The biggest misconception people have is thinking that because there was an accident, they are entitled to money. That's just not true! Because someone's behavior was bad, they're entitled to money? This is a common occurrence that I have. Somebody will say, “The guy was going 90 miles an hour. I almost died.” The fact that you almost died doesn't mean that somebody's going to give you a lot of money. The amount of money that person can receive is related to the nature and extent of the person's injury and other losses that the person may have experienced because of the negligence. For the person who was involved in an accident with a person who was driving 90 miles per hour, if that person had a transient injury that cleared up in a few weeks, there claim will not be worth any more than a person who was rear-ended at 10 miles an hour.
The fact that the other person's behavior was bad, or that something worse could have happened, doesn't increase the value of your claim. If the person had died, and I was talking to their wife or child, it might be a different conversation. Accident victims take what happened seriously, while the insurance company just looks at the injury victim like a number or a file.
What is the Role of Insurance Companies in Personal Injury Cases? Where does a Lawyer Fit in?
For some cases you don't need to get a lawyer involved. If you have a clear liability accident, for example, you are at a red light and somebody hits you in the rear end, and you go the emergency room. Then you have four weeks of chiropractic care and you're doing better. There's nothing that I can do for you to get you more money than what Allstate or State Farm is going to offer. As an example, Allstate is going to use this computer program called Colossus. The adjuster is going to punch in the numbers and computer is going to spit out a settle range for the case. It is not a type of case that's going to go to trial because of the time and expense, so it is a case that the injured person can handle on their own and come away with a similar amount of money than they would receive with a lawyer. In these types of cases, the margins are small and I don't want to take a percentage of the client's money.
On the other hand, if the insurance company starts jerking you around and says that they are not at fault for the accident or they start giving you a hard time regarding the treatment that you're getting and saying that it should be better, or they start asking for statements or they start becoming intrusive, or the doctor comes up and he says your injuries are much more severe than we initially thought and you're going to need surgery and you're going to have to lose time from work and you might not be able to go back to work or take care of your family; at those times you'd better think about hiring a lawyer because the lawyer will be able to take you through the process and stop you from making any mistakes that will destroy your case.
Some of those mistakes can be giving a statement and saying the wrong thing, giving a blank medical authorization so they can go out and get all these records that have got nothing to do with the case just to see if they can find something to put their finger on to cause you to take less money, offering you a small amount of money because they know that you can't work and they know that you need to feed your kids. They will try to use all their power over you who have been injured because they know that you're desperate, and that's what I have to say about that.
How Soon Should I Contact a Lawyer After an Injury?
You should contact a lawyer shortly after the incident just to find out what your rights and your responsibilities are. If you don't want to contact a lawyer, you can go on my website and if you're in a car accident or in a slip and fall, you can download a free copy of one of my books which gives you a general overview of the actual process. It tells you the mistakes that many people make, so that's my recommendation. It doesn't mean you have to hire a lawyer, you just have to be educated, and if you're going to go about handling your case on your own, you have to take on the responsibility of doing everything that a lawyer would do.
You need to preserve all the evidence, you need to get photos, you need to get witness statements because if six months down the road the insurance company says, “Hey I am not going to pay you and you don't have this information,” you're not going to be able to go ahead and get that information at that time – you need to get it now just in case. If your car is fixed and you don't have any photos of the damage to your car, how are you going to show a jury what your car looked like? If you had bruises or cuts and you didn't take any pictures of them and you go before a judge or a jury, how are they going to see that the extent of your injuries? If you're going to handle the case on your own, then you need to do the things that a lawyer would do.
Do People Ever Feel Discouraged During the Claims Process? If So; What Do You Tell Them?
There are a lot of people who say I don't want to sue the other person, I don't want to bring a claim against the other person, and that's fine too. The law allows somebody to bring a claim and that depends on the nature and extent of your injuries. If you were just sore for three or four days, or even three four weeks, and you just want to go on with the rest of your life and someone's covered your medical expenses, that's great!
If you have medical bills that aren't paid, and you've lost work, and you can't support your family, and now for the rest of your life you have to walk with a limp, that's a totally different story. Most people are judgment proof, so most of the time these cases are dependent upon the insurance proceeds that are out there. You're not really going after the individual who hurt you; if they're insured you're dealing with the insurance company.
For more information on Personal Injury Misconceptions, a free initial consultation is your best next step. Get the information and legal answers you're seeking by calling Guy DiMartino Law at (219) 690-8897 today.