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After a Car Accident, Does it Matter if I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney Right Away?

Question

I was injured in a car accident. I’m not sure if I need a lawyer. Will it hurt my case if I wait to hire one?

Answer

Your concern is understandable. There are many lawyers who have advertisements suggesting that you’ll harm your case if you don’t hurry up and hire them right away. The truth is, that’s not always the case. It is never a good idea to rush into hiring a personal injury attorney. Take your time and get attorney recommendations from your family or friends. Talk to the lawyer you are interested in and make sure it’s the right fit before hiring the firm.

When you talk to the attorney, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you actually get to talk to the lawyer?
  • Does the lawyer answer all of your questions?
  • Does the lawyer fully explain the process to you?
  • Or, on the other hand, does the firm seem more interested in rushing you to sign a retainer agreement?

Be leery if the answer to the last question is yes.

You should know, however, that there are scenarios where a delay in hiring a personal injury attorney might negatively impact your case. For example:

  • During the delay, you give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance carrier. It is important to note that you are not obligated to give a statement. The statement is purely for the benefit of the insurance company, so don’t give one. If they can, they will later use the statement against you.
  • You delay seeking medical treatment. This is one of the top justifications insurance companies will later use against you. Insurers will argue that you aren’t badly injured because you didn’t seek treatment right away. Although you might have perfectly valid reasons for not seeing a doctor right away, the reality is this: Each day that goes by without that first medical visit, the more ammunition the insurance adjuster has to low ball you later.
  • You seek medical treatment right away, but then there’s a gap in treatment. Again, the insurance adjuster will use any gaps in medical treatment against you.
  • You have settlement discussions with the other driver’s insurance adjuster before you even know the full extent of your injuries. Insurance adjusters love to get to you before you hire an attorney. They want to look like the good guy by accepting responsibility for the accident right away, and quickly making you a settlement offer on your injury claim. If you’re sure that your injuries aren’t serious, go ahead and settle your claim if you’re happy with the offer. But if you’re not sure about the extent of your injuries or how long you’ll be in pain, don’t sign a settlement release or even engage in settlement discussions with the adjuster.

If you’ve been in an auto accident and you’re not sure if you need a personal injury lawyer, the safest bet is to at least run it by an attorney soon after the accident. Most personal injury lawyers give free consultations, so you really have nothing to lose. Speak to a couple attorneys to get their input and ask their advice on whether you’d be better off hiring a lawyer. If you need more time to decide, ask the lawyer what actions you should and shouldn’t take while making your decision. Do not allow yourself to be rushed into signing a retainer agreement.

At McGee, Lerer & Associates, we are a husband and wife team of attorneys who specialize in serious accident and injury cases. Our law firm has four office locations in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena, and Santa Monica. Call (626) 642-9302 to set up your free consultation, we are available 24/7.

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