Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 20, 2020

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The least you should know…

  • Knowing when to hire an auto insurance lawyer depends on a number of factors
  • Some car accidents are straightforward and can be handled without an attorney
  • Certain factor such as injuries, contested fault, or claim denials make consulting with a lawyer advisable or even necessary
  • If you plan on talking to a lawyer, do so before communicating with the claims adjuster for your accident

You’ve seen the ads on television telling you to call an injury attorney if you’ve been injured in an accident, and not to wait or you may lose your right to sue.

The ads don’t usually specify under what circumstances you should do so or how much time you have.

If you used these ads to determine when to hire a car accident lawyer, the answer would be “right now!” That might be the right answer for you, though.

Here’s help in determining whether or not an auto accident attorney is advisable or necessary, and when to hire an attorney after a car accident.

Knowing what to do after a car wreck involves not only what to do at the scene, but also whether hiring an auto accident attorney makes sense.

Hiring an attorney for your car accident claim can be intimidating. The cost of car accident lawyer fees alone has most people asking: “Is it worth getting a car accident lawyer?” The answer is probably yes, you should get a lawyer for a car accident that was your fault. On the flip side, you likely don’t need an auto accident lawyer when there is no injury.

There are some basic indicators of whether you should call an attorney after a car accident. If you do need to find an attorney, you can begin the search in your area by putting your ZIP code into our search tool.

When To Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident and When Not To

There three distinct scenarios after a car accident that may arise. depending on which you find yourself in will help determine whether you should hire an auto insurance lawyer or not.

The simplest, most clear-cut claims really don’t require an attorney’s assistance

In simple claims, typically:
  • there is clarity of liability (for example, the other guy was clearly at fault and acknowledges it); and/or
  • the injuries are minor with low medical bills and other expenses; and/or
  • there are no extenuating circumstances requiring investigation, such as previously existing injuries to the same body parts, complicated scenarios in the accident, uncertainties about coverage, or questions about the statute of limitations (the legal deadline for filing a lawsuit against the responsible party). You may not know these things right away. That’s why many injured claimants start out handling their own claim, only to hire the services of an attorney later.

For simple claims, you may be able to work through the insurance claims process on your own. Click here for tips on how to get the best car accident settlement and how to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer.

It would be prudent to at least seek advice from an auto accident attorney when:

  • Liability is not clear or is shared between or among the parties.
  • You have no idea how to evaluate what your car accident claim is worth.
  • The adjuster has asked you to provide medical records from prior to the accident.
  • The adjuster has made you an offer and you think your claim is worth a great deal more.
  • The adjuster is offering a structured settlement rather than a lump sum payment.
  • You are not confident in your ability to negotiate a settlement on your own behalf.
  • You have a claim of lost wages that is difficult to prove—for example, you are a consultant, a business owner, a salesperson, etc.
  • You don’t know how to get a pain and suffering settlement without a lawyer.

It is imperative that you consult an auto accident attorney when:

  • There are extenuating circumstances that make your claim more valuable and you don’t know how to prove your loss (for example, you’re a caregiver and can no longer take care of your husband or sick mother).
  • The insurance company has denied your claim, you believe they are incorrect in their denial, and they will not reconsider.
  • The insurance company’s settlement offer is too low.
  • You are seriously injured with significant medical bills with or without residual disability.
  • You are moderately injured with residual disability and will incur future medical bills.
  • The injured party is a minor with more than slight injuries.
  • Liability is being disputed and you believe you are not responsible or are only partially responsible for the accident.
  • It’s been almost a year since your accident, you’re not close to settling your claim, and you don’t know what the statute of limitations is in your state.
  • The circumstances surrounding the accident are complex and may require expert investigation.
  • The other party to the accident has served you with a lawsuit.

For claims with issues of fault, injuries, statutes of limitation, or other complicating factors, it is advisable to at least consult with a car accident attorney. Car insurance companies have lawyers to review those types of issues and advise the company on ways to avoid paying you what you deserve.

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Bringing it All Together

If yours is not a clear-cut case, be sure to consult with an attorney before speaking to an insurance adjuster. Doing so will save you from making statements to the adjuster that may be damaging to your claim, statements that you may later regret. If the statute of limitations, or time limit to file a lawsuit, has expired, it may be too late to get a lawyer for a car accident.

Hopefully, we answered all your questions about when to hire a car accident lawyer during the claims process.

If you may need to consult with an attorney, you can begin your search by entering your ZIP code into our search tool below.