Frequently Asked Questions About Auto Accidents

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  1. Make a Claim for Injuries
  2. What if you're sued
  3. Physical Check up After Accident?
  4. Getting Emergency Help After an Accident?
  5. What if the Other Driver doesn't have Insurance?
  6. How do Attorney Fee Structures work?
  7. What is an Attorney Client privilege?
  8. What if you're an accident with property damage, but no personal injuries, is it necessary to hire a Lawyer?
  9. Should you see a doctor after an accident even if you feel uninjured?
  10. Are estimates for body repairs from a shop that the insurance company assigned usually fair?
  11. How should you deal being injured as a passenger in your friends car?

1)Q: What if I want to make a claim for my injuries?

     A: If the other driver was at fault, you may be entitled to compensation - for your personal injuries, pain and suffering, car damage and other expenses, such as lost wages or the cost of a nurse needed after the accident. You should make a auto accident injury claim with the other driver's insurance company a.s.a.p . But, if you are not satisfied with the amount they offer, you may want to contact a attorney .

If you plan to sue, do not delay. There are time limits for filing various types of claims - usually one to two year after the accident, but sometimes much less so act quickly, you can sue for $5,000 or less in small claims court. A lawyer can't represent you in this court, but you can talk with one beforehand.

If you want to sue for a larger amount, you will need your own lawyer. An insurance company lawyer cannot represent you if you are the person who is suing (the"plaintiff"). Many lawyers take accident cases on a contingent "fee" basis. That means you do not pay the lawyer if you lose the case. If you win, you pay the lawyer a percentage of the money you get. Most lawyers charge a smaller percentage if the case is settled before the lawyer does all the work necessary to go to trial. If you and your lawyer agree to a contingent fee, the lawyer must put the agreement in writing and give you a signed copy. The contract should explain what percentage the lawyer will get if you win and how it might vary. It should also state who will pay for any court costs.

2) Q: What if someone sues me?

     A: Contact your insurance agent and/or your lawyer right away. Generally, your insurance company will assign a lawyer to handle your case. But, if you are sued for more money than your policy covers in your car accident with insurance, you may need your own attorney too. Also, insurance company lawyers do not handle traffic citations or criminal cases, such as hit and run charges. If you are charged with a crime and cannot afford a lawyer, call your county's Public Defender. Depending on your income, you may qualify for free assistance. To find the Public Defender, look in the white pages under the name of your county.

3) Q: Should I get physical check-up after the accident?

     A: A check-up may be a good idea for both you and your passengers. You could be injured and not know it right away. At least call your doctor or another health care provider for help in deciding what your needs may be. Your automobile insurance may pay your health care bills.

4) Q: How can I get help after an Accident?

     A: As soon as you can get to telephone, call 911. Explain the situation and give your exact locations, so help can arrive quickly. Be sure to mention whether you need an ambulance or a fire engine. Or, flag down a passing car, and ask the driver to go for help. Perhaps the driver will a cellular phone in the car and can make an emergency call on the spot.

Have you or someone you know been involved in an auto accident? If so, contact one of our experienced auto accident lawyers in your area today!

5) Q: What should I do if the other driver does not have insurance?

    A: If the other driver caused the accident and is not insured, your own policy will pay for your personal injuries - if you have "uninsured motorist" or medical payments" coverage. If the other driver's insurance is not enough to pay for all of your damages, your own insurance may pay the difference - if you have "underinsured motorist" coverage. If you do not have these kinds of insurance or if your damages are more than the policy's limit, you can sue the other driver. However, even if you win the case, you cannot be sure that the other driver has the money to pay. If you have collision insurance, it will pay for damage to your car, no matter who is at fault.

6) Q: How do Attorney Fee Structures work?

    A: Most attorneys charge by the hour. Other fee structures include flat fees, contingent fees or retainer fees. The following provides a simple explanation of how each kind of fee structure works.

The hourly rate primarily depends on the attorney's experience, although other factors include operating expenses and the location of the practice. An experienced attorney may also be able to give you a better estimate of how much (s)he will end up charging you.

Attorneys will charge a flat fee when dealing with a more common legal matter, such as composing a will or drafting bankruptcy filings. When dealing with a flat fee, ask what it covers.

Another common fee structure includes a retainer fee. Retainer fees involve creating an escrow account into which you pay in advance, and they deduct from this account in accordance with their hourly rate.

Attorneys occasionally use a contingent fee structure. In this kind of fee structure, the attorney does not charge any fees, but instead takes a percentage of the settlement (usually 33%) and fronts all costs related to bringing the matter. Contingent fee structures are usually used in personal injury cases and debt collection cases, but are not allowed in divorce, criminal or child custody cases.

7) Q: What is attorney-client privilege?

    A: Attorney-client privilege means that any legal information or matter that you discuss with your attorney cannot be discussed with anyone else. Aside from a few exceptions and unless you consent to release legal information pertaining to your case, s(he) is required, by law, to keep all of your information confidential

8) Q: If I’m in a car accident with property damage, but no personal injuries, can’t I just settle with the insurance company without involving a lawyer?

     A: Yes. And in simple car accident cases that is often the best solution. But keep in mind that all insurance companies have one goal in mind when handling car accident claims, to reach a settlement, no matter if it is an accident whiplash settlement, or car accident injury settlement, to their greatest advantage as quickly as possible. Insurance companies are looking out for their interests—not yours. If you feel you are being rushed into a settlement or that you are not receiving just compensation for your property damage, you are within your rights to consult with an attorney.

9) Q: I was recently involved in an automobile accident, and while my car was damaged, I was uninjured. My friend keeps telling me I should see a doctor anyway, but I feel fine. What should I do?

     A: Listen to your friend. Even if you feel fine now, you may have suffered injuries that will surface at a later date. A doctor familiar with car accident injuries will be able to advise you on common injuries and what symptoms to look for. Laws vary by state, but once you accept a settlement check from an insurance company, it will be difficult if not impossible to reopen negotiations for damages discovered at a later date. It might be a good idea to consult with a personal injury lawyer in your state so you know what options you have.

10) Q: My car was damaged in an accident and I’ve received repair estimates from service shops my insurance company sent me to. How can I be sure I’m receiving a fair settlement and these repair shops will fix my car correctly?

       A: More likely than not, your insurance company sent you to these shops because they’ve worked with them before and trust them to do good work at a reasonable price. But you are right to be cautious. Once you agree to a settlement, there is usually no turning back. And while your coverage might pay for repairs, you still want to be sure the repairs are done right. If you feel unsure about the mechanic, or the extent of damage, or the costs to repair, you are within your rights to consult the advice of a car accident attorney who can advise you on the best course of action.

11) Q: I was injured in a car accident in which my friend was driving. I was a passenger in her car and was injured in the crash. Now I am trying to receive payment from my friend for my medical costs but this is causing a huge problem for our friendship. My friend thinks I’m being unfair. What should I do?

       A: You were an injured party in the car accident, and you are absolutely within your legal and moral rights to seek compensation for your injuries. You—and your friend—need to remember that you are not technically seeking compensation from her, but rather her insurance company. This is what we all carry insurance for. Liability coverage, which is required in almost all 50 states, is intended to cover medical and property damage costs in exactly this situation.

Also, you don’t mention if your friend was at fault in the accident. Your attorney probably advised you to seek compensation from her because you were a passenger in her car. However, it is important to know how to determine fault in a car accident. This makes sense. But remember, if the other driver is eventually found at fault, the claim will be dropped from your friend’s policy and transferred to the responsible party.

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