If, or when, you’re involved in a car accident, the first thing you must do is report it to the insurance company. And while you shouldn’t delay in doing this, you should be aware of your rights and responsibilities before you try to deal with the insurer to settle your claim.

The best way to ensure you’re protected and receive any claim or benefits you’re entitled to is to speak with a lawyer who specializes in these types of cases. Here are a few things to consider when picking a car accident lawyer.

1. What do they charge?

Make sure you understand the fee structure the lawyer will charge. Ask if they provide a free initial consultation so you can determine whether or not you want to use them. Do you have to pay a “retainer” so they can start working on your behalf? Don’t leave any questions unanswered because you don’t any surprises at the end.

2. How do they get paid?

Some firms only get paid when you get paid. If they lose the case, and you don’t receive a payout, they don’t receive any compensation, outside of disbursement type costs (i.e. filing fees, photocopies, long distance phone calls etc.). Make sure you understand how they get paid before you enter into an agreement to use the law firm.

3. What types of vehicle accidents do they deal with?

Accidents often don’t just involve cars. An experienced accident lawyer can handle car accidents, or accidents involving bicycles, transport trucks, snowmobiles, scooters, ATV’s, pedestrians and more.

4. What type of benefits are you entitled to?

There are several types of benefits you may be entitled to after a vehicle accident. Check with your lawyer about the following:

a. Medical benefits.

If you’ve been injured, you may receive benefits to cover costs for medications, physiotherapy, chiropractic care, or other medically required services.

b. Loss of income benefits.

In the first two years after an accident you may qualify for loss of income benefits. These usually start after you’ve exhausted your Employment Insurance benefits. Lost income benefits apply if you are unable to do your job, or a job that you are reasonably suited to.

c. Rehabilitation benefits.

If you require attendant care, home modifications to accommodate a disability, or occupational therapy, you may receive benefits to help pay for these costs.

d. Death benefits.

In some cases, death benefits may apply to cover funeral expenses or provide other financial assistance.

Vehicle accidents are stressful and can be very costly depending on the severity or level of injury that occurs. Having an experienced accident lawyer in your corner means you don’t have to figure out how to deal with the insurance company. It also means, you’re more likely to get a fair and reasonable settlement than you would if you tried to handle it on your own.

Report the accident right away, but make sure you don’t answer any questions until you’ve spoken to an attorney. They know how the insurance company works and will work on your behalf to ensure you’re taken care of.