Why You Should Get a Lawyer After a Car Accident
Conventional wisdom has it that if you’re ever in a situation where you are rhetorically contemplating the question “should I call a lawyer?” the answer is invariably “yes.”
As amusing as that anecdote might be, the truth is there are numerous situations in life where the advice of a qualified attorney can not only be vital to your financial well-being, It can also prevent you from creating a legal nightmare for yourself and your family. One of those situations is a traffic accident.
Everyone would love to believe that a car crash can be navigated by simply producing proof of insurance, signing the tow truck receipt and getting on with your day. The truth, however, isn’t quite that simple. Few situations are fraught with more unexpected peril than a car accident, especially for a person not well acquainted with humanity’s potential for treachery.
The key to avoiding these kinds of problems is preparation. Before you find yourself on the spot with a clock ticking, here are some things you should consider.
If you’re in an accident, see to the safety of all involved. Render first aid where appropriate. Get your car out of harm’s way. Make sure nobody is in danger. Contact authorities where appropriate or required by law.
Make Things Easier
Your future attorney will be relieved when they learn you follow prudent advice. Suppose you have an accident in Queens, New York. You’ve heard others suggest you should always hire a lawyer after a car accident. Even so, topping the list of recommendations at an accident scene is to remain silent. Do not answer any questions regarding the cause or details of the accident, other than cooperating with the police and providing the police with your version of the collision. Identify yourself, provide the necessary documentation if required to do so and then leave the rest of the talking to your lawyer.
This is a vital preparatory step towards making sure you don’t end up paying everyone else’s bills. It will also put you in the strongest possible position if there is potential criminal liability. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut.
Since you will save considerable time that would normally be spent exposing yourself to all sorts of liability, use that time wisely. Roll up your windows. Lock your car. Put your belongings in the trunk. Pocket your keys. Authorize no search of your person or property. Your future attorney will be thrilled.
After you are clear of the accident scene and are no longer in danger of implicating yourself, you can act on that advice to hire a lawyer after a car accident. Once all the preliminaries are out of the way, and you have retained counsel, their first job should be to talk to your insurance company on your behalf. The money you save on future rate increases as a result will likely cover the costs of your representation and also very likely help you keep your policy in the first place.
The reason this is so important is because your insurance company is not your friend. They are going to be looking for ways to avoid covering your damages, and they will be very grateful if you provide them with justification for not only denying your claim but dropping you as a customer. Unlike yourself, your attorney has considerable experience and knowledge of your state’s insurance code, especially if they have dealt with accidents in places like Queens in New York City. He or she will be able to report your accident while simultaneously preserving your ability to make a successful claim and avoid rate increases. This alone should be reason enough to hire an attorney the moment you are able.
Alongside the inevitable dispute with your own insurance company, you have to remember the other involved drivers likely all have insurance policies as well. In places like New York City, you may have potential civil liability in the accident for things like property damage, vehicle damage, tow fees, medical costs and so forth. Having an attorney who can protect your interests while negotiating with all these various parties is vital to avoiding a situation where you might inadvertently expose yourself to unnecessary liability.
In many accidents, there is police involvement as well. Insurance companies and your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will rely on the police report taken at the scene to help determine fault in the accident. While this is certainly expedient, legally speaking juries are finders of fact, not police officers. If you end up defending your driving privilege in court an attorney is no longer a luxury.
There is also the potential for criminal charges related to any car accident. These can range from simple infractions like unsafe lane changes to felonies like reckless driving or driving under the influence. It is for these reasons, among others, you should follow the advice above regarding your Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights and let your attorney deal with the police.
Almost everyone of driving age has been exposed to a lifetime of television commercials for legal services. Beware of national or regional marketing law firms and cheap sales talk. These type of firms outsource the clients to a network of affiliates. These marketing firms also cherry-pick their clients and a case appearing modest might not get the retention and services it really deserves. The business model of some of these marketing or advertising firms is a volume business. You’ll be one among so many, so that if the maximum recovery is not sought or obtained for you, no big deal for that big firm.
The best way to retain a personal injury lawyer is through word-of-mouth and carefully reviewing the lawyer’s credentials, experience, knowledge, recognizitions and track-record. You also must find out if this lawyer will actually work on your case or will it be delegated to a paralegal and you’ll never see or hear from the lawyer again. You must ascertain whether you and your case will get responsive and personalized attention or will you be treated just like another file number. These are important questions to probe during your consultation. You want an experienced lawyer who takes your case to heart.
The true benefit of having an attorney isn’t just winning at trial or shutting down a fraudulent dispute. The true benefit is in the kind of preparatory steps hiring an attorney will require you to take. Thinking like an attorney is often the difference between winning and winning big.
Car accidents are disorienting. Anyone can be forgiven for failing to react perfectly. At the same time, as a driver you have to be aware that the minutes and hours following your accident are perilous for both you and your family. Making a hasty statement, authorizing an illegal search or getting into a freewheeling discussion of fault at the scene are all things thinking like an attorney will prevent. You pay your lawyer to take care of the rest.
Most reputable attorneys provide free consultations. Take advantage of these offers and spend an hour to hire the right attorney. It is almost a foregone conclusion your attorney will be able to recommend all manner of things you might not have considered. The real question you have to ask yourself is this: Is saving that hour worth the risk to my finances and my family?
Always feel free to consult in confidence and for free with Michael Manoussos & Co PLLC, a boutique and premier New York City personal injury law firm based in Queens, New York.