Recently, We were invited to speak to a medical facility’s staff concerning the benefits of hiring an attorney on a personal injury case. Although there are some articles published that touch on this issue, we could not find any that get into this issue with any great detail. Therefore, Allen Cap generated a blog post to address this issue. This information is important to those out there deciding whether or not to seek counsel for a personal injury accident.
These are the benefits of hiring an attorney on a personal injury claim:
- Free Consultations. Most personal injury attorneys give free consultations to prospective clients. In some cases, the attorney will utilize hard sale tactics during the initial consultation. Because of this, sometimes it is difficult to leave the attorney’s office without signing a contingency fee agreement. However, since you do not owe the attorney anything for the free consultation, you can tell him that you want to speak to other attorneys before making your decision to hire one. You can obtain valuable information about the merits of your accident claim during this consultation. If the attorney does not spend much time with you during the initial consultation and doesn’t answer all of your questions, this is some indication of how he will probably handle your claim. Make list of questions for the consultation. This will afford greater knowledge and insight into your personal injury claim.
- Your attorney should handle your first party coverages. Medical Payments Coverage and Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage. First party coverages are those coverages that you have on your own policy that you can use to maximize your recovery on your personal injury auto accident claim. There is no subrogation (payback) on auto Medical Payments Coverage in the state of Nevada. There is generally a right of subrogation on health insurance policies. Medical Payments Coverage can work with your health insurance coverage to reduce your exposure to medical bills and to take advantage of provider discounts on your health insurance policy. This interaction is complicated, and it takes specialized knowledge and skill to utilize these coverages to an injured person’s advantage. An experienced personal injury attorney can save you thousands of dollars on your medical bills. Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Underinsured Motorist Coverage apply when the at fault driver has no, or too little, coverage to compensate the victims of a personal injury car accident. If your claim involves an Underinsurance claim, it will involve many intricate features that a layperson just cannot handle on their own.
- Subrogation liens of health insurance carriers. If your health insurance pays your accident-related medical bills, subrogation (payback) rights or liens of the health insurance carrier will generally be asserted. Some of these liens involve Federal ERISA law, and some don’t. There are many technical arguments that a personal injury attorneys can use to reduce these liens, even if ERISA is involved. The “make whole doctrine” can be utilized to drastically reduce or even extinguish the health insurance lien. All of these aspects of a personal injury claim are very time consuming and are too complicated for you to handle on your own.
- Reduced stress. Once you hire an attorney on a personal injury claim, the attorney will deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. The end result will be reduced stress to you. Some personal injury attorneys don’t handle your property damage, because it involves a lot of time and effort for little, or no, compensation. Ask the attorney during the initial consultation if he handles property damage. If he doesn’t, he is not providing you with full service for his contingency fee. If he does, he is most likely a full-service Personal Injury Lawyer, and he will not take a contingency fee on the property damage and rental car aspects of your claim. This is major benefit of attorney representation.
- Statute of Limitations. Many victims of personal injury accidents who are not represented by an attorney fall victim to Statutes of Limitations. These are cut-off periods of time that can extinguish your claim. It these statutes of repose are “blown” by not filing a Complaint with the appropriate Court within the relevant Statute of Limitations, the result will be your inability to recover against the adverse party and/or his insurance coverage. You lose the right to sue the adverse party. Different statutes of limitations apply to third-party claims (claims against the other party’s liability coverage) and first party claims against your own insurance company. Your attorney will protect your interests regarding these cut-off dates.
- Determining the amount of available insurance for the other person. It is important to know at the beginning of a claim how much insurance the liable party has. You do not want to get into a situation where you generate thousands of dollars of medical bills and there is not enough insurance coverage (including health insurance, Medical Payments Coverage, liability coverage from the other party and Uninsured/Undersinsured Motorist Coverage) pay for them. Lay persons don’t have the know how to obtain this information.
- What compensation am I entitled to? An experienced attorney will advise you concerning what you can expect on your claim. The types of compensation that you are entitled to may change with time and the course of your medical treatment. Proof of wage loss to an adverse carrier generally involves doctor’s excuses, pay stubs to track your earnings history prior to the accident, payroll records showing your actual wage loss, and a letter from your employer explaining your job and compensation. If you have a substantial wage loss claim, you need an attorney to handle this aspect of your claim.
- Knowledge of insurance law. Lay persons are not familiar with insurance laws that may impact your case. Nevada case law (decisions of our state supreme court) that interpret the provisions of a insurance policy’s language applying to coverages, limitations and exclusions. If your claim involves insurance coverages issues, you definitely need an attorney involved at the beginning of your case.
- Ability to negotiate. The hammer that the attorney has on a personal injury claim is that he can file suit causing the adverse insurance carrier to spend time and money to defend it. The layperson is not capable of putting this pressure on an insurance carrier. Therefore, the claimant will have much less negotiating power with the involved insurance company. The attorney can also sue the insurance company for bad faith on first party claims, if the insurance company doesn’t handle your claim fairly.
- Deciding to settle or file suit. This is always the big question on a personal injury claim. Many factors must be taken into consideration in making this decision. An experienced attorney can assist you in making this important decision.
- Minimize the downside risks. There are downside financial consequence associated with not prevailing in a personal injury lawsuit. Complicated laws involving Offers of Judgment apply. An attorney will advise you concerning the financial risks of litigation. He can do things to reduce your exposure to these risks. Many complicated rules apply. If you lose your case, the other side will likely try to get their attorneys fees and costs from you.
- Someone to talk to. A personal injury claim is a new and frustrating experience for most accident victims. Your attorney will be with you every step of the way to advise you on all important maters involving your case or claim. You will have someone that you can call or send an email to, who can answer your questions and to advise you along the course of your claim. If you don’t have an attorney, you will likely rely on erroneous information from your friends, that may cause you to make the wrong decisions on your claim.
- Representation in court. Most people are overwhelmed by litigation. I see unrepresented people every day in court struggling with the court rules and procedures. Even if you end up in small claims court, the system will eat up pro per (unrepresented) parties. Their cases are often dismissed for failure to comply with the rules. If your case involves any type of litigation, you need an attorney.
- Having Court Costs and Expenses advanced. Most attorneys will advance costs for medical experts and the costs of litigation. Litigation is very expensive. Filing fees have more than doubled in the last few years. Most injured parties don’t have the financial means to pay the costs associated with obtaining a report from a medical expert which is often required to obtain a decent settlement.
- Know-how in fighting insurers in low impact cases. If your property damage on an auto accident claim is low, most insurance companies will take the position that nobody was hurt in the accident. They will force you into litigation. You can’t handle these cases yourself. Many attorneys don’t want to take these claims because of the work involved and the low settlement amount that insurance companies are willing to pay on these claims. You need an attorney to get an adequate settlement to cover your medical bills when your property damage is under $1,000.00.
- Fighting big entities. It is impossible for unrepresented persons to handle claims against large companies on product defect cases. You must have attorney representation to prevail on a bad drug or bad product case.
- Accident reconstruction. If you are involved in a multiple vehicle car accident where liability of multiple drivers is involved, an accident reconstruction may be necessary to sort out the various claims against the adverse drivers. You as a layperson do not have the means to hire and accident reconstruction expert. If the other side has one, you will probably need one on your side. Attorney representation is imperative for these types of accidents.
- Disputed liability and traffic tickets. Just because you were cited does not necessarily extinguish your claim against the other driver. Your attorney can fight the traffic ticket and deal with the liability aspect of your claim. When you are less at fault for an accident than the other driver, complicated comparative negligence laws apply making litigation necessary to resolve these claims. If comparative negligence is involved with your claim, you need and attorney representation form the get go.
- Advantage of experience. Each Insurance company has its own personality. Insurance companies have their own ways of handling auto accident claims. Sometimes they are in a strict mode and won’t settle cases. And, at other times, they may be in a more lenient mode. Companies that only write minimum liability policies ($15,000.00 per person and $30,000.00 per accident) are difficult to deal with. You need an attorney on these claims, because these companies do not give their adjusters authority to pay out the minimum limits, even though your claim may be worth thousands of dollars more than their insured’s liability limits. If you don’t settle for the entire the policy limits of negligent party, you may not be eligible for benefits under your Underinsurance Coverage.
- Insurance adjusters will take advantage of unrepresented claimants. Adjusters will offer unrepresented claimants small settlement amounts in exchange for a full release. Insurance adjusters want to get your signature on a release early on. They offer a nominal sum that you may accept knowing that you may be under financial pressures. If your injuries take a turn for the worse, you are stuck. Some injuries don’t heal. Some get worse with time. Most spinal injuries have some long term effects, which are reduced by proper treatment. One of the benefits of attorney representation is access to proper medical care on a lien basis. Don’t settle your injury until you have had proper medical evaluation and treatment.
- Help in deciding when to settle, file suit, arbitrate or mediate. Alternative dispute resolution is often used in an attempt to settle insurance claims. This is a complicated process which can occur before or after litigation. Insurance companies won’t usually mediate or arbitrate your claim when you are not represented. You need an attorney to represent your interests if your case is to be resolved by alternative dispute resolution.
- Access to medical care on a lien. This is one of the biggest benefits of attorney representation. Health care providers who deal with injury claims want some guaranty that, if the insurance company pays you money, that their interest in getting paid for their services will be protected. Unrepresented claimants have been known to go south with the settlement proceed and not pay their health care providers. Attorneys are bound by ethical rules concerning liens. We must satisfy liens (or negotiate liens if the settlement proceeds do not give the claimant adequate compensation) out of he proceeds of a settlement. This is the health care provider’s insurance that they will be paid. Generally, you cannot get treatment on a lien if you are not represented.
- Federal laws. If Medicaid or Medicare is paying your accident-related medical bills complex state and federal laws apply. Reimbursement to Medicaid and Medicare is required. If these laws apply to your claim, you will have much difficulty negotiating and dealing with dealing these governmental entities. Financial penalties and civil litigation can arise against you if you do not reimburse these entities. If Medicaid or Medicare paid your medical bills, you need an attorney to get involved in your claim.
- Underinsurance. Sometimes an adverse insurance carrier will pay you their insured’s liability limits before you have attorney representation. This will occur when you have catastrophic visible injuries and your claim is clearly above their insured’s limits. Under these circumstances, unrepresented claimants can’t handle the transition that occurs between an adverse claim and a first party underinsurance claim. The “stacking” of multiple underinsurance coverages may be involved. If underinsurance creeps into your claim under these circumstances, you should consult an attorney.
- Education. If you have a concerned personal injury attorney on an accident claim, he will educate you, not only about your claim, but he will advise you about your auto insurance coverages and how you can better protect you and your family in he event of a future accident.
- Prior or subsequent accidents or pre-existing conditions. If our claim involves these issues, you will need both an expert medical witness and an attorney. Treating physicians are not litigation experts. You will need an attorney to handle the apportionment issues that are involved with these claims. Your attorney will likely need to hire an expert medical witness. Insurance companies have data bases, so if your were involved in a prior or subsequent accident they will know it at the beginning of your claim. Hire an attorney to deal with these issues.
- Accident reporting to your own insurance company and DMV. Did you know that if the police are not involved with investigation of your accident that you must report it to DMV. You must report any non-investigated motor vehicle accidents involving property damage of $750.00 or more and all injury accidents to DMV. Underinsurance claims and uninsured motorists claims must be reported to your insurance company early on, or your claim may be denied because you have taken away your insurance company’s ability to investigate your claim while the evidence is fresh. An attorney can protect your interests on these reporting matters.
- Cross- over areas bankruptcy, workers compensation and probate. If you or the adverse party files bankruptcy; or, if the adverse party dies; or, if you are injured at work, and there is third party liability, these claims are too complicated for you to handle on your own. They involve cross-over areas of law. Hire an attorney immediately. Most attorneys handling a third-party liability workers compensation claim will advise you on the workers compensation claim at no extra charge. This is like getting free legal advice on your workers comp claim.
- Dealing with insurance limitations and exclusions. Most victims don’t know how insurance policy limitations and/or exclusions affect their first party auto claims. These issues can involved limitation of coverages or denial of coverage due to a variety of policy provisions. If your insurance company denies or limits your claim for benefits, its time to see an attorney. Case law may protect your interests for coverage under these circumstances.
- Worst possible scenario cases. If you have a lot of medical bills and there is minimum coverage for your auto accident, or if there are multiple claimants against minimum liability limits, you simply cannot handle these situations by yourself. An Interpleader may be filed with you named as a party defendant. An Interpleader action is where the insurance company deposits the policy limits proceeds with the court, and the parties must litigate to see who gets what amount out of the deposited proceeds. You will absolutely need an attorney if you are involved in this type of case.
- Property Damage. Many property damages issues arise on personal injury auto cases. Your attorney can assist you with reimbursement of your collision deductible. He can arrange direct billing on a rental car rental car, or he can get you reimbursement for your rental expenses. He can also assist in getting you adequate compensation for your total loss. Full-service personal injury attorneys will provide you with these property damages services free of charge.
- Premises liability cases. Generally, these claims are denied even in good liability situations. Some premises liability policies contain med pay coverage which can be used to pay your medical expenses. Premises liability claims are not easy. Protracted litigation is usually necessary to resolve them. Medical providers are less likely to take these provide services on a lien basis on a premises case, so get an attorney involved immediately. If he can find you premises med pay coverage for you, this may be worth more to you than his contingency fee.
Personal Injury Lawyers, such as the lawyers at Cap & Kudler, have experience dealing with these issues and know how to deal with them in order to maximize their clients’ results. You should, at the very least, consult with an attorney before settling your case against an insurance carrier who, no matter what they say, have their own pockets’ in mind when settling cases. Call us today at (866) 412-7166 or submit an online form to schedule your free consultation.