At Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima, our attorneys frequently hear people ask “Do I need a lawyer if I have been in a car accident?” The answer depends on the facts of the car accident and subsequent police investigation. There are a variety of scenarios that could result in a car accident. The short answer is that if you have been cited for a traffic violation or if you have been injured you should hire an attorney. We outline three common scenarios below.
1. You were cited for the car accident and have automobile insurance coverage.
If you were cited for the car accident and have automobile insurance coverage, you should contact a lawyer if you would like to dispute the traffic citation. The most common traffic citations in Ohio for the person who is alleged to have been at-fault are failure to yield, assured clear distance ahead (ACDA), failure to control, and improper turn. Typically, traffic citation convictions are two point violations but the points vary depending upon the specific citation. Minor misdemeanor traffic citations do not carry the potential for jail but can cause your insurance rates to go up. If you want to fight the citation, you should hire a lawyer.
Regardless of whether you hire a lawyer, you should contact your insurance company to report the car crash so your insurance company can cover the damages that exceed your deductible. If a person claims injury as a result of the crash, your insurance company will provide you with an attorney, free of charge, to handle the third party injury claim.
2. You were injured in the car accident and were not at fault.
If you were injured in the car accident and not at-fault, you should contact a lawyer before you speak with an insurance adjuster about the claim. Insurance adjusters have the insurance company’s best interest at heart. They are paid to try to settle claims for as little money as possible.
Is hiring a lawyer after a car accident worth it?
The short answer is almost always yes if you have more than a very minor injury. In fact, a study conducted by the Insurance Research Council shows that lawsuits settled outside of court are 3.5 times higher for people who are represented by an attorney. To learn more about whether you should hire a lawyer for an injury case, please see our article Dollars and Sense: Is Hiring an Injury Lawyer Worth the Money?
3. You were not injured and you were not at fault.
If you were not injured in the car crash and you were not issued a citation for being at-fault, you likely do not need a lawyer. You can speak with a lawyer if you have questions. Most lawyers do not charge for an initial consultation and would be happy to offer free advice. You should, however, report the crash to your insurance company if there was property damage.