Legal counsel may be your best bet

Presumably, as a law-abiding driver, you have a legally sufficient auto insurance policy for your vehicle. Ideally, you’ve also purchased (UM/UIM) coverage, designed to bridge gaps in financial protection—gaps that are often discovered only after an accident happens. With all this in place, you might consider yourself fully prepared if something goes wrong on the road. Your financial safety, you believe, is sealed.

Here’s the unfortunate thing: it’s not. Even as responsible as you are, on the road and in your coverage choices (neither of which can be underestimated in their importance), the aftermath of any auto accident has the potential for procedural snags—sometimes serious ones. These are dependent on countless factors, from the nature of injuries sustained to the integrity of the insurance companies involved, and there’s only so much you can do in the way of prevention.

The good news is, you don’t have to—and shouldn’t try to—manage post-accident predicaments on your own. Onceyou’ve notified authorities, sought medical attention and contacted your insurance company, it may be time to call a personal injury attorney.

Not as seen on TV

If you’ve (luckily!) never had cause to contact a personal injury attorney or know anyone who has, you may have a less-than-accurate picture of the personal injury attorney’s role and goals following an auto accident. In any legal field, the overarching objective is to ensure adherence to existing laws. Personal injury cases are no exception; any settlement sought from another party is compensation that is legally and rightfully owed. In fact, the other party itself—whether the driver or the insurance company(ies) involved—may try to take advantage of the victim’s lack of expertise on these matters, discouraging him or her from persisting.

No one can be expected to “win” on a playing field as lopsided as that. That’s why professional advocacy is often advisable. A personal injury attorney has the knowledge, skills and experience to navigate the entire legal claims process and negotiate a fair settlement.

When to consider an attorney

Though every accident is unique in its circumstances, there are some red flags that signify it’s time to contact a personal injury attorney. Here are the big three:

Severe injuries. If you or a loved one is severely injured in an auto accident, it’s a good idea to reach out to a lawyer. Severity is gauged by injury type, length of recovery time, and level of disability the injury may cause. A good personal injury attorney has a wealth of experience working with medical professionals, employers and other “players” relevant to your particular situation.

Dispute of liability. Sometimes, the question of which driver was at fault becomes a heated issue, whether the facts truly are fuzzy or the other driver simply denies fault. For this reason, when there is any doubt, do not discuss details of the incident with the other driver or insurance company before talking to an attorney.

Refusal to pay. In other cases, the other driver’s liability seems clear, even by his or her own formal admission. The problem is, the driver’s insurance company may beg to differ, employing their most sophisticated strategies to avoid payment. This is a classic case for hiring a personal injury attorney to act on your behalf.

As a rule of thumb, follow your instincts regarding what to do after an accident. Many, many people wisely get help from a personal injury attorney, and often right away. You don’t need any dramatic element or heavy controversy to warrant your choice. All you need is the desire to pursue what’s right.