Some of the latest statistics reveal that there are some 220 million licensed drivers in the U.S., contributing to a lot of road traffic. And the more traffic, the more accidents there are likely to be. If you’re in an accident that was caused by a negligent driver, that party usually has to pay for damages related to injuries and financial losses, from medical bills to mechanical repairs and lost wages. The question is, how do you collect those damages?
- Find an Attorney
Collecting damages on your own isn’t an easy process. While you could try and do it yourself, you’ll be going against professional lawyers who work full time for billion-dollar insurance companies, which means you’re unlikely to get a fraction of the compensation you deserve. Of course, you don’t want someone who is inexperienced to handle your case either – hiring one of the top accident lawyers in your area is a must for the best possible outcome.
To find the best attorney, first check with friends, neighbors, family members, and/or co-workers to find out if they can recommend someone who specializes in handling accident cases. If you get lucky and locate a lawyer that way, you’ll still want to meet with them to ensure a good personality fit. You can also look through lawyer directories via an online search, like Lawyers.com. To narrow down the possibilities, read reviews thoroughly to learn about their clients’ experiences. You may want to Google the names of each attorney as well to see what comes up. Once you have a shortlist, set up a free consultation to discuss your case and get to know them in person.
- Relevant Documents and Evidence
Once you’ve hired a lawyer, gather all your records related to the accident and discuss in more detail the damage that was incurred, the extent and severity of any injuries, medical expenses and so on. If you are still receiving medical treatment, you’ll want to continue to keep all records related to the accident. Everything from law enforcement reports to medical records, bills, and receipts are essential as part of the evidence that will be needed to prove the case.
- Understand the Damages You May be Able to Collect On
Your attorney will likely explain all the damages that may be collected in relation to the accident. Briefly, that includes medical expenses, from any ambulance fees to x-rays, and equipment like crutches as well as physical therapy. These expenses are for all costs that have been incurred as a result of the accident, along with future costs. You may be entitled to pain and suffering, including both physical pain and mental distress, loss of income, loss of quality of life, loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment. If you were scarred or permanently disfigured otherwise, damages for that will be included too.
- The Settlement
If your lawyer feels your claim is valid after an investigation, he or she will issue a demand for settlement which outlines all the damages that you’re seeking. The defendant’s attorney will review it and then accept it, reject it or make a counteroffer. In most cases, a settlement is reached before trial, without having to go to court. If a trial is necessary, ultimately a judge (and possibly a jury) will hear arguments from both sides, determine fault, and if the defendant is found at fault, award damages.
During your meeting, discuss the fees and ask lots of questions, such as how the case will be handled, as well as how you’ll be able to contact him or her throughout – and, how long it will typically take to get a response. It’s important that you hire a lawyer who will stay in touch with you regularly and not pass all your questions on to an assistant or someone else. Be sure to assess how well your personality meshes with theirs. If something feels off, you may want to move on.