You always have the right to represent yourself in a car accident case. But in some situations, hiring an injury lawyer can improve your outcome. A lawyer could even turn a losing case into a winning one.
When you hire a lawyer, you reap the benefit of years of legal training. You also get someone with experience dealing with claims adjusters and defense lawyers.
This article will explore when you should hire a car accident lawyer for your case.
How a Lawyer Can Help with Insurance Companies
Georgia uses a fault-based auto insurance system. After a car accident, you must file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer. This rule is the reason you exchange insurance information at the scene of an accident.
After you file your claim, the insurance company assigns a claims adjuster to your case. The claims adjuster investigates your claim and determines whether to pay or deny the claim.
Insurance companies do not hire claims adjusters because they want to pay more claims. They hire claims adjusters to make sure they do not pay claims unless legally required. As a result, claims adjusters will delay, reduce, and deny your claim to try to save money.
A car accident lawyer can help you deal with several different roadblocks in the claims process, including:
If Your Claim Is Taking Too Long
Under Georgia law, insurers must make a good faith effort to resolve claims promptly. Georgia gives insurers 15 days to review claims after they receive proof of loss forms from you. These forms document the damages you sustained from the accident.
If the insurer needs more time to investigate, it can get up to 45 additional days after notifying you of the delay. This combined limit means that insurers should provide you with a letter either accepting or denying your claim within 60 days of your proof of loss forms.
Sometimes this does not happen. Some insurers will ask for additional information to delay the start of the 15 days. Others will deny your claim or make a low offer to meet the deadline.
As you haggle back and forth with the insurer, time can drag on. During this time, your medical bills might go unpaid. You might even need to delay medical treatment or physical therapy. This delay might have a ripple effect if your untreated injuries prevent you from earning a living.
Contacting a lawyer can help push the process toward a fair settlement. Claims adjusters often avoid playing games with lawyers. If negotiations go nowhere, a lawyer can simply cut off negotiations and file a lawsuit.
If Your Claim Is Denied
Insurers need to explain the reasons for claim denials. Once you understand the reasons, you can respond with additional evidence. A lawyer can help you understand why your claim was denied.
More importantly, a lawyer can develop the evidence that can overcome the claim denial. If the insurer denied the claim because of questions about liability, the lawyer could submit police reports, photos of the accident, or witness statements to prove liability.
If the insurer questions causation, a lawyer can submit medical records that connect your injuries to your accident. Claims adjusters may even question the treatment you received for your injuries. Your lawyer can get a letter from your doctor explaining the medical necessity of your treatment.
If Your Settlement Offer Seems Low
If the insurer agrees to pay your claim, the claims adjuster will make a settlement offer. However, most non-lawyers have no way to evaluate whether a settlement offer is fair.
A car accident lawyer works with injury cases every day. A lawyer also knows the range of damage awards you could get if you reject a settlement and file a lawsuit. This knowledge helps a car accident lawyer determine when the claims adjuster has made a low offer or a fair offer.
The attorney can negotiate with the insurer to increase a low offer. Starting with your past and future medical expenses and lost income, your lawyer can estimate the low end of the settlement range.
Once the lawyer adds in your compensation for pain and suffering, you can get an idea of the high end of the range. The lawyer can then present evidence and arguments to get a fair settlement for your case.
How a Lawyer Can Help if the Case Fails to Settle
If your case fails to settle, you face an important decision. You must either drop your claim or proceed with a lawsuit.
A lawyer can explain the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit. The lawyer can lay out your likelihood of success and evaluate the damages you might expect to recover.
If you decide to proceed with the lawsuit, you will almost certainly need a lawyer. The assistance that a lawyer will provide can include:
Guidance with Substantive Law
The law surrounding negligence can get tricky.
Even a simple case where the other driver caused the accident could raise additional legal issues, including:
- Your contribution to the accident
- The cause of your injuries
- The scale of your damages
Addressing these issues will require a lawyer familiar with negligence law.
Help with Court Procedure
Although you have the right to represent yourself in court, self-representation can jeopardize your case. Courts use specialized vocabulary and confusing procedures that can even ensnare experienced lawyers from time to time. Failing to follow these procedures can mire your claim or result in a dismissal.
When you hire a lawyer, you get the benefit of the lawyer’s staff. Legal administrative assistants and paralegals have training and experience in court rules and procedures. This expertise can ensure that a judge does not dismiss your case on a technicality.
Presenting Your Case to a Jury
If your case reaches trial, someone will need to present your case to a jury. Jury trials require more than standing in front of a jury and explaining why you deserve to win.
To succeed, you must know the rules of evidence. You must present evidence that proves each element of a negligence claim. You must also rebut the defendant’s evidence.
These skills are second nature to an experienced trial lawyer. Hiring a lawyer to try your case will vastly increase your chances of winning your lawsuit.