Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions
DISCLAIMER: The following information should not relied upon as legal authority. Finally, this information should supplement, not substitute, for the advice of competent legal counsel.
Generally speaking, you have two years from the day of the car accident to file a claim.
Technically what that really means is, you can file a claim up to two years and if you’re unable to settle that claim with the insurance company, you have until the two-year expiration date to file a lawsuit.
It is very important that you remember the statute of limitations says that if you don’t file your claim, or you don’t file your lawsuit, rather, within a two-year period, your claim is barred by law. Which means you’ve lost your ability to collect from the at-fault party?
Some statute of limitations may be shorter if accident involves a governmental entity vehicle, such a police department, state or local agency. Some statute of limitations may be longer if a minor was involved in the accident. As these statute dates can be very complicated, it is important to speak to an experienced attorney immediately after the accident so your rights are protected.
That’s a very good question, and it’s something that if not handled right, can have negative consequences on your case.
1. Call The Police. The first thing you should always do is call the police or call for emergency personnel. One, it allows a law enforcement officer to investigate how the accident took place and establish who’s at fault. It’s very important in dealing with a case like this. The second thing, the law enforcement officer is going to document the different parties who are involved and complaints of injuries that were suffered on scene, and it’s also a good bird’s eye view to get the officer’s impression about how the accident happened, the severity of the accident, the damage to the vehicles, and in some places, some jurisdictions, law enforcement will also take pictures of the accident as it’s fresh on scene. This can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case.
2. Seek Medical Attention if Required. The second thing you should do is get yourself evaluated by medical personnel immediately. That could mean getting an ambulance going from the accident scene directly to the emergency room, and if you’re not injured to the severity where you need to be taken away by ambulance, then I would encourage you to drive from the accident scene directly to an emergency room, doctor’s office or urgent care and get yourself treated, X-rays if necessary or an MRI is warranted. It is important to have a doctor document your injuries. You do that from the time of the accident up until you have that opportunity, it will save you a lot of headaches. One of the things you want to avoid is what’s called a gap in treatment. Insurance companies will punish you if you take too long to get medical attention.
3. Document Everything After an Auto Accident. Take pictures at the scene following a car accident. If you have visible injuries such as bruised skin, cuts, broken bones, anything that can be used to impress upon a jury or a judge that, “Hey, this is not a frivolous claim, I was actually hurt and I was hurt very badly.” So pictures, as the old saying goes, a picture’s worth a thousand words. Write down names and addresses of witnesses. This is very important in particular when the police department does not prepare a report. You should also get the name of the person that hit you as well as the insurance name and policy number to expedite the process of setting up a claim with that person’s insurance company.
4. Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer. Although most cases settle out without a trial, it is essential to select an attorney who has litigation experience in the event the case has to be presented to a jury or tried by a judge.
That’s the other thing that we would encourage you to do. If you don’t call us, call someone that’s experienced. Our number is 559-981-2392. Feel free to contact us for a complimentary case review.
Well, that’s a process all by itself. If you have your own insurance carrier that will pay for those damages that’s an option, and we understand most people don’t want to file a claim with their own insurance company, but often times it is much faster to have the damages paid for by your insurance company than to try to get those paid by the other party’s insurance. If the damages are paid by your insurance, your insurance will seek reimbursement of those damages paid from the at fault insurance. You can also set up a claim with the at-fault party. Most times you can’t do that until the accident report is ready. That insurance company, the at-fault insurance company, will assign an adjuster or an appraiser to come out and look at the damages and either give you an estimate right there on the spot or give you directions as to which collision centers or body shops you can take your vehicle to for an inspection and allow that collision center or body shop to give you an estimate for the repair of damages.
Now, if your accident was so severe that the car cannot be repaired and is deemed a total loss well that process is a little different. Once your car has been declared a total loss, and basically what that means is the cost of repairing the car exceeds the value of the vehicle and once that happens the insurance company is going to make a determination as to the fair market value of your vehicle and cut you a check. That check goes directly to you or your finance company.
We get this question all the time. Let me tell you, if an attorney gives you an answer to that question at your first consultation, you may get an answer that is not credible. Sometimes some lawyers may give you a little bit of false hope, just to get your business. I would avoid attorneys who are so eager to give you a value of the case from day one.
The reason I say that is because one, you don’t know how much your medical bills are going be. Two, you don’t know the full extent of your damages, meaning your injuries. And three, there needs to be time to evaluate your lost wages and the pain and suffering. And the pain and suffering is going to include everything from your inability to sleep comfortably at night, to having trouble performing your duties at work, and again, lost wages and lost income.
So we typically like to evaluate the value of the case after we’ve had time to fully assess all of your injuries, all of your bills, all of your lost wages, and all of your pain and suffering, and whether or not you’re going to need future medical care. That takes several months to assess, and so I would avoid getting caught up on someone giving you a false hope at the very beginning of the case if they haven’t taken the time to fully evaluate all of those factors I’ve just mentioned.
Very simple. You don’t. Refer that call to your attorney’s office. Or, simply let the adjuster know that you are represented and give the adjuster your attorney’s information. Sometimes there are exceptions to that rule. Those exceptions would include dealing with your car when your car is damaged in an automobile accident. You will be notified sometimes from what is called a property adjuster. That property adjuster is specifically dedicated to dealing with the damages of the vehicle, evaluating the damages of your vehicle, and dealing with whether or not the vehicle is going be repaired, or deemed a total loss. In those limited cases, it’s okay to speak with the at-fault insurance company. But if you’re not certain that this is the only reason they’re calling you, refer them to your attorney.
Now there are times when the at-fault insurance company will send you forms in the mail. Sometimes those forms will include authorizations for medical releases. You don’t want to fill those out or return them. Why? Because it may give the at-fault insurance company access to your medical records, and they may discover things that have absolutely nothing to do with your claim or your injury.
Believe it or not, they will attempt to use your past medical issues against you. Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it’s not. But in most cases, they’re generally going to try to use the information against you. So the rule of thumb is any correspondence, any phone calls, from the at-fault insurance company should be directed to your attorney.
The answer is maybe. 90% of the cases that we handle are settled without going to trial, but there are times when the insurance company is either unreasonable, or there’s a dispute as to who’s at fault, and in those cases we have to file a lawsuit, and we file a lawsuit your case will have to go to trial.
If a lawsuit if filed, it generally takes about a year to two years for the case to go to trial. That includes filing a lawsuit, engaging in what’s called discovery, doing depositions and interrogatories, and dealing with the court system. Those times, and in those particular instances, your participation is very important. So, you’ve got to remember everything that happened.
Before we can start settlement negotiations, we have to have all of your evidence together, and more importantly, you should have been treated by medical professionals to make sure that you’ve received the absolute best care that you needed in order to heal from your injuries. Once all that takes place, we gather all of your evidence including photos from the accident, medical records as well as all of your medical bills, and we put all these things together and we present a settlement demand. This initiates the negotiation process between the at-fault insurance company and your attorney, with your participation. Some cases can take up to 2 years from the date of the accident to settle out of Court. However, most cases settle much sooner than that.