Why Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
The main reason why you should hire a car accident lawyer after you’ve been hurt in a wreck is to ensure that your rights and claim are protected as you move forward.
In fact, while you focus on healing and getting medical treatments, a lawyer can provide essential help and representation, assisting you with things like (but not limited to):
- Determining all of the parties who are liable for the accident
- Assembling all of the necessary evidence for your case
- Navigating the intricacies of the claim process
- Negotiating settlements and challenging those who attempt to undercut (or avoid making) these payouts
- Helping you obtain the full amount of compensation you deserve.
In contrast, if you don’t hire a lawyer and, instead, try to financially recover on your own, it’s far more likely that your claim (and your rights) could be compromised by:
- Mistakes, such as missing claim deadlines
- Lost evidence, such as misplaced doctor’s bills
- Insurance companies (or others) who are focused on (and experienced at) minimizing or denying compensation to accident victims.
An attorney will NOT cost you anything upfront. In fact, you will not have to pay a lawyer anything:
- For an initial consultation, during which you can get helpful legal advice regarding your claim (and what you need to do to protect it as you move forward)
- Until or unless there is a financial award in your case – This is because our auto accident attorneys work on contingency (meaning we don't get paid unless and until you do). Our contingency-fee representation is intended to help victims avoid incurring additional financial stress as they get on the road to recovery.
No, you will NOT be obligated to pay any legal fees if you don't win your case. Please be aware that, here, when we say “win,” we mean that a financial award has been obtained for your claim (with financial awards referring to either settlements or verdicts).
So, if no compensation is granted for your claim, you will not be responsible for paying us any legal fees. That is our promise to all car accident victims who we represent. And we put that in writing when you decide to hire us.
No, you should not accept any settlement offer before (or without) first talking to a lawyer. The reason is that an attorney can look over the offer and explain whether (or not) it's fair. In fact, you should also be aware that, when it comes to settlement offers for crash victims:
- Insurance companies commonly lowball offers in the hope (or expectation) that victims don't know their rights and/or that a desperate need for money will push them to just take what's offered.
- Insurers are not above using tricky tactics to try to compel victims to implicitly accept lesser offers. For instance, insurance companies may just send a check, and cashing that check can constitute the acceptance of an offer (and the end of the claim) – regardless of whether victims were aware that they had accepted the offer.
Bottom line: If you're serious about obtaining the full amount of compensation you're entitled to for the accident, it's in your best interests to consult a lawyer before you accept or decline any settlement offer.
A release of liability is a legally binding form that officially releases the at-fault party (and its insurance company) from any liability for the crash. Once you sign a release of liability, you will not be able to bring any claim or lawsuit against the responsible parties in the future. It's not uncommon for insurance companies to try to get victims to sign a release of liability and settle quickly (usually for less than the victim really deserves). Whether or not you should sign a release of liability will depend on your situation and, specifically, factors like:
- Whether you have been offered an adequate settlement
- How soon after the car crash you are being asked to sign this release – Car accident injuries can take time to fully present themselves. Signing a release before the full scope of your injuries is known can mean that you end up losing part of the compensation you deserve (to treat late-presenting injuries like, for instance, back injuries).
Bottom line: If you are asked to sign a release of liability, talk to a lawyer before you sign anything. An attorney can analyze your situation and advise you of your best options for protecting your rights and the value of your claim.
The value of your car accident claim will depend on at least a few different factors, including (but not necessarily limited to):
- The nature of the negligence involved – South Carolina is a comparative negligence state. This means that car accident victims can be entitled to compensation for their crash-related losses just as long as they were not more negligent than any other involved party. So, even if you did play a role in causing an auto accident, if another party was more negligent and played a bigger role in causing the crash, you can still be awarded compensation (though it will be reduced according to your level of fault). In other words, how the negligence or fault for the crash is split between the involved parties will impact the value of an accident claim.
- The extent of your injuries and losses – More serious injuries and more extensive losses will typically lead to higher values for car accident cases. This is because, when victims have lost more, it will take more to compensate and restore them. Doctors' bills, vehicle repair bills and even bank statements (showing lost wages) can all be helpful evidence when it's time to prove your crash-related losses.
- The strength or viability of your claim – What you can (and cannot) prove matters when it's time to work out the value of your case. This is due to the fact that, if you can't prove that another party was at fault – or just how extensively the crash injured or harmed you, it opens up room to argue that maybe you were at least partially at fault and/or you weren't that badly hurt or harmed by the auto wreck. That, in turn, can lead to lower offers.
Bottom line: Talk to a lawyer to find out how much your car accident case is worth. An attorney can go over the details of your crash and claim and realistically evaluate it.
Yes, you likely can sue the drunk driver who caused your crash. You should, however, know that you may also be able to seek compensation – prior to filing a suit and going to court – via an insurance claim with the drunk driver's insurance carrier (provided, of course, that the drunk driver is insured). Insurers are usually eager to settle drunk driving accident cases because they know they'll face an uphill battle in court (and could be ordered to pay giant verdicts to sympathetic victims). Another important consideration here is the cost and time associated with filing a suit and going to court. In many cases, it can be in victims' best interest to try to pursue an out-of-court, pre-trial settlement so they can:
- Obtain the financial recoveries much sooner
- Avoid dragging a case out for months (or maybe even longer)
- Start putting the accident behind them and moving on with their lives.
If insurers fail to offer adequate settlements, however, going to court may be necessary – and a better option for victims.
Bottom line: A lawyer can explain your best options for pursuing financial recovery after reviewing the specifics of your case and understanding your needs and goals. The key takeaway here is that drunk driving accident victims do have options for taking civil action to hold a negligent motorist liable – and the choice they make can impact how soon their case is resolved and how much compensation they end up receiving.
Financial recoveries for car accidents are intended to restore victims for the injuries, damage and losses they have sustained as a result of a crash. As such, these compensatory damages can include awards for the following types of losses.
Call Chappell, Smith & Arden at (803) 929-3600 or contact us online to start getting helpful answers about your options – and to discover what you can do as you move forward to protect your rights and claim.