Imagine that you suffer a fender bender on a quiet suburban street at low speed (15 mph, for example). Nobody appears to be injured, and neither vehicle appears to be damaged. After discussing the matter with the other driver and passengers, you wonder how you should handle the accident.
The first idea that comes to your mind is to do nothing. Don’t call the police, settle the entire matter at the scene, and forget the accident ever happened. You might wonder, “Should I get a lawyer for a fender bender?”
Is it worth getting a lawyer for a car accident with no apparent damage? The answer is yes, you definitely should seek out a minor car accident attorney, for several important reasons.
Reason #1: You Might Suffer Hidden Injuries
Some serious injuries do not start showing symptoms until hours or even days later. The most common injuries of this sort are head injuries and soft tissue injuries. Soft tissue injuries are particularly easy to sustain. Symptoms include:
- Neck pain and swelling;
- Muscle spasms; and
- Your neck hurts every time you move it.
You definitely need to document any such symptoms.
Reason #2: You Can Win Compensation for Noneconomic Damages
Noneconomic damages are essentially psychological damages such as:
- Pain and suffering (for physical pain);
- Mental anguish; and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
You can recover for these damages as long as you suffer some sort of physical injury that caused your psychological symptoms. Courts frequently award noneconomic damages of three to five times the amount of the compensation for medical expenses.
You cannot receive noneconomic damages for workers’ compensation claims, and there is a $700,000 limit on claims against the state government. Other than that, “the sky’s the limit.”
Reason #3: The Other Party Might Try to Blame You for the Accident
Imagine you decide not to call the police or a lawyer after a “minor” accident. Shortly thereafter, you receive a court summons notifying you that the other driver (or a passenger) is suing you. You might be fairly sure that the opposing party is lying about their injuries. After all, “Whiplash, whiplash!” has been used so many times that it has become a cliche.
But how can you prove it? In a civil trial, all the opposing party needs to win is evidence representing a 51% likelihood that their claim is true. That’s a much easier standard to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal prosecutions. It is better if you have a police officer available to serve as a neutral third-party witness.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Minor Car Accident in Indiana?
Put bluntly, you should hire a lawyer as soon as possible after a minor car accident in Indiana. At the very least, you will need your lawyer to discover whether or not you actually have a viable claim.
Even if your lawyer decides you don’t have a claim, you should contact your lawyer again if you receive a court summons or a written or verbal complaint from someone else involved in the accident. You will need to respond in writing before the court requires you to file an Answer to the opposing party’s formal Complaint.
The Statute of Limitations Deadline
At the very latest, you need to hire a lawyer early enough for them to prepare a solid case before the statute of limitations deadline expires. In a personal injury or property damage case, this date is normally two years after the date of the accident. In a wrongful death case (unlikely after a minor accident), the deadline is two years after the victim’s date of death.
What Not to Do After a Minor Car Accident
Avoid the following actions after a car accident, no matter how minor it was:
- Don’t leave the scene of the accident without reporting it to the police. Under certain circumstances Indiana law will let you get away with this, but the legal standard is ambiguous at best.
- Don’t fail to photograph the scene of the accident, as well as the people and vehicles involved.
- Don’t fail to get the other driver’s contact and insurance details.
- Don’t admit fault. Don’t say sorry, even to be polite.
- Don’t neglect seeking medical attention, even if you don’t think you were injured. Let a doctor decide whether you were injured.
- Don’t neglect to read the police report and to object to any inaccuracies
- Don’t mention your case on social media, and assume that the opposing party is always monitoring your account for something they can use against you.
Above all, don’t try to handle everything on your own. Hire a car accident attorney.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Car Accident Attorney in Indiana?
Hiring a minor car accident lawyer costs you nothing unless you win your claim. Even if you do win, it is essentially the opposing party who pays your legal bills. Most lawyers work on a contingent fee basis. They only get paid if they win your case. Stracci Law Group works this way too.
In a contingency fee arrangement, you and your lawyer agree in writing, at the beginning of the representation, that your lawyer will receive a certain percentage of whatever amount the opposing party actually pays out in your claim. Since any percentage of zero is still zero, you only pay if you win.
The beauty of a contingency fee arrangement lies in its incentive structure. The more money you win, the more money your lawyer makes. This gives your lawyer every motivation to maximize the amount that the other party pays out.
Let Stracci Law Group Handle Your Car Accident Case
If you suffered a “minor” car accident in Indiana that turned out not to be so minor after all, now is the time to act. You will need to document any injuries before they heal over, and you will need to properly document the accident.
Call Stracci Law Group at 219-525-1000, or simply contact us online. We serve clients in Crown Point [46307, 46308], Merrillville [46410, 46411], Hammond [46320, 46323], and elsewhere in Northwest Indiana.