A car accident can be traumatizing enough, especially so if you find yourself with a growing pile of medical bills and a vehicle that has been damaged or totaled through no fault of your own. Your first thought might be to hire an attorney to help you recover expenses, but those looming bills may give you the idea that you can’t afford a lawyer. The good news is that most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency, which means that they don’t get paid until you get paid.
Traditionally, attorneys will charge an average of 30 percent of your total settlement to take your case, but if a case does not settle in your favor, you won’t owe them a thing. There are things that you can do, however, in the aftermath of an accident, to help your case and better ensure that your case settles successfully, either before trial or with a win in court.
Take These Smart Steps After an Accident
While hiring an attorney is an important step, doing the following can make his or her job easier, and can better cement a settlement that will cover your unexpected expenses.
Call the police. A police report can be the most important piece of evidence that your attorney will use in helping to settle your case. Officers that arrive on the scene will determine who is at fault in the accident, giving you leverage if the other party was at fault.
Take photographs. You should not only take photos to document any damage to your vehicle, but also snap some shots of the accident scene that your attorney may use as evidence when filing your claim. Photographs of any injuries you might have sustained will also be important evidence.
Seek medical attention. Medical records will be as important as a police report to your attorney, so as soon as you are able to do so, see a doctor to make sure that you are not injured – adrenaline can dull pain, initially masking injuries you might have suffered – or to be treated for known injuries.
Get witness information. If you are able, ask any witnesses to your accident for their contact information. Your attorney may want to interview them at a later date, and getting that information at the scene can be critical, as witnesses may not live in the area where your accident occurred.
What if the accident was my fault?
If you are worried about the potential legal repercussions if you are responsible for a car accident, your insurance company will act as your representation in an at-fault crash, so you won’t need to hire an attorney unless the bills surpass the amount of insurance coverage you have.
In that case, or if you did not have insurance at the time of the accident and the other party chooses not to file an uninsured motorist claim with their own insurance company, you may need to hire an attorney to protect your assets. If you can’t afford an attorney, there are several options available to you.
- Most attorneys will consult with you for free. An initial consultation will give you a better idea of your options going forward. You can also sometimes get free legal advice through your state or county bar association or through students at your nearest law school.
- Try a legal aid society. These nonprofit organizations are available to assist low-income people, and you may be able to find an attorney to take your case.
- Try to find a pro bono attorney. While it will likely be difficult, you might find an attorney willing to take your case for free.