How Soon After a Car Accident Should You Retain an Attorney?
If you suffered injuries in a collision that wasn't your fault, you should contact an experienced car accident attorney right away before you even file your claim—and if possible, before you talk to the negligent driver’s insurance company.
By doing so, you'll strengthen your claim for compensation and avoid making inadvertent mistakes that could hurt your case. If you delay in hiring a lawyer, it could have significant negative consequences for your claim.
Why Waiting to Hire an Attorney Hurts Your Claim for Compensation
Many car crash victims delay contacting a lawyer because they believe they can negotiate a settlement, or are worried they cannot afford to retain an attorney.
However, you would be at a serious disadvantage if you try to settle your claim alone. An experienced claims adjuster will recognize your inexperience, and since his or her goal is to save the insurance company money, you may not be awarded all you deserve.
In addition, attorneys usually take car accident cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you wouldn't owe any attorney fees unless he obtains a settlement for you.
Here are some consequences of waiting to contact an attorney:
- Loss of injury documentation. While you may have taken a few pictures of your injuries, they may not convey the magnitude of how badly you were hurt. An attorney will most likely want to have more pictures and a video taken soon after your wreck to fully document your injuries for the claims adjuster, as well as the jury if your case goes to trial. If you wait too long to hire an attorney, your injuries could heal, and you would lose the documentation of them that can help increase your settlement.
- Loss of witnesses. Your attorney needs to interview any witnesses and obtain a written statement from them soon after your crash. If too much time passes before contacting them, witnesses may move, or their memories of the incident fade.
- Limitations on the investigation of your crash. When you contact an attorney right away, you give him the opportunity to conduct a more thorough investigation of the cause of your accident. He may visit the scene and locate evidence that you and the police missed; have an expert inspect the crash vehicles before they're repaired; and other important aspects of evidence gathering that he would be unable to do if you wait too long to get legal assistance.
- Lack of interest in your claim. Your delay in contacting an attorney could be interpreted by the negligent driver’s insurance company as a lack of interest in your claim. In addition, the claims adjuster could dispute whether the accident was the cause of your injuries, or if you were really as seriously injured as you say.
- Statute of limitations. If you wait too long to file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations, which is the time period to file a lawsuit, may have expired and you may lose your right to pursue a claim for compensation.
What happens if you didn't contact an attorney immediately? An experienced lawyer will have strategies for dealing with any problems that this could cause to your case. To learn how Alan Morton can help you, call our office to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.