Auto Case Questions
If you were significantly harmed by a driver who is clearly at fault, then you probably have a case. The strength of that potential case is the key question, and the biggest considerations are discussed here.
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Assuming you are also a driver, you should report the crash to your insurance company, get medical care if you need it (reporting all symptoms), document all personal and vehicle damage, and have your vehicle evaluated for repair somewhere you trust (rather than where the insurer(s) want you to go).
Don't post to social media, don't sign any authorizations for the at-fault driver's insurer, and don't delay getting care you need. Early gaps in documentation can cause big headaches later on.
Very generally: if you have your own auto insurance, you will open a claim and treat under your own policy, which will pay medical and wage loss benefits. Meanwhile, you will typically resolve the vehicle damage issues with your insurer and the other driver's. When (and only when) you are fully recovered from your injuries or medically stationary (i.e. unlikely to change), then you will begin the process of resolving your injury claim with the at-fault driver's insurer. If you have damages above the at-fault driver's policy limits, you may then make an "underinsured motorist" (UIM) claim against your own insurer for the difference.
The major benefits are medical and lost wage benefits, but some other miscellaneous categories may apply. The amount of coverage and the particulars of what you are entitled to will depend on your particular policy and what state the policy was issued in (as each has minimum levels of protection).
You should call a lawyer. An IME is usually where insurers cut off your care, regardless of your actual injuries. This can have serious effects on your liability case. Fortunately, our office knows how to combat your insurer if it cuts you off, and how to mitigate any damage to your liability case.
Lawyers differ, but our firm takes over all aspects of dealing with the insurance companies involved. We secure all the benefits you are entitled to from your own company, we make sure the elements of your liability case are properly documented, and we fight for the proper value of your case for as long as it takes. If necessary, we negotiate down any bills you might have left over from this case, and resolve all other payment issues and complications that can arise around a settlement.
First, all amounts are paid at the end of the case, so there is no up front cost. Most clients will pay one-third of their settlement as a legal fee, and will repay all advanced costs. Advanced costs for cases that don't go to litigation are typically less than $200, usually little more than the cost of obtaining medical records. If a case either must be tried or arbitrated to a panel, or is settled on the eve of trial or arbitration, the fee may be 40% instead of one-third, which is standard in the industry. Finally, in cases filed against an insurer for wrongfully denied benefits, it is often possible to force the other side to pay some or all of your legal costs.
This is always up to the individual, but our general advice is that if you're going to pay a lawyer one third whether he has the case three months or a year and three months, you might as well get your money's worth and hire one early in the case.
No. Claims are routinely amicably settled without needing a lawyer. However, where a case is complex in any regard, it is likely that a lawyer will reach a better result. Perhaps as importantly, a lawyer provides sound advice and peace of mind in an adversarial process that many (justifiably) find confusing and threatening.
The typical answers are that people without lawyers are often treated worse, and the case may involve poor documentation of loss (medical or otherwise) and/or very low visible vehicle damage. Any of the above typically lead to low offers. While the last factor listed is blatantly unscientific, insurers know that juries take it into account.
There is a wide variety. Beyond past and future medical bills, past lost wages and impaired future earning capacity may be sought in appropriate cases. These are examples of "economic" damages. Non-economic damages include what is generically referred to as "pain and suffering," but which can potentially include most types non-monetary loss that a party can prove, including humiliation from injury limitations, interference with the activities of a person's daily life, etc.
No. What an insurance company admits early on as far as a vehicle damage determination does not bind them to admit 100% fault on the injury side of the case, or force them to agree that all of your claimed losses were actually caused by their driver's fault. Insurers often tactically deny liability until the latest possible moment, because they know any uncertainty in the liability outcome benefits the insurer in negotiations.
No. By design, insurance companies are typically invisible at trial, unless they have been directly sued for denying benefits. To the jury, it will appear that you are suing only the person who harmed you. There will usually be no mention of insurance, and there will definitely be no mention of how an insurer treated you, as settlement negotiations are not admissible. Your claim will have to stand (or fall) on its own merits at trial.
Yes. For better or worse, our legal system prizes finality over fairness to victims of long-term harm. If the money isn't in a settlement, arbitration award or verdict, it will never be recovered. For that reason, it is crucial to make the best of the only opportunity you will ever have.