Some small car crash claims probably won’t benefit from a lawyer’s help, but many will. How can you tell the difference?
Calling a lawyer seems like a “big step,” and if you’re like a lot of people, you don’t want to take that step unless it’s really warranted.
It doesn’t take long after a minor car accident for you to ask yourself, “Should I hire a lawyer?” If it doesn’t occur to you, a friend or family member will surely suggest it.
But if your car accident wasn’t life-changing, didn’t send you to the hospital, and left your car intact, you might find yourself wondering, “Do I really need a lawyer?”
The answer — in a lawyer’s favorite turn of phrase — is it depends.
Minor Car Accidents Can Turn into Major Legal Headaches
Insurance companies are known for a lot of things, but being easy to work with isn’t one of them. Being fair and reasonable isn’t high on that list either.
You might think you have a relatively simple, small, straightforward insurance claim on your hands. But if there’s anyone that can complicate an insurance claim, it’s an insurance adjustor.
It isn’t uncommon for people to end up in an all-out battle with an insurance company after a minor car accident, as the insurer may dispute the damages, deny liability, insist on an unreasonably low settlement offer (or unreasonable settlement terms), or even reject your claim outright.
Sometimes, insurance companies try to rush a settlement. Other times, they try to drag a claim out as long as possible. Both of these are strategies on their part. Either way, it adds up to a lot of stress and pressure for you… and if they’re delaying your claim, it ends up being a real time eater too.
If the insurance company’s tactics are unreasonable enough, you might even have a claim for insurance bad faith, which could itself add considerable value to what seemed like a minor car accident claim.
One thing to keep in mind is this: if the insurance company is making resolution of your claim difficult, there is probably a reason for that, and it’s a good sign that you should talk to a lawyer.
You Might Be Wrong About it Being a “Minor” Car Accident
West Virginia personal injury law is complex. No blog article can take the place of a legal education. There’s just no way to Google yourself into expertise about the potential value of a personal injury claim.
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you might be entitled to more compensation than you realized. West Virginia recognizes a wide range of damages, and if you’ve suffered any of those damages, you deserve full and fair compensation for them.
No Injuries? No Pain? Barely a Scratch on the Fender?
If your accident was so minor that you barely know it happened, you might not need a lawyer to resolve things in your favor.
A light tap of bumper to grill at a stop sign, with nary a scratch on either vehicle and neither party in pain — these are the hallmarks of a minor car accident for which you probably shouldn’t hire a lawyer. In other words, there aren’t any damages or losses to speak of, and certainly no injuries.
That said, every situation is different, and it’s never wrong to at least talk to a lawyer.
A Classic “In-Between” Scenario
Let’s imagine a typical low-speed rear-end collision on the highway.
Your vehicle is damaged, but it’s drivable. It’ll need to go into the shop, but you don’t need a tow truck at the scene.
You’re in some pain, but you can move around. The accident has you rattled, but you’re able to leave the scene and drive home, no ambulance needed.
You’re pretty sure the other person is at fault because you’ve heard that the rear-most driver is usually at fault in rear-end accidents… but then again, you haven’t exactly studied the issue, so you’re less than 100% certain.
“Should I hire a lawyer for a minor car accident like this one?” you ask. This is a classic example of a situation where you should talk to a lawyer about the specifics before deciding either way. You should also see a physician (M.D.) right away for a post-accident medical exam.
Whether hiring a lawyer would benefit your claim in this situation will depend entirely on the specific facts, circumstances, and injuries.
In some situations, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain, injuries (such as whiplash), your doctor’s visit, any other treatments you might require (physical therapy or chiropractic care, for instance), and of course your property damage.
These types of damages might add up to more compensation than you realize (and more compensation than the insurance company is willing to admit at first).
In other situations, a lawyer might decide that there isn’t a lot of value that he or she could add to your claim, and therefore you might consider handling it on your own.
Lawyers Will Tell You if They Don’t Want Your Case
You might think, “Well if I ask a lawyer, of course they’re going to recommend that I hire them.” But when it comes to car accident cases, it doesn’t quite work like that.
Here’s why: personal injury attorneys usually take cases on a contingency fee basis. It means you don’t have to pay the law firm unless and until they get you money for your claim. Even then, their attorney’s fee is only a percentage of your total recovery.
This effectively means two things:
- Lawyers have an incentive to be honest and transparent with you about whether they think they can help with your claim. If they can’t, taking your case wouldn’t help anyone – you or them.
- If the lawyer does take your case, they have a strong incentive to fight for every single penny, because how much money they make on the case depends on how much money you recover for your claim.
So if you’re wondering, “Should I hire a lawyer for a minor car accident?” the best approach is really to talk directly to a lawyer and just ask.
At Colombo Law, we offer free, confidential, no-obligation consultations to car accident victims in West Virginia. These are available in person or over the phone, and it’s your chance to talk directly with a lawyer about your rights and any legal options that you might have. We’ll give you an honest assessment of whether we think we can help and, if so, how we can help.
After a consultation, you can decide whether you want to pursue your claim further, hire one of our Morgantown auto accident lawyers, or take a different approach.
Should I Hire a Car Accident Lawyer for a Minor Car Accident?: Signs to Look For
In closing our discussion, we want to offer a few strong signs that your case is not as minor as you may think:
- You have medical bills that add up to more than $5,000 or so (keeping in mind future medical bills that you might still receive in connection with the accident).
- Your vehicle is totaled, or the repairs are going to add up to more than $5,000 or so.
- Your pain or symptoms are getting worse.
- Your doctor has given you a diagnosis of any kind after the accident, or is recommending treatment, medication, or follow-up care.
- You went to the hospital, an Emergency Department, or rode in an ambulance.
- There is a dispute about who is at fault or how much your damages are worth.
- The insurance company is being difficult to work with.
- The legal and insurance issues involved in your claim seem overwhelming.
These are only examples. Even if these descriptions don’t mirror your experience, it still might be a good idea to at least talk with an attorney. Our Morgantown car accident lawyers are here to help.
Schedule a Cost-Free, No-Obligation Legal Consultation Today
In the majority of our cases, we have been able to negotiate favorable settlements without going to trial, getting our clients more money than the insurer was willing to offer before we got involved.
We fight to maximize compensation. Let us fight for you. Colombo Law proudly serves accident victims across the whole state of West Virginia, not only in Morgantown but also in Bridgeport, Buckhannon, Clarksburg, Elkins, Fairmont, Parkersburg, and Weston. Just dial 304-599-4229 or contact us online.