Michigan Lawyer Blog

How Soon After a Car Accident Should You Get a Lawyer?


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You'll never have a moment to prepare for a car accident. You'll just be in the middle of the aftermath trying to be calm. That's why you should know what to do long before an accident happens. At Goodman Acker, our lawyers have over 150 years of combined experience protecting all types of clients. The steps (or missteps) you take immediately after the incident can affect your case and recovery. After you've been injured in an automobile accident is no time to begin learning the law.

Michigan, being one of the few no-fault insurance states, has unique challenges for victims of car crashes. The system was designed to ease and streamline the process, but at some points it's trickier to navigate. You can easily miss deadlines, invalidate evidence, or accept too small a settlement if you proceed without representation. We have no upfront costs and charge nothing until you win. Set up a free consultation.

What Should I Do When There's an Accident?

Michigan Car Crash Lawyers
Image via Flickr by Tony Webster | Licensed by CC BY 2.0


Before worrying about legal issues, handle the medical needs. Be sure to get medical attention for you and everyone first. Beyond obvious triage, they will document your condition at the time of the accident. This is important evidence so don't overlook it. Make sure someone takes pictures. Even if you think your injuries are minor, get assistance. Your symptoms may not show up for days or weeks. Seemingly minor spinal injuries can take a drastic turn as bone fragments sink deeper into soft tissue. Disk injuries are notoriously slow to reveal themselves.

If the police are not on their way, contact them. They will document the scene and create a valuable report for your insurance case. Call your insurance company and report the details of the accident. You might even have an app from the company to help you detail the incident. You must report within three days, but sooner is always better. Be sure to describe and diagram the event yourself as soon as possible. Write down your questions and research answers. The incident was traumatic and the details will become clouded over time.

Do not sign anything or admit fault. Please offer concern and sympathy to anyone else involved in the crash, but don't discuss blame. Don't even sign a thing from your own insurance company. By definition, they are not on your side. Contact a lawyer as soon as you are stabilized.

My Insurance Company's not My Friend?

You're their customer, not their friend. How do they make money? By making sure to receive more in premiums than they pay to victims. It's their business model to deny claims and minimize settlements. They will do what they can to make sure you don't get expensive. They know you will receive a better settlement as soon as your lawyer gets involved, so they want to settle before that happens. Don't let them. Educate yourself with our free resources.

Your attorney will immediately begin gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing the police report. Victims who delay getting representation invariably end up with smaller settlements and less support for long-term injuries. Courts exploit the delay, using it to find another blame for your injuries or challenge your veracity. They can challenge the timeframe of your injuries and recovery.

What Makes Michigan Unique?

Michigan is a no-fault insurance state. You can't get licensing, drive, or let your car be driven without it. It exists to pay for your injuries, lost wages, and damage you do to others' property. It does not concern itself with the cause of the accident. It does not pay for car repairs. In theory, it streamlines the legal process. The courts don't focus on blame. They focus on getting the right settlement for every situation.

In practice, that means what you know about insurance from other states might not apply to Michigan. Many other states use the at-fault system and concern themselves with liability. We strongly advise that you get a partner who is skilled and experienced with Michigan insurance laws. They are complex, ever-changing, and not like other states. Many lawyers have a passing understanding of auto insurance law. You want a specialist, especially here.

How Late Is Too Late?

You want to get an attorney's help with your case sooner rather than later, so we shouldn't be pushing against the deadline. Your symptoms could appear weeks or months after the accident. You have up to three years to file a bodily injury or wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations for uninsured or underinsured motorist claims might be shorter, so get an expert to review the policy.

Nothing in the legal system is ever that simple, however. Many loopholes exist that, if your attorney is aware of them, can put your case in jeopardy. For example, you must act quickly in the case of truck crashes because the trucking company can dispose of evidence as early as three months after the incident if you haven't proven negligence. When public transportation or the federal government is involved, the forms and schedules are even more stringent. You don't want to navigate that alone.

May You Never Need Us

We wish you a lifetime of safe driving and hope you never need a personal injury lawyer. However, after a crash is too late to begin educating yourself. Your insurance company is ready to settle now and for as little as possible. Yes, they are here to help you, but don't work with them by yourself. Be ready to call a trusted team of lawyers. Have someone else make the call if you're incapacitated, but don't proceed without legal advice.

Fixing your injuries and property is the easy part. You might be unable to work temporarily or permanently. You may have to switch occupations. Are you prepared for the long-term effects of your injuries? In addition to pain and stress, you have the complexity of the legal system. We'll ease the pressure. At Goodman Acker, we promise that we will care. We promise to be attentive, aggressive, and knowledgeable. Call us for a free consultation and we'll help you recover.