Imagine you suffer a fender bender on a quiet suburban street at low speed (15 mph, for example). No one 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 car 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 car accident lawyer for a seemingly minor car accident? The answer is yes, you definitely should seek out a car accident lawyer for several important reasons.
Reasons Why You Need a Lawyer After a Minor Car Accident
Even an apparently minor car accident results in injuries or damage to your car that could turn out to be expensive to fix. A car accident lawyer can help you learn about the types of recoverable damages after a collision.
1. You Might Suffer Hidden Injuries
You may attribute the signs your body is telling you as “just being shook up” instead of a serious soft tissue back injury or hairline fracture. By the time you realize the "minor" car accident resulted in injury, it may be too late to have the other party cover your medical costs.
Concussions are common after car accidents, and the symptoms may be mild at first but get worse over time.
A child’s car accident injuries can differ from an adult's and are often more serious.
Organ damage or internal bleeding may not be readily apparent either, but a thorough medical exam performed right after the crash can catch these injuries before they become deadly.
First responders are trained to look for signs of hidden injuries and provide accurate diagnoses in emergency situations. And, the medical reports from EMS provide your car accident lawyer with valuable evidence for your case.
2. You Can Win Compensation for the Different Types of Damages
You may think that the cost of hiring a car accident lawyer may not be worth what you think is a minor accident. But, many personal injury attorneys work on the contingency that they’ll win your case, assessing fees from the final award, so you don’t have to pay upfront.
Your lawyer can also explain the damages that you are eligible to collect – because the other driver’s insurance company isn’t going to offer information about extra money! Personal injury lawyers seek maximum financial recovery for all your actual losses, called economic damages, and often negotiate a higher settlement than you would have been able to on your own.
- Property damage of your car;
- All your medical care, including emergency treatment and aftercare;
- Reimbursement for lost wages due to missed work to heal from your injuries;
- Filing a wrongful death suit for your family if you do not survive your injuries.
You’re also eligible for pain and suffering compensation and other types of non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are essentially psychological damages such as:
- Pain and suffering (for physical pain);
- Mental anguish; and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
You can recover 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 compensation for medical expenses.
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 serious 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 and they suffered injuries. 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.
4. Insurance Companies Have a Tendency to Reduce the Severity of Your Injuries
Insurance companies often try to minimize car accident insurance claims if they don’t deny your claim outright. The other party’s insurance adjustor may assert that you aren’t as badly injured as you say you are or may say that your injuries were preexisting or caused by something other than the car wreck. It’s not unusual for the adjuster to offer a settlement much lower than the actual value of your insurance claim.
Once you accept a settlement offer from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, that’s it – you cannot seek additional compensation if it turns out that you need additional surgery or extra repairs to your car that you weren’t aware of when you settled. Your car accident lawyer protects you from making a mistake like this. Their years of experience valuing car accident claims gives them an accurate idea of exactly what you’re entitled to.
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 for the Minor Car Accident Claims
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 to Do After Getting a Lawyer for Minor Car Accidents
Once you hire your Indiana car accident lawyer, give them everything you have about the accident, from the official police report to your medical bills and copies of your communication with the other driver, their insurance company, and your insurance company. If you remember to take photos after the crash or get contact information from witnesses, give your lawyer that, too. Depending on the circumstances of your crash, your lawyer may ask for additional information, like your passenger’s contact information or your cell phone data. They take over the case from there, allowing you to rest and heal without the stress. Your lawyer also handles all communication about the case, so any contact from the other party’s insurance company or the driver should be referred to your lawyer.
Things to Avoid 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
Stracci Law Group works with clients in Crown Point [46307, 46308], Merrillville [46410, 46411], and Hammond [46320, 46323]. Our legal team believes that our expertise and deep knowledge of the state’s personal injury statutes can make a difference in the success of your case. We bring you the compassionate advice you need and the tenacious litigation of your case you deserve.
We can help you learn if you have a valid case for no cost to you. Contact us today at 219-525-1000 or visit us online to schedule a consultation.