Some car accident victims are unsure about calling a lawyer for legal help, so they wait. Unfortunately, there comes a point when you may have waited too long, and an attorney will no longer be able to help.
You might be thinking that the deadline for contacting a lawyer is any time before the statute of limitations passes. The problem with that theory is that you are not accounting for the time it takes to build a case.
Friedman, Domiano and Smith discusses why crash victims wait to contact a lawyer and the misconceptions that may be behind their decisions. We also explain when it may be too late to contact a lawyer.
Call us after a crash: 216-621-0070. No upfront fees.
When Is It Too Late To Call a Lawyer?
While every Ohio car accident case is different, they are all governed by state laws, like the statute of limitations. Ohio’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including car accident claims, is two years from the date of the crash.
This means you have two years from the date of the crash to file a lawsuit. If you try to file a lawsuit after those two years pass, the defendant can simply file a motion to have the case dismissed. You will not be able to pursue a lawsuit because it was filed after the statute of limitations passed.
There may be some exceptions when courts may pause the statute of limitations, but those exceptions are exceedingly rare. Most crash victims lose the ability to file a lawsuit when the statute of limitations expires.
However, even if the statute of limitations has not passed, a lawyer might not take your case. Lawyers are not going to take a case unless they think there is a good chance of winning. Having limited time to build a case is going to make lawyers hesitate to take it on. They may also be concerned about being able to compile the necessary evidence at that point. Much evidence available early on, such as surveillance camera footage, has been lost, altered or destroyed by that time.
All that said, it is a bad idea to assume a lawyer cannot help you. In fact, many crash victims wrongly assume they do not need a lawyer’s help. If you were injured in a crash that was caused by another driver and you have significant medical bills and other damages, you should discuss the situation with an experienced law firm. You do not want to be left wondering if things could have turned out differently if you called a lawyer.
Why You Should Contact a Lawyer as Soon as Possible
When it comes to contacting a lawyer after a crash, sooner is better. Below, we discuss the problems with waiting to ask for a lawyer’s assistance.
Your Lawyer Still Needs Time to Build a Case
Cleveland car accident lawyers cannot just throw a case together and recover the full amount of compensation you need for medical expenses and other damages. Your lawyer needs time to investigate, gather evidence, review your medical records, determine and calculate the value of the damages you have suffered, and take other steps. For example, sometimes your lawyer may need to hire a medical expert or accident reconstruction expert.
If you have a serious, long-term injury, the insurance company is probably going to fight hard to avoid paying you the full compensation you deserve. You need to give your lawyer as much time as possible to fight for your interests.
It Takes Time to Prepare a Lawsuit
While it is true that most car accident claims are settled without the need for a lawsuit, sometimes filing a lawsuit is the only way to recover fair compensation. If you wait too long to call a lawyer, he or she will have less time to prepare a lawsuit. You can also be sure the insurance company will try to delay the process in this situation in an attempt to run the clock out on the statute of limitations.
Evidence Can Get Lost Over Time
You may be surprised at how quickly evidence can get lost or even altered. For example, you may start to forget important details about the crash in the days or weeks that follow. Eyewitnesses are also likely to forget some important details about the crash. Physical evidence, such as video footage captured by a surveillance camera, may get overwritten.
The advantage of calling a lawyer soon after the crash is that he or she may be able to visit the scene while it is fresh and before it is cleaned up or altered.
A Lawyer Can Protect You From Your Own Mistakes
Another benefit of calling a lawyer soon after the crash is that he or she can manage the case from that point forward. Having legal help early on helps to prevent you from making common mistakes that could hurt your credibility and the value of your damages.
For example, if you wait to call a lawyer, you may talk to the insurance company. You run the risk of saying too much about your injuries and the crash. You may make statements that seem to downplay the severity of your injuries or even imply that you may be partially at fault for the crash.
The insurance company may offer you a settlement, and if you have not talked to a lawyer, you might accept the settlement because you desperately need the money.
Why Do Crash Victims Often Wait to Call a Lawyer?
These are some of the reasons why crash victims wait to call a lawyer, along with an explanation of the misconceptions that are often behind these decisions:
Waiting For The Insurance Company to Make an Offer
You might be waiting for the insurance company to make an offer. You may have decided that you will call a lawyer if you think the offer is too low. However, you can save yourself the suspense. The first offer is nearly always too low. Until you have completed your medical treatments, for example, there is no way to know what the full value of your claim is.
It is better to call a lawyer as soon as possible. If you have a case and you hire a lawyer, he or she can be hard at work on the investigation by the time the insurance company makes its first offer.
Being Unsure if There is a Case
You are not going to know if a lawyer can help you until you make the call. Your injuries could be worse than you think. You might not be sure if the other driver is at fault. However, your perceptions might be influenced by what the insurance company said. They are looking for any reason to deny or undervalue your claim. You could be catastrophically injured, but they do not care. Their goal is to save themselves money by paying as little on a claim as possible.
Uncertainty About How an Attorney Can Help
There are many details in the legal process, which means there are multiple opportunities for a lawyer to help you and protect your best interests. The biggest takeaway is that a lawyer can manage the entirety of the legal process for you. This includes dealing with the insurance company, gathering evidence and completing legal filing on your behalf.
The legal process is often more complicated than victims realize. You do not have to go through this alone.
Need Legal Help Following a Crash? Contact Us
You do not need to hold off on calling a lawyer simply because you are unsure if you need a lawyer’s help. There is no harm in picking up the phone and finding out if you may have a case.
You do not want to try to take on the insurance company on your own. They are prepared for that. In fact, they would prefer you to manage your case all alone.
At Friedman, Domiano and Smith, we have been taking on the insurance companies for decades. We have a proven history of results, having recovered millions for victims. Our services come with no upfront fees, so there are no risks.
Give us a call today to learn more: 216-621-0070.
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