When you are injured by the wrongful act of another, your life is turned upside-down. Your car or other property may have been damaged. You and maybe your loved ones have physical injuries requiring medical treatment, or worse, the negligence caused the death of a loved one.
The negligent person or company’s insurance adjuster is contacting you. Your insurance company may be contacting you. Your health insurance company may be contacting you. The medical providers may be telling you they will not bill your health insurance company for your medical treatment.
If you permit me to represent you, I will speak with all the insurance companies on your behalf. You should focus on being treated for your injuries or grieving for your lost loved one.
Difficulties may sometimes arise in determining which insurance will pay the medical bills. I will speak with the various insurance companies and your medical providers to resolve any difficulties. The negligent person or company’s insurance will not pay your medical bills as you incur them. The insurance company will only compensate you for the medical bills at the time of settlement or a jury verdict. If you do not have health insurance, you may have medical payments coverage on your auto policy to pay the bills.
Another immediate issue is getting your vehicle repaired or replaced. You may need a rental vehicle. An insurance adjuster will examine your vehicle and prepare an estimate for repair. If the cost of repair is too high, the vehicle will be totaled and you will receive the fair market value of the vehicle. If property other than your vehicle has been damaged, the insurance company most likely will not repair or replace the property until your case is resolved.
Unfortunately, the other driver of a vehicle may not have insurance coverage. Autoinsurance.org states an estimated 14% of drivers are uninsured. In this instance, you may need to look to your own auto policy for payments. If you do not have all of the types of coverage to compensate you for your damages, you may consider pursuing the negligent driver individually.
Once you begin your medical treatment and have a drivable vehicle, you will continue to receive the treatment your doctor recommends. It is very important you follow your physician’s treatment plan and receive all necessary treatment. You want to feel better as quickly as possible. Also, your medical records and bills will help establish the nature and extent of your damages to the insurance adjuster. If you do not receive the treatment recommended by your physician, the insurance adjuster will assume you were not really injured.
If your doctor has determined you do not need any further treatment, I will obtain all of your medical records and bills. Documentation establishing your lost wages will be obtained. The value of any personal property damaged will be established. All of this information will be put into a “demand letter” along with your description of your injuries and the impact on your life. The demand letter will start the negotiations with the insurance company. We will attempt to reach an agreement with the insurance company to fairly compensate you for your injuries. You are entitled for damages for your physical injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, damage to your property, pain, suffering, emotional distress. loss of enjoyment of life and future expenses. Your case will not be settled without your approval.
During the settlement negotiations, we need to consider the “S-word” – – subrogation. Subrogation is the right of insurance companies to recoup medical expenses paid on your behalf for treatment you received for your injuries. The right of subrogation can arise from a statute, generally Medicare and Medicaid, or by terms in a contract, your auto or health insurance policy. The amount of money which needs to be paid back to these entities must be included in the settlement amount. As an example, if the total settlement amount is $10,000 and the amount paid by your health insurer on your behalf is $2,500, that amount must be paid out of the $10,000.
Your personal injury case may not be settled by the negotiations with the insurance company. In this event, we will discuss filing a lawsuit against the wrongdoer.
A lawsuit is started by the filing of a Complaint. This Complaint contains the facts surrounding the negligence and your damages. The Complaint is sent by certified mail to the individual(s) or company(ies) responsible for your injuries. These defendant(s) must file an Answer to the Complaint within 28 days after receiving it. During my representation of injured clients over the years, I found generally the Answer filed denies the person was negligent, denies you were injured and denies responsibility for your damages. This is a standard response and you should try not to let the denials upset you.
The next stage in the lawsuit is Discovery. During this stage, the parties exchange information in various ways, including Interrogatories (written questions), Requests for Production (documents, photographs and other physical evidence), Requests for Admissions (for example, asking the defendant to admit or deny hitting the rear of your vehicle) and Depositions (oral questions and answers before a court reporter). A defendant may request you be examined by a physician chosen by the defendant. This physician will write a report giving opinions about your injuries. I will help you through the discovery process and we will provide the opposing side with all the information required to prove your case.
As the person bringing the lawsuit, you have what is known as the “burden of proof.” This means you must present evidence showing the defendant was negligent, you suffered injuries and damages and those injuries and damage were caused by the defendant’s negligence. In simpler terms, you must show the defendant did something unreasonable or wrong and caused you damages.
In most cases, you will need one or more experts to provide testimony for your case. These experts can be physicians, engineers, accident reconstructionists, economists, security experts, construction experts, safety experts or any expert who has specialized knowledge in a particular field applicable to your case.
We may also attempt to settle your case while the lawsuit is on-going. I may talk to the defendant’s attorney about settlement or we may have mediation. During mediation, a neutral third-party, generally an attorney or retired judge, listens to the parties in the lawsuit and tries to guide the parties toward a settlement. The mediator does not make any decisions about the case and you do not have to settle the case at the mediation. Everything said during a mediation is confidential.
Ultimately, your personal injury case may need to go to trial. At trial, we will present all of the evidence to convince the judge or jury you are entitled to money to compensate your for all of your injuries. You will tell the judge or jury how you were injured, what injuries you suffered, if you continue to suffer from them and describe the impact on your life. Your family or friends may testify about what they observed about you after you were injured. Experts will probably testify. We will present all the evidence I have gathered since the first time you came to see me. The defendant will then put on evidence.
At the completion of trial, the judge or jury will decide whether you are entitled to compensation, and, if so, the amount of the compensation. This will be the end of a rather long process during which we worked to gather as much information as possible and present it in the best manner possible to show how you were damaged and to get you compensation for your injuries.
The ancient Greek playwright Sophocles said “Success is dependent upon effort.” I will make every effort to bring your case to a successful resolution.