Why do I need an attorney?
If you want to get the best value for your claim, utilize all available coverages of insurance, properly navigate the claim process and avoid pitfalls created by insurance, you need an attorney. There is simply no way to compare the knowledge attained through a single exposure of handling a claim on your own, with 20+ years and the handling of thousands of claims. And like any other facet of life, specialization matters.
When is the best time to hire an attorney?
As soon as feasible after the collision occurs, or other injury inducing event, is ideal. This way, you have an advocate on board to assist with navigating the claims process, assisting with the recorded statement requests and the applications to access coverages. Any issues with liability should be documented and addressed early on, before important evidence is lost. What happens at the beginning of the claim is often used against you later.
How long will it take to settle my claim?
There is no hard and fast rule. This will more than anything depend on you. Initially, it will depend on the extent of your injuries, how long it takes you to heal, and how long you and your doctor decide you need to treat for your injuries. For example, if you feel better after 3 months of chiropractic, this claim will likely conclude sooner than if you require surgery followed by months of rehab. Generally, once you conclude treatment, we will order all of your medical records. Ideally, we will get responses from the hospital and providers within 30 days. Occasionally this can take longer depending on the provider and their response time. Upon receipt of the records, we will review these and put together a demand package to submit to the insurance company. Part of this process will involve assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Sometimes we will deem it necessary to hire an expert at this point, to provide an opinion as to liability or medical causation. We will always discuss this with you and only recommend this when we believe it will significantly increase the value of your claim. Once we submit the demand package to insurance, it usually takes them 30 days to evaluate the information. Sometimes they may request prior records or want an expert of their own to review your claim. This can add some additional time to the review process, but ultimately it all leads to negotiations. Offers are extended on both sides and conveyed to you. We will make recommendations based upon our experience and valuation of your claim, but you ultimately determine when and whether the claim settles. If the claim does not settle because insurance is offering an amount below what you deserve, we will file a lawsuit. But keep in mind, over 95% of our claims settle without filing a lawsuit. While some require additional time and work to get to an acceptable settlement amount, most do eventually get there.
Who will be paying for my medical bills while I treat for my injuries?
Many people have a preconceived belief that the at fault party will immediately begin paying for medical bills. This is only rarely the case. For example, with premise liability cases, there may be a med pay policy that the landowner has in place that can be available immediately to pay bills, but usually these policies are capped at $5,000, and so deplete quickly. An injured pedestrian that is injured by a vehicle is entitled to access that vehicle’s PIP benefits, if the vehicle’s owner purchased PIP coverage. If there is PIP coverage in the pedestrian context, it will pay for reasonable and necessary medical treatment that resulted from the incident. If you are injured in a car accident and purchased PIP coverage, your PIP will pay for your medical expenses. Also note that this is no fault coverage, so irrespective of who caused the collision, or if liability is disputed, PIP will pay for those reasonable, necessary and related medical expenses. If you did not purchase PIP coverage, or there is no med pay, then your health insurance will be next in line to pay. The exception to this is if you are injured on the job, in which case L & I will act as your coverage.
I’m hesitant to use my own coverage, and will it pay when I was not at fault?
Remember that you pay premiums every month, and have likely paid for many years, for precisely this scenario. This is what your insurance is for. If you have health insurance, it is a huge benefit that you should definitely use. At the end of your case, any of your insurance carriers (including PIP) that have paid for medical bills have a right to be paid back. Health insurance, whether it’s private insurance, medicaid, or Medicare, almost always pays a significantly reduced rate for services. As attorneys, we can usually get a further reduction, so an amount that is a fraction of the original charged amount is actually what’s paid back.
What if I don’t have any health insurance, how am I going to get treatment?
If you do not have health insurance, there are medical providers that agree to get paid at the end of the case by taking what we call a lien on your claim file. As your attorneys we sign a lien letter, or a letter of guarantee, wherein the doctors agree to provide treatment in return for the promise from us, you and your attorneys, that we will protect their interest in the settlement. We will do our best throughout the claim to assist with getting the bills paid and resolved. Sometimes if the outstanding bill is a hospital for example, and there is no PIP, L &I or health insurance, we have other methods to get the bills reduced, held, and sometimes even waived.
Is there anything I can do to help my case?
Absolutely. First and foremost, focus on getting better. Follow the advice of your doctors. If your doctor refers you for imaging or to another specialist, go. Do your utmost to make all of your scheduled appointments. Be sure and communicate with your doctors all of your symptoms, even if it seems trivial or potentially unrelated, let them make that determination. Your symptoms are a critical tool in their assessment of your injuries, and often they will not know unless you communicate. Also, for purposes of your claim, the documentation in the medical records is very important. Let us, your attorneys, know if there are any significant changes in your treatment, providers, or symptoms. Let us know if you are missing work or unable to perform any activities of daily living, activities you could do prior to being injured. Ideally, we will communicate with you at least once a month so we can in turn relay your status to the insurance company. You should focus on healing, while we handle the communications and paperwork regarding the claim.
What if the person that hit me doesn’t have insurance or it was a hit and run?
In this case, you would need to have Uninsured Motorist coverage, UM/UIM, on your policy. Provided you have the necessary coverage, your insurance company will step into the shoes of the at fault party and compensate you for your injuries. Hit and runs involving a phantom vehicle are a little trickier, in that your policy will have specific contractual requirements that must be satisfied regarding making a claim. We can review your policy language to ensure the proper steps are taken. Always contact the police and make a report of the incident.