Knowing what questions to ask a car accident lawyer can help you find the right fit for your case. If you’ve been in a car accident in Chicago, Illinois, there are a few things you will need to do immediately. First, do not admit fault or responsibility at the scene. Second, you will want to be seen by a doctor to check for any injuries. Some injuries incurred during a car accident fail to show symptoms immediately. It could take quite some time before you feel pain from an injury that happened due to the accident.
Should You Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Now that the accident has happened, the debris has been cleared from the street, and your medical needs have been seen to, it’s time to think about your legal options. You may be asking yourself if you should hire a car accident lawyer. The answer to that question is, it certainly can’t hurt to have a consult. If there is a chance you have a legitimate claim, a consult will better serve you sooner, rather than later. Chicago car accident lawyers will be able to guide you through the process of filing a suit for your accident in a way that best suits your own interests. They will be there to advocate for you, rather than some faceless insurance company. You certainly shouldn’t make any statements to the other driver’s insurance company without having first consulted your attorney, if you choose to hire one. If you are considering a consult, then you should think of a list of questions to ask a car accident lawyer.
Questions to Ask a Car Accident Lawyer
As you are preparing for your consult, there are going to be questions that you’ll need to ask. During your consult, there will be a lot of information being relayed to you in a short period of time, so having your questions written down in advance will help you remember what to ask. Some questions you should ask your car accident lawyer include:
- What is the lawyer’s fee structure?
- What information does the lawyer need from you?
- What should you say to the insurance companies?
- Is there anything you shouldn’t say or do?
- What will the process look like?
- How long will the process take?
What Is the Lawyer’s Fee Structure?
Fee structures can vary between attorneys, and yours may have multiple options available. Some car accident lawyers will charge a flat fee for your case. Others may require a retainer and charge by the hour based on the work they do on your behalf. A third option some attorneys offer is to work on your case on a contingency basis, which means you only pay attorney’s fees if you win. If you have a good case in the opinion of your car accident lawyer, he or she may be willing to work on a contingency basis. This fee structure could benefit you because you don’t have to pay anything upfront.
What Information Does the Lawyer Need from You?
Your car accident lawyer will have a list of information they want from you. It will likely consist of the accident report from the police department, witness contact details for statements, any photos that were taken, or medical records from your initial visit after the accident. Ask the lawyer before your consultation, so that you can make the most use of your time at the initial appointment. Some information the attorney will ask for will help them in determining fault in an Illinois car accident.
What Should You Say to the Insurance Company?
Ask your lawyer what you should say to the insurance company. Your car accident lawyer will have specific instructions on what you should or shouldn’t say to the other driver’s insurance company. Your lawyer will want to make sure you don’t say anything that could be misinterpreted and used against you in negotiations or during a trial. Car accident lawyers will instruct you to never mislead the insurance company or provide false information. However, there may be questions that they prefer you direct to them as your counsel.
Is There Anything You Shouldn’t Say or Do?
There are things your lawyer is going to ask you not to say or do after your accident. One of the benefits of scheduling a consult with a car accident lawyer early is that he or she will be able to ensure you aren’t accidentally making mistakes that could hurt your chances in court later. The lawyer is likely going to recommend that you refrain from talking about your car accident on social media. You probably shouldn’t even mention it on socials without asking your lawyer first. Insurance companies could easily have an investigator follow your social media posts to see if they find information that they believe could be used against you. Your attorney will also likely tell you specifically what you may and may not say to the other driver’s insurance company. Follow your lawyer’s instructions here closely, as the insurance company has profits in mind, rather than your best interests.
You may also be asked to refrain from doing anything that causes you pain due to an injury sustained in a car accident. Many people will tell themselves that a certain task needs to be done regardless of how they feel, and as a result, will simply “grin and bear it” in order to get the task completed. Unfortunately, if the other driver’s insurance company has an investigator watching you, they could attempt to use your activity as proof that you either aren’t hurt at all or aren’t hurt as much as you’ve claimed. You should also never accept a settlement offer from the other driver’s insurance company without first consulting your own attorney.
What Will the Process Look Like?
A car accident lawsuit can last longer than you might think. You will likely have to undergo investigations by both sides, to begin with. The insurance company’s lawyers may choose to keep an investigator working against you all the way through the process, if necessary. There will likely be depositions scheduled and completed as well.
You should expect a compulsory medical exam, which means that you will be required by the court to go see a doctor of the insurance company’s choice, who is also paid by them. During the compulsory medical exam, their hired doctor will be looking for evidence that your injuries are not their fault, nonexistent, or not as severe as you and your treating physician claim.
After these steps in the process, the insurance company may choose to enter into settlement negotiations with you. If, during this time, you are not able to come to a settlement agreement, a jury trial will likely be scheduled. If your case goes to trial, there will be witnesses called, including the police officers who responded to the accident, any witnesses to the accident, and also the doctor hired by the insurance company to perform the compulsory medical examination. Your attorney may also have expert witnesses he or she is able to call in order to refute the defense’s case. A medical expert, accident reconstructionist, and economist would all be useful to help ensure a reasonable level of compensation if your injuries warrant it.
How Long Will the Claims Process Take?
At some point during this process, you may ask yourself, “why is my car accident settlement taking so long?” There could be several reasons for this. First, you will need some perspective on how long the different steps in this process may take. Depending on how far you choose to take your case, these time frames can extend for quite a while.
The initial investigation of your car accident case may take a few weeks to a few months to complete. This time phase of the process includes initial investigation, depositions, and compulsory medical exams and can become the start of the settlement negotiation process.
The settlement negotiation process can be over rather quickly if you and your lawyer agree that the settlement offered is a fair level of compensation. It could also extend to a few months if there are multiple offers and counteroffers extended.
If your case goes to a jury trial, you should be prepared for it to take anywhere from several months to over a year for the trial to be scheduled, argued, and for a jury to return a verdict. You have the potential to have more damages awarded to you in a jury trial than you would through a negotiated settlement, but the risk increases that the jury could find against you as well. One of the questions you should ask your car accident lawyer is for his or her advice on whether to take your case before a jury or accept a negotiated settlement.