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 worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2021

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Unless you or another party were injured in your car accident, you probably do not need a personal injury lawyer to handle your auto accident claims. Minor car accidents are typically handled directly with your insurance provider by filing an accident claim. For minor injuries that don’t inhibit your everyday activities and heal within a week or two or for property damage, your insurance company can take care of you throughout the entire process: car repairs, medical bills, and other financial issues and damage. While it may feel at times that you are navigating the automobile insurance claims process solo, the insurance adjuster from your insurance company should be there to answer your questions and solve problems for you the entire time.

It is a good idea to invest in uninsured motorist coverage on your auto policy so that minor accidents involving a negligent party who is not insured will be covered by your auto insurance company. The right kind of insurance coverage might help you avoid expensive and time-consuming personal injury lawsuits.

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 an auto accident lawyer into the picture?

If you stand to receive a settlement for a minor injury resulting in less than $1,000 in medical care bills, you can negotiate fair compensation with an insurance adjuster on your own simply by educating yourself on the process. Injury claims of this size are considered “small accident claims”, and hiring a personal injury 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 for your damage, you should be able to avoid hiring an accident lawyer.

In this case, all you can hope for is for your automobile 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 care bills – you may benefit from hiring an auto accident attorney if you don’t feel you are getting enough money from your insurance company. You may also benefit from hiring an auto accident attorney to get compensation if you were in an accident that involved:

  • A defective vehicle 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 experienced 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 accident injury attorney‘s options to develop a winning strategy for your case. Make sure to provide your experienced car accident lawyer with all relevant evidence at the initial consultation, such as police reports and pictures from the accident scene. Tell the attorney about the details of the accident, including your physical injuries and any non-economic damages like emotional distress you’ve experienced, and discuss the maximum compensation possible for your situation and what might be a fair settlement.

When should you settle and when should you pursue a lawsuit?

Auto insurance companies will typically attempt to settle a small personal injury claim immediately following auto 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 an auto insurance claim for a few thousand will be the mistake of the decade. If the money they offer isn’t enough compensation to cover all financial losses, including lost wages, you should not accept the accident settlement and should contact an insurance dispute attorney. If you hire an experienced lawyer, 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 your automobile insurance company and possibly the other driver.

If you hire an insurance dispute attorney from one of the many injury law firms, 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 and medical costs will be brought before either a judge or a jury, who will then determine fault and any financial award that should be given. Many insurance dispute accident attorneys who specialize in motor vehicle accident cases don’t require up-front payment from clients, and some only require payment if the client wins, often advertised as a “contingency basis.”

Keep in mind, each state has its own statute of limitations laws regarding when you must file lawsuits. Make sure you look into these time limits as soon as possible after an accident.