What Does a Car Accident Lawyer Do?

Car accidents are inevitable. Many of us will experience a car accident at some point in our lives. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were over 6 million police-reported road crashes in 2021 alone. These crashes resulted in 2,497,657 injuries and 42,939 fatalities on US roads.

Have you suffered an injury as a direct result of a car accident that was not your fault? You may get compensated for any physical injuries, monetary losses, or pain sustained in an auto accident. A car accident attorney can help you seek justice and claim the rightful monetary compensation for the various damages incurred during a car crash.

Read on to learn how a car accident attorney is your best chance of getting the compensation you deserve from car accident claims.

What a Car Accident Attorney Can Do to Help You

A good car accident lawyer is an experienced tort law expert. Tort law is a section of civil legislation that reimburses the victims of civil wrongdoings (torts). In this case, the tort is the fault leading to the car accident.

Broadly speaking, the attorney’s job is to help you build a strong claim case and navigate tort laws in order to get the maximum compensation possible. Let’s get down to the details of a lawyer’s role in a claim. What exactly does a car accident attorney do for you?

Helps You Understand the Legal Process and Your Individual Rights

Each state has different car accident compensation laws governing property damage and personal injury claims. In Indiana, the laws describing compensation for damages sustained in motor vehicle accidents fall under Title 9 of the Indiana Code. Here’s a brief overview of some of these laws.

Fault and Modified Comparative Negligence Rules

Auto insurance in Indiana is fault-based, meaning that the person responsible for a car accident is liable for the damages incurred in that accident. So, if you want another driver (or their insurer) to compensate you for injuries sustained in a car accident, you must be prepared to prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident. And the opposite is true; if you are at fault for an auto accident, the other driver may file a compensation claim with your insurer.

As an “at-fault state,” Indiana requires all drivers to have bodily injury insurance coverage of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. That’s in addition to a property damage liability coverage of at least $25,000 per accident.

What is “fault” in vehicle accident claims? Fault means negligence, which in this case refers to breaking a duty of care. Every road user owes other road users a duty of care to follow all traffic signs and rules and act safely and responsibly on the road. If an injury-causing accident occurs due to a breach of that duty of care, the responsible party is held at fault for the accident and the resulting injuries/damages.

Common implicating faults include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Operating a vehicle while intoxicated
  • Road rage
  • Dangerous driving
  • Disregard for traffic signage or rules

Indiana’s negligence laws use the modified comparative fault rule, which states that more than one driver can be held responsible for a car accident. Let’s say you and another driver are at fault; the insurer or jury (in case of a lawsuit) will determine compensation based on each party’s level of fault. For instance, if you are 20% at fault for the accident, you’ll receive 80% of the total compensation you’re entitled to. With the modified comparative rule, your fault must be less than that of the other driver to receive any compensation.

Damage Types and Limitations

In Indiana, you can claim both monetary and non-monetary damages sustained in a car crash. Monetary or economic damages cover all bills and out-of-pocket expenses. On the other hand, non-monetary or non-economic damages include all non-quantifiable losses, such as pain, suffering, disfigurement, and disability.

Here are some examples of the compensatory damages you may claim after a car accident:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost income
  • Vehicle repair costs
  • Cargo loss or damage
  • Travel expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Mental distress

The total compensation available will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. With an experienced car accident attorney, you can even claim much more than what the at-fault party’s assurance policy is worth.

However, the state limits the punitive damages you can recover in a car accident. Punitive or exemplary damages are awarded to the plaintiff by the court as punishment to the defendant. In Indiana, punitive damages are limited to $50,000 or 3x the sum of compensatory damages, whichever is greater. And, if the defendant is a government party, the available compensation is limited to $700,000 per person and $5 million per accident.

Statute of Limitations

Civil law systems have what’s called a statute of limitation. It sets the maximum period after an event within which the disputing parties may initiate legal proceedings. In other words, some civil lawsuits, including torts, have an expiration date and must be filed within a stipulated time window. The time limit for claiming compensation following a car crash is two years after the accident. That means you can’t file a claim older than two years.

The time limit is even shorter for cases involving government agents. Claimants have only 270 days to file a case against the state and 180 days to sue a city or county.

These laws seem fairly complicated. Yet we’ve only touched on the basics; there’s a lot more to auto insurance claims and tort lawsuits. Navigating this legal maze can prove challenging if you’re not adept at Indiana state laws. That’s where a car accident attorney comes in.

The lawyer will help you understand your rights and guide you in the claim process. That way, you can make the right legal decisions to get the justice and compensation you deserve.

Provides Valuable Legal Advice Relevant to Your Case

A car accident is a frightening event for everyone involved. In addition to nursing injuries or grieving, a car crash can leave you traumatized for days or even months. Understandably, the aftermath of a car crash can be too overwhelming. Yet, the first few days or weeks after an accident is when you should be busy putting together your claim. Remember, you can only wait so long to file a claim.

But you might be too preoccupied or shocked to even think about what must be done regarding compensation. Besides, where would you even start the claim process?

Many road accident victims ask friends and family for help when filing a claim or search online for helpful videos or blog posts. Unfortunately, advice from anyone without the relevant legal background or experience can be misleading and even jeopardize your case.

Plus, there’s simply too much at stake to go by unproven—although well-meaning—advice from friends, family, or colleagues. Remember, the at-fault party’s insurance company will pull every trick in the book to deny or belittle your claim. You can’t afford any mistakes.

With a qualified and experienced car accident attorney by your side, you’ll have a reliable single source of truth. You can count on every word of your attorney’s council, not just because of their credentials but because they have your best interest at heart. The attorney will do everything in their power to ensure you win since a win for you is a win for them too.

This is what legal advice from a car accident lawyer looks like:

  • The correct steps and procedures to follow when filing a car crash report
  • The laws that apply to your case and how you can leverage them
  • The actions you can take to improve or strengthen your case
  • What not to do after a car accident so as not to hurt your case
  • How to respond to insurance companies when they ask for recorded statements or other information
  • How to prepare all the documents associated with your case
  • The critical case details, deadlines, and resources to attend to
  • The damages you can or cannot claim for
  • The rightful compensation amount for your damages

A car accident lawyer basically walks with you through the claims process, all the way to the very end, whether it’s settled outside the court or taken to trial.

Conducts a Thorough Investigation and Gathers Important Evidence

An auto insurance claim or tort lawsuit is a push-and-pull game between the claimant and the defendant—whoever has the strongest evidence wins the dispute. So, a big part of your case’s success hinges on the available evidence.

The Importance of Evidence

As the claimant or plaintiff in a car accident case, it’s upon you to prove that the other party’s fault indeed led to the crash, causing bodily injuries or property damage. You must also prove the value of the economic and non-economic damages incurred. Your burden of proof follows a straightforward logic:

  1. Prove that the at-fault party owed you a duty of care, which they breached.
  2. The breached duty of care led to the car crash.
  3. You sustained damages from the crash in the form of bodily harm, property damage, or the loss of a loved one.
  4. The damages have cost you money, pain, or anguish.

Gathering evidence is clearly an important task. Luckily, a car accident attorney can help you obtain and organize the necessary evidence by speaking to witnesses, reviewing police reports, following up on medical records, and checking crash report data. The relevant evidence will, of course, depend on the case. But common bits of evidence in car accident cases include:

  • Photographs
  • Witness testimonies
  • Police statements
  • Employer letter
  • Financial records

Medical Records

Medical records are vital when claiming compensation for physical, mental, or emotional injuries. The only catch is that obtaining admissible medical records is notoriously difficult. Most doctors and healthcare institutions do not have the capacity or time to respond to medical records requests. And when they do, they often send incomplete data.

The medical records need to prove that you suffered an injury as a direct result of the car crash. But doctors rarely cite the causation of injuries on patient documents. It’s simply not a priority. In addition to obtaining detailed medical records, your lawyer will get your doctor to write a special letter describing your injury, including its causation, extent, treatments, prognosis, and long-term effects.

Surveillance Video Evidence

Sometimes, witness testimonies and accounts from either side may contradict when describing how the accident happened. If video footage of the event is available, it can help decide who’s telling the truth. Your lawyer will help you source video evidence, again, if any, to support your case. Surveillance video evidence might come from nearby CCTV cameras, online repositories (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram posts, etc.), dashcams, and vehicle telemetry instruments.

The attorney will also advise you on handling surveillance from the insurance company. It’s common for insurance investigators to monitor claimants by tracking their movements and activities. The idea is to gather surveillance evidence that might question your injuries or state of mind.

Assesses Your Damages and Builds Your Case

A car accident lawyer will help you calculate the total losses incurred after a car accident so you know how much to claim. Remember, compensation is awarded depending on the monetary value of provable damages.

Determining the correct figure means assessing all damages and tallying up their costs. Most economic damages, such as repair costs, medical expenses, and lost income, are pretty easy to figure out—you simply add up all the receipts, bills, and invoices. However, it’s difficult to put a price on non-economic damages such as emotional trauma, physical pain, and disfigurement. An attorney’s expertise in torts comes in handy to assign a monetary value to otherwise unquantifiable damages.

The lawyer will also take into account the long-term costs of your damages. For instance, lasting disability or disfigurement can affect your career and quality of life indefinitely. Your attorney will negotiate a reasonable settlement to compensate for such injuries.

A car accident lawyer will ensure that everything you deserve compensation for is listed in the claim. That’s how you’ll get the maximum compensation possible from the settlement.

After assessing the details of your accident, gathering all the relevant evidence, and totaling up the damages, the lawyer has enough material to build a strong case for you. In an at-fault state like Indiana, filing an auto insurance claim requires ample preparation. Otherwise, you won’t have enough evidence, data, or legal grounds to argue your case. So, it’s good that a car accident lawyer never files an incomplete claim.

Negotiates With Insurance Companies and/or Defendants to Obtain a Settlement

After filling your claim, the at-fault party’s insurance company will respond with a counter-claim or a quick settlement deal. Either way, the insurance company will try to offer you a lowball settlement. Do not be tempted to settle for less than the claim is worth. This means negotiating with the insurance company or the at-fault party to justify your ask.

Car accident lawyers are known for their unparalleled negotiation skills. A good lawyer will negotiate the claim on your behalf using indisputable evidence and legal justifications until a fair and acceptable settlement is reached. Depending on your case, there might be multiple rounds of negotiations and a few compromises along the way. But in the end, the lawyer will get the best settlement deal for you.

Provides Legal Representation in Court

Most car accident claims are settled outside the court through open negotiations. But some escalate to court trials when both parties can’t agree on who was at fault or a fair settlement. Once in court, a judge and jury will preside over the disputes.

If the case goes to trial, you can trust that your attorney will argue it out in the courtroom too. Your lawyer will handle all the paperwork pertaining to the legal proceedings and prepare you for your court date. And during the trial, they’ll present all the evidence favoring your case and justifying your claim. After that, the jury will deliberate and come up with a fair judgment based on the evidence and arguments presented.

When Should You Contact a Lawyer?

It’s never too early to get an attorney involved in a car accident claim. You can contact a car accident attorney right after getting into a car crash, off course, after reporting to the police and getting medical attention. Regardless of whether you think you are at fault or not, it’s important to consult an experienced car crash attorney to get proper guidance right from the start.

You should also contact a lawyer when:

  • You feel that your injuries/damages are being ignored
  • You suspect the insurance company is being dishonest or unfair
  • Somebody is trying to pin the blame on you
  • You have questions about filing car accident claims or lawsuits
  • The insurance company is offering you money to settle
  • The accident was a hit-and-run collision
  • It’s unclear who caused the car crash
  • The insurance investigators are constantly calling you, asking for recorded statements or personal information
  • You don’t know what you’re entitled to claim or how much to claim

Indiana Auto Accident Attorney

Have you been involved or injured in a car accident in Indiana? Let SLG Accident Attorneys fight for your rights and get you the compensation you deserve. Our team of highly skilled and vastly experienced tort lawyers, led by top-rated attorney Hasan A. Shah, will help you gather evidence, build a strong case, calculate your damages, negotiate with insurers, and even represent you in court to ensure you’re duly compensated for your damages and injuries.

We have a slogan at SLG Accident Attorneys—”winning is the only option.” With over $4,000,000 collected in car accident claims, we are truly unbeatable at the negotiation table and in the courtroom.

Some of the locations our attorneys serve includes Fishers, Carmel, Noblesville, Greenwood, Indianapolis, Lawrence, Westfield, and more. Contact us online or call (317) 751-1361 for a free case review.