Personal Injury FAQs
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Frequently Asked Questions about Personal Injury
Why do I need an attorney if I’ve been in an accident?
This is an important question, and one that many lawyers fail to explain to potential clients. An experienced personal injury attorney has a good grasp of the laws that apply to auto and trucking accidents, workplace accidents and accidents that are caused by the actions or negligence of others. A good personal injury attorney knows the rights of injured people and the responsibilities of insurance companies.
Unfortunately, what is in the best interest of the insurance company is frequently not in your best interest. Insurance companies often try to pay the least amount they can get away with. They will use traps to get you to admit fault or use techniques and tricks that make low-ball settlement offers sound like the best you will get.
An experienced attorney knows approximately how much your claim is worth based on past cases and is practiced at obtaining a full settlement. He will be able to explain the factors that have an effect on your situation. Most importantly, retaining legal counsel shows that you are serious about your claim. This adds to your credibility.
If you hire our firm, we will gather and develop the information that is relevant and important to your case. We will give you an objective opinion about the strength of your case and the potential value of a settlement. We will coach you on what to say—and what NOT to say. If you wish, we will speak on your behalf. As your advocate, we will stand up to your insurance company and help you past tricks and traps that they may use against you.
We will use our knowledge and experience to negotiate the best claim that we can based on your circumstances. If we decide together that a settlement offer is insufficient, we will file suit and represent you at trial.
What are the lawyer’s responsibilities?
Once you retain us, our job is to gather the facts and research the laws that pertain to your case. It will then be our objective to persuade the insurance company to fairly and fully compensate you for your injuries.
Will you also handle my property damage?
Yes, at your option. Our staff is fully trained to handle property insurance claims in addition to medical claims. Some of our clients wish to handle their own property damage claims, however we will be happy to help you at no additional cost. The RESOURCES page of this website includes the names of some reputable auto repair and body shops that may be of help.
*IMPORTANT: If you are handling your own property damage claim(s), do not discuss your injuries with the insurance company. If an insurance company representative asks questions about injuries to yourself or others, feel free to refer them to us.
With whom may I discuss my case?
Discuss your case only with Mr. Smith and other members of our staff. We will discuss your case only with the official representatives of the opposing party. We will not discuss your case with any other outside party unless you ask us to do so.
What are my responsibilities?
If you have been injured, it is crucial that you make and keep your doctor or chiropractor appointments. This ensures that you will eventually heal, and gives us a basis for making your claim at the end of your treatments. Failure to keep your medical appointments can seriously jeopardize the outcome of your case.
Additionally, you are ultimately responsible for paying your medical bills. However, it is our objective to make certain that the insurance company compensates you sufficiently so that will not be a problem.
Sometimes a medical provider will send us a lien against your future insurance settlement. This simply means that we are legally required to compensate the provider out of the insurance proceeds before disbursing any remaining funds to you. Not all providers file a lien. When a provider fails to send a lien, I will, of course, forward the money to you upon settling your case. It then becomes your responsibility to pay the provider.
Please understand that if you are receiving Medicare and Medicaid, it may take a few months before we can disburse on your case because, by law, we have to ensure that all liens are paid before remaining monies are distributed.
And lastly, it is imperative that you call us when your medical or chiropractic treatments have been completed. Do not rely on your medical provider to inform us.
Can you refer me to a doctor or chiropractor?
Absolutely. Our goal is to see that you receive the best medical or chiropractic care available. While many people find it preferable to see their own trusted doctor or chiropractor, clients often ask us for referrals based on their immediate medical needs. Because we operate in the world of personal injury, we have gotten to know many reputable professionals who are willing to take cases on a contingency basis. This means that they will treat you and not expect payment until and unless there is an insurance settlement or judgment in your case.
The RESOURCES page of this website lists the names of some of the providers we work with on a regular basis. Our staff will be happy to help you make contact and schedule an initial appointment. We can also help you find other specialists based on your specific injuries.
What happens after my doctor has finished treating me?
After your doctor or chiropractor has finished treating you and you have reached maximum medical improvement, we will file your claim with the appropriate insurance company. We know that you are anxious to see your claim settled, but it is usually best to wait until your treatments are complete and the cost are known. After you have finished treatments, call my staff, and I will order your medical reports and medical bills.
What do you do with reports and bills?
After we receive your medical reports and bills, Mr. Smith will write what is called a demand package outlining your medical bills and lost wages, out of pocket expenses as well as other damages resulting from your injuries, and we will submit it to the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim.
How do I claim lost wages?
We will give you a “wage loss verification form.” After you have returned to work, consult with your supervisor and have him/her sign the verification form detailing your total lost hours. Understand that you can only claim lost wages for hours that your medical doctor or chiropractor has given you an excuse. We will include lost wages in the demand letter that we send to the insurance company.
What happens after the insurance adjuster receives the demand letter?
Insurance adjusters are busy. It will take approximately ten days to two weeks for the adjuster to review and evaluate the file. Then, he will submit “an offer” to us based on your coverage, the law and the specific facts of your case.
I will call you and discuss the offer with you. Together, we will evaluate its merits and discuss the next steps of the negotiation.
The negotiation process may take a while. Remember: A quick claim is usually a cheap claim. There may very well be some discovery I must engage in order to build your case. For example, I may need to talk to witnesses, examine the scene, take recorded statements or “depositions”. I will ask for your patience during this period.
I will keep you informed of revised offers and other developments. Once you agree that an offer is satisfactory, I will accept the offer on your behalf at which point, the adjuster will order the check. It can take anywhere from one to ten days until we receive the check and prepare a disbursement letter that provides a full breakdown of all funds including attorney fees and any medical liens that must be satisfied.
We will ask you to sign the disbursement letter, and will then issue you a check from a special trust account established for this purpose.
How much do you charge?
We work exclusively on a contingency basis. In other words, our fee comes “off the top” of any insurance settlement or court judgment. If we cannot settle your case, you owe us nothing. As is standard in our industry, our contingency fee is 33.3% of the settlement or judgment before medical providers are paid. If we are able to obtain a settlement/judgment in your case, we also ask to be reimbursed (at actual cost) for any expenses incurred such as medical record retrieval, filing fees, deposition costs, etc. This fee does not generally go over $100.00. If we are unable to settle your case, we absorb the administrative costs and charge you nothing. However, if the case goes to trial, the administrative costs will likely increase.
What if I do not wish to accept the insurance company’s final offer?
In that case we will discuss taking your case to trial. Most claims settle before getting to this point. Please understand that the process of taking an insurance company to trial can be very time consuming. While we will still handle your case for the same percentage of any judgment received, there will be additional administrative costs that you will be asked to pay. And there is always a risk that the judge or jury will not rule in your favor. As your attorney, Mr. Smith will provide his professional opinion on what he feels you should do, but ultimately, the decision is yours. If you have a strong case, we will advise you to file suit. Insurance companies know this and therefore are more likely to make better settlement offers sooner. We will go further into detail if this situation should arise.
Will the insurance companies conduct surveillance on me?
In some cases, yes. While we will presume that you have a legitimate injury, your insurance company may wish to prove otherwise. We advise you to do what your physician tells you. If you are placed on restrictions, it is very important that you follow them, even when you are at home. Do not give your insurance company evidence to use against you.
If I need money before my case settles, may I borrow from you?
Unfortunately, no. This would create a conflict of interest and position us not only your legal counsel but also as your creditor. This is prohibited by state ethics rules.
Should I borrow money elsewhere before my insurance check arrives?
No, this is a very bad idea. Predatory pre-settlement loan companies are known for charging excessive interest that can cause even more financial hardship. Better to sit tight and wait for the insurance company to settle. We know that this can be difficult and stressful. If necessary, we can help you contact your creditors and ask them to have patience due to your special circumstances.
Are you available to talk with me if I have questions about my case?
Yes, we are here for you. Feel free to call our office with questions or concerns. Most issues can be addressed by our experienced staff including three trained paralegals. If you need to speak to—or meet personally with Mr. Smith, please call in advance to schedule a phone conference or a face to face meeting. Sorry, Mr Smith is not able to accommodate walk-in appointments due to his busy schedule.