After a motor vehicle accident, you may be approached by an adjuster for the insurance company. They may ask you to sign some documents, make a statement, or even offer you a settlement. They might even tell you that you don’t need a lawyer because they accept liability for the accident. What should you do?
Other than for very minor car accidents with no injuries, you should always retain a personal injury attorney for car crash claims. The simple fact is that the insurance company isn’t on your side, and will almost never offer you a settlement that truly covers your losses. A Long Island car accident lawyer will fight for your right to full compensation – and will even take your case to trial if necessary to protect your rights.
At The Odierno Law Firm, we are committed to helping our clients get top dollar for their accidents. We offer free initial consultations and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. Reach out to our law offices to schedule an appointment with an experienced car accident lawyer.
Understanding the Car Accident Claim Process
In the days and weeks following an accident, you may be incredibly busy dealing with things like doctor’s appointments, repair shop estimates, and getting time off of work. In the rush of things to do, you may be too overwhelmed to even think about your legal rights. If an insurance adjuster calls and offers you a settlement, you might think that it would be a good idea to just take the money and move forward with your life.
In almost every situation, this is a bad idea. Insurance companies are in business to make money. Their goal in car accident claims isn’t to make sure that you get full compensation but to get rid of the claim for as little money as possible. This may mean denying your claim outright on a shaky legal basis or paying out pennies on the dollar for your injuries.
A car accident lawyer can help you get the best possible outcome for your claim. To understand why, you will need to understand a bit more about the personal injury lawsuit process.
Most car accident cases are based on a theory of negligence, or carelessness. A negligent driver is one who fails to use the level of care that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation. For example, a person who texts and drives or drives aggressively and causes a crash may be considered a negligent driver. In some cases – such as drunk driving accidents – the at-fault driver may have acted intentionally or recklessly.
The first step in any car accident claim is determining fault. The person who is responsible for the accident is financially liable for the accident victim’s losses. While fault is often clear-cut – such as in a rear-end accident – it can sometimes be more complicated.
For example, insurance companies often claim that an injury victim was partially to blame for an accident. New York is a pure comparative negligence state, which means that even if you were 99% to blame for a crash, you can still recover financial compensation for your injuries. An experienced car accident attorney can advocate for you to get the money that you deserve even if you were partially to blame.
After a free initial consultation, your attorney will get started on the next step of the process: investigating the underlying facts of the accident and researching New York law. They will then put together a demand letter to send to the insurance company, setting out the facts of the case and the legal reasons why their insured is liable. This letter will end with a demand for compensation (damages).
There are three potential categories of damages in a personal injury case: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Economic and non-economic damages are compensatory damages because they compensate an injury victim for their losses. Punitive damages punish someone who acted intentionally or recklessly.
Compensatory damages may include money for losses such as:
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Insurance companies usually respond to a demand letter with a counteroffer, which is often much lower than the initial demand. In many cases, they significantly undervalue non-economic damages – which can lead to a big difference between the parties’ positions.
Negotiations will continue until the parties can reach an agreement. To preserve your legal rights, your attorney may file a personal injury lawsuit within the 3-year statute of limitations. Even after the lawsuit has been filed, the parties will usually keep trying to work out a deal as they exchange information during discovery and file legal motions.
The vast majority of accident lawsuits are resolved outside of court, right up until the eve of trial. If your case does go to trial, your personal injury lawyer will make arguments, question witnesses, and introduce evidence before asking a jury to return a verdict in your favor.
Why Should I Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident Claim?
The insurance claim process outlined above can be daunting. Most people lack the experience, knowledge, or even the desire to handle a car accident lawsuit on their own. A Long Island car accident attorney can take on the insurance company for you – and help you achieve the best possible outcome.
First, your lawyer will take on the burden of dealing with the insurance company for you. When you are recovering from accident injuries, the last thing that you want to do is take calls from insurance adjusters or fill out paperwork. Your attorney can handle all of that on your behalf.
Second, your legal team will protect your legal rights. They understand common insurance company strategies for minimizing the amount that they have to pay out on claims – such as asking you to sign a release giving them full access to your medical records or getting a statement from you where you admit to being partially at fault for the crash. Your attorney won’t let the insurance company trick you into giving up your rights.
Third, lawyers have expert knowledge about New York law and how it applies to car accident claims. They understand things like when a person might be held liable for an accident, even if it isn’t immediately apparent. They will use this knowledge to fight for your right to maximum compensation.
Fourth, personal injury attorneys understand how to calculate damages – including the hard-to-quantify non-economic damages like emotional trauma. Too often, insurance companies want to downplay these losses – or minimize the amount that they pay for future medical treatment. Your lawyer will use their experience and consult with experts to put together a more complete claim for damages.
Fifth, lawyers have experience negotiating a deal. They know when an insurance company is bluffing, and when their settlement offers shouldn’t be taken seriously. They are also able to take a case to court if the insurance company won’t be reasonable. Because insurers also know about this possibility, they are more likely to offer a fair settlement rather than roll the dice with a jury.
Ultimately, if you want to get full compensation for your injuries, the best option is to hire an experienced Long Island car accident attorney. They will fight to protect your legal rights, and use their expertise to help you get maximum compensation for your injuries.
How Can I Afford to Hire a Car Accident Attorney?
Personal injury law firms handle cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing upfront, and only pay an attorney’s fee if they recover money for you through a settlement or verdict at trial. The fee that you pay will be a percentage of your total recovery.
Contingency fee agreements mean that anyone can afford to hire a lawyer – even if you don’t have the funds on hand to pay an hourly fee. If you have been hurt in a car accident, call The Odierno Law Firm to talk to a Long Island personal injury lawyer.
The Insurance Company Says They Accept Responsibility. Why Shouldn’t I Believe Them?
Accepting liability is only one piece of the puzzle. The other part is determining damages. If the insurance company accepts responsibility but values your case at a fraction of what it is actually worth, you won’t get the money that you deserve for your injuries.
Insurance companies are motivated to resolve cases for as little money as possible. If you want to get top dollar for your car accident claim, reach out to The Odierno Law Firm to schedule a free initial consultation with a Long Island car crash lawyer.
Hurt in a Car Accident? Give Us a Call.
Being injured in a motor vehicle accident can be incredibly difficult. You may not know what to do, especially when the insurance adjuster starts calling. If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, an experienced attorney should be your first call.
From our law offices in Melville, The Odierno Law Firm represents clients throughout Suffolk and Nassau Counties. We offer free initial consultations and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a Long Island car accident lawyer, give us a call at 631-295-4149 or fill out our online contact form.