By Dale Gribow
A good Christian would forgive an at fault driver for an accident because it is just that an accident…not an intentional act. However, everyone would agree that the accident victim deserves to be fairly compensated for their pain and suffering.
Unfortunately an accident does not mean you will receive a fair settlement offer from the insurance company. You did not win the lottery because you were rear ended. Many potential clients do not understand why their case is not as valuable as their neighbors.
The most successful Accident cases have the following things in common which establish liability and damages. These are the two essential elements of an accident case.
1. The Victim STOPPED, took pictures with their cell phone of cars and injuries and gathered information.
2. The victim called the police who took a report even when there were no apparent injuries.
3. They did NOT give a statement! Victims should not give a statement to anyone without their lawyer’s permission as the statement is evidence. If the defendant does not have insurance or adequate insurance, then your insurance company will be responsible under UM and things said could come back to haunt you. Remember to ask the other driver for his driver’s license and Insurance info. Along these lines you should TAKE DOWN YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA. The insurance companies are watching your Facebook and Twitter posts which may show you playing sports or talking about a vacation. This arguably suggests you are OK and do not need medical treatment and that you are able to lift your luggage.
4. Get medical attention immediately, either by going by ambulance to the Hospital or Urgent Care:
Many Victims do not realize the severity of an injury and do not seek immediate treatment. Later they realize the pain they are experiencing is accident related. Some victims do not take an ambulance because they have to pick up their kids or because they are concerned about the hospital and ambulance costs. Without immediate medical treatment in the first 3 days, many lawyers are not interested in the case. This is because the insurance company will argue if the victim was really injured they would have sought immediate medical treatment.
5. The Victim should NOT give the hospital their insurance/Medicare/ Medicaid information:
Once Medicare/Medicaid is notified it takes 6-12 months to get them to respond to lien payment information. In addition there is a new law that the only medical bills that can be considered by the jury are those not paid by any insurance or Medicare/ Medicaid. If Eisenhower charges $50,000 and they have an arrangement with Medicare etc to accept $9,000 as payment in full and the patient then responsible for $1,000 we can only submit $1,000 for the jury to consider. A few years ago that $50,000 medical bill would result in a $150,000 settlement offer. If $1,000 is all the V has to pay we will get settlement offers of $2500 to $3500.
6. You should contact a Lawyer immediately:
If you are not represented by an attorney, the insurance company can contact you and try to get a statement. Your lawyer will never know what you said or what the adjuster/investigator thought he heard you say. With a lawyer there is less of a chance for a “mistake” by the insurance company.
7. Ask your lawyer for assistance in obtaining medical care on a lien:
Most doctors do not know how to prepare a med/legal report and that is essential for obtaining the full value on the case. For years I lectured on How to Write a Medical/Legal Report to the International College of Surgeons at their yearly conferences. The doctor’s report is almost as important as the injuries the doctor write down. Ordering Physical Therapy rather than having you sit in a hot bath is crucial too. A lawyer should urge you to list all injuries from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes and to take that list to each doctor’s appointment. All that information should be shared with each medical provider. Arm you doctor with ALL your medical complaints
8. Go to your lawyer’s body shop:
Insurance companies recommend body shops with whom they have a working relationship and who agree to keep the damage estimates low. When settling the case, the adjuster argues since the property damage is low then how could the Victim be injured. The last thing a lawyer wants is for his client to get his friend to fix the car cheaply.
9. You should have high auto liability and UM coverage:
In the desert many of our neighbors have no insurance or inadequate limits. IF so to protect you we contact your carrier and make an uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage claim. If you have a $100,000 policy and the D driver does not have coverage a UM claim against your carrier can be made for up to $100,000. Likewise if the defendant has a $15k policy we can collect that from the other carrier and then make a claim against your $100,000 UM coverage.
10. Be sure you have Medical Payments coverage:
No matter who is at fault you can present a claim under the med pay section of your policy for up to that amount of money to pay your medical bills. With $25,000 of med pay coverage you can collect up to $25,000 from your own policy no matter who is at fault.
11. You must follow all your lawyers’ instructions and agree to go to trial when necessary. With some cases the attorney has to threaten or go to trial to get the true value of a case from the defense. I have had cases where my client refused to go to trial because of an abortion they did not tell their husband about; illegal drugs listed in med report or venereal disease; their referral to a psych or an affair with another person.
12. Do not sign anything:
The paper you sign could be a release…or just an authorization to obtain your medical records. Do not trust the adjuster who says if you have further problems they will take care of it.