A car accident can instantly and drastically change your best-laid plans. At that moment, your life and priorities change. From the moment the accident occurs, though, it can feel overwhelming to deal with the fall-out when talking to the police, insurance companies, your healthcare team, and more. A car accident lawyer can bring order to the chaos. Choosing when or if to contact an attorney isn't always clear-cut, but this post gives some general guidance.
Overall, though, if you were recently involved in an accident, our team of New Orleans car accident lawyers at Huber Thomas & Marcelle are always here to help. We offer free consultations so you can protect yourself from the day of the accident and beyond. We'll realistically explain your next best steps, whether that's representation or taking on the case yourself. Contact us for more information or keep reading to learn more.
What should I do immediately after a car accident?
The minutes, hours, and days after an accident can be a whirlwind. Your first priority is you and your loved one's safety. Get immediate medical attention if any one has been injured in any way—even if that injury seems small. After the stress and adrenaline of an accident wears away, what appears to be small injuries can become much more serious. Because of this, it's best to have a doctor check it out.
If you feel safe to do so, gather some basic evidence from the site of the accident. Take photos of the accident site, any property damage to cars, and any skid marks on the road or roadside. Ask for information from the other drivers involved, including name, phone number, license plate, and insurance information.
We cover more information about this in a recent post on the personal injury claims process. However, there are two additional things you should know after an accident.
Postpone talking to the other party's insurance company
An insurance company begins work right after an accident. They know it's in their best interest to talk to you as soon as possible. This is when you're at your most vulnerable. You likely don't understand the full scope of your injuries or property damage. You're exhausted from the accident.
When the other insurance company calls, you are not required to talk to them.
If they contact you, they will likely ask for a recounting of the accident. In your post-accident state, you may neglect to provide details that could be important to your case later on or answer a question in a way that frames you negatively if the matter does go to litigation. They may also ask leading questions that you're not equipped to answer.
The other insurance company will probably offer a small amount of money to settle your claim, too. Unfortunately, after an accident, you simply won't know the full extent of your injuries or property damage. This settlement will generally only cover the most basic repairs or medical costs. This settlement offer also includes a release that will make it impossible to bring a later claim against them.
For these reasons, it's best only to talk to an attorney, your own insurance company, your medical team, and the police after an accident.
Be aware of Louisiana car accident laws
Louisiana has multiple laws governing car accident matters. According to Louisiana Revised Statutes §32-398, you should immediately report any accident that results in injury or death to a person and results in more than $500 in property damage. When you call the police after an accident, they'll write up this report and guide you through any other steps.
If you can, you should also clearly document any evidence and gather witness testimony to better and more clearly define who was at fault during an accident. Louisiana is a "comparative fault" state according to Civil Code Article 2323. If you are awarded damages after litigation for a car accident, they'll be reduced by your level of fault in the crash.
What does this mean? Let's say you have damages equaling $200,000. If it's determined that you were 25% at fault for the accident, the total of your damages ($200,000) is reduced by your amount of fault in the accident (25%). This leaves you instead with $150,000 in awarded damages. That being said, even if you were partly at fault, you can still be entitled to compensation after an accident.
How do I know if I need a lawyer after a car accident?
After you've received medical attention and documented the accident as much as possible, it's time to think about asking a car accident lawyer for help.
To start, most attorneys offer free consultations. Highly-respected attorneys with good online reviews will be honest about your case. They'll explain if a case is worth representing or if you're better handling a small accident claim through the insurance process.
However, always contact a lawyer as soon as possible if any of the following occurs:
- You or a passenger were injured in the accident
- Anyone in the accident was severely injured or killed
- There's significant and costly property damage
When an accident leads to significant damages, it means there will be higher claims for medical costs and repairs. Ensuring you receive compensation to cover these from the insurance company will be difficult. It's best undertaken with the help of an attorney who knows the process. They'll start work immediately, gathering evidence and guiding you on the best way forward.
There are other times when you should contact a lawyer after a car accident. If you ever feel overwhelmed or in over your head, ask for help. If any professionals in the matter—your insurance company, the other insurance company, healthcare providers, or the police—aren't dealing fairly, it's time to get support.
An attorney's job is to guide you through the complex legal process. They're experts in what they do, and having a great lawyer by your side can mean the difference between a settlement that barely covers your medical costs and one that helps you recover financially and personally from an accident. An attorney also deals directly with insurance companies on your behalf and takes over your case so you can return back to your life after an accident.
How to find a lawyer after a car accident in New Orleans
If you've been in an accident, it is important to talk to an attorney as quickly as possible.
Look for legal teams that have good reviews online, either through a site like Avvo or Google. Previous clients should note that the attorneys were transparent and helpful throughout the whole process. Especially look for lawyers who are known for being present and ready to answer their client's questions with minimal follow-up time.
Most attorneys will provide free consultations and will take your case on contingency. You won't pay anything upfront unless the attorney helps you win your case or reaches a fair settlement.
Learn more about Huber Thomas & Marcelle
After a car accident, you need the best New Orleans car accident lawyers on your side. We're dedicated to providing legal assistance that makes sense, for every person. Our team will walk you through every step of the process, empowering you to recover after a traumatic event.
Our team is proud to say that we've recovered millions of dollars for our clients in settlements and in trial verdicts. We know how to bring a case against large insurance companies or make sure they offer a settlement that's fair and equitable for you.
If you've been in a car accident and want to learn if legal representation is right for you, contact us today for a free consultation. We're here to help.