I Got in a Car Crash. Do I Need an Auto Accident Lawyer? (Part 1)
There are three questions that, by far, people ask me more than any others when they sit in my office (or in front of me on a Zoom call) after they’ve been in a car crash. The first is: Should I get a lawyer? (We’ll save the next two as cliffhangers…).
I can’t answer that for you. Strictly speaking, you can handle your own claim with the insurance company. It’s true that today, a lot of the information you need to handle the claim to fix your car or seek compensation for your injuries is out there on Google. But I would ask, why would you want to? Large insurance companies handle millions of claims. Adjusters handle claims every hour, every day, all year long. Does it make sense for you to try and jump in, perhaps never having handled a claim, and attempt to do it yourself? Even if you’re willing and able to do the research and enjoy trying to handle things yourself, going up against someone who handles thousands of claims day in and day out doesn’t make a lot of sense.
I can tell you that in today’s day and age, handling even the “simplest” of car crash claims has gotten ever-more complex. There are a myriad of issues and pitfalls that can trip up the inexperienced. It’s also important to know that Google won’t tell you ALL of the issues you need to be aware of when handling your claim, that certain issues have different answers and applications that vary completely based on your state or location, and that subtle differences in your situation can make all of the difference for your case.
If you hire an experienced attorney, you’re hiring someone who can assimilate the information related to your case quickly, someone who can apply the law to your specific situation, and someone who knows which questions to ask at the right time and where to go to find answers to those questions. It isn’t understanding the baseline information that’s important; instead, it’s understanding how to apply that information to a given set of facts. As an example, I tell clients that anyone can use Google to figure out that in North Carolina, if you have “contributory negligence,” a jury can bar your recovery. But figuring out whether your left turn on yellow constitutes contributory negligence? Now there’s the rub.
I encourage clients to look at their claim not from the perspective of how the dollars will shake out (though absolutely we understand the importance of the financial aspects), but rather from the perspective that if you’re hiring the right lawyer, you’re bringing on someone who can “dot the i’s and cross the t’s” for you, someone who handles these claims day in and day out, and someone who knows the right questions to ask and the right way to apply the law to the facts of your car crash case.
Some years ago, the ball rod to one of my stopper drain sinks had rotted away so I could no longer close or open the drain. I decided that I would replace the entire stopper drain assembly (don’t ask). I had watched a YouTube video and read exactly how to do it on Google. While I’ve never claimed to be a handyman, surely I was smart enough to put in a basic stopper drain with some research and a little elbow grease. I went to the hardware store, got the new assembly, and went to work. Twelve hours later, I had installed and replaced that new assembly four times … and the sink still leaked. I ended up calling a plumber after my wife stopped laughing at me. It took the plumber ten minutes to fix the problem. There’s a lesson there: just because you read how to do it on the internet doesn’t mean you can capably do it yourself. Your personal injury claim isn’t a sink. I can’t fix it after you’ve given out damaging information, made damaging statements, or stepped in certain holes. Remember the old rhyme: “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.” Don’t be Humpty Dumpty. Hire someone experienced to handle your claim.