Personal Injury Claim
For information about Property Damage claims, see Part I and Part II of this article in previous installments of this blog.
In Part I and Part II of this article I wrote about my wreck and outlined how property damage claims usually go and what to do from the moment you are in a wreck.
But What If You Are Injured In The Wreck?
While I wasn’t hurt in my wreck, I easily could have been. For this post, I’ll pretend that I was hurt to illustrate how the process works and how cases are analyzed by lawyers and insurance adjustors alike. Some of the industry terms here are confusing. I’ll be posting in a couple of weeks about recommend all different types of car and liability insurance and I recommend you look for that article and read it for some perspective.
If you read Part I of this article, you know I refused medical treatment at the scene and I did not go to the Emergency Room later. But let’s say I woke up the next day with throbbing pain in my neck and upper back. What we are dealing with is what is called “soft tissue injuries,” the opposite of obvious injuries like a broken leg or bleeding wound (which would’ve required immediate medical attention). Soft tissue Injuries are harder to prove. Think about it, an xray shows a broken bone, but maybe doesn’t show an injury to your neck or a pinched nerve. Insurance companies are leery of soft tissue injuries and take the position if we can’t prove it, then there is no injury.
Proof Of Injury
In our legal system it is the burden of the person bringing the claim (us) to PROVE the liability and damages of the claim. If we can’t prove you are hurt, then we can’t win our claim. The truth does not matter; what matters is what a jury would believe at the end of the trial. This is why consistent and immediate treatment is critical.
Commonly, after an accident, your body will be in shock. So, you won’t think you’re hurt. The next day is frequently when pain starts. If you are hurt and you do go to the doctor, you must follow your doctor’s orders, fill all your prescriptions and take them as prescribed. If you’re referred to specialists, go. Maintain records for missed work and why you missed. The insurance company will use anything, such as your refusal to follow directions or take medicines as prescribed, as an excuse to lower your claim value. The insurance company, like any corporation, is going to protect its shareholders and bottom line. That’s just how it works.
If you are told not to ride a bicycle or lift weight over 10 pounds and you do anyway, which worsens your medical condition, the insurance company will argue that’s your fault and they should not have to pay!
The crux of any personal injury claim is always the medical records. You must be clear and consistent in your treatment and with your doctors. Anything you say will be included in your chart; you should tell the doctor about everything, all your symptoms, and do everything your doctor tells you to do.
Your Phone Will Ring!
As soon as the police report is available you will be inundated with calls from physical therapists and chiropractors. Unlike lawyers, who are not allowed to call car wreck victims, there is no law or rule that prevents medical professionals to call you. You will receive at least 10 calls the day the police report is released! It’s really crazy. They will lie to you to get your business and here’s why:
Your injury is worth money to health care sharks.
Arkansas law requires that all insurance policies provide “med pay” coverage unless it is specifically rejected by the person. Rejection is unusual, so most people have at least $5000 in med pay available to them for treatment. This is HUGE! If you don’t have medical insurance or you have a high deductible, then that $5000 could be the difference between receiving the treatment you need timely and not receiving it at all. Don’t waste it on chiropractors and physical therapists. If you sign up with one of those shark phone calls, they will “treat” you up to $4,999 in treatment and drop you like a hot potato!
Knowing this, don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of. If you are hurt, then you should go to a real medical doctor and be evaluated. Physical therapists and chiropractors are not doctors. Not to mention, the insurance company will eat us alive on a claim that consists solely of chiropractic treatment.
The Four Categories Of Damage
In all personal Injury claims there are four categories of damage:
1) medical expenses/bills
2) lost wages
3) pain and suffering
4) permanent injury.*
We will never be allowed to recover punitive damages or attorney’s fees separately. Medical Bills are just that – total expenses incurred in your treatment. Lost wages are also self-explanatory – the dollars that you lost missing work related to the accident or treatment of injuries. Categories 3 and 4 are harder to pin down because they are directly related to the injuries and treatment and doctor’s opinions. The higher your medical bills, the worse you were hurt and the higher your pain and suffering is valued. It’s the same for permanent injury, but you must actually be diagnosed with a permanent injury that will not improve, such as a lost limb or permanent paralysis.
Will You Need A Lawyer For Your Personal Injury Claim?
Yes. A personal injury claim always needs legal representation. Unlike property damage claims, an experienced law office will almost always obtain a bigger recovery for you even after the percentage taken out for attorney’s fees, whether through settlement or trial. Not to mention we handle additional issues like medical lien negotiations or better yet lien invalidations! An attorney can also help you get treatment even if you can’t afford it or don’t have health insurance, by granting attorney’s liens on your case and negotiating with medical providers.
You should consult with a lawyer immediately to obtain guidance in your case; but, know that negotiations won’t begin until your medical treatment is done. We can’t settle a case based on a few doctor’s visits knowing that you will have to have neck surgery in the next six months. You have to have the surgery and incur those expenses and pain and suffering so those are included in the negotiations. Once it’s pointed out to you, it makes sense that Personal Injury Claims take so long to finish.
We can and will obtain all your medical records in our investigation and representation of you. We will aggressively ensure that you receive all the compensation you are due as a result of your personal injury.
Won’t An Attorney Cost A Lot?
Personal Injury claims are always on a contingency basis – meaning that you don’t incur any expenses – the attorneys take all the risk in incurring costs of medical records, expert testimony and evaluation, and focus group studies in preparing for trial. Attorneys get a percentage of the recovery, usually around 40% if it goes to trial, for their work and risk. If you don’t recover, you don’t owe the attorney anything, including reimbursing them for the costs they incurred in preparing for your trial.
Call For A Free Case Evaluation
Case evaluations are completely free; our fees are flat and affordable. Call Leigh Law today at (501) 227-ROAR or Email Us to ensure that you are making wise decisions now which will result in the best possible outcome for you.