Few things are the subject of so many exaggerations, myths and misconceptions as car accidents and the lawsuits that often accompany them. Unfortunately, if you're in a car accident, you may cost yourself the opportunity at a settlement or legal case if you fall for some of those falsehoods. Before you make a mistake that's going to cost you in the long run, you should understand these facts that contradict some common misconceptions.
You Don't Have to Be Completely Innocent to File
Don't let any of your friends convince you not to call an attorney just because the officer on the scene or the insurance company determined you to be partially to blame for the accident. Even if you are somewhat liable for the accident, that doesn't mean you can't get restitution for the part you weren't liable for.
For example, if the other person was found to be 80 percent at fault for the accident with your actions contributing only 20 percent of the liability, you may still be able to seek 80 percent of your costs associated with the accident. However, this may vary depending on the law of individual states.
You Don't Have to Pay Money to File
Since most attorneys require a retainer to enlist their services on a case, you may believe that you have to come up with some kind of sizeable retainer fee to get legal help with your case. Many injury attorneys will take cases with a contingency fee, which means that they are agreeing not to get paid unless they obtain a settlement for you. If you're looking to file an auto accident case and you don't have the money for a retainer, just look for an attorney who's willing to take a percentage of your settlement instead.
You May Never Even Have to Go Into a Courtroom
When you work with an injury attorney who has a strong history of negotiating settlements, you may be able to eliminate the courtroom time entirely. Your attorney can schedule a mediation and settlement discussion with the insurance company and potentially resolve your case without ever having to involve a judge. This may save you on court costs.
Just keep in mind that negotiations are not typically a single-step process. You'll probably start with a low offer from the other party's insurance company, because they'll try to settle for as low an amount as possible. Your attorney will respond and counter that initial offer, working to get you as much as possible in the process.
You Don't Always Have to Take Your Attorney's Advice
While it's usually in your best interest to take your attorney's advice and recommendations to heart, that doesn't mean that you don't have the right to disagree at any point in the process. If something happens or your attorney suggests proceeding with something that you don't particularly want to do, you can say no. For example, if you are comfortable with the counteroffer from the insurance company and want to settle but your attorney wants to push back again, you can tell your attorney that you want to take the settlement instead. In addition, you also have the right to ask your attorney for an explanation if he or she is recommending that you do something you aren't certain about.
Just remember that your attorney's recommendations are usually in your best interest. For example, if he or she believes that you may be in need of more money later, that could be the reason to discourage settling. Despite what many believe, you cannot go back and seek more money once you sign a settlement agreement. That's why most attorneys will work to get you as much as possible during that initial process. If he or she is recommending that you negotiate for more, this may be why.
The last thing you should be worried about after a car accident is making some kind of legal mistake that costs you your case. Talk with an attorney, such as those at Stapleton Law Offices, as early in the process as possible so that you can be sure that you have everything in order, then do what you can to get the money you need for your medical bills and lost work time.