How to Find an Attorney for a Car Accident Injury?
So, you have just been in a car accident and become another statistic along with the 6 million other Americans involved in auto accidents every year. In 2018, across all vehicle types, Michigan saw well over 100,000 injuries and 1,800 fatalities. And with an average of 17.5 million cars and trucks sold in the U.S. each year, if you haven’t become a statistic yet, then chances are you soon will be.
With imminent changes to the types of no-fault policies available in Michigan, the whole area around insurance, liability, and who can claim for what is going to get more complicated. And that means the need for a competent car accident lawyer to navigate through the complications will also be greater than ever before. But just how do you go about choosing the best lawyer from the many law firms out there?
For many years, there has been widespread criticism of Michigan’s no-fault laws and the fact they have led to some of the highest insurance premiums in the U.S. The laws have also led to one of the highest incidences of uninsured drivers in the nation at around 20%.
The idea behind no-fault insurance was to ensure expenses such as medical bills and lost wages would be covered in every eventuality. The reality was that insurance companies often delayed or reduced offers. The other reality was that the only real winners from the no-fault laws were the insurance companies themselves and drivers across Michigan have been requesting change for many years.
That change finally came in the shape of 2019’s Senate Bill 1, which although signed into law in May of 2019, will only see changes to the no-fault insurance policies available in July of 2020 (or whatever date after that your policy is due for renewal). From the previous one size fits all – though it didn’t quite fit all – the changes will see 6 different options of insurance for drivers to carry:
PIP options for all:
- Unlimited coverage.
- $500,000 limit to coverage.
- $250,000 limit to coverage.
Low cost options. For these three options, you must have qualified healthcare coverage or be on Medicaid or Medicare:
- $250,000 limit with some PIP exclusions.
- $50,000 limit. Medicaid only.
- Allowable expenses exclusion: Medicare only.
While these changes have been touted by the legislature – and the insurance companies – as offering major savings to drivers, most people will see negligible savings. The first thing to consider is that this only affects part of your overall insurance policy – the no fault or PIP (Personal Injury Protection) part – and has no effects on the main part of your policy.
So, for example, if you were to retain the full unlimited coverage option, you may be lucky enough to save around $25 or so. Given that the primary reason for demanding changes were the astronomical car insurance rates (as much as $6,000 per year in some parts of Detroit) then $25 does not seem to offer much respite.
Some of the qualifying and additional clauses to the different levels seem to only add confusion to the mix. And the temptation to go for a “quick fix” to your lofty insurance premiums by cutting coverage may lead to them having less coverage than they need in the event of a devastating long-term injury.
The Need for a Lawyer
There is little doubt that these changes, and the increased confusion surrounding insurance claims, will lead to a greater workload for personal injury lawyers. What won’t change is the basic rules you should follow after an accident such as collecting evidence and information. And, generally, the way more minor accidents such as fender benders are dealt with should change little.
But many car accident cases, especially where there is an injury such as broken bones or in cases of wrongful death, will see increased pressure on every level of the system, from insurance adjusters to courtroom staff.
But if the need to hire an attorney to deal with your car accident claim is greater, then will any lawyer suffice? Or should you be even more careful when choosing your lawyer to ensure you have the right person for the job?
How to Hire a Lawyer
If we believed everything we see on TV, then hiring a lawyer is as simple as picking up a phone. But the reality of the situation is that you should always proceed with caution and a great deal of thought.
After all, this will be a person to whom you entrust great responsibility. You are putting your entire case in their hands and relying on them to get you the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to. And except in those cases that are very simple or where there is admission of liability, ensuring that you get what you may be entitled to will take a lot of hard work and investigation. Here are some steps to follow when searching for the right lawyer:
- Recommendations from friends or family. If someone you know has been in a similar scenario, ask them for advice and ask how they feel their lawyer performed.
- Internet search. The internet can be a great way to whittle down what seems like an endless list of possibilities to a promising shortlist. Use terms specific to your circumstances as well as general ones. General terms may include; “motor vehicle (or car) accident,” “personal injury claim,”and “car accident liability.” More specific ones may refer to your injury such as “traumatic brain injury” or “spinal injury.”
- Read their website thoroughly. Most law firms have comprehensive information on their websites. If you find a site with sparse information, dismiss it immediately as it is doubtful they will be competent enough to deal with your claim. Look for sections that tell you the case types the law firms handles, any previous successes, and the list of staff with their specialities.
- Contact them. If you have a singularly pressing question, contact them by email or phone and ask it. In most cases, they will be happy to answer one or two questions.
- Meet with them. Many law firms will offer a free consultation. This is good for both sides. It gives them to evaluate your case and its chances of success. But it also allows you a chance to ask more detailed questions. Free appointments are also a good way to establish an initial attorney client relationship.
Ask Relevant Questions
When you arrange a meeting with the law firm, make a list of questions you want to ask. Some may be completely specific to you but there are general ones everyone can ask:
- How much experience do you have of car accident cases?
- How long have you been practising law?
- How many cases have you won? And lost?
- How up to date are you with the changes to Michigan’s no-fault insurance laws and policies?
- What are my chances of success?
- Will the lawyer you meet in that first appointment be the same one representing you throughout the case?
Using these questions as a template can help you further evaluate the suitability of the law firm you are meeting with.
When an accident occurs, your primary focus will always be on any injuries sustained by you or any passengers. But in the days, or weeks after a car accident, your concerns will turn to how any medical bills we be paid or repairs to your car or how lost wages will be covered.
That is the point when you need to consider engaging an attorney to represent you in negotiations with the insurance company or in court.