According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, there were 35,766 fatal auto accidents in 2020, resulting in 38,824 deaths. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates for 2021 show an increase of 4,092 fatalities, bringing the number of car accident fatalities to 42,915.
When non-fatal injuries are calculated, the numbers climb even higher. For example, according to a 2022 NHTSA report, there were an estimated 5,215,071 non-fatal car accidents on U.S. roads in 2020, resulting in 2,282,015 injuries.
With that many accidents reported on U.S. roads each year, there is a good chance you'll experience one yourself at some point. When it does, you will need to weigh your options regarding representation. At this point, you may wonder if it is possible to represent yourself in a car accident case.
If that is the route you choose, it is legal to represent yourself in a car accident case. In simple cases with no injuries, this may be a suitable choice. However, it isn't always the right one. Once you know what happens after an accident, what steps you may need to take, and how an attorney can help, you can decide if self-representation is the right avenue for your case.
What Happens After a Car Accident
The days, weeks, and months after a car accident will be filled with necessary actions. These may include getting appropriate medical care, contacting insurance companies, and arranging vehicle and other personal property repairs. Some steps should be completed immediately, while others can wait a while. Here is a rough idea of what you should expect to do after a car accident.
Depending on the severity of injuries sustained, the hours and days immediately following your accident may be focused on emergency measures.
While you are still at the scene, you'll need to move to a safe location, evaluate the damage, exchange information with the other parties involved, and call for emergency assistance. Anyone injured should seek medical care, either at the scene or by following up with their primary doctor.
While some common accident injuries do not manifest symptoms for several days, you may have trouble linking your injuries to the accident if you wait to get checked out. That is why it is a good idea to report accidents and see a doctor even if you are not obviously hurt.
You'll also need to contact your insurance company during this period. Provide them with all of the information you have, including copies of any police reports and contact and insurance information for other involved drivers.
Actions for the Weeks Following a Wreck
Once the immediacy wears off, you can take time to assess the situation. You will need to schedule repairs for your vehicle or secure a replacement if the damages are not repairable. This is also when you will be working with insurance companies to arrange payments for repairs and medical expenses. If you are still receiving treatment for injuries, you must track any medical bills related to the accident.
Ways an Accident Attorney Can Help
Before you decide to handle your own car accident case, you should consider the many ways that an experienced injury attorney can help.
Protecting Your Rights
Accident victims have rights that you may not be aware of. For example, you do not have to automatically go along with what insurance companies want after an accident. An experienced attorney will inform you of these rights and ensure they are not violated.
It is critical to document everything you can about your accident, care, and damages. This includes taking pictures of the scene, recording conversations or documenting them in notes, and saving receipts from everything connected.
Estimating Personal Damages
One of the most significant benefits of hiring an attorney after a car accident is that he can help you accurately estimate damages suffered. These may include costs related to the following:
- Lost wages
- Medical care and rehabilitation
- Personal suffering
- Long-term disability
- Property damage
Dealing With Insurance Companies
Getting an accurate picture of damages is crucial since insurance companies often offer settlements far below what the case is worth in the hope that you will accept the lower amount and move on. Assigning a dollar value to your damages is crucial since those initial settlement offers are rarely sufficient to compensate for actual damages realized after an accident.
In addition to negotiating a more favorable settlement, your attorney will handle all communication with insurers. He will also work to ensure that expenses are covered while your case progresses.
Filing Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claims
Because insurance companies attempt to minimize their costs, you may need to file a personal injury case to get adequate compensation after an accident. Unless you are familiar with legal proceedings in your area, this can be an overwhelmingly complex process at a time when you are already dealing with a lot of stress. However, after completing a case evaluation, the team at Johnson Attorneys Group can advise you about the best way to proceed.
Attorneys know the ins and outs of working with accident and personal injury claims. They will ensure your paperwork is filed before statutes of limitations run out. This is especially important if your injuries persist or insurance companies and other attorneys have stalled your case.
Pros and Cons of Representing Yourself After a Car Accident
In most cases, you can represent yourself in any legal proceedings after an accident. However, if you decide to go this route, you should do so with a complete understanding of what is involved. Some basic research can help you determine if you are prepared to take on the task.
Pros of Representing Yourself
The most apparent benefit of representing yourself is the cost savings of not hiring an attorney. However, remember that your savings will vary depending on the situation. For example, if an attorney can negotiate a larger settlement than your insurance company offers, you may end up in a worse position through self-representation. James Johnson works on a contingency-fee basis to minimize this concern, so you only pay a fee if you win your case.
Cons of Representing Yourself
There are also some drawbacks to representing yourself. The following cons are enough to keep many people from attempting self-representation after a car accident.
- If you are even partially at fault for causing the accident, you could be liable for damages to others and their property
- You will need to learn legalese to navigate the system
- You must record and track all communication with insurance companies, other parties involved, and their attorneys
Professional Legal Help When You Need It Most
You do not have to navigate the completed legalities of a personal injury case on your own. Instead, schedule a free case evaluation with the team at Johnson Attorneys Group. We can help you estimate damages, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and file any required paperwork on time to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Call us anytime at 1-800-208-3538 for a free evaluation or to find your local office.