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Should I Hire a Lawyer After a VA Car Accident? Or Should I Just Talk to the Insurance Company Myself?

April 8, 2024 - BLASZKOW LEGAL, PLLC April 8, 2024

Still0716_00032.jpgAfter being in a car accident, car insurance companies are going to be calling you. This doesn't matter who you feel is at fault. Your car insurance is going to want to speak to you, and so is the insurance company for the other driver. If there are more than two vehicles involved, then everyone is going to want to have a conversation about it! People often ask whether they need to hire an attorney after a car accident to get the compensation they deserve, or whether they should just let the insurance company handle it.

Attorney Joe Blaszkow is going to answer this question comprehensively for drivers in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. It is however, an complete truth that most people will not contact a lawyer after a car accident! Over half of all people hurt as the result of someone else's negligence try to handle the collision themselves. And if you remember nothing else, remember this: car insurance companies work for their stockholders, not for you!

Some Common Questions

How did the car accident happen?

One of the first things that car insurance companies will try to do is to establish exactly how the accident happened, and more importantly, who is at fault. This is a decision that they will sometimes make very quickly, and usually not for your benefit.

Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland all practice a legal doctrine known as contributory negligence. This means that if you are even 1% responsible for the happening of your accident, then you have no actionable claim against the at fault party. The insurance companies love this argument, because it allows them to shut the file down without paying you anything at all.

The determination of negligence by insurance companies is not admissible in court - the word of the insurance adjuster is not law, in other words. It is their opinion, based on their investigation. However, their investigation is often very, very limited. They will speak to their own driver, and then try to speak to you. If they believe that it is "word versus word," they will simply tell you that they cannot find fault and thus are denying to compensate you on your claim.

An experienced car accident lawyer is going to help you to develop the facts of your case, and to stop the insurance companies from so easily dismissing you. And, if they still don't want to play ball, a good car accident lawyer is going to file a lawsuit to protect your rights, and to fight for them.

How do the insurance companies operate?

Next, you have to understand how the insurance companies themselves operate. They have a way of handling all cases, to minimize their time investment - and more importantly to you! - to minimize the money that they have to pay out. The goal of every insurance company is to give you as little money as possible, if any at all.

If you try to speak to an insurance company, they are going to utilize several tactics that are rather sneaky and underhanded, to either make you go away, or eliminate your claim completely:

  1. Using your own words against you. Insurance companies like to take statements, and these statements are often recorded. They will then transcribe the statement, and the adjuster will review it thoroughly. If anything you have said (without the benefit and protection of legal counsel, mind you!) can be used against you, then you can rest assured that they will, indeed, use it against you! If, for example, you said that you did not stop all the way at a stop sign before proceeding into an intersection, and their insured was drunk, speeding, and fleeing from the police, they can use your admission of your own negligence (in this instance, a rolling stop) against you and say that you were also negligent, and thus have no case.

  2. Immediate settlement. Some insurance companies recognize that they have some exposure (meaning they know they will have to pay something), so they will offer to settle your case. Many people do not understand what they can claim after an accident, and the insurance company is under no obligation whatsoever to tell you! So, if you had to go to the emergency room and had to pay the $500 deductible for your health insurance right out of your pocket, the insurance adjuster is going to lament with you and apologize and offer you $2,000 or $3,000. That should of course compensate you for the inconvenience of going to the emergency room? Right? No. The reality is that your claim is for the full price of that medical treatment, not just what comes out of your pocket. As soon as you accept a settlement offer, and you sign the release to receive the money, your case is over. Insurance companies will work very hard to settle your case for less than it's fair value.

  3. Shoddy investigations. Insurance adjusters are not investigators. They often limit their investigations to whatever their insured gives them, and also speaking to you. They are definitely not trying to prove that you are right. Often, they will utilize delays, saying that they need approval from a supervisor or manager. The longer an insurance adjuster plays around with you, the harder you make it to get the evidence that you need to prove your case. For example, most camera footage is kept for 30 days, before it is overwritten. If there is some amazing camera footage of your car accident from a nearby business that proves the other side was responsible, the insurance company may delay processing your case, hoping that you have never bothered to preserve that footage. When you contact a car accident lawyer, the first thing we do is set our team to work to get that footage so we can use it against the insurance company!

What is the value of my case?

No two car accident cases are the same. Two people can be in the same car, in the same accident, and have vastly different cases due to vastly different injuries. The insurance companies will not tell you that. They will sometimes tell you "we're giving everybody $3,000, take it or leave it." Other times, they will ask you what you want, after you have considered what you have paid, and then just give that to you. But is that everything?

Most of the time the answer is no. Insurance companies, and their highly trained insurance adjusters, do not have to tell you what you can claim. Just as ignorance of the law is not a defense in criminal court, not knowing what can be claimed after a car accident is not a defense that an agreed settlement is not binding. You should always speak to an attorney, who is going to tell you all of the things that you can claim after a car accident.

After a crash, you can claim your damages. Many different elements go into damages. And these include:

  • Medical expenses

  • Future medical expenses

  • Lost wages

  • Future lost wages

  • Pain and suffering

  • Mental anguish

  • Scarring

  • Disfigurement

  • Disability

  • Impairment in activities of daily living, and more

Additionally, when it comes to medical expenses, here is another way that the insurance companies get over on unrepresented parties: your claim is not only for what your health insurance paid. Whatever your health insurance paid for your medical treatment is known as a collateral source. Your claim is for the full price of your medical treatment, not just what came out of your pocket, or what some other source paid. For example: If you have amazing health insurance, and your hospital visit cost $20,000, but your insurance paid $5,000, and you only had to pay a few hundred dollars, your claim is for the full value of that treatment (the $20,000!), not just what comes out of your pocket.

Does getting a lawyer mean I'm going to have to go to court?

No, of course not. However, getting a lawyer shows the insurance companies that you are ready, willing, and able to go to court. There is a difference. If your claim appears to be one that they can devalue and minimize, they know that you will not push the issue, and they know that they can draw a line in the sand at a much lower value than the case is actually worth. If you show them that you are ready to fight, then you may actually get a reasonable recovery. Most car accident cases do not go to court. In fact, over 80% of the cases that we handle at Blaszkow Legal do not have to be filed. So it is likely that you will not have to go to court. Even if a lawsuit is filed, these cases can still settle. Over half of the lawsuits that are filed settle at some point in the litigation process, before trial.

Consulting with a Car Accident Attorney

Attorney Joe Blaszkow recommends that you sit down with a lawyer before you speak to a car insurance company. Each time, and every time. Even if, after reviewing the case, the attorney says "this is something that you can, in fact, handle on your own," you always want to have a lawyer take an initial look at it. You never want to do battle with a multi-billion dollar insurance company, without someone in your corner, advising you of what you're rights actually are. After all, THEY are talking to THEIR LAWYERS every day!

Unless, and until you speak to a lawyer who focuses his practice on car accidents and other motor vehicle collisions, you are not going to know what the true value of your case may be, and how best to pursue the compensation that you are entitled to.

Even if an insurance company has offered you money, don't accept! Call Blaszkow Legal today, and let us take a look at it. Let us look at the settlement release, and any documents that you have received, so we can be sure that you are being treated fairly. Sadly, chances are, you're not.

Insurance companies are dedicated to doing what is best for themselves, and that never means paying money to you. Our job is to fight for you against them, and to protect your legal rights, and to ensure your recovery.

Talking to a lawyer is free! We offer free consultations for all personal injury cases, and are happy to look at any case, even if you don't think you have one. In fact, especially if the insurance company has told you that you don't have a case. Don't fall for their tips, tricks, and tactics. Hire an experienced car accident lawyer today!

Car Accident Attorney at the Alexandria Federal Courthouse