Should I Get a Lawyer for an Auto Accident?
It is generally in your best interest to speak to a lawyer after any motor vehicle accident. Although you may assume that insurance will take care of everything, in reality it can be difficult to recover all of the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
An auto accident lawyer in Orlando can review your case and advise you of your options for pursuing compensation. Contact Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter today for a free case review.
Reasons to Hire a Lawyer After an Auto Accident
An experienced lawyer can assist you with many aspects of your accident claim. Some of the most important ways an attorney can help you include:
1. Identify Your Claim Options
Florida is a “no-fault” insurance state. As such, injured motorists are generally barred from filing claims against careless drivers who cause accidents. Instead, they must turn to their own insurance company for payment of losses such as medical expenses and lost income.
If you have been injured in an auto accident, you will first need to file a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance claim. However, if you suffer a serious injury (as defined by Florida law), you may be able to recover full compensation in a claim against the at-fault driver.
An auto accident lawyer can review your medical records and other evidence in your case to determine if your injury meets the criteria for a “serious injury.” If you qualify, you may be entitled to compensation beyond what PIP covers, including “pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience.”
2. Assess Fault
As with other types of personal injury cases, you must prove that the negligence of one or more parties directly caused your injuries in the auto accident. Most fault-based accident claims are filed against the driver of another vehicle.
Your lawyer will investigate to determine (a). how the accident occurred and (b). who is at fault. Common examples of driver negligence include:
- Following another vehicle too closely
- Running a red light, stop sign, or other traffic sign
- Distracted driving
- Driving while intoxicated
- Aggressive driving
Depending on the circumstances, other parties may also be at fault for an auto accident. Thorough investigation by your lawyer may reveal evidence of fault on the part of:
- A commercial business: In truck accident claims and other cases involving commercial vehicles, one or more companies may be liable for the negligence of an employee driver.
- An automaker or parts manufacturer: Vehicle defects may result in single-car accidents or collisions with other vehicles. The manufacturer of a defective part may be liable for the crash, along with other parties involved in the design, distribution, and sale of the vehicle.
- A construction company: If you are in an auto accident in a poorly designed or mismanaged construction zone, the company responsible for the road work may be liable.
- A government entity: State and local authorities are responsible for keeping roads in safe condition. You may have a claim against a government entity if the accident was caused by negligent maintenance of the roadway.
Multiple parties may be liable in your auto accident claim. Recovering full compensation for your injuries and damages is contingent on identifying all of the at-fault parties.
3. Calculate the Damages
If you suffer serious injuries in an auto accident, it is important to be aware of the full extent of damages to which you may be entitled. Should the at-fault driver’s insurance company offer you a settlement, you need to be able to determine if it’s fair before you accept.
Generally, damages in an auto accident case are divided into two categories:
- Economic damages, including medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity (the income you are expected to lose if your injuries render you unable to work), and other out-of-pocket expenses. Unlike with PIP insurance (which only covers a percentage of your medical bills and lost wages), you can pursue compensation for the totality of your economic losses in a fault-based claim.
- Non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, disability, scarring and disfigurement, and loss of consortium. These damages compensate you not for direct financial losses but for the negative impact of the accident and your injuries on your quality and enjoyment of life, as well as relationships with your loved ones.
Your auto accident lawyer will collect evidence on your behalf in support of the damages in your case. Documentary evidence (such as medical records, medical bills, statements showing lost wages, photographs, etc.) and testimony from experts can help establish your right to compensation.
4. Negotiate a Fair Settlement
In a fault-based auto accident claim, the negligent driver’s insurance company is generally the party liable for paying your damages. The insurance company may deny your claim or offer a low settlement in the hopes that you will cease further legal action.
Attempting to negotiate with the insurance company on your own can be overwhelming. Therefore, it is important to hire a lawyer to represent you in negotiations with the insurer.
An experienced auto accident lawyer will protect your rights and act in your best interest in settlement negotiations. Your attorney can apprise you of settlement offers, provide guidance on whether or not the offer meets your needs, and discuss your options for pursuing maximum compensation.
5. Litigating Your Auto Accident Case
In the event that your claim does not settle for a fair amount, you may need to take your case to court. At trial, your auto accident lawyer will present evidence, call witnesses, and make a strong argument for why you deserve the damages you are seeking.
Your lawyer should be prepared to take your case to a verdict. However, if the insurance company offers a fair settlement during the course of the trial, you and your attorney can discuss accepting the offer and ending the courtroom proceedings.
The majority of auto accident claims are resolved via settlement with the insurance company. If your case does not settle, however, it is important to work with a lawyer who has extensive courtroom experience.
Many attorneys spend little to no time in court. If your case goes to trial, you need a proven trial attorney to represent you.
Contact an Auto Accident Lawyer in Orlando Today
The attorneys at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter have over a century of combined experience representing injured people. We understand the hardships faced by individuals who are seriously injured in auto accidents. Our team provides personalized service and persistently pursues fair compensation for our clients.
Please call (407) 712-7300 today to speak with an auto accident lawyer in Orlando. Your initial consultation is free.