When Do You Need to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?

You got into a car accident and now you’re wondering what you should do. You’re struggling with some pretty serious injuries and know that your medical bills are adding up quickly. You also know that you might be able to recover compensation from an insurance company or an at-fault party.

Is this something you should try to handle on your own, or does it make sense to hire a New York City personal injury lawyer? While it’s true that you could try to negotiate a settlement yourself, you’re much more likely to maximize your award and secure a meaningful financial award with a qualified lawyer on your side. Here’s when it makes the most sense for you to bring in a personal injury attorney to handle your car accident case.

1. When you have to negotiate with an insurance company.

New York has “no-fault” insurance rules. This simply means that you have to turn to your insurance provider for benefits after an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Your insurer will be the primary source of compensation after you get hurt. 

While insurance company ads on TV and marketing campaigns might say that they’re on your side, they’re really not. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses who care about one thing – making a profit. Paying out benefits when customers submit insurance claims doesn’t help them achieve that goal. So, they’ll do anything and everything to pay you as little as humanly possible – or nothing, at all. 

Insurance companies handle injury claims every day. In fact, they designed the process. So, they know how to work the system in their favor. The best thing you can do is to bring in an attorney who also has experience handling injury claims. Your lawyer will be able to anticipate the insurer’s tactics and ultimately force them to play by the rules. When you’re represented by an attorney, insurance companies are more likely to extend fair, reasonable settlement offers.

2. You’ve been blamed for your car accident and/or resulting injuries.

No one wants to take responsibility for a car accident. Everyone involved – and their insurance providers – will point fingers and try to assign blame. You might want to prepare to be blamed for your own accident. If you don’t fight these allegations, they could really hurt your ability to recover compensation. New York is a comparative fault state. Your contributions to an accident will directly impact how much money you can recover for your injuries. Your damages will be reduced by your degree of fault. If other parties are able to shift all of the blame to you, you’ll get nothing.

Hiring an attorney can really help to protect you from these types of claims. Your lawyer can make sure that your accident is thoroughly investigated by experts. The investigation can provide insight to why the accident happened and who is at fault. That information can be invaluable as you pursue compensation.

3. Your accident has caused emotional distress and interfered with your ability to enjoy your life.

After an accident, you’ll typically be able to seek two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are paid to compensate for injuries that have a specific cost or value. This can include things like medical bills, the cost of replacing or repairing damaged property, or the value of your lost wages.

Non-economic damages are paid to compensate for injuries that are much more subjective. They don’t have one set value and are much more difficult to calculate. They can vary widely from one case to the next. These include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress (e.g., PTSD, depression, anxiety), and loss of consortium.

Since non-economic damages are so difficult to value in monetary terms, it’s really important to make sure that you work with an attorney when negotiating a settlement. Insurance companies and negligent parties will try to downplay the effect the injuries have on your life. They’ll try to drive down how much they are worth. Your lawyer, with the aid and counsel of experts, can fight to make sure that all of your damages, including those that are subjective, are valued properly. You risk leaving a lot of money on the table if you simply accept a case valuation prepared by an insurer or defendant.