You’ve undoubtedly seen billboards or late-night TV commercials featuring personal injury lawyers telling you that if you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you need to hire an attorney in order to fight for fair compensation. But often, these advertisements leave out a lot of information. Here’s what you really need to know about getting injured in a car accident, and how hiring a lawyer fits into that:
Fault and Personal Injuries
In personal injury cases surrounding car accidents, the most important fact is generally who is at fault for the accident. If the other driver is found to be at fault for the accident, then you have grounds to be compensated by that driver’s insurance company. It’s important that you understand your own insurance; in general, you can’t collect from your own insurance company if you’ve been hurt in an accident. Your policy is in place to protect other drivers should you cause an accident.
If you have been in an accident that was partially your fault, then you need to figure out if your state operates an a principle of “comparative negligence” or “contributory negligence.” With the former, you’ll still be able to seek a scaled settlement from the other driver’s insurance company; with the latter, you’ll be ineligible for any settlement at all because you contributed to the accident.
Filing a Third-Party Claim
When you hire an attorney for car accident-related issues, you might be surprised to learn that filing a personal injury lawsuit probably actually won’t be your first action, even if the other driver was clearly at fault. In many cases, personal injury attorneys will help you to negotiate privately with the other driver’s insurance company first through a third-party claim process.
It’s only if those private negotiations break down that you’ll actually need to file a lawsuit. That may, in turn, prompt the insurance company to settle before trial (in order to avoid additional expense). All in all, a very small number of personal injury cases — well under 5% — end up going to court.
A Note on Personal Injury Protection
Personal injury protection is a kind of coverage you can add to your own car insurance in case you’re worried about getting hurt in a car accident that’s your own fault. If you hold personal injury protection, then your medical costs (and sometimes associated expenses such as lost wages) will be covered by your own insurance company regardless of fault. More than a dozen states have made personal injury protection mandatory, so it’s possible it’s included in your car insurance policy and you don’t even know it.
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