Why do I need a lawyer after my car accident?

If you have been in a car accident where you have sustained injuries, medical expenses, and/or property damage, there is more to the process than simply filing a claim with your own insurance company. Filing a claim on your own is not always in your best interest. Here are some reasons you should contact our expert attorneys after an accident.

The other person says you caused the accident

Sometimes, it is clear who caused an accident. When someone hits you from the rear, it is usually pretty obvious that the other person is to blame. However, look closely at the police report. Did the officer correctly record your statement at the scene? Did the officer accurately describe the accident in his report? What about the diagram? Does it reflect what happened?

Many times, even when you believe the other side was clearly at fault, the cause may not be accurately reflected in the police report. An attorney can help you by describing what is required to amend the report. Additionally, an attorney can help you ensure that your insurance company pays for the property damage (if you have collision coverage) and that the insurance company seeks to obtain recovery from the at fault party.

If you are hurt (see below), an attorney can begin to collect all the evidence you need in a future claim for personal injury. It is important that the attorney obtain witness statements while the accident is fresh in their memory. Sometimes, the attorney is able to obtain scene photographs showing skid marks. For these reasons, Harrell, Smith & Williams can help you if you contact right away.

You are injured as a result of the accident

It goes without saying that our bodies were not made for the movement experienced in vehicle collisions. It is true that a major accident with a large amount of property damage can cause little or no injury at all. However, at times, the opposite is true: even with minor property damage, a major injury can occur. In fact, our court system recognizes this and includes the following instruction to the jury when property damage photographs are shown at trial:

A number of photographs of one or more of the vehicles involved in the accident have been introduced into evidence.   These photographs show the damage or depict the condition of the vehicles after the impact.   As judges of the facts, you may attribute such weight to the photographs as you deem appropriate taking into consideration all of the other evidence in this case.

In some accidents resulting in extensive vehicle damage, the occupants may suffer minor injuries or no injuries at all.   In other accidents where there is no or little apparent vehicle damage, the occupants may suffer serious injuries.   In reaching your decision in this matter, you are to give the photographs whatever weight you deem appropriate.   They are but one factor to be considered, along with all other evidence, in determining whether the plaintiff sustained injuries as a result of the accident. N.J. Model Civil Jury Charge 5.34 (emphasis added).

Many times, you may feel immediate pain and go to the emergency room. However, at other times, pain and symptoms develop in the weeks and even months after the accident. The defendant’s insurance company will fight any claim for damages relating to personal injury. Many times, it is necessary to go to trial for injuries relating to a motor vehicle accident. You will need an attorney to advocate for you because you can be sure the defendant’s insurance company will have an effective attorney and a defense medical expert to say you were not hurt. Without an attorney, you will not be able to adequately explain to the jury the full extent of your injuries. Each of the attorneys at Harrell, Smith & Williams has tried a large number of cases and is ready to take on the insurance company to ensure that the jury hears about what you have been through.

You have the limitation on lawsuit, or verbal threshold, on your insurance policy;

In New Jersey, there are two types of insurance policies: the verbal threshold policy and the no verbal threshold (also known as the limitation on lawsuit and the no limitation on lawsuit). If you have the verbal threshold on your auto insurance policy, you must prove your injury falls within one of six categories:

  1. Death;
  2. Dismemberment;
  3. Significant disfigurement, or scarring;
  4. Displaced Fracture;
  5. Loss of a Fetus; or
  6. A permanent injury as shown by objective medical evidence.

Usually, the first five categories are pretty clear. However, an attorney will help you maximize your recovery by ensuring you meet the procedural requirements. You must obtain a certification of your treating physician that says your injury meets one of these requirements. Additionally, during the course of the case, you must obtain a report from your physician indicating that your injury qualifies and is “causally related” to the accident. An insurance company will take you seriously if you have an attorney advocate for you. Additionally, an attorney will ensure that these procedural requirements are met. Your recovery will be much more fair if you proceed with an attorney.

However, when your injury falls within category number 6, the challenges necessitate that you obtain an attorney. There are very specific requirements under this particular category of the verbal threshold and insurance companies fight recovery under this category more than any other. In addition to the necessity of the certification of physician, you will need to ensure that a physician reviews your x-rays, your MRI’s, and other diagnostic testing to show “CREDIBLE OBJECTIVE” medical evidence of permanent injury. You can rest assured that the insurance company’s hired physician will disagree with any opinion your treating physician provides. There are a limited number of defense examiners who write reports on behalf of the defendant. These defense examiners, nearly without fail, find that your injuries are either minor or temporary, or that they are unrelated to the accident. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to cross-examine and expose the bias of these defense examiners and assist you in obtaining reports that support the diagnoses of your treating physicians. At Harrell, Smith & Williams, we have had success in trying many verbal threshold cases. We have been able to demonstrate the bias of the defense examiners and bring out the truth expressed by your treating physicians

You Need to Negotiate for a Higher Settlement Amount

More and more, we are seeing insurance companies call injured people right after an accident and offer $500, $750 or maybe $1,000 to “help you with your bills.”  This is not truly what this money is for. The insurance company is trying to get you to sign a general release. That general release will keep you from filing a claim for any injuries you have. If this happens to you, you should call us immediately so that we can discuss your options. Remember, THE INSURANCE COMPANY IS NOT LOOKING OUT FOR YOU. It is the other person’s insurance company and has one interest alone: limiting both their exposure and the exposure of their insured. You should have someone look out for you. Harrell, Smith & Williams will tell you what you need to know to make an informed decision.

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