When should I hire an attorney?
While you should consider hiring an accident attorney if there’s severe property damage and you don’t feel the insurance company is fairly compensating you, you should always hire a personal injury attorney if you’ve been injured in an accident. Some insurance adjusters may even tell you that hiring one will only cost you money that you should keep for yourself. However, if you do not know or understand personal injury law, you should consult an attorney before signing any forms or providing any statements.
What do you pay the attorney?
Almost all injury attorneys’ work on what is called a contingency basis; that is, they are paid contingent upon the recovery they make for their client. This is usually based upon a fraction of the recovery, such as one-third. If there is no recovery, then there is no fee.
How will my attorney handle my case?
After initial meetings with you, the attorney will investigate your claim. This usually requires a review of some or all of the followings:
- Witness statements
- Police reports
- A possible visit to the scene of the incident
- A review of appropriate laws
- A review of all medical reports
Will I have to wait to repair my property damage until my injury claim is resolved?
The property damage claim in your auto accident case is a separate claim from your personal injury claim. You can settle your property damage claim so you can have your car repaired or replaced without settling your personal injury claim. Consult an attorney to see if they can assist with your property damage claim as well as your injury claim.
What if the driver at fault doesn’t have insurance?
If the driver at fault has no liability insurance, then the other place to look for insurance is your own automobile policy. If you have a provision in your policy called “uninsured motorist” coverage, then your insurance company must pay your medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering, just as it would if you had injured another motorist. If you have liability insurance only, then there is no coverage that will compensate you for your injuries. You will have to sue the at fault party directly, which can be very difficult and hard to recover.
Will my premiums go up if I make a claim against my uninsured motorist coverage?
No. State law specifically protects you by stating that “No insurer shall increase the automobile insurance rate or premium… nor cancel such coverage due solely to the payment of any claim under uninsured motorist coverage” (California Proposition 103)
What can I do to increase the value of my claim?
- Keep a diary of your pain and discomfort
- Tell your doctor about everything that hurts
- Follow the doctor’s orders
- Build a good relationship with your doctor
- Get work excuses from your doctor
- Keep all doctor’s appointments
- Take pictures of all injured areas
How much is my case worth?
This question is one of the most frequently asked questions and is also very difficult to answer. It is virtually impossible to predict the value of a case until all of the information has been collected and you have recovered or almost recovered from your injury. There are many factors that determine the value of a case. Some include:
- The actual amount of all of your medical bills
- How much income and other employment benefits were lost as a result of injury
- Whether or not any aspects of your injuries are permanent. This would also include permanent disfigurement such as scars, blemishes and other disfigurement characteristics.
What if my injuries keep me from working?
Be sure to keep records of specific dates you missed work, the amount of money you lost, and even any money you paid for public transportation to get to work (if your injuries allowed it but your vehicle was too damaged).
What’s covered under pain and suffering?
There are many outcomes after your car accident that may qualify you for pain and suffering compensation. Typically, they’re considered “noneconomic loss” and cover things such as:
- Past/Future pain and suffering
- Any physical pain
- Mental anguish
- Stress you’ve experienced because of the accident
- All these can affect your self-confidence, leaving you ashamed of your accident injuries
- Enjoyment of Life
- Your mindset and outlook can change after an accident injury, making life feel difficult to enjoy
- Scarring and permanent damage caused by an accident or necessary surgery will stay with you forever
- Loss of Consortium
- The spouse of an injured victim may receive money if they’ve lost companionship and the ability to be close with their significant other because of the injuries sustained in an accident
Who is going to pay my medical bills if I’m injured in an auto accident?
There are three possibilities:
- First, your health insurance company should pay the bills, even though they are the result of an automobile accident.
- Second, the driver’s automobile insurance policy (or your policy if you were the driver) may have coverage for medical bills. This is called medical payments coverage.
- Lastly, the other driver’s auto policy is responsible for your bills if the accident was their fault. You will not see the money from the responsible party’s insurance company until the final settlement is made, but compensation for the full price of the medical bills is part of the settlement.
Do I have to repay my health insurance company when I settle my injury claim?
Yes. Even though you paid a premium for your health insurance company to pay your bills from the accident, all health insurers require their policy holders to reimburse them from the injury settlement with the responsible party. As a practical matter, some companies do not request the repayment, but all are entitled to it if they so choose.
How long will it take to settle my case?
Each case is different. Generally, however, settlement negotiations will begin after you reach what doctors call “maximum medical improvement.” It is at this time that doctors ordinarily release their patients. We will gather your medical records and bills to present them to the insurance company with a settlement demand. The length of the negotiation process varies among insurance companies and according to the severity of your injuries. If it is necessary to file a lawsuit to protect your right, it takes much longer to reach agreement.
How much time do I have to file a lawsuit if I’m injured in an automobile accident?
Adults injured in automobile accident have two years from the date of the accident to resolve their case by settlement. If a settlement is not reached, they must file suit on or before the anniversary of the accident to preserve their rights. Minors have until their 20th birthday to settle a claim. It is important to note here that the claim of the minor’s parents for medical expenses must be resolved on or before the anniversary of the accident; otherwise, suit must be filed to protect their claim.
How much will it cost me to file a lawsuit?
After determining that a case has merit, if settlement cannot be reached, we file a lawsuit on your behalf. Our fee is still contingent upon a successful outcome, but there will be expenses associated with the lawsuit that are your obligation. Our office my advance payment for those expenses, but they are ultimately your responsibility. The particular costs of a lawsuit vary.
What factors would cause my case to go to litigation?
There are usually several reasons why a case does not settle including the following:
- The insurance company believes that you and your attorney have asked for more money than they are willing to pay voluntarily for the claim.
- Liability, that is, who is at fault, is either being denied by the insurance company or the insurance company believes that you and/or some other party bear some responsibility for your own injuries.
- The insurance company does not believe that you were injured, or that you were injured as badly as you claim.
Will my case go to trail?
Most cases are settled before it is necessary to file a lawsuit. And then even after filing a lawsuit, most cases are settled prior to trail. Generally, only the large cases or highly disputed cases end up being tried before a jury or judge. Our extensive experience allows us particular foresight in determining what process will be the most advantageous to you. Whatever the situation, we will discuss all available options with you.
Will my case be settled without my approval?
No. We discuss valid settlement offers with you in every instance, and no settlement offer will be accepted without your approval.
What has to be done before I get the money that is due to me from the settlement?
- First, the insurance company will require that you and perhaps your spouse sign a release. This is a document that settles your claim. In the release you will read language stating that you are forever giving up your right to sue the person, persons or company who was responsible for your injuries. In exchange for giving up your claim, you will receive a certain sum of money when the insurance company receives the release
- Second, your attorney will have to pay all medical bills that have not been paid and may be required to reimburse any insurance company that has expended money for medical bills
- Third, your attorney will deduct attorney’s fees, out of pocket expenses, and other possible costs associated with the claim. After all deductions have been made, you will receive the balance in a check processed from your own attorney’s office.