After a car accident, you have a lot to deal with. In addition to the physical pain and discomfort of your injuries, you must attend doctor and physical therapist appointments, the logistics of getting your car repaired, and the complicated business of managing your usual obligations during your recovery. Trying to compel the other driver’s insurance company to compensate you for your medical bills, car repairs, lost income, and other damages would cause stress even if you felt your best. When you’re not, it can overwhelm you.
This is where Federal Way car accident lawyers come in. These legal professionals deal with insurance companies so you can recover and return to your normal life.
What Is a Car Accident Lawyer?
Car accident lawyers are a type of personal injury lawyer. Personal injury cases fall under civil, not criminal, law, in an area known as tort law. Sometimes called the law of wrongful injuries, tort law focuses on remedying wrongs caused by an at-fault party’s reckless behavior or negligence. Those remedies most often take the form of financial compensation.
Tort law covers a wide field of liabilities, from product defects to medical malpractice to dog bites—and car accidents. Since car accidents can involve so many variables, personal injury attorneys working in this area develop a deep foundation of knowledge about vehicle dynamics, police procedure, insurance practices, and—of course—local, state, and federal laws governing traffic, safety, automotive liability, and insurance policies.
What Do Car Accident Lawyers Do?
Car accident lawyers help their clients get compensation for their injuries.
While every car accident lawyer may have their own approach, and while some cases may require different tactics, in general, you can expect your car accident lawyer to:
- Contact the at-fault driver’s insurance and notify them that you intend to file a claim.
- Investigate the crash. In addition to obtaining the police report on the crash, your attorney will likely interview everyone who witnessed the accident. They’ll also try to obtain video footage from the municipality and security camera footage from nearby businesses and homeowners. They may send an investigator to the accident scene to look for information and take photos, or even hire an accident reconstructionist.
- Gather your medical records and bills from your medical providers and compile them into a package along with the evidence they’ve acquired from the crash scene. They’ll send this material to the insurance company with a demand letter, a document that lays out the facts of your case and tells the insurance company what it owes you as compensation.
- Negotiate a reasonable settlement if the insurance company doesn’t agree to the full amount in the demand letter. A settlement is reasonable if it covers your expenses and adequately compensates you for the harm you incurred.
- File a lawsuit against the insurance company if the insurance company does not agree to a reasonable negotiated settlement. Litigation begins when your attorney files a document known as a complaint or complaint for damages with the court.
- See your case through the litigation process. This includes filing the necessary motions, gathering and submitting evidence during the discovery phase, reviewing the other side’s evidence, lining up expert witnesses, attending out-of-court conferences, examining and cross-examining witnesses during the trial, and making compelling opening and closing statements. Your case might end before the trial concludes if you and the defendant reach an out-of-court settlement—or it might go all the way to a verdict by a judge and jury. (Litigation is a complex and demanding process, so we’ll go into more detail about how your car accident lawyer handles it below.)
- File an appeal if the verdict doesn’t go your way and you feel you can obtain a better outcome in a second trial.
Your Federal Way car accident lawyer will handle all of these steps—not you.
How Do Car Accident Lawyers Help Their Clients?
People injured in car crashes that another driver caused should not pay for their medical bills or the repairs to their vehicle, or simply lose their income when their injuries force them to miss work. The at-fault driver, who caused the accident through recklessness or negligence, should pay for these things.
But medical expenses, car repairs, and lost income can run into the many thousands of dollars—much more than most people have at their disposal. This is why most people carry automobile insurance: They pay a small amount each month for their policy, and when they injure someone else in a car accident, their policy pays a settlement to compensate the victim for their injuries and losses. In Washington, all drivers must purchase auto insurance. The law protects people from drivers with no ability to compensate their victims.
The requirement serves another function, too: Injured people who fear their claims could force the at-fault driver into financial hardship could choose instead to suffer in silence, without help or compensation. In Washington, claimants can rest assured that their compensation comes from a large corporation expressly designed for this purpose—not the other driver’s life savings or their kid’s college fund.
Still, the at-fault driver’s insurance company does not want to pay you what you deserve—the more money they bring in on policy subscriptions and the less money they pay out on claims, the bigger their profit margins. Insurance companies build enormous, seemingly impenetrable bureaucracies to keep their payouts as low as possible.
So, how do car accident lawyers help their clients? They break through the insurance companies’ barriers—the fine print, the paperwork, the hidden rules and exemptions—to get their clients the money they deserve.
Successful car accident lawyers have enough experience wrangling with insurance companies to stay ten steps ahead at every stage of the claims process. They know the local, state, and federal laws that apply in traffic accidents and insurance negotiations. And they understand the causes of car accidents and their consequences, for both your property and your physical and mental well-being.
What Do Car Accident Lawyers Do When They File a Lawsuit?
If the at-fault driver’s insurance company refuses to agree to a reasonable settlement, you may have to file a lawsuit. Your attorney will handle everything in this process, from filing the complaint through the discovery process, mediation, arbitration, and trial.
In car accident lawsuits, as in other types of personal injury suits, both parties must go through:
- Discovery. After your lawyer files the complaint and the defendant responds, discovery begins. The defense attorney will send you a list of questions, called interrogatories, that ask for what might seem like a surprising amount of personal information. The interrogatories will also ask about your medical treatment and bills, whether you lost income due to the accident, and how the accident has affected your life. Your attorney will answer many of the questions for you, but you may review and verify the information before they send it to the defense attorney’s office. The defense attorney will ask for a number of additional documents as well; your lawyer may provide these.
- Deposition. The next big step in the process is the deposition, where the defense attorney will ask you about the accident and your injuries. A court reporter usually transcribes and sometimes videotapes depositions. Your lawyer will attend the interview and will ask questions or object to any inappropriate questions the defense attorney asks. Giving a deposition can stress you out. Your lawyer will prepare you for yours by reviewing all the facts in the case with you beforehand and offering advice about what should and shouldn’t say.
- Mediation. After the interrogatories and the deposition, the two sides may head into mediation or arbitration. In mediation, you, your attorney, the defense attorney, and the defendant meet with a mediator to discuss the case and each side’s goals. Mediation is an informal process. The mediator will go back and forth between the two sides to try to broker a settlement. Usually, your lawyer will send information to the mediator ahead of time to explain the facts of the case and your injuries and expectations for settlement.
- Arbitration. Arbitration is more rigorous and formal than mediation. If your case goes to arbitration, your lawyer will participate in a mini-trial overseen by an arbitrator instead of a judge. Arbitration can speed up the lawsuit. In arbitration, the two sides present evidence and call witnesses, and make their best case for their position. The arbitrator, acting as judge, will consider the arguments and evidence and make a recommendation for settlement. Your car accident lawyer will handle everything you need for your arbitration: They’ll prepare and submit all the documents and evidence, notify witnesses that they need to testify, determine strategy, and present your case.
If the two sides can’t reach an agreement in mediation or arbitration, your car accident lawyer will prepare your case for trial. This is usually a major undertaking involving hundreds of hours of work. They’ll comb through your medical records and bills. They’ll prepare exhibits. They may arrange for expert witnesses (like doctors or accident reconstructionists) to provide insightful discussion about the facts of the case, and pay their fees.
With the lawyer for the defense, they attend mandatory conferences with the judge or other officials. Finally, as the trial gets nearer, they’ll prepare instructions for the jury and file any motions that either side needs to address before trial.
When it’s finally time for the trial, your lawyer and the defense lawyer will select a fair and open-minded jury. After the court seats the jury, each side will make an opening statement, call its witnesses to the stand and question them, cross-examine the other side’s witnesses, and present evidence. Then the lawyers will make their closing statements and the jury will meet to review the case and make a decision.
Why Do Car Accident Lawyers Do What They Do?
Every car accident lawyer has their own motivations, but most do what they do because they want to help injured people who suffered losses find justice in a system that can sometimes seem stacked against them. Going up against a large corporation and the well-oiled legal machine that protects it is hard for anyone who isn’t a lawyer, even when they feel their best; it’s almost impossible for people recovering from a bad accident and trying to keep everything else in their lives afloat. Car accident lawyers step in, handle the insurance company, and get individuals like you the compensation they deserve.
Most car accident attorneys charge a contingency fee. The client pays nothing up front, and the attorney only gets paid if the client wins a settlement. When you get a settlement, your lawyer receives a percentage.
A Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
After a stressful and traumatic car accident injury, you need to focus on getting the medical care you need and your recovery. Don’t place navigating the insurance claims process, gathering records, and trying not to let an insurance company take advantage of you on your list of worries.
After a car accident, don’t try to go it alone. You need an experienced car accident lawyer to protect your rights, get you the compensation you deserve, and take that weight off your shoulders.