D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has appeared on legaladvice.com, themanifest.com, and vice.com.

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Nov 5, 2019

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Unless you or another party were injured in your car accident, you probably do not need a lawyer to handle your car insurance claims. For minor injuries that don’t inhibit your everyday activities and heal within a week or two, your insurance company can take care of you throughout the entire process: car repairs, medical bills, and other financial issues. While it may feel at times that you are navigating the claims process solo, your insurance company’s representatives should be there to answer your questions and solve problems for you the entire time.

When can I file a Lawsuit?

There are limitations to whom you can sue. Certain states allow drivers to recover a settlement for pain and suffering and lost wages from their own insurers. Other states limit such settlements to victims who are suing an at-fault driver.

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When Should I Bring a Lawyer into the Picture?

If you stand to receive a settlement for minor injuries resulting in less than $1,000 in medical bills, you can negotiate a settlement with an adjuster on your own simply by educating yourself on the process. Claims of this size are considered “small claims”, and hiring an attorney to assist in the settlement process would only be a waste of money. If there are no issues acquiring enough money from your insurance company, you should be able to avoid hiring an attorney.

In this case, all you can hope for is for your insurance company to pay an adequate amount to cover your medical expenses and lost wages, and for damages caused to your car.

If you were seriously injured in an accident – racking up at least $1,000 in medical bills – you may benefit from hiring an attorney if you don’t feel you are getting enough money from your insurance company. You may also benefit from hiring an attorney if you were in an accident that involved:

  • A defective car part.
  • A motorcycle.
  • A pedestrian or bicyclist.
  • A drunk driver or driver under the influence of a substance.
  • A head-on collision.
  • Road construction.
  • An 18-wheeler or bus.
  • Permanent injury.
  • Missed work and wages for which you have not been reimbursed.
  • Inadequate coverage for your injuries or damages.

Under these circumstances, you shouldn’t wait to consult with an attorney. If you spend too much time negotiating with the insurer and allowing them full access to your medical records, it will only make it easier for them to build a case against you, and will limit an attorney’s options to develop a winning strategy for your case.

When to Settle and When to Pursue a Lawsuit

Insurance companies typically attempt to offer small settlements immediately following accidents to avoid going to court. In the first few days following an accident, a few thousand dollars may sound like winning the lottery, but if your injuries persist and you end up missing weeks of work, settling such a claim for a few thousand will be the mistake of the decade. If the money they offer isn’t enough to cover all financial losses, including lost wages, you should not accept the settlement and should contact an attorney. If you hire an attorney, members of a legal team will investigate the accident scene; determine cause and fault in the accident to create a case that supports your position; deal with medical bills and paperwork; and work to get more money from insurance companies and possibly the other driver.

If you hire an attorney, he or she will be able to determine if it is best to try to settle out of court or take the case to court. If the case goes to court, the details of the accident and subsequent injuries will be brought before either a judge or a jury, who will then determine fault and any financial award that should be given. Many attorneys who specialize in car accident cases don’t require up-front payment from clients, and some only require payment if the client wins.