The scenario is this: Someone wasn’t paying attention, they ran a red light and your bad luck put you in the intersection right in their path. Your family was in the car with you. You find yourself injured and at the hospital. You’re worried, hurt, maybe medicated – yet there are lots of people asking lots of questions that need answers. The hospital wants billing information, the police want a statement and insurance adjusters want details. There are lots of forms. It’s normal to be stressed about all this but then, even while lying in the hospital, everyone eventually has the same questions – “How am I going to pay for all of this? What if I miss work? Will the hospital wait to get paid until other driver’s insurance company pays me?” (The real world answer is no, they will likely send you to collection possibly damaging your credit). “How’s the car going to get fixed? Do I get a rental while it’s in the shop?” These are the “typical” questions people have and unless you are in the insurance industry, you probably can’t answer them. So your next question is… “Do I need a lawyer?”
In most injury cases the answer is “Yes” especially if you have serious injuries which require expensive treatment and missed time from work. Sometimes people are hesitant to hire a lawyer if they’ve sustained only minor injuries. Still, setting up a consultation with a Personal Injury Attorney isn’t a bad idea. For one, initial consultations are usually free and it’s probably worth your time just to get answers to the “typical” questions discussed in the previous paragraph. But sometimes injuries turn out to be more serious than you or the emergency room doctor originally thought. They initially seemed “treatable” but ended up being resistant to therapy and eventually required surgery. Sometimes healing doesn’t happen at the expected rate and you aren’t back to work as fast as you anticipated, or maybe you are back but less productive than your pre-accident self. In any of those circumstances, if you accepted a quick settlement from the other driver’s insurance company before consulting an attorney, you are likely out of luck. Most personal injury attorneys will advise you to wait until you and your doctor know the full extent of your injuries and let your treatment run its fullest possible course before considering a settlement offer.
In the timeline of a typical claim, during the period while you are being treated two contentious issues usually arise – “How much am I going to get paid for my property damage?” and “Who is going to pay for my ongoing medical care?” If you have to fight with the insurance company about either of those issues then you would probably benefit from having a lawyer. Remember that the insurance adjuster on the other end of the phone is a trained professional, sometimes with multiple industry certifications, who has likely handled hundreds, if not thousands of claims. This is your first one. Your goal is get what is yours and be done with the headaches as quickly as you can. The adjuster is not there to help you do that. The adjuster’s goal is to resolve the claim for as little money as possible. That adjuster is acting in the best interest of his or her employer whose only concern is the bottom line. They won’t go to bat for you and they won’t give you advice about how to maximize or expedite your claim. Only your lawyer can do that for you.
The problems described so far seem pretty obvious but one of the most difficult issues is one that people never see coming. “How do I handle the various claims for payment, damage and injuries under the different insurance policies?” The solution can be found in the answers to 2 questions: “Who pays for what?” and “Who needs to get paid back?” It’s called coordination of benefits and it can get complicated. Consider the policies that might play a role in your accident claim:
- The liability coverage in the other driver’s auto policy
- The Personal Injury Protection coverage in your auto policy
- The uninsured/underinsured motorist protection provisions of your auto policy
- Your health insurance policy
- Short term disability policies such as AFLAC
- Your employer’s worker’s compensation policy
It’s not unusual to see 3 or 4 of these policies come into play in a typical accident claim. They each may have different claim deadlines and their own sets of paperwork. If one pays out, and later decides that another should have paid instead, they may come after YOU for reimbursement, not the guy that hit you or the hospital that they paid for your care. Any attorney you interview should be asked whether they will handle the coordination of benefits as part of their representation. You should have a clear understanding as to whether or not it is a service covered by the fee you pay to the firm.
Speaking of fees, everyone knows that lawyers are expensive. In most personal injury cases fees should be less of a concern because they are usually handled on a contingency basis, meaning the law firm is paid a percentage of your settlement or verdict so the firm’s financial reward for representing you is tied to their performance. The better they do for you, the better it is for them. A reputable law firm will provide you with a written explanation of how their fees work at the beginning of their representation. It will explain the percentage the firm gets and how case expenses are handled. It should also say that they will not agree to any settlement without your consent.
The personal injury attorneys at Ferrante, Dill & Hisle have years of experience. In the past Partner Nick Ferrante has worked for many of the major insurance companies and represented well known national retailers and trucking companies defending these types of claims. But now we work exclusively on the side of people who are injured – helping them to get compensated for the losses they have incurred as a result of someone else’s negligence. If you or someone you care about has been hurt please call the Personal Injury Attorneys at Ferrante, Dill & Hisle as soon as possible to set up your free initial consultation. You can reach us by phone at (410) 535-6100, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about our firm visit us on the web at www.ferrantedill.com