In the great state of Alaska, a two-car collision occurred after Robert Schwartz’s failed in his duty to stop at an intersection properly. As a result, Charles Hutchins sustained cuts, bruises, broken bones and property damage totaling $275,000.
Before trial, Mr. Hutchins disclosed he was not wearing his seatbelt to an insurance adjuster. Logically, the counselor for the insurance company introduced this into evidence, asserting Hutchins should receive nothing because he contributed to his own negligence by not wearing a seatbelt.
Now, this went on in the 80s when buckle-up laws were inexistent; likewise, the state did not require vehicles to come with seatbelts.
Nonetheless, the damage was done; Schwartz’s comparative negligence defense held, and Hutchens lost the lawsuit. Even worse, Hutchens ended up spending loads of cash on an appeal to dismiss a verdict from the lower court ordering him to pay $17,000 to Schwartz in restitution for attorney fees.
Why take a gamble?
There is too much at risk when one takes a chance and negotiates with insurance companies alone. Even after sustaining injuries in a car accident that was not your fault, like Hutchens, you could admit liability unintentionally and end up owing money to the person who damaged you.
How to remove risk?
Injury lawyers cut risk by evaluating, negotiating and defending their clients’ negligence claims before, during and after the trial. They also perform crucial investigatory due diligence ahead of time to assist innocent parties in returning to substantially good positions as they occupied before the wrong took place.
How to claim car accident negligence?
The first step is to show the courts that the individual who hit your car held a legal duty to be careful while driving, which the person breached after the vehicles collided. Next, you’ll need to prove how the negligent party caused foreseeable damages, which are compensatory under tort law.
How do personal injury attorneys find damages?
A negligence claim cannot survive without showing damages. This means that even when defendants commit negligent acts, the courts cannot hold them accountable if they do no harm. So, compensation will always depend on the injuries’ nature and severity.
For this reason, most accident attorneys hold access to a web of experts with disciplines in fields like:
- Investigation–to gather evidence and to identify if the fault was negligent, reckless or intentional.
- Engineering–to determine if a product defect led to strict liability (liability without fault)
- Economics–to find the loss in wages and to account for the loss of life or limbs.
Beyond discovering injuries, these hard-working professionals will educate a jury on how much the innocent party has naturally suffered and lost from the harmful hand of another.
What if I talked to an insurance company already?
Never make the mistake of thinking an insurance company is your friend. An adjuster’s job is to minimize your compensation. Period!
If you’ve previously spoken with an insurance rep, you may have admitted fault unknowingly; and like Hutchens, you can bet that during the trial, the insurance attorney will plead a defense to establish full or partial liability on your part based on your inadvertent testimony.
However, fear not! Personal injury attorneys know case law and every counter defense available to you. These assets offer innocent parties legal leverage to neutralize most affirmative defenses made by insurance companies.
What are examples of counter defenses?
When counter-arguing a comparative negligence defense, most accident attorneys use expert testimony to establish that the defendant’s own negligence exceeded any carelessness by their client.
Likewise, if insurance lawyers present an assumption of risk defense at trial, injury attorneys can assert their client never expressly or impliedly gave consent to confront the defendant’s harm.
So, if you pulled a “Hutchens” by mistake, why not seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer after a car accident? The chances are he or she can undo any damage done and get you the due compensation needed to get you back on your feet.