Mark W. Mathys | January 3, 2023 | Car Accidents
Should you hire a lawyer after a minor car accident? Well, that depends. Just how minor is “minor”? You might not need to hire a lawyer for a fender-bender. If your accident is any more serious than that, however, you might need a lawyer. It all depends on the details of your case.
The Contingency Fee System: You Have Nothing To Lose
Personal injury lawyers generally work on a contingency fee basis. What that means is that their legal fees come out of the money that the defendant pays you-–a settlement or a verdict. Typically that means about 33% of the total value of your claim. If you win $100,000, for example, your lawyer might take $33,000 in legal fees. But how much is 33% of zero? It’s zero, which means you don’t pay a dime in legal fees unless you win.
You can be sure that if the lawyer takes your case, they are highly motivated. After all, the more damages you win, the more damages they win, and vice versa.
What a Good Lawyer Can Do For You
Before you decide whether you need a lawyer, it is helpful to understand what a skilled lawyer can do for you.
Negotiate Your Behalf
Most personal injury claims settle out of court, and insurance companies pay most personal injury claims. An insurance adjuster will represent the insurance company in negotiations, and almost all insurance adjusters are professional negotiators. Fortunately, so are most experienced personal injury lawyers. If you lack negotiating experience or knowledge of personal injury law, you will be a sitting duck at the negotiating table.
Let your lawyer do the talking for you. Once you hire one, tell the opposing party to direct all further communications to your lawyer, not you.
Advise You Against Errors That Could Damage Your Claim
Following are a few tips that might help you preserve the value of your claim.
- Don’t talk about your case on social media. In fact, your best bet is to suspend all your social media profiles until the money is in your hand.
- Don’t try to negotiate with the insurance adjuster on your own. Every word you speak has consequences–even using ordinary words like “fine” might come back to haunt you.
- Don’t apologize for the accident just to be polite. This is particularly important in a car accident case.
- Don’t accept a “lowball” offer even if you are desperate for money. If the insurance company sends you a check, don’t cash it as a partial settlement.
- Don’t give a recorded statement to the insurance company.
- Do keep a watch on the statute of limitations deadline, but don’t wait until the last minute to take action on your claim.
- Do follow your doctor’s orders with no exceptions. If you don’t, you are giving the other side ammunition to use against your claim.
- Do keep track of all your accident-related expenses.
The foregoing tips were distilled out of thousands of possible tips. Let your lawyer advise you on any more that might apply to your claim.
Calculate the True Value of Your Claim
Your claim might be worth more than you think it is. The most likely way that you might underestimate the value of your claim concerns the value of your pain and suffering. Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and mental anguish often amount to more than all other elements of your compensation combined.
These intangible damages are difficult to negotiate unless you have been doing it for years, as most personal injury lawyers have.
Fight Back When the Opposing Party Tries To Blame You for the Accident
The opposing party will try to pin at least part of the blame for the accident on you. This is almost inevitable in all but the most clear-cut cases of liability. Under the Illinois comparative fault system, if they can pin 10% of the blame on you they can save 10% in damages. If they can pin 51% or more of the blame on you, they will owe you nothing. A skilled personal injury lawyer knows how to fight back against victim-blaming.
At Least Schedule a Free Consultation With a Naperville Car Accident Lawyer
Any Naperville personal injury lawyer will offer a free initial consultation. That might mean anything from five minutes on the telephone to an hour in a law office. If your claim isn’t likely to win, the lawyer you speak to isn’t likely to take your case.
If your case is likely to win, but the amount isn’t worth bothering with, the lawyer is also unlikely to take your case. Since under a contingency fee arrangement, your lawyer has “skin in the game,” they will only take on cases they are confident they can win.