What does an Accident Attorney do?

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  • Written By: Susan Zeller Dunn
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 02 March 2020
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An accident attorney assists individuals who have been physically injured due to the negligent actions of another. This type of lawyer may also be referred to as a personal injury lawyer. While they may specialize in a particular type of accident, attorneys in this area will handle accident cases involving automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, commercial vehicles, boats, aviation, industrial, and construction sites, to name a few.

The attorney will attempt to meet with an injured party as soon as possible after the accident has occurred. At this stage, he will also conduct a preliminary investigation, which includes reading the official accident report prepared by the police as well as all of the witness statements. After gathering this information and speaking with the injured party, the accident attorney will determine whether the situation creates a viable claim.

Once the accident lawyer has agreed to take a party’s case, he will begin a more in depth investigation. The accident report is examined more carefully, and all of the police witnesses are re-interviewed by the attorney. A set of questions are also prepared and forwarded to the negligent party with a request for a written response. The accident lawyer may also bring in key witnesses at this time to be questioned on the record in a deposition.


During this investigation phase, the accident attorney may hire an expert witness to strengthen his case. If the accident is particularly serious, he may hire an accident reconstruction expert. This expert will investigate the incident on-site. In an auto accident reconstruction, the expert will go to the site of the crash and take measurements of the skid marks. With this type of data and the witness statements the expert will retrace the accident and attempt to determine its original cause.

In most of the United States, an accident lawyer is given two years to file a personal injury complaint with the court on his client’s behalf. He will use this time to complete his investigation and to attempt negotiations with the negligent party’s insurance carrier. The attorney and the insurance claims adjuster will discuss the extent of his client’s injuries and the likelihood of a recovery should the matter go to trial. Most cases are resolved between the attorney and the claims adjuster without the need for a trial.

If negotiations are unsuccessful, the accident attorney will file a legal complaint in the court with jurisdiction over the matter. The complaint is typically filed in the state court, however if the parties are legal residents of two or more states, the case may be filed in federal court. At this point, the parties become plaintiff and defendant, and the accident attorney is plaintiff’s counsel.

Before the actual trial day, many issues involved in the case are resolved using documents known as motions. For example, the accident lawyer may file a motion that says that the defendant has no defense, and so judgment should be granted without a trial. He may also file a motion asking that the court limit the type of evidence to be introduced at trial.

On the day of trial, both sides are given an opportunity to plead their case. Eyewitnesses testify as to what they observed. Expert witnesses testify on the cause of the accident or the extent of the plaintiff’s medical injuries. The case is then handed over to a judge or a jury for final determination.

When an accident attorney accepts a case, he takes it on a contingency basis. This means he is entitled to a percentage of the funds that are recovered through negotiations or trial. If there is no recovery, the accident attorney receives nothing for his efforts.


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