Do You Need a Lawyer for Your Car Accident?

    If you have recently been involved in a car accident in Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, or any of the surrounding communities, one of the first questions you are likely to have is whether you need a car accident lawyer to handle your claim. Whether or not a potential client needs a lawyer in his or her specific situation may be the question most frequently asked at our firm by victims of auto accidents who call for help.

    Unfortunately, for every resident of Marina del Rey and Santa Monica who suffers an injury in a collision and calls to find out whether they need a car accident lawyer, there are probably many who assume they can handle the claim themselves. In some instances, these insured individuals may be induced by the insurance carrier to enter into a settlement before their injuries have been fully ascertained. Acceptance of early settlement offers can be an expensive mistake.

    The insurance carrier will have different claims adjusters handle claims by injured individuals who are not represented by an attorney, compared to those who are represented. The job of those adjusters is to get the claim settled before an individual is represented by counsel, and it is the rare case where they would offer full value in settlement of a claim. They know that the worst that can happen in response to their lowball offers is that the accident victim will retain an attorney and then they will have to pay the full value of the claim.

    California insurance bad faith law prohibits claims adjusters from telling accident victims not to retain an attorney. If an adjuster advises you not to call an attorney he or she is breaking the law. Those laws are there to protect you, the injured consumer, from being abused by the insurance companies, who have vast resources at their disposal to try to defeat your claim. If that happens, you should document the conversation immediately in writing and call the Law Offices of Baker and Oring LLP so that we may go to work to protect your interests.

    Although it may be possible to handle your own property damage claim in a minor non-injury fender bender, when you are unlucky enough to be injured in a collision, an informed decision about whether a claim is simple enough to handle alone is itself a question that is best answered by a knowledgeable auto accident attorney. Unfortunately, most car accidents are not as simple as they seem even when it appears that there is no question as to who was at fault, such as in a rear-end collision.

    None of us are immune to the possibility of being involved in an auto accident, even here where we live, whether in Marina del Rey or Santa Monica, away from the bustle of the more densely packed urban areas downtown. If you are unlucky enough to be the victim of a car crash, here are a few factors you should consider when deciding whether an auto accident lawyer is necessary in your case.

    The first thing to consider if you have been involved in an auto accident in Marina del Rey or Santa Monica and are unsure whether you should hire an auto accident attorney is whether you were injured. If you or a family member was injured in the accident, even if the injuries appear to be minor, you should always contact a lawyer. You may not be fully aware of all injuries or damages immediately following the accident. You should also know that if a minor was injured in the accident there may be a duty imposed on the parent or guardian to ensure that the minor’s injuries have been documented, treated, and that the court has signed off on any settlement.

    Your statements can and will be used against you. Speaking to an insurance company – even your own – without benefit of counsel, can be a mistake. The way the accident is described in your statement can make the difference between a relatively straightforward claim experience and years of litigation. As you know, a glass of water may be described as half empty or half full. The way it is described may make a difference.

    We have been handling injury accidents exclusively for over 30 years, so we know how to present your claim in a way which will avoid insurance company traps you may not even know exist. When you call Baker and Oring, LLP, we will deal with the insurance company for you, so you can concentrate on your recovery.

    The fact is that car insurance companies exist solely to make a profit. An insurance company maximizes its profits by charging as much as market conditions and the law allow for premiums, and by paying as little as the law will possibly allow for compensation for injuries and damage. This means an insurance company naturally tries to avoid payment of claims completely when it can, and will always attempt to pay an injured victim the smallest amount of compensation possible.

    Where an auto accident results in injuries, insurance companies pay extra attention to the dollar amount of claims compensation in order to maintain their profit levels. There are several tactics they regularly use to pay as little as possible, even where injuries were severe and resulted in significant suffering for the accident victim or a family member, and even where the accident resulted in a death.

    Injured individuals are naturally more vulnerable to the predation and manipulation of the lawyers employed by insurance companies. A common tactic used by insurance company representatives is to pore through years of the injured party’s medical records to try to find an excuse to claim that the victim was either already injured prior to the accident, was injured in some other incident afterward, or even that the victim wasn’t injured at all, or not to the extent that the medical records would suggest. At Baker and Oring LLP we know how to counter these bogus arguments, or to prevent you from having to deal with them in the first place.

    The best way to protect yourself if you are injured in an accident in Santa Monica or Marina del Rey is to seek representation from Baker and Oring LLP, where our attorneys understand these tactics and will prevent the insurance company from taking advantage of you. Don’t assume that you will be the exception; this is what insurance companies do.

    Although a car accident lawyer is necessary for almost any accident which resulted in injuries, this is especially true where fault may be contested. Consider whether fault may become an issue in your claim, or, better yet, ask an experienced attorney.

    In a few cases, as mentioned above, fault is clear. In many cases, however, even where it seems obvious who caused the accident, the insurance company will claim that you were either completely or partially at fault. Most auto injury lawyers recall cases where the insurance company somehow tried to blame the driver of a car who was rear-ended for the car accident.

    Even where fault seems clear, there may be other, less obvious, responsible parties. In a situation where insurance coverage may not be adequate to compensate injured parties for their damages, an experienced attorney may be able to ascertain other sources of recovery for you – sources of which you may not be aware.

    It sometimes happens that damages far outstrip the available insurance compensation limits. In cases like that it makes great sense to contact an attorney because a competent and ethical attorney like those at Baker and Oring LLP may be able to negotiate a reduction in medical or other bills which will result in increased net compensation to the injured victim.

    Santa Monica and Marina del Rey are wonderful places to live, but our communities are subject to increasing traffic and congestion, poor street and intersection design, and traffic signal problems which can all contribute to dangerous car crashes. The freeways surrounding Marina del Rey and Santa Monica are among the busiest in the state. You should know that there are statutes of limitation which may apply to your claim. If you do not comply with applicable time limits and other filing requirements you may lose your right to obtain compensation. If, for example, an intersection is poorly designed, or a stop sign is obscured by vegetation, you may have a claim against a government entity (in which case separate and shorter filing deadlines apply) or a property owner, and without benefit of counsel you may lose your claim against that party.

    If you live in Marina del Rey or Santa Monica and you have been involved in a vehicle collision, keep in mind that accidents which result in significant injuries to the vehicle’s occupants almost always require the assistance of an attorney. Remember, the car insurance adjuster may seem friendly, but he or she is not on your side; their job is to avoid paying you at all, or to pay as little as possible. Think very carefully before you decide to handle your injury claim without a car accident lawyer.

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