Is It Worth Getting a Lawyer for a Minor Car Accident?

Two cars in an accident in an intersection; image by Shuets Udono, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

One of the best ways to find a lawyer near you is through your local bar association.

After car accidents, most people wonder what to do next. An important question that arises in such a situation is whether it is worthwhile for me to get a lawyer. This question is particularly common after minor car accidents. Who wants to spend money on a lawyer if it isn’t necessary? If you can settle the case yourself and claim damages without a lawyer, why not? To investigate these questions further, we reached out to the Richmond, VA auto accident attorneys at River Run Law.

Consulting with a lawyer or two after a car accident is always a good idea

Even when a car accident and the damage it causes is relatively minor, consulting with a car accident attorney or two is a smart move. Seasoned auto accident attorneys have seen it all, even in situations where their services are not required.

If you explain your situation and circumstances to a lawyer and they tell you you don’t need a lawyer, it is a good sign that you can go through the settlement process without them. Conversely, a lawyer you consult with may identify underlying complications in your case that make it unwise to proceed without the services of a lawyer. Finding legal advice should alleviate your concerns one way or another.

Consultations are a low risk endeavor

Part of what makes hiring an attorney so daunting is the fact that attorneys can be expensive. Fortunately, many auto accident lawyers work on contingency fee and offer free advice. If a car accident attorney offers you free advice, you don’t have much to lose if you accept the offer.

Even minor car accident damage can quickly worsen

Damage from car accidents is rapidly increasing. This is true even if whiplash is the only injury you will suffer. Whiplash may feel relatively minor, and it often is, but it isn’t always. Sometimes it can take years for whiplash to recover. Whiplash can also worsen over time without adequate treatment. Proper recovery from whiplash can include specialist medical treatment, physical rehabilitation, and lost work time, the costs of which add up quickly.

Injury, knee, orthosis and pain HD photo by rawpixel (@rawpxel) on Unsplash.

A car accident attorney will ensure that you receive the correct medical treatment for your injuries so they don’t get worse. Regardless of the injuries you suffer, your attorney will help you prosecute those damages so you can prove it and get back the compensation you deserve.

If you don’t have a lawyer, insurance companies can try to take advantage of you

Even after a minor accident, if you don’t have a lawyer, insurance companies can try to take advantage of you.

One of the tactics insurance companies use against someone who has no legal representation is to make lowball settlement offers and use forced negotiation tactics. A lowball comparison offer is one that does not fully compensate you for any damage you suffer. Insurance companies can make it appear that their lowball deal is the best deal you can get and try to pressure you to take it up.

Car accident attorneys are able to identify and decline lowball settlement offers. After all, lawyers are professional negotiators. Whenever you need to negotiate, it is good to have a professional by your side.

Some settlements happen quickly, but other settlements can take a long time

Settlements are not always quick. Another coercive tactic that insurance companies use against someone without legal representation is to delay the settlement process. This has two purposes. First, the longer the case takes to settle, the more desperate the other party’s settlement.

The second purpose of delaying an agreement is to approach the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations determines how long you have to file a legal claim in court after an incident. Once the statute of limitations has expired, you will no longer be able to bring the lawsuit to court. By pulling out the settlement process with someone who has no legal representation, the insurance companies are hoping to force them to accept a lowball settlement as they run out of time to hire an attorney and file a claim in court. If you already have a lawyer, this is a situation you can avoid.

When you might not need to hire a lawyer

The best way to know you don’t need to hire a lawyer is to consult a few car accident lawyers in person. If both of them say you don’t need a lawyer to make a claim, that’s a good sign that you’ll be fine without one. Some of the reasons you might not need a lawyer are:

  • The amount of damage in question is small enough not to go beyond the Small Claims Court.
  • An insurance company already offers you a settlement that fully compensates for your damage.
  • The legal fees exceed your total damage (ie if you suffered property damage on your own and your car is of relatively low value); or
  • The total damage in your case does not make financial sense to the attorney.

If you find yourself in any of the above situations, you probably don’t need to hire a car accident attorney.

Find the right lawyer for your case

When you do decide to hire a car accident attorney, you want to find the right one for your specific needs. This is not always easy – schedule consultations with some lawyers to find the right one for your case. Before meeting with any of the lawyers, prepare a list of questions to ask all of them. By asking them the same questions, you can objectively compare their answers. Consider adding these questions to your list.

Bar associations can help you connect with the right attorney

One of the best ways to find a lawyer near you is through your local bar association. State and local bar associations often have referral services to connect clients with attorneys. For convenience, the American Bar Association maintains a directory of all State Bar Association remittance sites.