What Does My Car Accident Lawyer Need to Know?

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 What Questions Should I Expect at a Meeting with a Car Accident Lawyer?

When consulting a personal injury lawyer about a car accident, the more information a person can provide them, the better. While the questions may vary from lawyer to lawyer, these questions tend to be the most likely to be asked by a person’s lawyer.

How Did the Accident Happen?

A lawyer needs to know the basic facts about the accident, such as the following:

  • Where did the accident take place? If it took place on a highway, a person should make a note of the direction, e.g., northbound, westbound, etc., and near which exit or landmark it took place;
  • Who was involved in the accident? A person would want to identify all of the known drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and anyone else who may have been involved;
  • What may have caused the accident;
  • The insurance information of all drivers involved, including the name of their insurance companies and their policy numbers;
  • The vehicles involved in the accident, including
    • The make and model;
    • The color;
    • The license plate number and state of registration.

Can You Describe the Accident?

A person’s lawyer will want to know all about the accident from the moment shortly before the accident occurred through the person’s reports to law enforcement and insurance companies.

A person may want to make notes soon after the accident and once in a safe place. They should start at a time right before the accident and note down the general situation:

  • What were traffic conditions generally?
  • How was the weather?
  • What were the road conditions in light of the weather?
  • How was visibility on the road?

Did a distraction take place, such as other cars honking? Was the person using their cell phone, or were the other drivers involved using theirs? Was there some kind of mechanical issue with one of the cars involved, e.g., a flat tire?

Next, the person wants to describe the lead to the accident. People want to focus on facts and thoughts, not emotions. What did they see? For example, if the person saw a car changing lanes in front of them, did the driver fail to signal the lane change? Did the person not see them merge in time? Did the other car slow or stop abruptly after merging?

What did the person physically feel during the accident? What maneuver were they performing, if any, at the time of the accident? Did another strike the person’s car, or did the person strike another?

Did any of the other drivers appear intoxicated? Did any of them make threats or commit any violent acts? Did any of them admit guilt or fault to you?

People should remember that they should never admit guilt or fault to anyone except their lawyer. However, if a person has said something that could be taken as admitting fault or guilt, they should honestly tell their lawyer so they can deal with anything that might affect the case.

It is a good idea to make notes soon after the accident while a person’s memory of what happened is still fresh.

Did You Take Pictures of the Accident?

A person should describe the damage they observed after the accident to their lawyer. If the person has pictures of the damage they should share them with their lawyer. It is a good idea to take photos as soon after the accident as that can be done safely. Good pictures can be very helpful for documenting the scene of the accident as well as the damage to the vehicles involved.

Do You Have Any Other Evidence?

Finally, a person’s lawyer will want to know what the police and insurance carriers do or say after the accident. A person’s lawyer will want to know about all communication between them and law enforcement, the person’s insurance company, and any of the other drivers involved.

If a person has received a case number or copy of the police report from law enforcement or their insurance company, they should give it to their lawyer.

Do You Have Any Repair Estimates?

One of the major issues of concern in a car accident is the extent of the damage to the vehicles involved and what it is going to cost to repair them. In some cases, it may not even be possible to repair the vehicles, and they may have to be replaced completely.

Several issues relate to damage to a motor vehicle in an accident. One is the cost of repairing the motor vehicle. Which driver is responsible for paying for the loss to the vehicles involved depends on the law of the state where the accident happened. If the state has a no-fault car insurance system, then each driver would turn to their own insurance company for compensation for the loss of their vehicle.

If the state has a fault insurance system, then the insurance company of the driver who was at fault for causing the accident is responsible for compensating drivers for the losses connected to their vehicles.

If a car was completely demolished in the accident or “totaled,” the insurance company would pay the owner the car’s value. The value would be the car’s value just before the accident. The owner would then have to find themselves a replacement motor vehicle.

If the car was not totaled, the owner would seek compensation for two items, the cost of repairing the vehicle and the loss in value. A motor vehicle loses value if it is involved in an accident, even if it is repaired. So a person wants to recover both the repair cost and the loss in value.

If a person has obtained information about the status of their vehicle, e.g., whether it can be repaired and, if so, what it will cost, plus an estimate of any loss in value, they want to provide this information to their lawyer. If a person does not yet have this information, their lawyer will want to obtain it.

Have You Received Any Medical Treatment?

Perhaps more important than damage to a vehicle is the injury a driver or passenger may have suffered in an accident. If a person has survived the accident and received treatment for injuries, they want to document all the treatment they receive.

They want to keep every piece of paper they may receive from their health insurance company, e.g., all of the “explanation of benefits” if they have health insurance coverage. Their insurance may cover some or all of the cost of their medical treatment.

If another party was at fault in causing the accident and ultimately pays compensation, either as a negotiated settlement or as an award of damages after a trial, a person’s health insurance might seek reimbursement for the amount it paid to cover the person’s treatment after an accident.

In any event, a person wants to keep all records regarding their medical treatment and any health insurance compensation for the cost. They also want to keep a diary of their treatment, including the prescribed medications. A person wants to document every aspect of the medical care they receive.

Have You Lost Any Wages or Other Income?

A person may have to take time off work if they are injured. They may be unable to work. They may need to take time off to receive medical treatment for their injuries. Again, a person needs to keep accurate records of all they miss from work and their lost wages or salary.

In some cases, a person may suffer a loss of earning capacity. This is something that an experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to document and what kind of compensation can be recovered for loss of earning capacity.

How Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

A car accident can be a stressful experience. The right lawyer can help you obtain the best outcome. While you want to present as much information as possible to your lawyer when you first meet, your lawyer will know if more is needed and how to obtain any additional information.

A local car accident lawyer can analyze what happened in your case and then advise you of your options. If necessary, they can negotiate a settlement with insurance companies and at-fault drivers. Or, if a trial is necessary, they can represent you most effectively.

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