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When do I need to hire an auto accident attorney?

auto accident
10/8/2014

I have been representing people involved with accidents (like car crashes) for 20 years. Before that, I was on the "other side"... an insurance claims adjuster.  I guess it's understandable that people often ask me "when do I need to hire a lawyer?".  

First of all, I am not going to tell you to pick up a phone and call me now.  I think the vast majority of cases do not need a lawyer.  For example, if you are in Michigan (or another "no-fault" state) you probably do not need to get a lawyer. It matters not who was at fault here in Michigan (in most cases) as we are a no-fault state. You go through your own insurance company for your car's damage, your medical bills and lost wages. These are things that your insurance claims adjuster can explain to you and get you the proper forms to fill out and return.  I would not be concerned with getting a lawyer to fight with my own insurance company unless it looks like you will be off work for an extended period of time, will need extensive nursing care (even from family members...the law allows them to be paid as well) or if your insurance company is denying your medical bills.

How about if the other driver was at fault? Good question. You can ONLY make a claim against the at-fault driver if you have a very serious injury. This is what we call the "tort threshold". Injuries must be both "serious" and "objectively manefested" before you can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. Scarring, fractures, neck or back injuries are the types of injuries that should probably prompt you to call a lawyer specializing in these types of cases. Never, ever consult with a lawyer who does not do these type of cases for a living. I personally have seen many, many cases where some lawyer bumbles into a case trying to make a quick buck and does the client very real harm.  Be careful before you sign a fee agreement!

Back in my claims adjuster days, we were trained to make contact with injured people within 24 hours of an accident and establish a relationship with them. Even advance them cash to build that relationship. I had a checkbook in my briefcase and I was able to write checks to people that were injured by our insured driver. Why, you make ask? The only reason my company spent so much time and money in doing so was to keep lawyers out of the game. It was well know that a good injury lawyer could raise the stakes and cost the insurance company lots of money. That is why they trained us to keep them as far away from the injured people as possible. It saved the insurance company, my company, lots of money.

To sum things up, most cases do not need a Kalamazoo auto accident lawyer. However, if you have extensive medical treatment or have had your lifestyle significantly changed as the result of an automoblie accident...call a lawyer. I would do some research and talk to people you know who may have had experience in dealing this type of case. Everbody offers free consultations, so use them. Speak with (and meet with) two or three lawyers and hire the one that feels right. Your gut is almost certainly a better barometer than the yellow pages!

Good luck and thanks for reading!

Jim Giffels

Tags: attorney, auto accident, hire, kalamazoo, lawyer, michigan

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