If someone injured you through their negligent driving, then you have rights under the law. You want to make sure to protect those rights after an auto collision so you don’t end up paying - financially and personally - for someone else’s negligence. In some cases, you may need to file a lawsuit after a collision. Why is it important to talk to a lawyer after you've been in a collision?
1. You have only a limited time to file suit. In most states, the statute of limitations for filing a car accident claim is between 1 and 3 years. If you don’t file suit within that time, you give up your right to sue forever.
2. You may need to comply with certain rules in order to file suit. A lawyer who is experienced in handling personal injury cases will be familiar with the law and can help you make sure you don’t do anything that jeopardizes your rights.
3. Insurance companies may have different agendas than yours. Most insurance companies aim to protect their insureds and to compensate them for damages. However, insurance companies also aim to keep costs down, reduce their overhead, and make money for their shareholders. Since your agenda and the insurance companies' agenda may not perfectly align, hiring a lawyer can be the best way to insure you have someone on your side.
4. You may not fully understand all of your potential damages. There are a slew of potential damages available to people who are injured in auto collisions. In addition to medical bills, you may be able to recover for lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Your family members may even be able to recover for the loss of your companionship if you have become incapacitated. If you don’t hire a lawyer, you may not be aware of all of your potential legal rights to recovery.
5. Proving liability can be complex. Even with witnesses and a police report saying the other party is at fault, proving that they were negligent can be difficult. Since there are many elements that go into winning a personal injury lawsuit, you will need to hire a lawyer who understands the law and who can provide references to sources of law that support your position.
6. The laws differ from state to state: Auto insurance and auto collision rules are decided by each individual jurisdiction. For example, there are 12 “no fault” states in the U.S. in which you cannot sue after a car accident except in special circumstances. Likewise, in some states, you can sue even if you were partially at fault for the accident (called "comparative negligence" states) while in others, if you contributed to causing the accident you can’t sue (called "contributory negligence"). A lawyer in your area can help explain all the nuances of the law within your jurisdiction to you, so you will fully understand all of your rights.
7. You need to understand settlement options: Most cases settle out of court, which means the defendant or his insurance company is likely to make you an offer. Your lawyer can help you understand the implications of accepting this offer, since once you accept, you give up your right to sue forever. Your lawyer can also help you to evaluate whether settling is the best option in your case or not.
8. Filing a lawsuit requires adhering to complex rules. If you decide to bring a lawsuit, you will have to file the appropriate papers in court. This is not as simple as going to the court house and announcing your intent to sue. A number of complex rules exist on everything from the font size of the brief to how precedent is cited and what evidence is admissible. You will need a lawyer to guide you through the complicated process of litigation.
9. Proving your case can be even more complex – Just as filing your case is complex, proving your case is even more so. You may be permitted to “discover" certain information from the other side, and you may be limited in the types of witnesses and evidence you present. There are even restrictions on the kind of questions and phrasing of questions you ask in court. Furthermore, extensive legal research often needs to be done to convince the jury to side with you. As such, it is very difficult to prove personal injury liability on your own.
10. If you don’t hire a lawyer, you could be faced with financial loss. If you don’t file suit in time, if you don’t claim the right damages or sue the right defendants, and if you lose your case as a result of improperly presenting your information, you will be barred from bringing suit again. This means you will have used up your only chance for recovery and you will be stuck with all the costs and bills as a result of the collision that someone else carelessly caused.
If you've been injured in an auto collision, give us a call to see how we can help. We have a long history of representing injured people and their survivors. Call us at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment for a free initial consultation.