Car accidents are commonplace on California roadways, so there is a good chance you will be impacted by one eventually. According to California's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, an accident that resulted in personal injury or death every three minutes in 2018. That doesn't account for other minor accidents that were not reported through the statewide system.
Minor accidents might escape reporting statistics, but they can still impact the drivers and passengers involved, sometimes in significant ways. Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to hire an attorney after a car accident is a personal one. First, it is essential to understand your rights and responsibilities to make the best decision for your situation.
Johnson Attorneys Group's personalized approach to accident cases has earned us a reputation as one of California's premier personal injury law firms. We offer free, no-obligation case evaluations to help you understand what to expect next after an accident.
What Is Considered a Minor Accident?
Any accident can be traumatic, and what one person deems minor may be very serious to another. However, a minor accident typically does not cause bodily injury, significant property damage, or the driver's or passengers' death.
Property damage over $1,000 is considered significant in many states, including California. Unfortunately, the cost of repairs for a damaged vehicle can quickly surpass this figure. This is also true when other property items, such as a fence, wall, or mailbox, are damaged.
California Reporting Requirements
California provides some guidelines for what types of accidents must be reported to authorities and what can be handled without involving them. Section 16000 of the California Vehicle Code states that an accident must be reported within 10 days if it causes any of the following:
- At least $1,000 in damage to another person's property
- Bodily injury
Some other laws apply to accidents. For example, according to Section 20001 of the California Vehicle Code, any accident that results in property damage or injury to a person other than himself must stop, remain at the scene, and provide contact information to the injured party. Additionally, section 20008 states that any accident that causes physical injury or death to another person must be reported to the Department of the California Highway Patrol within 24 hours.
Is It Necessary To Hire a Lawyer After a Minor Accident?
You do not need to hire an attorney, but it is your right to retain legal counsel after an accident. Lawyers bring their knowledge and experience to the table when they work for you on an accident case. In addition, they can help alleviate the strain of filing claims and reaching a settlement, so you have time to focus on your physical and emotional recovery.
Times When a Lawyer Is Helpful
Hiring an attorney after an accident is a personal choice. In some situations, even though an accident is legally minor, you can still benefit from the expertise of an accident lawyer. Some examples include:
- You are diagnosed with an injury after the initial accident report is filed
- Damage to your vehicle is more significant than you anticipated
- The insurance company denies your claim
- A settlement offer is not sufficient to pay for the damages you incurred
Car Accidents That May Not Need a Lawyer
While hiring a lawyer can be helpful in some situations, in others, the math of hiring a lawyer often doesn't add up. For example, if you were involved in a single-car accident with minor damage, you can most likely deal directly with your insurance company for any repairs needed. Here are some other types of accidents where you might not need an attorney:
- You were involved in a minor fender bender that did not cause injuries or significant property damage
- You hit a stationary object causing no damage to your vehicle or the object
- Your insurance company is offering a fair and reasonable settlement
- Any claims from the accident can easily be handled in small claims court
There is no cost or obligation to speak with an advocate at the Johnson Attorneys Group. We can review your case and tell you if hiring an attorney or proceeding independently makes sense.
What Are the Benefits of Hiring an Attorney After a Car Accident?
Hiring an attorney after a car accident has advantages. For example, your attorney will handle the routine paperwork and communication, so you have time to focus on recovering from injuries and trauma. It is vital to consider these benefits when deciding whether to hire an attorney after a car accident.
Investigating the Accident
Mandatory accident reports cannot be used in lawsuits so a separate investigation may be necessary. However, accident lawyers work diligently to uncover the facts of a client's accident. For example, when Johnson Attorneys Group takes a case, we will review information on initial reports, interview witnesses, and work with insurance companies to determine what happened.
If you can, taking pictures or video of the accident scene, including all vehicles, is a good idea when exchanging information with the other drivers. These images can be very helpful during an investigation.
Communicating With Insurance Companies
It is possible that you have to work with multiple insurance companies after an accident. For example, if you want to seek damages from another driver, their insurer will most likely be involved. Saying the wrong thing can jeopardize your claim. You must also be careful to avoid signing anything you don't fully understand, such as a settlement that waives your right to seek additional compensation.
It is important to remember that insurance companies' primary concern is protecting themselves. They have attorneys to help them, and it is only fair that you have the same. An accident attorney will handle all communication with insurance companies, repair facilities, doctors, and other providers related to your claim.
Filing Legal Claims
California allows accident victims to seek compensation from the at-fault driver after an accident. You may be able to recover small awards by filing a small claims case. However, anything over $10,000 must go through the civil court process. There are two civil case options: limited for amounts up to $25,000 and unlimited for higher amounts.
This process can be overwhelming unless you have a background in civil law. First, you must act as your own attorney, assuming responsibility for following all required procedures. Additionally, California law does not allow the court to help you in any way if you decide against hiring an attorney in a civil case.
Determining Appropriate Compensation for Injuries Sustained
Another significant benefit you access when you hire an experienced accident attorney is an accurate assessment of the compensation you can seek. When in the middle of recovery, it is difficult to calculate the actual cost of any injuries. Things like the cost of missed work and temporary transportation can get lost among more apparent costs. An injury attorney will look at the big picture and help you determine a realistic dollar amount to seek.
Review Your Options With an Accident Attorney
If you have been in a car accident, no matter how minor, contact Johnson Attorneys Group. We will review your case and help you decide whether or not hiring an attorney is the right option. Call (800) 208-3538 to schedule a free evaluation at one of our convenient California locations.