The best course of action after a car accident is to hire an attorney as soon as you get a chance. If you are hurt in a car crash that occurred due to someone else’s negligence, you can seek compensation. Recovering a fair amount without legal assistance is rarely possible.
Each step you take after a car accident can affect the integrity of your claim. Without an attorney to help you, it’s easy to make mistakes, overlook evidence, miss filing deadlines, and more. The earlier you start working with a car accident lawyer, the more chances of obtaining fair compensation.
When to Contact a Lawyer After a Car Accident
After a car crash, your first priority is to take care of your health. At the accident scene, many victims don’t have an opportunity to collect evidence, speak to attorneys, gather eyewitness’ contact details, or do anything to build a strong personal injury claim.
However, as soon as you get medical assistance, you usually have an opportunity to think about legal action. That’s when you should consider contacting an attorney. A legal professional can explain steps to improve your chances of obtaining compensation.
They can also start collecting evidence, speaking to witnesses, looking into the police report, identifying at-fault parties, and more. The earlier they begin doing this, the better your case will be when you file a claim.
When Is It Too Late to Hire an Attorney?
After an accident, many people focus on treating their injuries or grieving the loss of a loved one. When they remember about legal action, it may seem too late to do anything.
Even if several years have passed since the accident, you may still have a chance to recover damages. However, doing so will be much harder than filing a claim right after the crash.
Statute of Limitations Can Expire
Each state limits your time to file a personal injury claim after a car accident. Arizona statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years. This means that you have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit.
If you go to court after these two years are up, the judge is highly likely to dismiss the case on the spot.
However, the law sets a few exceptions.
- Minor. If the injured person is a minor, the statute of limitations applies from the moment they turn 18. For example, if you got hurt when you were 16, you can file a claim until you are 20 (within two years from your 18th birthday).
- Legal disability. If the injuries cause the victim to be of “unsound mind,” the clock starts running when the person regains their mental capacity and can make sound decisions.
- Absence. If the at-fault party leaves the state after the crash but before you can file a lawsuit, the clock stops until they return to Arizona.
These aren’t the only exceptions to the statute. You may have special circumstances that can convince the judge to hear your case instead of dismissing it. Accordingly, even if two years are up, with an attorney’s help, you may still have a chance to recover damages.
Evidence May Fade
Evidence plays a major role in proving your right to compensation. It appears the moment a crash occurs. Evidence loses its quality, disappears, or becomes hard to gather with time. Meanwhile, memories of eyewitnesses fade.
The longer you wait to hire an attorney, the less evidence you can collect. Eventually, this will affect the quality of your claim and the amount you can receive.
An experienced car accident lawyer can collect vast evidence right after the accident. Suppose you call the attorney as soon as you get medical assistance. In that case, they can travel to the accident site and obtain precious evidence, including photos, camera recordings, and eyewitness statements.
However, even if months have passed after the accident, it’s still possible to obtain at least some evidence. You can turn scraps of evidence into a strong story with the right approach. That’s why it’s never too late to hire an attorney and try to get the money you deserve.
At-Fault Party May Leave the State
If the at-fault party leaves the state before you file a lawsuit, you can’t serve them. This means that your case will be on pause until they return. During this time, you won’t be able to collect any compensation.
The longer you wait to speak to an attorney and file a claim, the more opportunities the at-fault party has to leave the state or even the country. That’s why taking legal action as soon as possible improves your chances of getting the money you deserve.
In short, it’s never too late to hire an attorney. However, waiting too long to do this could undermine the integrity of your personal injury claim.
Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer Shortly After a Car Accident
The faster you consult an attorney after a car accident, the better the outcome of your case will be.
The key benefits of hiring a lawyer right after a crash include:
- Evaluating the possibility of obtaining compensation.
- Learning what not to say to the insurance company after the accident.
- Getting emotional support while dealing with serious injuries or grieving the death of a loved one.
- Collecting the freshest possible evidence from the site of the accident.
- Filing all documents on time after filling them out correctly.
Many top car accident attorneys offer free consultations for new clients. You can take advantage of this option to determine your chances of winning the personal injury case. If you are too injured to travel to an attorney’s office, you can ask to arrange a video conference.
Why You Need an Attorney After a Car Crash
Arizona laws don’t require hiring an attorney to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, doing so without one reduces your chances of obtaining fair compensation.
Car accidents aren’t always straightforward. Even if someone rear-ends you, there may be nuances you don’t notice immediately. Eventually, they could affect the integrity of your case and lead to minimal compensation.
An experienced attorney knows how to handle personal injury cases without common mistakes. They understand how to proceed to maximize your settlement.
Confronting Other Attorneys
Whether you are going to negotiate with the insurance company or argue your case in court, the other party will be fighting to avoid any payouts. You will be up against experienced attorneys and insurance adjusters whose sole goal is to prevent you from getting the money you deserve.
Working with a car accident attorney is the only way to have a fighting chance.
When you sustain injuries in a car accident, you need to address them immediately. Some of these injuries take months or years to heal. Meanwhile, pain and suffering make it hard to concentrate on complex legal decisions.
With an attorney in your corner, you gain valuable time to focus on your physical and mental health without hurting your case in the process.
What a Car Accident Lawyer Can Do
After you hire a car accident attorney, they assume a variety of responsibilities related to your claim. These legal professionals handle your case from when you sign an agreement to when you receive your money.
Personal injury cases have many different stages. To help you get the money you are fighting for, an attorney takes you through these stages in the most professional and smooth manner possible.
Identify At-Fault Parties
Identifying the at-fault party is the first step toward obtaining compensation. However, the at-fault party isn’t always another driver, but:
- A third-party driver (cyclist, motorcyclist). A negligent driver runs a red light and hits another driver, who hits you.
- A jaywalking pedestrian. A pedestrian runs across the road and causes another driver to swerve and hit your car.
- Government. The city fails to put up a traffic sign, and drivers crash into each other.
In some cases, there can be more than one at-fault party. While it may seem that filing a claim against one of them is enough, you could face issues when that party can’t pay up.
A car accident lawyer conducts an investigation to identify all parties and figures out the best way to file a claim against them.
Evaluate Your Case
One of the most important steps toward obtaining fair compensation is evaluating how much your case is worth. You need to know exactly how much money you can count on.
An attorney determines:
- Circumstances of your case
- Number of at-fault parties and the insurance they have
- Available evidence
- The extent of your physical and emotional injuries
After an in-depth evaluation, they can come up with a figure that can help you get a fair amount from the insurance company or the at-fault party directly.
The main element of any personal injury lawsuit is negligence. If you can prove the at-fault party’s negligence, you have the right to seek compensation. Proving negligence is the plaintiff’s responsibility.
It involves four major steps:
- Establish duty of care. You or your attorney would have to show that the at-fault party had a duty of care to you. For example, a driver has a duty of care to other traffic participants. Meanwhile, the government has this duty to drivers on the city’s roads.
- Show breach of duty of care. A party negligent must breach their duty of care. It’s your responsibility to demonstrate how they did it. For example, a driver ran a red light. That’s a breach of their duty to care for other traffic participants.
- Demonstrate causation. Next, you have to prove that the at-fault party’s negligent actions caused your injuries. For example, the driver ran a red light, hit your car, and you broke your arm.
- Damages. Finally, you need to show that your injuries led to specific damages. For example, your broken arm required surgery (medical expenses) and long-term recovery (hence, time off work and lost wages).
Since negligence is the most important part of the personal injury case, the at-fault party will try hard to prove that they aren’t negligent. An attorney can help you make a strong case to counter their efforts.
Negotiate with the Insurance Company
In most cases, personal injury claims settle during negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance company. These negations can be frustrating, stressful, and overwhelming for a victim.
Insurance adjusters use several tactics to pressure you into settling for a lower amount. One of these tactics is trying to convince you that you are partially at fault for the accident. Another one is to stretch out negotiations. People with mounting medical bills are more likely to settle for a lower amount to speed up the process.
Car accident attorneys know exactly how to handle negotiations, which arguments to present, and when to accept a settlement. It’s impossible to lowball an experienced attorney.
Represent You in Court
In some cases, you may need to fight for your money in court.
This usually happens if:
- The insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement.
- The at-fault party is uninsured or underinsured (your damages exceed the insurance limit).
When you go to court, an attorney can present your strong case to the judge and the jury in order to achieve a higher settlement or a ruling in your favor.
Hiring an Attorney After a Car Accident
The best time to hire an attorney after a car accident is right after it happens. Unfortunately, many people are too hurt, disoriented, or confused to seek legal help immediately. That’s why the next best time to call an attorney is after you get medical assistance.
While contacting an attorney early is beneficial, it’s never too late to do it. Even if the statute of limitations is almost up, an experienced personal injury lawyer can still build a strong case.