If you have recently been involved in a car accident in the State of Washington and received injuries as a result of the accident, you likely have a number of questions and concerns. One of the most common questions car accident victims have is whether or not they need to hire an attorney to represent them. There is no legal requirement that you hire an attorney; however, there are a number of reasons why you may wish to do so. Each accident presents a unique set of facts and circumstances, yet there are some common considerations that often go into the decision to hire an attorney or to proceed on your own.
One of the most important things to consider when deciding if you need the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney is whether or not negligence is clear. “Negligence” is a legal term that essentially refers to fault or responsibility. In order for you to recover any compensation for your injuries, the other driver must have been negligent. The State of Washington does not require that the other driver be 100 percent at fault; however, he or she must have done, or not done, something that contributed to the cause of the accident.
Often, victims make the mistake of assuming that negligence, or fault, is clear — only to find out later that the other driver denies being at fault. In some cases, the driver may even have accepted the blame at the time of the accident only to have their insurance company deny responsibility down the road. If there is any question at all regarding who was at fault, the help of an experienced attorney may be needed.
The extent and severity of your injuries is another important consideration. For a minor fender bender that caused nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises, going it alone may be a viable option. The more serious your injuries, however, the more you should consider the help of an attorney. Injuries that cause permanent damage or that will require future medical treatment can be difficult to valuate. You have only one shot at receiving the compensation you deserve for those injuries. You certainly do not want to undervalue the cost of any future treatment or fail to include any damages that are compensable when you make your claim or file your lawsuit.
This brings up another critical consideration – placing a value on your claim. Typically, before a lawsuit is filed, the victim will make a demand to the defendant, or the defendant’s insurance company in most cases, for the total amount of damages sought. Knowing how much to ask for in your demand can be complicated. In Washington State, you may be entitled to both economic and non-economic damages. Knowing how to attach a monetary figure to your injuries is something that an experienced car accident lawyer knows how to do in order to ensure that you receive every dollar that you deserve.
Finally, it is important to remember that in most cases you will not actually be dealing with the other driver, but with the driver’s insurance company. The claims adjuster that you will be dealing with initially is not on your side–despite anything he may say to the contrary. His job is to keep costs down for the insurance company, plain and simple. If you choose to hire an attorney to represent you, your attorney will take over communication with the insurance company, thereby leveling the playing field. Although most car accident cases settle out of court, if your case ends up in the courtroom, the defendant’s insurance company will likely be certain that their side is thoroughly prepared and well represented in court. By consulting with an attorney early on, you can also rest assured that your interests will be well represented in the event the case goes to trial.
The decision to hire an attorney is, of course, a highly personal decision. Before you make the decision, take the time to consult with the experienced Yakima car accident attorneys at the Mariano Morales Jr. Law Firm at 509-457-1948.