After a car accident, one is often bombarded with a plethora of questions. Some may be easy to answers, like providing their contact and insurance information. Other questions might seem a bit more confusing, such as, "Do I need a lawyer?"
In the case of auto accidents, it might not always be completely apparent if victims should just go through insurance or if they should hire a car accident lawyer. At the Weinstein Legal Team, we understand that at the time of an accident, these decisions can be incredibly difficult to make. Likewise, placing your trust in a law firm can seem intimidating.
If you or someone you love has recently been injured in an auto accident, follow these tips to decide if you should go through insurance or hire a car accident lawyer.
Immediately after the Accident
The state of Florida operates under a "no-fault" system, which is enforced by Florida Statute 627.736. The law states that for each Florida driver, "their insurance policy must provide $10,000.00 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits which covers reasonable, medically necessary treatment after an accident." This means that no matter who was at fault in an auto accident, an individual's injuries will always be treated under their own Personal Injury Protection (PIP).
The purpose of PIP benefits is to enable a car crash injury victim to receive immediate medical treatment, without needing to wait for the courts to determine which driver was liable for the accident. For this reason, every Florida driver is required to carry at least $10,000 in PIP benefits. However, it is crucial to bear in the mind that in order to qualify for your PIP coverage in the state of Florida, you must seek treatment within 14 days of the accident.
If you have sustained injuries in an auto accident, your next step should be to file a claim with your own insurance company. Your insurance company will open a PIP claim, so that you can immediately begin treating your injuries. However, if the medical expenses required to treat your injuries exceed your $10,000 in PIP benefits, you will need to find another way to pay for those medical bills. A qualified auto accident attorney can help you determine if the other driver was at fault for the accident, and whether their insurance has the coverage necessary to compensate you for your injuries.
When You Can Do it Alone
If you've suffered minor injuries that your PIP benefits can cover, it is unlikely that you need the assistance of a personal injury lawyer. When you are clearly not injured, or are only concerned with the damage to your vehicle, you may not require a personal injury lawyer to represent you.
Likewise, a personal injury attorney is likely unnecessary if there is a lack of extenuating circumstances. Extenuating circumstances are occurrences that render conduct less serious, and thereby reduces the damages to be awarded. If extenuating circumstances are present, it is best to err on the side of caution and hire a personal injury lawyer. Circumstances when you will definitely need an attorney include:
- Previous injuries to the same body parts.
- Uncertainty about liability.
- Questions about coverage.
- Disputes about the statute of limitation.
There is no risk involved in consulting with an attorney if you are in doubt. There is no obligation to hire any attorney you consult with for a personal injury case, and so we highly encourage a consultation with one or more qualified attorneys.
When You Should Hire a Lawyer
After you've filed a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company, the responsibility lies with their insurer to determine the value of your damages. However, this can become a problem if the insurance company:
- Denies your claim.
- Offers you less money than your claim requires.
- Disputes liability.
- The at-fault driver does not have any insurance/too little insurance.
Likewise, if you've suffered severe injuries, it is best to immediately hire a qualified car accident lawyer. Severe injuries can be defined by the type of injuries you've sustained, the length of time it will take for you to recover, the cost of medical bills that you've incurred, and the estimated cost of future medical treatment.
Suffering a long-term injury, an injury that lasts a year or longer, or a permanent injury - typically implies that you should have a qualified attorney on board. Oftentimes insurance companies want to offer a quick settlement. However, these quick settlements often result in a much lower payout for the victim. If you're feeling forced into a settlement you don't agree with, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Other instances in which you should hire a personal injury lawyer right away include:
- Extenuating circumstances that may make your claim more valuable, but you're unsure of how to prove your loss. For instance, if you're a caregiver, but can no longer care for the individual(s) due to your injuries.
- The victim is a minor with more than slight injuries.
- The insurance company is disputing liability but you believe you're not liable at all, or you're only partially responsible for the accident.
- You're not close to settling your claim a year after the accident.
- The adjuster has asked you to provide prior medical records. This implies that the opposing insurance company might be trying to dispute that your injuries are a result of the accident.
- You are not confident in your abilities to argue your own case, or you are unsure where to start.
There are instances in which your claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company can prove too difficult to continue alone. It's these instances in which we recommend hiring a personal injury lawyer. If you've recently been injured in a car accident, fill out our free and confidential case evaluation at any time. If you need a trusted attorney to fight for the compensation you deserve, contact Weinstein Legal today.