Being involved in an Asheville, North Carolina car accident is a very stressful experience, particularly if you are injured in the accident, or if someone in your automobile or SUV was injured. It can be very difficult to think clearly in those early moments when your body is in shock and your brain is flooded with adrenaline.
Motor vehicle accident lawyer Lakota Denton answers many questions related to Asheville car accidents and what your options are after an accident. Simple car accidents can often be handled between you and the insurance company for the at-fault driver, but more complicated accidents involving severe injuries, property damage, permanent injury or questions of fault can require the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney. In this article, we’ll attempt to provide you with a guide for what to do after a wreck.
The Dirty Truth About Insurance Companies and Unfair Settlement Offers.
If you have been the victim of an accident, and have been injured as the result of another person’s negligence or through no fault of your own, you may be in the midst of dealing and negotiating with an insurance company. As a victim of an accident you did not cause, you are likely entitled to obtain compensation for things like medical bills, property (vehicle) damage, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Insurance companies often fail to make reasonable offers that clients find acceptable. There are many reasons for this (some you can probably guess), but at the end of the day, injured persons with legitimate claims for compensation scratch their head at how and why the insurance company can get away with offering so little when they are clearly on the hook.
In the aftermath of an accident, it can be difficult to know how best to proceed . You may be recovering from serious injuries, but you’re also likely facing potentially large financial obligations like medical bills, car repair costs, and lost wages. Due to the overwhelm and mounting financial burdens, many people think that they will be unable to afford to hire a personal injury lawyer.
What Does it Cost to Hire an Attorney to Help with your Injury Claim?
When people consider hiring a personal injury attorney, they often believe that they can’t afford an attorney, due to the common stereotype that attorneys charge expensive hourly rates. In some practice areas this is true, but almost all personal injury attorneys offer free consultations and handle cases on a contingency basis. This means, for example, that your car accident lawyer will not be paid anything unless your case reaches a settlement or positive outcome/judgment. To put it bluntly, they only get paid if you do. Most North Carolina injury lawyers charge a contingency fee that will be roughly 1/3 of the final settlement or judgment. Consulting with a personal injury attorney is not only extremely affordable, but also is likely to be in your best interest.
Asheville Car Accident Lawyer Lakota R. Denton explains what you should do in the immediate aftermath of a car accident, to help ensure that you don’t get taken advantage of by an insurance company. This video contains some of Lakota’s tips, based on having dealt with hundreds of car accident victims in Western North Carolina.
My name is Lakota Denton, and I’m a personal injury lawyer in Asheville, North Carolina. A lot of times I get calls from people who have just been involved in a car accident, and they want to know, “what should I do right away? What should I do immediately after the car accident?” I’m going to talk to you about some important things I tell folks to do right after a car accident to make sure they’re not taken advantage of by an insurance company, particularly if they’re injured in a car accident.
If you’ve been in a crash, the first thing to do is pull over to the side of the road immediately and call the police. Sometimes, if somebody crashes into the back of you and it’s not too bad, they will get out of their car and come over to you and say “hey man, I’m so sorry, it was my fault, here is my insurance information, we don’t need to call the police, I’m in a hurry, I have to go to work, let’s not get the police involved let’s just take care of it, don’t worry.” Now that can be a problem for a number of reasons.
First of all, if the police don’t show up you will not have a car accident report filled out by a police officer. The accident report is your best proof that this accident took place. It brings in an independent police officer who is a witness to what happened and the damage to both vehicles. The police officer will take statements from both of the people and that’s how you can really prove that this in fact happened. Another reason that’s a problem, is that I’ve heard of that happening with my clients, and a couple hours later, the insurance company calls and they say “hey, this wasn’t our guys’ fault”. And my client will say “what are you talking about? He apologized to me, he said let’s just deal with the insurance company, I didn’t mean to hit you”. But unless you’ve gotten that from a witness, or you’ve recorded it, or you’ve gotten a statement from them, they can change their story, and they do change their story sometimes when they realize what’s involved. So make sure the police come and fill out a crash report and take statements.
When the police do arrive, don’t rely on the police do everything to investigate your crash. Take photographs with your cell phone of the damage, not just to your vehicle, but the other vehicle as well. A lot of times, even if the other person says it’s their own fault, the amount of damage to the vehicle can help the insurance company evaluate your injuries. You can imagine that if you have a broken leg or something really serious from a car accident. If an insurance company looks and they see only a little bit of damage to your vehicle, they’re going to say “how could you break your leg in such a small crash?”. So you want to document the severity of the crash, and that involves taking photographs of both vehicles involved. If your bumper looks fine, you might take a photograph underneath your bumper and see if there’s some damage under there. What you’re trying to do is document how hard was the collision.
You may also want to take photographs of any apparent injuries that you might have. Sometimes, you bang your knee into the dashboard, or you pull your shoulder with the seatbelt, and there’s immediate swelling. Or, you hit your head on the console or on the windshield, and you have bruising or blood coming out your forehead or a black eye. Take photographs of that because further down the line, I’ve seen insurance companies say “you weren’t hurt because you went to the hospital and they said you looked fine, you didn’t break any bones”. Well, you need to use those photographs to be able to say “no, I did have some injuries, here is a picture of the injury.
Another thing you should do, after you’ve pulled over to the side of the road is find out if there are any eyewitnesses. So a lot of times, other people will pull over and come check on you and ask if you’re OK. Get their name and phone number, because if they leave the scene and take off because they think you’re OK, you’re never going to find them again. So get names and phone numbers of anyone that saw what happened and anyone that is checking on you to see if you’re OK.
The reason it’s so important to do all these steps immediately after the crash is that you’re going to be dealing with an insurance company, for a person that crashed into you. And that insurance company will happily tell you that it was a minor crash and that you were not hurt. And I’ve seen clients who don’t think they’re hurt after the crash because they’re still in shock. And then 2 days later, they go to the hospital, and they’ve torn their rotator cuff. Or they’ve torn their meniscus, or they have a really bad concussion. And the insurance company says: “hey, we don’t even think that this crash happened”, or “we think you were fine in this crash because we don’t see any photographs of the crash, we don’t even know how bad the crash was.
So, investigate the crash. After you’ve done all those steps, immediately contact a personal injury lawyer, they will talk to you for free. I always talk to people for free. Don’t wait 2 weeks. All kinds of problems can happen with your case if you wait after a car crash.
So if you’ve been in a car accident: take photographs, get the names of witnesses and make sure the police come and fill out an accident report, and then call a personal injury lawyer.
If you have questions about your car accident or would like some assistance with your insurance claim, don’t hesitate to contact our office today. Our consultations are always free and we’re here to help.
As an Asheville personal injury lawyer, it is common that someone comes into my office asking if I can represent them in a minor car accident claim. When a car accident is minor and the details are simple, I often advise the potential client that they handle the claim on their own, armed with some basic knowledge and know-how. Occasionally, these clients return to my office down the road looking for help resolving the claim, if they are unable to reach an agreement with the insurance company or adjuster.
When can you handle a claim by yourself?
You can attempt to settle a claim by yourself, and avoid paying your personal injury attorney the 33% fee (that most all injury lawyers charge), potentially saving you thousands of dollars. For example, if you are able to settle your case for $10,000, you will not have to pay your attorney the $3,333 that they charge for representing you.