Attorneys Answer: When Do You Need to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer In Baton Rouge, LA?
After a crash, many accident victims handle their auto accident claims without the help of a lawyer. A simple claim involving minor injuries might not involve the legal issues that require a lawyer’s assistance. But when matters become complicated, you may need legal help to resolve your claim fairly.
An accident lawyer has legal training and is experienced in dealing with insurance companies. They know how to persuade insurance adjusters to settle your case. If the insurer refuses to settle, an accident attorney can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and present your evidence to a jury.
The Car Accident Claim Process
To begin to understand how a car accident case can go wrong and how insurers will try to take advantage of your situation, you must first learn the normal course of a car accident claim. Almost all car accident cases start with an insurance claim. Louisiana uses a fault-based insurance system.
Every registered vehicle owner must buy a liability insurance policy. This policy includes bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage that pays third parties injured by the insured vehicle’s driver.
After a crash, accident victims file claims against the at-fault driver’s BIL coverage. Upon proving the at-fault driver’s negligence, the insurance company must pay the accident victim’s losses up to the policy limits.
These losses can include:
- Medical bills
- Income losses
- Necessary and reasonable out-of-pocket expenses
- Diminished earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
The insurer assigns claims to a claims adjuster for investigation. The adjuster’s job is to protect the insurer from unnecessarily paying on claims. They will confirm whether the policyholder caused the accident and verify the claimant’s losses.
If the adjuster accepts the claim, the insurer will negotiate a settlement with the accident victim. However, if they deny the claim, the claimant must either overcome the denial or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
The claim process can go wrong at many stages. If you do not make the right moves at these points, you may end up with an unsatisfying outcome, including:
- Losing your claim for compensation
- Winning your claim but getting less than its fair value
- Having to pay for the other driver’s losses
You significantly reduce your risk of making poor decisions in your claim by hiring experienced legal counsel. Your car accident lawyer can provide legal advice, representation, and advocacy to help you overcome obstacles.
The Other Driver Blames You
Louisiana applies the doctrine of comparative fault to car accidents. Everyone who contributed to the cause of the crash receives a share of the fault. If you receive a share, your damages get reduced in proportion. Thus, a driver who successfully pins 33% of the blame on you only needs to pay 67% of your damages.
Suppose that a driver caused a motorcycle accident by running a stop sign and hitting you broadside. The driver broke the law and will therefore bear the bulk of the blame for the resulting collision.
But suppose instead that you were not wearing a motorcycle helmet when you got hit. The driver may blame you for your brain injury, arguing that a helmet could have prevented it. A claims adjuster or jury might find this argument persuasive. An accident lawyer can assemble the facts and legal arguments to counter this type of argument.
Your Claim Gets Denied
Insurance adjusters can deny claims for many reasons, including the following:
- The policyholder did not cause your injuries
- The policyholder’s actions did not constitute negligence
- Your injuries were pre-existing conditions
- Your injuries did not cause your losses
- The expenses you incurred were not reasonable and necessary
The insurer does not need to pay the claim if the adjuster has evidence to support these grounds. But the insurer shifts the burden to you in many situations to disprove these grounds. For example, the adjuster might assume your injuries were pre-existing conditions until you produce medical records showing they resulted from your crash.
You can respond to claim denials to try to overcome them. Often, you will need a lawyer’s assistance to assemble the evidence and present the arguments that will persuade the adjuster to reverse the denial.
The Insurer Makes a Low Offer
The claims adjuster will make a settlement offer after accepting the claim. Your offer will likely be insultingly low. The adjuster might even offer less than your documented medical bills, leaving you to pay for a share of the injuries caused by their policyholder.
The law entitles you to full and fair compensation, but adjusters make low offers for two reasons:
- Some claimants accept the offer, letting the insurer off the hook for less than full value
- Low offers leave room to negotiate
Getting a fair settlement from the adjuster will require you to understand the value of your claim. You will also need negotiating skills to persuade the adjuster to pay for your losses. A car accident lawyer can evaluate your claim and fight for a settlement based on it.
Trouble Settling Your Claim
Sometimes, you cannot settle with the insurer. In these cases, the adjuster either persists in a claim denial or refuses to make a fair offer. You may need a lawyer’s assistance when you reach this impasse because the next step could involve a lawsuit.
You should speak to a car accident attorney about the strength and value of your claim. Based on this discussion, you can decide whether to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
If you proceed, the lawyer will:
- Prepare the pleadings to commence the lawsuit
- Gather evidence through a process called discovery
- Lay the groundwork for your trial with pretrial motions
- Negotiate with the at-fault party and their insurer to settle the case
- Present your evidence to a jury if the case does not settle
Most cases never reach trial. According to one survey published by the U.S. Department of Justice, only 3% of injury lawsuits ever reach trial. This survey also showed that auto liability cases end more quickly and are more likely to result in a win for the accident victim than other types of personal injury cases.
Finding a Baton Rouge Car Accident Lawyer for Your Case
Most auto accident attorneys offer free case evaluations. You should talk to a lawyer as early as possible to avoid making any mistakes that might affect the outcome. Since lawyers conduct these consultations without obligation, you can choose not to hire a lawyer after speaking with them.
A car accident claim requires knowledge, skill, and experience to handle correctly. Contact our Palmintier Law Group attorneys by calling (225) 344 3735 for a free consultation to discuss your car crash and how we can help you pursue compensation for your injuries.