Article Updated: January 7, 2023
When to Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident
You’ve been in a car accident. To lawyer, or not to lawyer, that is the question (in my best Shakespeare interpretation)?
In this article, I will tackle the four major components of that question, which are:
♦ Should I get a lawyer for my car accident?
♦ Should I hire a lawyer for a minor car accident?
♦ When to hire a car accident lawyer?
♦ The process of hiring an attorney after a car accident
My bio is at the bottom of this page. I’ve been practicing law for 10+ years, and have recovered millions of dollars for personal injury victims, with 100% of those recoveries being from vehicle accidents. I offer a free 30 minute consultation for any new clients, regardless of what city or state you are in.
Enough about me, time for a free lesson about whether and when you should not, or should, get a lawyer after a car accident.
Do You Need to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
Let’s take this in order, starting with the preliminary question of whether you even need to hire a personal injury attorney.
Should You Get a Lawyer for Your Car Accident
I emphasize the word “your” because not every car accident needs a lawyer. Hopefully I’m not the first honest attorney to admit that.
Whether you need a lawyer for your accident depends on one key element – the value of your potential claim. Most of the time, calculating the value of your claim is not possible without a deep dive into your case. Sometimes, however, that value can be spotted early on.
Let’s work through a few examples to illustrate this and help you decide whether you need a lawyer.
Example 1: 1 ER Visit + 4 PT Visits
Let’s say you were in a car accident and as a result had 1 ER visit and 4 physical therapy (PT) visits, and then you were 100% back to pre-accident health. The majority of the time, you do not need a lawyer.
“Majority” only means greater than 50%, by the way, which I’ll discuss in a bit.
The reason you don’t need an attorney the majority of the time in such a scenario is because your case will usually be worth so little that it doesn’t make sense to pursue a claim, when considering the value of your time.
You will spend a lot of time with your attorney working up the case, but will likely end up with something less than $1,000, likely even less than $500, after all of the case expenses, medical liens, and attorney fees are paid.
However, I’ve seen cases where just 1 ER visit + 4 PT visits cost $5,000 or more. If you live in a big city, the hospital charges, ambulance charges, and diagnostic tests in the ER, can be very expensive.
This illustrates that even when the accident and injury facts are the exact same, the decision of whether you should get a lawyer after a car accident could vary greatly. In other words, there is no cookie cutter answer.
Example 2: I Got Rear Ended with No Car Damage, Should I Get a Lawyer?
If you were rear-ended and your car has no visible property damage, or very little damage, you will need a lawyer 99% of the time.
I covered this topic in my article on beating lowball settlement offers, but I’ll do a recap here.
The insurance adjuster handling your claim, despite logic and the opposing science, will reject your injury claim or belittle it unless there is damage to your vehicle.
GEICO is notorious for this. It has a standard letter it sends people that says GEICO reject your claim because it does not understand how you could have been injured given the property damage.
Mind you, one of our lawyers converted one of these $0 offer 0 property damage case into a $29,500 settlement. But it took time, and lots of hard work after a lawsuit was filed.
The short of it is, if you got rear ended, you should get a lawyer if there is little to no property damage to your vehicle.
Those are two examples, but there are hundreds of combinations of facts and therefore hundreds of scenarios.
The good news, Injury Advocates Group (and I hope all personal injury attorneys) offers a free consultation call. You are invited 24/7 to call and ask whether it makes sense for you to hire an attorney after your car accident.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Minor Car Accident
Minor car accidents are a special scenario. In the lawyer and insurance world, they are generally referred to as “MIST” cases. That stands for minor impact soft tissue.
You should hire a lawyer for a minor car accident unless you only received two weeks of medical treatment or less, or none at all. This, of course, is subject to the caveat of the first example discussed in section above (where just a few treatments can total $5,000).
Insurance companies have developed a premeditated strategy of denying these claims or giving unfair offers as a matter of course.
Thankfully, some attorneys are fighting back. Those who do, like myself, familiarize ourselves with the literature that proves these claims are worth more than the half-baked insurance MIST offers.
Through a variety of case development and strategy tools, lawyers on our team have recovered from $30,000 to $300,000 for what insurance adjusters would call minor impact or no property damage cases.
Do not get short changed by the adjuster – if you were in a minor impact accident, as measured by the damage to your car or otherwise, you should hire a lawyer for that accident.
When to Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Once you’ve worked through whether you should get a lawyer for your car accident, you can then tackle the very easy question of when to hire an attorney after your car accident.
With no exaggeration, you should call an attorney ASAP. That means at the accident scene once everything has calmed down or on your way to the emergency room (assuming you are not driving and that you are not in an ambulance or anywhere that other people can hear the phone call).
Dangers of Belatedly Calling an Attorney
Too many times clients call and ask for help after they’ve already done damage to their case.
A classic example is the category of clients who schedule an appointment with the primary car doctor after the accident. The doctor’s first availability is in two weeks. You wait two weeks, your PCP says you need to get physical therapy, and so you call a lawyer.
You now have a 2 week gap between the accident and your first doctor appointment, which the insurance adjuster will use to beat down the value of your case. Also, most judges and juries will also beat down the value of your case for that 2 week gap.
That’s just one example. There are dozens, more. So, when should you hire an attorney after a car accident? Within the first 24 hours. No exceptions, unless you are so injured you cannot pick up the phone.
Benefits of Hiring a Car Accident Attorney ASAP
Let’s rework the above scenario that outlined the dangers of belatedly calling an attorney.
First you called your PCP and booked that appointment. You then hung up and called an attorney. That attorney, if well connected like our firm, can help arrange for you to see a doctor ASAP, who will provide you medical treatment on a lien and do early diagnostics.
This ensures that the insurance company won’t artificially use that delayed treatment against you, when in reality it was just due to your PCP’s busy schedule.
Some other benefits of hiring a car accident lawyer:
♦ Ensure you don’t get lowballed, because good attorney will know your real case value
♦ Front all of your case expenses for you, so you don’t pay hundreds or thousands to work up your case
♦ Use advanced negotiating to cut through the adjuster’s games and tiers of settlement authority
♦ Add teeth to your claim to pursue litigation if the insurance company does not play nice
Unless you have a $2,500 claim and less than a few weeks of medical treatment, the benefits outweigh the risks by many fold. Keep in mind, unlike in workers’ compensation cases, in personal injury cases, you only get one shot at getting it right. Once your case is settled, you cannot undo it to get more money. Make that shot count. Get professional help.
Process of Hiring an Attorney After a Car Accident
I can keep this part painless and easy. I wrote this section because so many times potential clients ask about the process and how laborious it will be for them. It is not. Here’s the process:
♦ Call and use your 30 minute free consultation
♦ If we agree you need a lawyer we will email you the sign up paperwork
♦ You digitally sign that paperwork
That’s it, you have completed the process of hiring an attorney to fight for your claim.
If you are in Southern California and would like to come to our office, we are happy to see you in person. If you are outside of Southern California, we can arrange a virtual appointment.
My point here is, do not be intimidated by the process. We have streamlined it so that it is stress free, and you can get it out the way and go back to your life and let us take over the stress of fighting with the billion dollar insurance company who is planning on bullying you.
Hiring an Attorney Q&A
Is it Worth it to Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident?
Whether it is worth it to get a lawyer for a car accident will depend on the value of your claim. Many small claims end with the client netting over $2,500. So what is small to one client may not be small to another client. If the claim value is very small, your claim is either not worth pursuing or not financially worth it for you. You need to calculate your claim value to decide whether it is worth it to get a lawyer to pursue your car accident claim.
Should I Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident That Wasn’t My Fault?
Assuming the case value justifies it (discussed above), yes, you should get a lawyer for a car accident that was not your fault because you are entitled to financial compensation for your (1) medical expenses (2) vehicle damage (3) lost wages, and (4) inconvenience and pain and suffering, which were caused by the other driver in your accident.
Supporting Citations, Literature & Resources:
Trial Guides, Literature on MIST Cases
Plaintiff Magazine, MIST Me, May 2015 by Miles B. Cooper
The National Law Review, When Should I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney? September 2016 by Steven M. Sweat
About the Author
Article Author: This law article was written by attorney Ray Benyamin, Esquire. Mr. Benyamin received his Juris Doctor degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and his license to practice law from the State Bar of California. His law license number is 277263. He has been practicing law for 10 years. Mr. Benyamin is a registered member of the following legal organizations: Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA), the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA), the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association (ABA), and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). Mr. Benyamin has personally helped his clients recover over $10,000,000 in vehicle accident insurance claims in the State of California.