doctor, the next person to see may be a lawyer—especially if you’ve been injured. Don’t wait.
Charleston’s Car Accident Attorney
The days after a car accident are filled with anxiety, confusion and a lot of quick decision making. Don’t risk making a wrong decision for your life and your future.
The Love Law Firm is ready to help. Call us today at 304-344-5683, or use our online contact form to schedule your appointment with one of our attorneys. We’ll discuss your case with you, explain your options and what to expect in an accident settlement. Our contingency fee arrangement means that if we don’t win your case, you won’t owe us a fee.