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Q: If I am injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by another person, what should I do?
If you’ve been involved in an automobile, truck, or motorcycle accident caused by another person, there are a number of actions that should be taken immediately, including the following:
- Call the police so that they can immediately investigate the accident scene.
- Write down the names and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident.
These witnesses may be helpful in proving your side of the claim later.
- Seek medical attention, if necessary. In some instances, small pains and injuries can later turn out to be serious. Injuries that are first believed to be minor and temporary, can in fact become chronic and painful injuries that can last for months or longer. Therefore, it is often a good idea to get checked out by a doctor even if your injuries do not initially appear serious
- Talk to an experienced Personal Injury Attorney as Soon as Possible. At Bache & Lynch, we provide clients with immediate advice on how to deal with their situation, including what their rights are and how they should deal with the insurance companies involved.
Q: What Things Shouldn’t I Do?
While all cases are different, the following are good general rules.
- Do not admit fault. Legal fault for an accident is determined by a judge and/or jury. A person involved in an accident does not become legally at fault because another person or witnesses (or police officer) says so. An admission of fault, however, can hurt your legal position in a court of law.
- Seek Representation Before Dealing with the Other Driver’s Insurance Company. Insurance adjusters often are very friendly on the phone. They may explain that they just need some information in order to be able to process the claim and send a check to you. During the course of these “friendly” conversations, the insurance adjuster’s real goal may be to get you to make a statement that can later be used against you, to show that you were wholly or partially at fault, or that the accident did not cause all of the injuries you claim.
Q: Do I have to bring a case for personal injury within any particular time?
Yes. There is a “statute of limitations” that applies to most cases. That is, the state legislature has specified times within which various kinds of cases must be filed in court or the right to pursue the case can be lost.
Most cases for personal injury must be filed within two (2) years from the date of the incident causing the injury. However, in other types of cases, for example, medical malpractice claims, the injury, or the fact that it was caused by malpractice, may not be known for some time. In such cases, the time limit is two (2) years from the date the claim accrues.
According to our courts, accrual occurs “when the damaged party realizes he or she has been damaged and knows or reasonably should know the cause” of the injury. However, if the claim is against the state or other governmental entity, or any employee of a governmental entity, a notice of claim must be served within 180 days of the date the claim accrues, and if the claim is denied, you must file suit within one (1) year of the date the claim accrues. Failure to act within these times could result in your claim becoming unenforceable. There can be a number of legal issues involved in determining these deadlines, so you should consult with an attorney about the deadlines in your case.
Q: I want to settle my property damage claim with the other driver’s insurance company, but do not want to settle my personal injury claim at this time. Is this possible?
If you settle for your property damage, but not your injury, because you are still receiving treatment, or for some other reason, you can do this as long as it is clear that you are settling your property damage claim only, and that your injury claim remains open. The Release or other settlement agreement, and the check, should clearly state “property damage only”, and make it clear that your personal injury claim is not being settled and may proceed in the future. An experienced injury lawyer should review the documents to make sure this is done properly and that you are protected.
Q: I have been out of work since the accident; can I recover my lost income?
In a personal injury claim, lost income, or lost time from work, are things you may be compensated for. This is true even if you have been paid by your employer. This also true in a self-employment situation, although it may be more difficult to prove with certainty the amount you have lost. In those situations, the income loss may be proven by establishing your history of earnings before and after the injury through earnings and income records, or tax records. If all of your income is not documented or not declared, it may be difficult to recover those undocumented losses. However, we will use whatever methods are at our disposal to prove our clients’ legitimate income losses, or their loss of opportunity to earn income. If you are likely to have future income losses, those losses may also be recovered as part of your legal damages. Once again, proof of such losses is the key, and we work hard to pull together all available proof of present and future income losses for the insurance company or court.
Q: My vehicle is a one-owner vehicle in great condition, but the book value is only $2,000. It will cost $4,000 to buy an equally reliable vehicle. Can I make the other insurance co. pay $4,000?
If your property is destroyed by another’s negligence, you are entitled to be paid the fair market value of your property at the time it was damaged, plus its loss of use during a reasonable time to find a replacement. The key is determining the fair market value. The “book value” may or may not be the reasonable value of your vehicle. You should thoroughly research the value, using on-line sites, newspaper ads, visits to car lots, to determine the price of similar or comparable vehicles, and save proof of those sales. Proof of repairs or improvements you recently made to the vehicle (for example: new tires), can be helpful in getting a fair value. But, if after doing all these things, it is established that your vehicle was only worth $2,000, you will not be able to obtain more just because you will have to pay more to get a vehicle that you think is just as reliable as your old one. However, do not forget to get payment for the rental value, or the cost of a comparable rental car, during the time you are looking for a replacement.
Q: I am in pain from an accident but don’t have health insurance. I need to see a doctor but can’t afford to pay. What can I do?
You first should determine if there is any insurance available to pay medical bills, such as automobile insurance medical payment coverage. There may be other possibilities for insurance coverage that your lawyer could evaluate. If there is no insurance of any kind available to pay medical bills, your doctor may still be willing to treat you, with the understanding that he/she will be paid at the time your injury case is settled, from the proceeds of your settlement. This is commonly referred to as treatment “on a lien”, because the doctor will usually obtain a lien on your prospective settlement in order to ensure payment of his bill. If your doctor is not willing to do this, there are a number of medical doctors, chiropractors, and therapists who are willing to administer treatment under such an arrangement. We sometimes assist our clients with these or other arrangements so they can receive the treatment they need.
If you have no health insurance and cannot afford to pay to see a doctor to treat your injuries, we can often help by providing you with the names and phone numbers of medical care providers in your area who will agree to treat you for your injuries on a lien basis. They will agree to provide you with medical care with the understanding that you will pay them out of the proceeds of any settlement that you receive when your case is concluded.
Q: I fell in a department store; do I have a case?
It depends upon the circumstances. A store or other business serving the public is legally obligated to use reasonable care to make the premises safe for its customers. This means it must conduct reasonable inspections for dangerous conditions and use reasonable care to remedy any dangerous conditions it becomes aware of. Alternatively, it may warn its customers of the dangerous condition. So, if we can prove you fell because of a dangerous condition that the store knew about or should have known about, and that the store had a reasonable opportunity to repair it or warn about it, and failed to do so, you may have a case to recover the damages you suffered as a result (including medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering).
Q: How can I get my Medical Records?
You should ask your health care provider about their specific procedures for getting your medical record. Often, your provider has a form for requesting your medical record. You should use this form if one is available. You should be able to find information about getting your medical record in your health care provider’s notice of privacy practices which you may have signed when you became a patient.
Q: What is my Pain and Suffering worth?
It is difficult to place a value on pain and suffering. Insurance companies will look at a number of factors in order to determine Pain and Suffering damages. They look at the severity of the accident: little or no property damage vs. severe damage to vehicle; nature and type of injuries: was immediate medical care required, what type of medical care was given, how long was the person treated? Long term diagnosis or prognosis: are you back to normal, will you have permanent injuries? All of these factors affect the pain and suffering value of your case.
Q: What if my own driver caused the accident?
As a passenger, you have a claim against any responsible party, including your own driver. Remember, your claims for injuries or property damage are not against your driver directly, but rather against his/her insurance company. And, in Arizona, you can recover against a family member.
Q: How expensive is it to hire an attorney to help me?
Our firm handles auto accident and other personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that if we agree to take your case, we will only take a fee for ourselves if we are successful in collecting something from an insurance company or the responsible party. Our share of the recovery is limited to a percent of the total amount recovered. As with most attorney’s handling these type of cases, you will always be responsible for our Costs. A cost is an expense that we incur while working your case (for example, filing fees, witness fees, postage, etc.). We let you know what your costs are and try to keep them as low as possible.