Should I contact a Car Accident Lawyer if I’m at Fault?
In the moments following a car accident, it can be very difficult to know what to do. The adrenaline from the crash, the fear and anxiety over what the event can do to your life can be overwhelming. Keeping a clear head and doing your best to manage the situation is key. This is doubly true if you are at fault for the accident. Whether it was a moment of distracted driving, or making a lane change and not seeing the other car, or any other reason, sometimes these things happen. Now you are faced with an important question: Do I need a lawyer?
Fault Vs No Fault States
Let’s start by getting clear about what fault means legally and what that could mean for your state. Generally, fault is defined as causing the accident through one of four basic levels as recognized by common law:
- Intentional misconduct
- Strict liability
Many states have their own laws and regulations when it comes to how fault is found, and who is actually liable for paying for the damages owed. You should find out if you live in a no fault state, as this changes what you may have to do and can impact the compensation you may receive after being injured in an automotive accident.
Basically, the difference between at-fault and no-fault states is whether or not the victim has a right to sue, and who pays for the injured party’s damages. No-fault states include Florida, Hawai, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah, with Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania being choice states as drivers can choose between an at-fault or no-fault policy.
Generally, litigation occurs after a car accident when one party is seeking compensation for an injury, but this may not always be the case. If you think that you may be sued for the cost of injuries, a lawyer can help you manage the litigation process to help ensure you get the best deal possible for you and your life situation.
Do you know enough to handle your own case?
Before you decide to manage your case on your own, ask yourself if you really know enough to manage your case effectively. Trying to get a car accident lawyer halfway through the process can complicate matters greatly, so starting out with one is your best bet to getting the best outcome.
Because of how complex personal injury law can be, and how much paperwork, time, research and energy is needed to really fight for your case, doing it on your own can often be taxing, and draining. You are better off working with a lawyer specializing in car accidents and representing people in your situation. The experience, the knowledge and the resources that a knowledgeable and successful car accident lawyer can bring to your case is invaluable and well worth the cost.
Any legal case requires a lot of research, finding precedents, statutes, and pertinent rulings to be used in your favor. Are you willing to commit to the time necessary to sift through the legal literature in order to find the relevant cases to cite in court? Are you able to understand the sometimes opaque legal language that is used in such cases? Without enough research, you will be under-prepared to represent yourself in small claims court.
Have You Done Everything Necessary?
There are a lot of steps you need to take in order to have the best shot at getting the best deal from a car accident lawsuit where you are at fault. Be sure to do the following things to make sure you are able to get the help you need.
Contact with the police
As soon as possible after the accident, call the police so that they can take statements from the parties involved and so they can get any witness testimony. Police reports can be invaluable in court later if the plaintiff changes their story.
Cooperate with law enforcement or emergency services
Give your full cooperation with all law enforcement or emergency service providers. Failing to do so can aggravate your case, or make you look bad and be used against your in court.
Get all relevant information
Get all the contact information you and from everyone involved in the accident including, name, phone numbers, emails, addresses and the insurance information and license plate number as well as any witnesses.
Take as many photographs as you can safely take, being sure to get shots of the accident, the surroundings as well as any injuries. Get as detailed pictures as you can, from as many angles as you can. These photographs will be major evidence in court when determining liability.
Seek medical attention and report to your insurance companies
Get the medical attention you need, being sure to document the whole process. You should report to your car insurance company as well as your health insurance company any injuries you have suffered and give a detailed report of what happened and with as much accompanying evidence as you can.
Can You Successfully Negotiate?
A final thing you should consider when debating whether or not a car accident lawyer is right for you is are you actually capable of doing the negotiation process successfully?
You can be sure that the other party will have the best lawyer they or their insurance company can afford. They will be well prepared for any any all arguments you might come up with. You need to be just as prepared. Failing to do so can cost you more than you can afford.
Most cases settle outside of court with only a few making it to a small claims court. While it might not seem worth it to have legal representation for a settlement, but that is exactly where your lawyer can help you most. They can give you the legal insight, backed by years of research and experience handling cases just like yours, to be able to prepare you and give you exactly what you need to get the best outcome possible.