In Texas and across the U.S., vehicle accidents account for the largest percentage of insurance claims and personal injury suits. While you might not need legal representation for a minor fender bender that causes no serious injury, more expensive and complex claims are best handled by an experienced Pasadena car accident lawyer.
What to Ask at Your Initial Meeting With a Car Accident Lawyer
Asking the questions below at your initial consultation can help you find the right attorney for your case.
1. Have You Represented Pasadena Car Accident Victims Before?
Your attorney should be able to show you case results, client reviews, and testimonials proving the firm’s experience in handling Pasadena car crash cases. Case results should include the injuries sustained by plaintiffs and the settlements or jury awards won.
2. Why Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
In order to recover damages after a car accident, you must prove that the negligent or intentional action of the other driver was the direct cause of your accident and that the accident left you with damages that you would not have suffered if the at-fault party had not caused the wreck. Your attorney can help you meet your burden of proof by:
- Thoroughly investigating your wreck, possibly with the assistance of an accident reconstructionist
- Obtaining the official police report of the crash to substantiate your claim
- Gaining access to the at-fault party’s driving record and the results of sobriety tests
- Examining the defendant’s vehicle for evidence of mechanical malfunction or distracted driving (food wrappers, drink containers, cigarettes butts, or makeup)
- Checking cellphone records to see if the other driver was talking or texting before the crash
- Deposing the at-fault driver
- Interviewing witnesses to the accident
- Viewing footage of your wreck on nearby security cameras
Your car accident lawyer can also present statements or testimony from your doctors and other expert witnesses regarding your medical needs to date and in the future. In this way, your attorney can evaluate your case and make a demand for fair and reasonable compensation from the defendant.
3. How Much Is My Case Worth?
Because every case is different, your attorney cannot guarantee the exact dollar amount of your settlement, but you should be made aware of the damages you’ll seek to recover, which could include:
- All present and future medical expenses that result from your accident
- All income you lose while you’re off work for treatment and recovery
- Property damage
- Physical pain and suffering
- Psychological trauma
- Long-term compensation if you’re left disabled after the wreck
4. How Much Does it Cost to Hire You?
Car accident lawyers typically only accept cases they think they can win, so your attorney will probably take your case on a contingency-fee basis and charge you no attorney fees until you’ve won. When you receive your award, you’ll pay your lawyer the percentage of your settlement that you agreed to at your first meeting. This might be approximately one-third of your award, but it’s important to remember that you’re more likely to get a fair settlement with a lawyer than without one, so you could pay your attorney fees and still end up with more money than you would have gotten on your own.
Besides attorney fees, though, other costs could arise in the process of handling your case: court costs, expert witness fees, and copying and mailing charges. Your lawyer should clarify whether such fees will be paid as they come up or deducted from your award when you receive it.
5. Should I hire a Pasadena Car Accident Attorney If I’m Partly Responsible for the Wreck?
You’re well-advised to hire a lawyer if you were partially responsible for the crash because Texas follows a modified proportionate responsibility rule in personal injury cases. As long as you’re found no more than 50% responsible for your accident, you may still recover damages. Your award will simply be reduced according to your percentage of fault. If you’re 51% or more responsible, however, you will collect nothing at all. This means that the other driver’s insurer will use every trick in the book to prove that you are more than half at fault. In such a case, it’s vital to have an experienced attorney who can present convincing evidence that you were less than half responsible so that you can obtain the compensation you deserve.
6. Who Will Keep Me Informed About My Case?
At your first consultation, your lawyer should let you know who will communicate with you, what form that communication will take, and how often you’ll be updated. Ideally, you should be able to correspond directly with your attorney most of the time by phone or email. You might sometimes receive information, questions, or answers from a law clerk or paralegal.
7. Will We Go to Trial?
Most car crash cases are settled out of court, but you and your lawyer need the leverage that the option of going to court gives you. Your attorney should make sure you observe the statute of limitations and be prepared to file a lawsuit if you’re not offered a fair settlement by the insurance company. Once the statute has run, the insurer can make you a lowball offer, and you have no choice but to take what you can get.