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Have you been in a car accident? You need qualified representation ASAP.
Being in a car accident is always serious, even when the accident is minor. We understand that being in a car accident is hard and stressful, and we want to be there to help support you through it. Every car accident attorney at Esposito Law Firm brings experience, competence, and compassion to the table after your accident.
Don’t wait until you’re struggling with the aftermath of your car accident. Contact a qualified car accident lawyer right away so we can help make the process easier.
A car accident doesn’t have to define your life. Having a car accident lawyer on your side will help you get back to normal life faster.
What Car Accident Lawyers Do
A lot of people think that car accident lawyers are only involved in car accident cases once you go to court, but that isn’t true. The truth is that most car accident cases never actually get to a trial court, they’re resolved long before.
So what do car accident lawyers do if they don’t just represent their clients in the courtroom?
A good attorney focuses on their clients and their client’s needs. Sometimes a client is better served by negotiating for a better settlement with an insurance company, while others are well served by taking a case to court and trying to get a trial verdict.
Attorneys also help put together the case, determine what a car accident might be worth, and put numbers to non-monetary costs.
For instance, if you’re a hairstylist and your arm is broken in a car accident with a negligent driver the cost of that car accident is much more than your medical bills for the care of the arm. A broken arm represents lost income, lost income opportunity, and potentially ongoing loss of income depending on how well it heals.
Car accident lawyers can help figure out what those costs are and argue on your behalf to make sure your accident settlement makes sense.
How Car Accident Cases Work
Unless you’ve been in a car accident that went to court you probably don’t know many details about what a car accident case means.
This is a brief overview of how car accidents work and what you can expect when you work with a car accident attorney.
Determining fault can be difficult with car accidents. There are a lot of car accidents that happen because of outside situations, like an unexpected part failure even in a well-maintained vehicle.
Even in cases where car accident fault seems clear, there may be legal considerations that make it difficult to assign fault in each situation.
In most cases, the fault is initially assigned by the police officers that respond to an accident. In cases where no police officer responded other kinds of investigation might be used to help determine fault in an accident.
Partial Fault Accidents
In a lot of car accidents, no one is 100% at fault for the accident. This matters because it can impact who is liable for what and may make your case more complicated. In partial fault accidents, the people involved in an accident will be assigned a percentage of the total fault.
The Difference Between No-Fault States and Having No-Fault In An Accident
Having no fault in an accident basically just means that the police officers determined that you were not to blame for the accident on the scene.
However, if you live in a no-fault state, that means that you can petition your own car insurance to cover personal injuries and other costs associated with a car accident regardless of who was at fault. Drivers in no-fault states are also usually required to carry personal injury protection, or PIP, insurance as part of their car insurance.
Very few accidents go straight to litigation. In most cases, you’ll have some time between the accident while you and your car accident attorney are evaluating the case and deciding if it’s worth pursuing additional litigation.
In some cases, your car accident lawyer may be able to get a good settlement for you just by calling the insurance company, or you may decide that settling out of court would be better than going through the formal process.
Your car accident lawyer may also advise you that it’s best not to move forward with a case, depending on the situation.
The evaluation phase is usually just the first meeting or the first couple of meetings with your car accident lawyer to determine if you have a good personal injury case.
In your meeting, you should expect to go over the details of your case, as well as your experiences since the accident. Your lawyer will ask a lot of questions, and some of those questions may seem repetitive. Don’t worry, they’re just trying to make sure they have the facts right and are exploring the case from different angles to make sure you have a reasonable case.
It’s also a good idea to ask your lawyer questions too! Asking questions will help you understand your case from a legal perspective. Plus, your lawyer’s answers may help you figure out if they’re a good fit for you, or if you want to work with a different attorney moving forward.
Most car accident attorneys offer these consultations for free since they happen before you start working on a case.
Documentation Of Damages
You may already have some documentation of the car accident before your evaluation with the car accident attorney. That’s a good thing, and you should make sure to bring any documentation you already have to your consultation.
However, chances are that you won’t already have all the available documentation, or that there may need to be ongoing documentation in the case of injuries.
That means that you and your attorney will work together to get a more complete picture of what happened in the accident and the effects of that accident and any ongoing costs.
There is a lot that can go into the documentation phase, and the more complicated your case the longer it may take to fully document your accident. That’s a big part of why it’s so important to contact your car accident attorney as soon as possible, that way they can start collecting documentation sooner and have your case ready faster.
Contacting your attorney right away also helps avoid issues with the statute of limitations on your accident. Plus, the more time your attorney reasonably has for documentation the easier it will be for them to build a complete case on your behalf.
This phase continues in many of the other pre-litigation phases we’re about to talk about.
The Negligence investigation is another phase looking at who might be at fault for your accident. Negligence can extend beyond the people involved in the accident in some circumstances, like if a manufacturer knew about a part issue that contributed to your accident.
Your lawyer will typically evaluate pictures of all the vehicles involved, interview any witnesses, and look at police reports to build a case for negligence if negligence played a part.
As part of building a personal injury case after a car accident, your car accident lawyer will need to consult with other experts. For instance, they may consult with medical professionals about your injuries to get a better sense of what recovery might look like so they can put an appropriate dollar value on your pain and suffering for that injury.
Experts your lawyer may consult with can include:
- Accident reconstruction experts
- Medical professionals and specialists
- Life care planners
- Home medical care providers
These experts may also be called on later in your case to provide written or verbal testimony.
In fact, the experts involved in a case are one of the advantages working with a car accident attorney can give you.
Over the course of their career car accident attorneys develop a list of relevant experts that they can consult with for cases. That means you can often get better opinions faster if you work with an established car accident attorney.
Insurance Negotiation Phase
Negotiating with the insurance for your car accident is one of the most important parts of any car accident investigation. Having documentation of your car accident as well as expert opinions to help counter any experts the insurance company might have is important.
At this phase, your attorney will try to get a resolution for your case without having to go to court. They’ll negotiate for a better settlement than the one you were initially offered and attempt to get a settlement that matches their evaluation of the accident.
Many car accident personal injury cases end here with the insurance company agreeing to pay more for the case. However, if the insurance company doesn’t want to increase the payment, if what they offer isn’t reasonable for the situation, or if there is a reason to bring a case against someone else involved in the accident, your attorney may recommend moving forward with a lawsuit after this negotiation.
Preparing For Trial And Filing Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit is a complicated process. If negotiating with your insurance company fails, your lawyer may choose to put together more documentation (is available) or update your case before filing a lawsuit.
This process also isn’t as simple as scheduling a date with the courthouse. Here’s what you should expect if you’re in an accident and your car accident attorney recommends moving toward a lawsuit.
It’s important to get all the details of the lawsuit right. Small mistakes in filing or preparing for a case can lead to it being dismissed long before you get to court.
Discovery is the phase where lawyers on all sides of the case provide information and documentation to one another.
That might seem odd to most people, especially since surprise evidence often plays such a big role in courtroom dramas, but it’s an incredibly important part of the process.
Discovery protects everyone’s right to have access to all the information about the case. That way the case can be decided on the facts instead of on surprise information or ‘gotcha’ evidence. In fact, there are times when evidence that wasn’t included in discovery might not be allowed in the case at all.
All of the car accident lawyers involved in these cases will ask a lot of questions in addition to providing documentation and any other information collected before discovery. Investigations can often continue during discovery, so more information and documents may need to be collected.
Deposition and Testimony
Your car accident lawyer will already have been working with experts from the start of your case, but this is the phase where that testimony is formalized and entered into the court records. Called deposition, this kind of testimony is given under oath.
You may be called to give a deposition about your car accident, and the police officers involved, witnesses to your accident, and consulting experts may all be called to give their own depositions as well.
Your attorney will spend some time preparing you for your deposition, including asking similar questions and coaching you on how you can safely answer the questions. This is important because ambiguous language and certain phrasing may be confusing in a deposition, and it’s critical to avoid getting confused or flustered during your deposition.
Everyone giving a deposition will probably have some of this coaching unless they are experienced in giving a deposition and already know how to communicate clearly in a court setting. Don’t feel bad that you’re getting this coaching, and feel free to ask questions so you can be sure you’re prepared before your deposition.
It’s also important to remember that you can always say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t remember’ if you’re uncertain of the facts of the case. Since your deposition is given under oath, it’s important to be as truthful as possible and to avoid hedging when you don’t know.
In some cases, like if your accident resulted in a head injury, you may need to say you don’t know or don’t remember more often because of the injuries. Your lawyer should help you prepare and give you some tips to tell when you can answer a question and when your memory is too foggy to answer.
Mediation Or Settlements
Going to court isn’t always the ideal scenario for your case, even after you’ve filed for litigation. There is a small amount of risk in even the most certain cases because juries can surprise lawyers and the courts. Unfortunately, a lot of car accident cases are anything but cut and dry, so the attorneys involved are likely to try and settle out of court.
If your attorney recommends trying to settle you shouldn’t be disappointed. A lot of car accident cases end in mediation and settlements, and you’ll still probably get a better settlement than you would have if you hadn’t moved forward with litigation.
If you move forward with mediation a trained expert mediator will meet with all of the involved parties to negotiate a settlement that works for everyone involved. Your car accident lawyer should be able to tell you if the negotiation has gotten you a good settlement, or if you should push forward with a trial.
Trial and Appeals Phase
Many car accident cases don’t get to this phase, so don’t worry too much. Contacting a car accident attorney for help with your case doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to wind up in court over your accident.
But, just in case your situation does warrant a court case it’s important to know what to expect in court.
In most cases, if your car accident case makes it to trial you’ll be in a jury trial. That means that you’ll have both sides argue their case in front of a jury. They’ll go over the facts of the case, relevant details of the law, and any complications in the case that could change the jury’s mind.
Once the case is heard, the jury will give a verdict.
The whole process can take between a few days to a few weeks. Shorter trials are rare.
If the jury rules in your favor that’s the end of the trial. However, if the rule against you and you or your attorney thinks that the court might have made a legal error you can appeal your case.
Appealing a court verdict is a difficult and serious process but may be necessary if the court made a serious error in your case. When you appeal you submit your trial to a higher court for review.
Appeals courts can overturn a decision, order a retrial, or say that there wasn’t anything wrong with your trial. Depending on the situation you can appeal the decision of an appeals court and move higher up the court system, but that process is difficult and rare.
How Having A Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
Having a car accident lawyer is critical for a lot of the steps we’ve just talked about. If you want to go to trial, it’s really important to have an attorney on your side so you have high-quality legal representation. But having a good car accident lawyer is important for other parts of this process too.
Your car accident lawyer will be able to give you advice on what kinds of expenses you should be tracking, for instance.
Having a professional network of experts can also help you and your lawyer build your case, which is critical if you end up taking your case to court.
Many car accident lawyers also know which arguments are most effective for different insurance companies, which can help you resolve your case faster than if you’re arguing on your own and bring in a car accident attorney later on.
Even if you aren’t sure whether you have a case an attorney can help since they can give you a little more guidance on your case and whether you should pursue it.
Common Types Of Car Accident
Now that we’ve talked a bit more about the car accident case process, you might be curious what car accidents look at. Most people will be in at least one accident in their life, but if you haven’t been in an accident, or if you haven’t been in a bad accident, you may want to know more.
This section will just give you a quick overview of the different kinds of accidents. We’ll also talk about some common causes of accidents and what kinds of injuries accidents can cause in the next several sections.
Head-on collisions are one of the rarer kinds of accidents, which is good because these are often more serious than some other kinds of accidents. A head-on collision is when one vehicle hits another that’s moving the opposite direction, and usually happens when a vehicle crosses over to the wrong side of the street or when drivers misread traffic signs.
Because of the serious nature of these accidents, it’s important to make sure you contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible since it’s more likely you’ll need one.
Sideswipe accidents are a lot more common than head-on collisions and can happen in a wide variety of situations. Basically, these accidents happen any time two vehicles get too close together and collide along the side. Often one car is moving faster than the other, which is where the swipe part of the name comes in because there is usually damage to both vehicles from making side to side contact and from moving different speeds during the collision.
Rear-end accidents are some of the most common accidents out there, and they have a wide range in severity. Rear-end accidents happen any time the front of one vehicle combines with the back of another vehicle, and they can happen both at speed and when one car is stopped.
That means that the experience of a rear-end accident can be complicated, and getting a good settlement for a rear-end accident can be hard as well. Even if you’re just involved in a minor rear-end accident you should contact a car accident lawyer to make sure your whole situation is considered and that the insurance gives you a reasonable payout.
Multi-vehicle collisions are any collision that involves more than two vehicles. It’s common for rear-end collisions to turn into multi-vehicle collisions for instance since the vehicle that’s hit may be pushed into another car. That’s also a kind of chain reaction accident, which we’ll talk about in a moment.
However, an accident may be a multi-vehicle collision even if not all of the accidents happen because of the first one, or in a chain reaction. In some cases, drivers may respond to an accident in a way that causes more accidents, or the cause of an accident, like road debris, may cause an accident for three more vehicles.
Side impact accidents are also called T-bone accidents. These are when the side of a vehicle is hit by another vehicle that’s moving forward.
These accidents are usually serious, even at slow speeds. Thankfully T-bone accidents aren’t as common as some other types. However, that also causes problems because your vehicle might not be designed to handle a side-impact accident as well as it handles collisions at the front or the back of the car, which means injuries are more likely.
Rollover accidents are any accidents where one vehicle flipped onto the top or rolled all the way over. These can be single-car accidents, like when a vehicle flips in the median of a highway, or they can be the result of other kinds of accidents.
Rollover accidents usually cause a significant amount of damage to the involved vehicles and may also cause injuries for the driver and any passengers.
Many people don’t contact a car accident lawyer as quickly as they should after a rollover accident, especially if their accident was a single-vehicle accident. However, because of the severity of this kind of accident we recommend contacting a car accident attorney to make sure you’re covered and in case you need to negotiate with the insurance companies for a better settlement.
Single Vehicle Accidents
Single vehicle accidents are a broad category that includes any kind of accident that only involves one vehicle. For instance, if someone hit a lamp post with their vehicle without causing anyone else to crash, that would be a single-vehicle accident.
Chain Reaction Accidents
Chain reaction accidents are very similar to multi-car accidents, and there is a lot of overlap between them. Chain reactions accidents can also have multiple kinds of accidents involved.
For instance, if one car rear ends the car in front of them, and the car behind them swerves to avoid the accident and rolls over, that might be considered a chain reaction accident.
Chain reaction accidents can be tricky to settle and may have multiple people at fault or more than one insurance company involved. If you’re not sure, you’ll be able to work everything out without help it’s a good idea to contact a car accident attorney after a chain-reaction accident.
Common Injuries After A Car Accident
There are a lot of injuries that can happen after a car accident. These are just a small percentage of those injuries, but they can help give you a sense of how serious car accidents can be.
Bruises and Sprains
Bruises and sprains are some of the most common injuries after an accident. Usually considered a mild injury, it can still take days or weeks to fully recover from a bad bruise or sprain.
Burns are a little less common in accidents, but they can happen even if nothing is combusted. For one thing, the friction of an accident can cause a lot of heat. Burns can also happen from rubbing against seat belts and other things inside the cab of a vehicle.
The severity of a burn has a big impact on recovery times. Any burn more severe than a first-degree burn may also need ongoing medical treatment to heal properly.
Broken bones are very common in car accidents. The force of the accident may cause broken bones because of the seatbelt or in-vehicle debris. Severe accidents may also cause enough damage to the vehicle’s frame to break bones.
In some cases, even airbags might cause broken bones.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can happen for a lot of reasons in a car accident. If your back or neck isn’t properly supported during the accident, or if your head moved forward during the crash, you may have spinal injuries. Unfortunately, spinal injuries can also happen from whiplash or almost any kind of unsupported movement that involves the spine and spinal nerves.
Other Soft-Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries are usually considered mild injuries, but they can cause chronic pain for a long time after the accident. Some kinds of soft tissue injuries, like bleeding, tears, or ruptured tissue, can be more severe and require medical attention.
Brain injuries usually only happen in severe accidents, but they can be unfortunately common. An accident that can cause a concussion can also cause brain injuries. Even comparatively minor brain injuries can have long-term effects on function, productivity, and mood.
In rare cases, the damage in a car accident may be severe enough to amputate a limb or appendage. Slightly less rare are cases where the damage is severe enough that medical professionals are forced to amputate while caring for the person after the accident.
This kind of injury is especially common in motorcycle-involved accidents, but it can happen in almost any kind of accident if it’s severe enough.
Car Accident Causes
Not all accidents are preventable, but many of them are. While car accident lawyers have specialized in car accidents, that doesn’t mean attorneys want them to happen.
Here are some of the most common causes of car accidents. Avoiding situations where car accidents are more likely is one of the best ways to help prevent accidents from happening.
Sleep deprivation is a lot more serious than most people know when it comes to driving and car accidents. When you’re sleep deprived you’re unable to react to stimuli as quickly, and your other senses like depth perception may also be affected.
After a certain point of sleep deprivation, you may be as impaired as if you were driving drunk. So, if you haven’t been able to get enough sleep it may be better to avoid driving.
Driving While Fatigued
Driving while fatigued is similar to driving while sleep-deprived, but sleep deprivation isn’t always required. For instance, if you’ve been doing physical labor all day and aren’t used to working that much, you may be too fatigued to drive even if you got plenty of sleep.
Speeding is an incredibly common driving behavior, but it also increases the risk of accidents. Not only does speeding decrease the time you have to react to a situation, but most roads are also designed for a specific speed.
Go too fast on a roar, especially around curves, and the road itself might fight your driving. That means it’s easier to get into accidents when you’re speeding, and harder to avoid accidents.
While good maintenance can help you avoid vehicle malfunctions it’s not foolproof. Sometimes parts fail without warning, or your vehicle has a design flaw that the manufacturer didn’t know about until their vehicle is on the market.
Any conditions that cause low visibility can contribute to accidents. That means you might be more likely to get into an accident driving in the fog, in the dark, with windows tinted too dark, or even if there are too many bright lights on the road around you.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, including certain prescription drugs, may also make accidents more likely. Anytime you’re uncertain of your ability to drive because of a substance, it’s better to avoid driving.
Confusion is another common cause of accidents. This can refer to medical confusion as a result of a condition, injury, or medication, but it also includes almost any kind of confusion. For instance, you may be more likely to get in an accident if you’re confused and lost on your way to a destination.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance
All cars need to be well maintained to work properly. Skipping regular maintenance can make part failure more likely, which can result in accidents when you’re on the road.
Vision impairment, like having your windows too darkly tinted or driving without necessary eyesight correction (glasses or contacts) can make accidents more likely since you can’t see the road and other vehicles as well.
Weather, especially heavy rain or snow can be a huge factor in accidents. It’s important to gauge both the weather and your vehicle’s abilities before trying to drive in severe weather events.
Poor Road Conditions
Weather isn’t the only thing that can make roads harder to navigate. Roads in the process of construction, with potholes, or heavy wash boarding can make accidents more likely since you’re more likely to lose control of the vehicle. Poor road conditions can also sometimes cause vehicle damage that leads to accidents.
In-car distractions, like too loud music, crying children, pets, or a sudden alarm can all contribute to car accidents. Passengers may also be too distracting, especially if they don’t quiet down when driving is difficult or dangerous.
Cell Phone Use While Driving
Texting or calling on your phone can also be a distraction, and may contribute to accidents while driving.
What You Should Do After Getting Into A Car Accident
If you’ve been involved in an accident it’s normal to be overwhelmed and upset. Knowing what to do ahead of time can help make sure you take the right steps to handle the situation and get started on moving forward. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself after an accident.
Contact A Qualified Car Accident Lawyer
After you’ve been checked out for any injuries or other medical situations, it’s important to contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible. They’ll be able to advise you on your best next steps, and the sooner after the accident you contact them the more evidence and documentation, they may be able to collect.
Request Any Records
After you’ve contacted an attorney you should also contact the police department that handled your accident and request the police report from your accident, along with any traffic cam footage, witness accounts, or other records of the accident.
Track Your Physical Condition
Keeping track of your physical condition, including any injuries that may crop up several days after your accident, is important to have a complete record of what happened.
Keep Track Of Your Post-Accident Expenses
Keeping track of all of your post-accident expenses will help you build a case for what kind of monetary settlement you deserve if you do have to negotiate with the insurance or go to trial. Keep detailed records, including anything and everything that might be related to the accident.
Your attorney can help you determine which expenses qualify for your case as you’re putting documentation together.
Contact Esposito Law Firm For A Car Accident Attorney Consultation
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you deserve to work with a car accident lawyer that understands how stressful accidents can be. Our team brings a lot of experience to the table, and we know it’s important to be compassionate and to give each of our clients all the attention their case deserves.
Work with an attorney you can trust and who always puts your wellbeing first. Work with an experienced team that always puts your welfare first.
Contact us to schedule a consultation as soon as possible after your accident. Even if you aren’t sure whether you have a good car accident case we may be able to help.