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Personal Injury FAQs

We realize that all of the issues involved in a Personal Injury case can be overwhelming. Folllowing are some of the more common questions answered for you.

Q: I’ve been in a car crash, and the insurance company for the other driver is telling me I don’t need a lawyer. Is this true?

A: Probably not. Insurance adjusters are professional negotiators. It is their job to settle claims for the smallest amount of money possible. Usually, you can benefit from the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer in this situation. (Back to Top)

Q: The insurance adjuster for the other driver made a settlement offer, and says I should take it, because even if I get more compensation by hiring a lawyer, the lawyer will take one-third of the whole settlement. Is this true?

A: If you have a settlement offer from the other driver’s insurance company, most lawyers will take your case for a percentage of the amount recovered above and beyond what the insurance company offered, and will not take a fee on the amount the insurance company offered you before you had a lawyer. This is a trick many insurance adjusters use to keep you from going to an experienced personal injury lawyer, and finding out what fair compensation for your case really should be. (Back to Top)

Q: How long will this suit take?

A: Every case varies. The main variable is your medical treatment. Many times, a suit is not filed until medical treatment is complete, so settlement can be attempted. Usually, suit is only filed if a settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company. It is not unusual for a case to take one to two years to get resolved.

If your medical treatment is complete, settlement can be attempted soon after retaining an attorney. It is possible your case will settle quickly. If your case cannot be settled quickly after your medical treatment is complete, it will be necessary to file suit. (Back to Top)

Q: Can I get pain and suffering?

A: Yes. This is one of the main differences between personal injury and workers’ compensation claims. If you are injured due to someone else’s negligence in a non-work setting, you are entitled to recover for your pain and suffering. (Back to Top)

Q: Can I go to my own doctor?

A: Yes. This is also a distinction between personal injury and workers’ compensation claims. With a non-work injury, you get to choose your own medical treatment. (Back to Top)

Q: What is the statute of limitations?

A: It is the time period within which you must file your suit. In most personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury. If you do not file suit within that time, you completely lose your legal rights. (Back to Top)

Q: Can I cash a check from the other party’s insurance company even though I don’t agree with the offered settlement amount?

A: Probably not. If the check is for property damage (your car damages), it MAY be safe to cash the check. Any other check will probably have language on it stating that by cashing it, you agree that you will receive nothing further. You should never cash a check from the other party’s insurance company without showing it to an attorney. Most lawyers will not charge a fee for this service. (Back to Top)

Q: What if the negligent driver’s insurance company will not pay my medical bills?

A: Usually, the other driver’s insurance company will not pay your medical bills as you go along. The insurance company will probably tell you they will only pay the bills at the time of a final settlement. To get your bills paid before settlement, you will probably have to turn them over to your own insurance company.

The first place to turn in this situation is your own car insurance. Most people have car insurance that includes coverage for medical bills. If you have this coverage, you should turn your bills over to your own insurance company, so the bills will be paid without needing to settle with the other driver’s insurance company.

If you do not have medical payment coverage on your car insurance, or if you have no car insurance, the next place to turn is your health insurance. If you have health insurance, the insurance company for the other driver won’t pay until settlement, and you do not have car insurance that includes medical payments, your health insurance should pay your medical bills until you get your case settled. (Back to Top)

Q: If my insurance (car or health) pays my medical bills caused by someone else’s negligence, do I have to pay them back?

A: Probably. Most car insurance and health insurance policies contain what is known as a “subrogation” clause. This means that your insurance will pay your medical bills, but if the bills were caused by someone else and you recover, you have to repay your insurance. Usually, your insurance company will give you credit against what you owe them for any attorney fees you have to pay to collect the bills from the responsible driver’s insurance company. (Back to Top)

Q: What if the other driver either doesn’t have insurance, or has low policy limits that aren’t enough to cover my damages?

A: In either of these situations, you probably have a claim against the other driver, AND against your own insurance company under your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Most people assume if they are involved in a vehicle crash caused by the negligence of another driver, the other driver will have insurance to cover their damages. This has been a very costly and financially disastrous mistake for many people. If a negligent driver injures you and either does not have insurance, or not enough insurance, it is unlikely you will be able to recover from that driver for your damages. This makes it very important to make sure you carry both uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance on your vehicles.

Uninsured motorist coverage will cover your damages if a completely uninsured motorist injures you in a crash. Underinsured motorist coverage will help pay your damages if the person that hits you has insurance, but not enough to fully cover your damages. Although the law requires drivers to carry insurance coverage, the legally required level of coverage is very low. It does not take a very serious crash for your damages to be higher than the legal minimum insurance coverage.

If you do not have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage on your automobile insurance policy, you may be risking your financial well-being. All it takes is a negligent act by a driver that either has no insurance, or has low coverage limits, and you may be facing financial disaster.

If you are involved in a crash with an uninsured driver, or a driver with very little insurance, you should consult an attorney about your options. If you don’t know if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, you should contact your insurance agent. It costs very little to increase your coverage limits. It may be the best money you ever spend. (Back to Top)

Copyright ©2007-2013 Leehey Olson Law, P.C. The determination of the need for legal services and the choice of a lawyer are extremely important decisions and should not be based solely upon advertisements or self-proclaimed expertise. Click here for the full disclaimer.

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