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Do I Need a Lawyer for a Car Insurance Claim?

A woman sits at her desk mulling over a decision

To file a simple accident claim with your car insurance company, you don’t need a lawyer. If it was a minor collision and no one got hurt, and the damage to either vehicle was minimal, you should be able to file a claim on your own. If the crash was more serious, however, you might consider hiring an attorney to help you with your claim.

When to Hire a Lawyer for an Insurance Claim

First and foremost, if you have any doubts about the claims process with your insurance company for any reason, you should contact a lawyer for advice.

If you’ve never filed a claim before, however, you may not know which of your concerns are legitimate and merit hiring a lawyer. Some factors to consider when deciding to involve a lawyer include:

  • The severity of your injuries. A serious injury is any injury that will affect you for a long time or that required hospitalization, forced you to miss work or school, resulted in lost income, or resulted in high medical bills. If you have a serious injury from your car accident, you should contact an attorney before dealing with your insurance company.
  • The other driver’s insurance is refusing to pay. If the insurance carrier of the other driver won’t pay, they’re disputing their policyholder’s liability in the accident, essentially saying it’s not their fault. When it’s not clear whose fault it is, you will have to prove the other driver’s liability — which is much easier to do with help from a lawyer.
  • The offered settlement is too low. Insurance companies are looking to save as much money as possible, so they make low offers. Most people accept them because they want the process to be over with, even if it doesn’t cover all their accident-related expenses. An attorney will negotiate with the insurance company for a higher settlement that actually compensates you for your losses.
  • Your case is going to trial. If your insurance claim case is going to court and it’s not small claims court, then you will definitely be better off having an attorney.

Asking yourself these questions can help you decide whether having an attorney is necessary for your car accident claim.

Several lawyers shake hands as they come to an agreement

Some other situations when you should probably contact an attorney for your car insurance include:

  • The accident resulted in a death
  • A pedestrian was injured
  • You or the other driver doesn’t have insurance
  • You are at least partly at fault
  • Your insurance company starts involving its own attorneys

Can you represent yourself in a car accident claim?

You don’t need a lawyer to handle a car accident claim. If the process stays between you and the insurance company, you don’t need a lawyer. If your case is more complicated, however, it’s smart to get a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf.

You should only consider representing yourself if:

  • You aren’t afraid to learn. You’ll need to educate yourself on how insurance claims processes work. If your case ends up going to trial, you’ll need to learn a lot more. If you represent yourself in court, a judge expects you to know all the applicable laws and rules for your case, even if you’re not a lawyer. If you don’t have the time or don’t feel like doing all of that learning, you should get an attorney.
  • The fault of the accident is not contested. If it’s clear who’s at fault in your accident, it makes the case more straightforward. If there are doubts over liability, you’ll have to gather information and evidence to prove you aren’t liable. Attorneys are well-trained in collecting evidence and building a case, so you might be off with some assistance in this aspect.
  • You don’t have a choice. Your claim might be so small that no attorney wants to take it, but you don’t want to drop it. If you think you’re right and want to keep fighting, then you would have to represent yourself in this situation.

The bottom line is: You can spend some time educating yourself and learning the basics of handling a car accident claim, but you can’t make yourself a trial attorney in a matter of weeks. Know your limitations and when it’s a good idea to ask for help.

A person reading a book while seated on couch

What happens when you’re being sued for a car accident?

After a car accident, it’s possible the other party will try to hold you responsible. If you and your insurance carrier dispute this claim, the other party might file a personal injury lawsuit against you in order to seek compensation.

When you get sued by someone else for a car accident, your insurance company should hire a lawyer to defend you. There are some situations, however, when your insurer will not give you a lawyer, including:

  • If you didn’t give the insurance company proper notice of the crash
  • If the collision was the result of an intentional action
  • If you want to file your own claim for damages against the other driver

Your insurance company has a “duty to defend” you when you’re being sued for a car accident claim, but if it doesn’t step in with legal help, you’ll need to find your own. Defending yourself against a lawsuit from another driver can be stressful and overwhelming. When you find yourself in this situation, the best thing you can do is call a personal injury lawyer.

A lawyer can make handling your claim easier

Although you don’t need a lawyer to file an insurance claim for a car accident, having one certainly improves your chances of getting a favorable outcome. If your case is a bit too complicated for you to handle on your own, consider getting a lawyer’s help. At Yosha, we offer a free case evaluation to help you understand your options.

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