You might be too late to get a lawyer for a car accident if you have already signed a settlement agreement with the insurance company or if your statute of limitations has expired.
You may not think you need to get a lawyer for a car accident if there are no injuries and limited property damage. However, if you do sustain injuries and you suspect negligence may be involved, we highly recommend consulting with an experienced accident attorney as soon as you are able to ensure you are not time-barred from pursuing a claim.
Each state has a statute of limitations for filing a car accident claim. A statute of limitations is the amount of time a person has to file a lawsuit against another party. For example, the statute of limitations for a California car accident is two years. Some states give you more time, while others give you less.
Information on Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer
What Do You Do After a Car Accident?
If you have been injured in a car accident, the attorneys at Wisner Baum recommend the following:
- Get medical attention: Call 911 or have someone else call for you. Getting medical care should be your first priority if you or someone in your vehicle is injured.
- Stay at the scene of the accident and get to a safe place: If you do not have to go to the emergency room for your injuries, remain at the scene of the accident and get to a safe place. If your car is blocking traffic and it is drivable, move to the shoulder to avoid secondary accidents. If moving the vehicle would be dangerous, leave it where it is and get to safety. If the vehicle you collided with is unoccupied, be sure to leave your contact information for the driver.
- Document the accident to the best of your ability: To report an accident to the California DMV, it is essential to record information about the other vehicles involved, including the license plate, year, make, model, color, and vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN can usually be found on the driver’s insurance card and registration, but it is advisable to double-check, especially if the driver is uninsured. However, it is important not to touch the other person's vehicle without permission. Contact information from all drivers and witnesses should also be exchanged, and if a law enforcement officer is present, get their name. Regardless of fault, you should share your contact and insurance information with the other driver. When asked by the police, you must present your driver's license, insurance, and registration to avoid fines.
- Be careful not to admit fault or state that you are not injured: It is crucial not to say sorry or admit fault after a car accident, as it could be used against you during the claims process. Even if you do not feel hurt, saying you aren't injured could cause problems later on if underlying injuries become apparent. It is best to remain calm, avoid apologies, and not accept fault.
- Record details of the crash immediately: Take photos of the accident scene, any damage to property, as well as any visible physical injuries. For your own records, write down exactly what happened in the crash to the best of your ability, including any pain or discomfort you experience, both physically and mentally. If there are details you aren’t sure about, indicate that you are unsure in your records.
- Report the crash to the respective authorities: If any fatalities occurred, injuries were sustained, or the accident resulted in over $1,000 of damage, you’ll need to report the crash to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days. Fill out the California DMV Accident Reporting Form to document the crash.
- Speak with an attorney before reporting the accident to the insurance company: Insurance companies often prioritize their own interests over the needs of the policyholder, which may result in a low settlement offer, so having a lawyer on your side can help protect you from such issues. A lawyer can help determine the extent of your damages, including any physical and emotional harm, lost wages, and medical bills.
Common Car Accident Injuries
Car accident victims may sustain the following injuries (among others):
- Traumatic brain injury (concussion)
- Burn injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Partial or full paralysis
- Broken or fractured bones
- Lost limbs
- Internal bleeding
- Eye injuries
- Broken or bruised ribs
- Orthopedic injuries
As you can see, some of these injuries are more significant than others. Some people may sustain an injury like whiplash and think they do not need to pursue a car accident claim because that is not a “serious” injury. But we have seen numerous car crash survivors go through months of expensive physical therapy to alleviate their neck pain after what they believed was a minor car accident.
If you want to learn more about why you should see a doctor after a car accident—even if you do not think you need to—please check out the information in this blog.
What You Should Know About Car Accident Lawsuits
A lot of people who are harmed or suffer significant damage to property in a car accident do not know what to do. Some may not even know they are injured initially. Here are some important things to know about pursuing a car accident lawsuit.
- Report the Accident Even if it Does Not Appear Major: You may be tempted to view the damage in a car accident as minor and simply exchange information with the other driver. But you may be injured more than you are aware of at the moment (see #4 below), or there may be more damage to your vehicle or other property. Reporting the accident helps establish liability and ensures any dispute will not be your word against the other driver’s.
- Sometimes Minor Injuries Can be a Major Expense: Sometimes the dull ache of whiplash that does not go away for months after an accident can turn into a serious injury. We have seen many cases where the extent of head injuries, whiplash, or other small tissue injuries are not revealed until weeks or months after the accident. In some cases, these injuries may require physical therapy or other expensive treatments that the insurance company may not consider when assessing the value of your claim.
- Insurance Companies May Offer a Fast Settlement at Far Less Than the Value of Your Case: Insurance companies may offer fast, low-ball settlement agreements that fail to compensate car accident victims fully and fairly for medical bills, loss of earnings, property damage, and more. We understand that many accident victims want to put the traumatic event behind them and move forward with their lives as quickly and painlessly as they can. But this may result in compensation that fails to cover your expenses. Having a lawyer on your side helps ensure that your claim is valued fairly by the insurance company.
- Car Accident Claims Are Governed by Statute of Limitations: Each individual state sets its own statute of limitations for car accidents. This is the time frame within which you must file a claim for injuries or for property damage. If you fail to file within your state’s statute of limitations, your claim may be “time-barred,” meaning the court will not allow your case to move forward. The car accident statute of limitations in California is two years from the date of the accident. However, there are exceptions. For example, the time limit for minors may be extended until they are 18 years old. But generally, adults injured in car accidents have two years to file a lawsuit for damages.
- Lawyers Offer Free Case Evaluations – Take Advantage of This: Getting a legal professional to look at your case for free can never be a bad thing. Even if it is determined that your car crash case does not require a lawyer, consulting with one beforehand will give you peace of mind knowing you have done your due diligence.
- Retaining a Car Accident Lawyer Will Not Cost You Anything Upfront: At Wisner Baum, we work for clients on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no money upfront for us to file a lawsuit for damages on your behalf. We only make money if we are successful in getting you compensated for your injuries. If we are unsuccessful, you owe nothing.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Car Accident?
While it may be true that most car accidents will not require a lawyer, if your accident is severe, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney as soon as you are able. Below are some examples of cases that should be evaluated by an experienced attorney:
- Accidents involving significant or catastrophic injury to you or someone in your vehicle.
- Accidents where it is unclear who is at fault.
- Accidents involving commercial trucks.
- Accidents involving pedestrians, motorcyclists, or bicycles.
- Accidents in a construction zone.
- Accidents involving an underinsured or uninsured driver.
We also recommend speaking with a lawyer if:
- You disagree with the police report from the scene of the accident.
- You believe the insurance company is not handling your case fairly.
- A minor crash caused significant vehicle or property damage.
- You have to miss work for any injury, no matter how minor.
When Should I Hire an Attorney?
The sooner you contact a car accident attorney, the better. As mentioned above, your case must be filed within the statute of limitations for the state in which the accident took place. While two years or more may seem like a lot of time, you must remember that it may take months to complete an investigation of the accident, gather necessary evidence, and file the case. Even if you are uncertain about filing a claim, we recommend you speak with an attorney to keep your legal claim intact.
What If I Was Partially at Fault for the Crash?
If multiple parties, including you, share fault, you can still receive compensation through the civil justice system if the other driver is at least partially responsible. Los Angeles courts abide by "comparative negligence," where evidence is used by the judge and/or jury to assign percentages for shared liability. As a result, claimants who share responsibility will have their compensation reduced in accordance with their assigned percentage of fault, but they can still file a claim.
In California, the policy of comparative negligence allows the victim to seek damages from the responsible defendants, even if the victim is also partially to blame for the accident. Courts in California will assess the fault of all parties involved and determine the percentage of responsibility for each one.
Any resulting award will then reflect each party’s level of liability. This system is designed to balance the scales of justice by ensuring that plaintiffs are not completely deprived of compensation because of partial fault.
However, not all states have this legal system in place, which is why finding a qualified personal injury lawyer is crucial. They can explain the specific laws in your jurisdiction and help you navigate the legal process in a way that maximizes your recovery.
What is My Car Accident Claim Worth?
This is one of the most common questions that accident victims ask – what do I get out of pursuing a car crash lawsuit? The value of your case depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident that injured you. We will need to conduct a thorough investigation, interview witnesses, gather evidence, and, if needed, hire an expert to accurately assess how much the case is worth. Generally speaking, you may be able to pursue compensation for:
- Medical expenses stemming from the accident (current and future)
- Lost income (current and future)
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Reimbursement for property damage
- Loss of consortium
- Damages for wrongful death (if you lost a family member in the accident)
Should I Hire a Car Accident Lawyer Near Me?
If you sustain injuries in a car crash, hiring a lawyer is the best course of action, especially in complex cases or those against large corporations. The sooner you are able to research and find the best lawyer for your case, the better.
It is important to find a lawyer who fits well with you personally and has the necessary skills and experience in successfully litigating car accident cases. The ideal attorney should have a good amount of experience in cases similar to your own and a track record of success in resolving them. It's important to remember that past success is no guarantee for future results, so be cautious of any guarantees.
Researching an attorney’s areas of practice is also necessary because car accidents are often more complicated than they appear. Checking the attorney’s reputation through consumer reviews and testimonials is also essential, as well as the reputation of the law firm they work for, since multiple attorneys may work on your case.
Wisner Baum has a proven track record in handling car accident claims and the resources needed to ensure justice and compensation for their clients.
Wisner Baum Law Firm Office Locations
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco Bay Area
- Bakersfield (Satellite)
- Ontario (Satellite)
- Sacramento (Satellite)
- San Diego (Satellite)
- Washington DC (Satellite)
Contact our office by calling (855) 948-5098 or submitting an online contact form today to schedule your 100% free case evaluation with one of our skilled car accident attorneys.