If you or someone you know is involved in a personal injury accident, there are many questions that come to mind. It is always best to be informed and know your rights. That’s why Neil Krupnick & Associates have prepared answers to the 13 most frequently asked motor vehicle or pedestrian accident questions. Knowing what to do, understanding the legal process and what your options are, can be critical to your case.
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Most Frequently Asked Automobile, Motorcycle and Pedestrian Accident Questions & Answers
If you are injured in an accident, it is important to seek medical treatment immediately. Sometimes serious injuries do not cause immediate pain. If you experience even minor pain after an accident, seek medical evaluation immediately. Keep in mind that many claimants do not know what kind of doctors to see for the injuries that they have suffered. We can arrange for you to see medical specialists as soon as possible. Payment of the medical bills can be deferred until after settlement is achieved. Remember to obtain the name, address, license number, and the insurance company information from the drivers of all of the other vehicles involved.
Should I immediately tell my version of what happened or should I wait to talk to an attorney first?
If the collision is serious and even if you are partially at fault, you should contact our office prior to speaking to anyone. We can review the facts with you to ensure that your statement is clear and factually correct. We will help you fill out any required collision reports and insurance claim forms. Our job is to protect you and your financial wellbeing. You will be asked, at some point, to provide your version of the incident, often by police if they are called to the scene. Most, if not all states, will require you to file an accident report with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company will also want your version of the accident. Do not give a statement to any insurance company representative without speaking to one of our staff members first.
In the event that you do not maintain major medical and/or medical payment coverage under your automobile insurance policy, we are able to recommend certain healthcare providers who will accept your case on a “lien basis”. This means that payment to those providers will be deferred or delayed until the settlement of your case at which time monies will be deducted from your proceeds to pay for your medical expenses. If you have major medical health insurance coverage individually or through your place of work, you are entitled to a medical evaluation and treatment. Your policy may require that you see physicians who are members of your Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). However, there maybe a provision which permits you to select your own physician., i.e., Preferred Physician Option. In addition, you may also have benefits available to you under your own automobile insurance policy, i.e., Medical Payment Coverage (MPC). As part of the claim process, we will submit all of your medical expenses to the insurance carrier for the adverse party. Ultimately, that carrier will be paying for all of your medical expenses as part of your settlement. Any reimbursement monies owed to your insurance carrier, either health or medical payment coverage, will be negotiated by our office, on your behalf. We will be happy to review your insurance coverage(s) with you and explain your rights and benefits.
As soon as your insurance company and the insurance company of the person who caused the collision are notified of the accident, each of them will want information for different reasons. Consult with Neil Krupnick & Associates before providing any recorded or written statement to an insurance adjustor or investigator, even if the other person’s responsibility seems obvious. Keep in mind that you are required to notify your own insurance company of the accident, and to cooperate with them to obtain certain medical and wage loss benefits. Rest assured, as your attorneys, we will help you obtain such benefits, if they apply. Since your own insurance company will want to interview you to determine eligibility for benefits, it is very important to consult with our office beforehand, if possible, and to ensure that the interview is conducted in the presence of one of our attorneys to protect your financial and legal interests. Equally important, we will provide the extensive experience needed to settle or litigate your claim, for the maximum amount of money.
First, it is important to know that our law firm does not receive any fee for property damage proceeds. All of the money required to repair your vehicle goes directly to the repair shop. If it is deemed to be a total loss, you will receive the fair market value of your vehicle. We will explain the quickest and most efficient way to have your car repaired or to have your total loss established.
Am I entitled to reimbursement of my past and future loss of earnings as well as for pain and suffering?
Yes. Most insurers will pay both lost as well as future loss of wages upon proper proof of the loss. It is extremely important for us to document your loss of earnings, both past as well as future, in order to support this aspect of your claim.
No. Most cases settle out of court. Upon proper proof of damages and medical documentation, insurance companies will settle the claim without the need for filing a lawsuit or having a trial. However, in some cases, the insurance company may deny liability on a claim and a lawsuit will be necessary. Claimants are usually not prepared to negotiate on their own behalf. Accordingly, we present your claim in the best possible light supported by medical reports and statement of charges accompanied by your past and future loss of earnings. This is what we have been doing for clients since 1972.
A lawsuit begins by the filing a complaint in a court of competent jurisdiction. The person filing the complaint is called the plaintiff and person or entity against whom the complaint is filed is known as the defendant. The defendant must file an answer addressing the allegations contained in the complaint and must raise any defenses the defendant may have. The defendant’s insurance company will provide an attorney to represent the defendant and it will pay any damages that the plaintiff recovers in the lawsuit. Not all lawsuits require a trial and the chances are extremely high that you will never have to go into a courtroom. Most cases are resolved even after a lawsuit if filed. Insurance companies often are inclined to settle a claim if it is obvious that the claimant is properly prepared to pursue his/her claim with competent legal counsel.
The defendant may submit written questions to you known as “Interrogatories” to be answered under oath. You may be asked to provide documents to support your claim. Our office staff is prepared to assist you in the preparation of these materials and to counsel you as to the answers which you should be willing to provide. You may also be called for an oral deposition, where you will be asked a series of questions before a Court Reporter, under oath.. Needless to say, one of our attorneys will prepare you in advance for this question and answer period and he willl attend the deposition with you. Your attorney will also object to any improper questions asked during the deposition. We will also likely submit written questions and request documents from the defendant, and we will conduct the deposition of the defendant, witnesses to the collision, and experts who may be utilized by either side at a future proceeding.
If the case goes to trial or arbitration, the plaintiff goes first and presents his or her witnesses, documents, and any other evidence which helps prove the plaintiff’s case. The defendant then puts on his or her witnesses, documents and any other evidence in defense. The case is then presented to the judge, arbitrator or jury, who decides who wins and, if the plaintiff wins, how much money the plaintiff receives. Often times, we utilize the services of a Mediator in an effort to settle our client’s claim. A mediation is a non-binding, exploratory effort to bring the parties to a reasonable settlement. The Mediator is typically a retired judge or an attorney chosen by counsel for both parties and is what is known as a “neutral” or disinterested person with extensive experience in personal injury matters. At a mediation, both parties submit evidence in favor of their clients’ positions and the Mediator makes a recommendation for settlement. If the parties are in agreement, then the case settles for the amount recommended by the Mediator. If not, the case returns to the litigation trail and is prepared for arbitration or trial.
Most personal injury attorneys will agree to accept cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that when you recover, the attorney will be paid a percentage of the gross proceeds. The amount is usually determined by the point in the claim process at which a settlement is achieved. If settlement is made prior to the filing of a complaint, mediation, arbitration or trial, our firm charges one-third (33 1/3%), of the total recovery. In the unlikely event that you do not recover any damages, you will not owe the attorney any legal fees. However, most attorneys will require you to pay all of the attorney’s out-of-pocket costs, e.g., court filing fees, deposition costs, etc. If a claim cannot be settled short of filing a lawsuit, mediation, arbitration OR trial, then our fee is forty percent (40%) of the total recovery. Remember, our law firm does not take any fee for property damage or major medical benefits.
Yes. However, most attorneys include a provision in the agreement that if you terminate the attorney before the case has concluded, you will be liable to pay the attorney for the reasonable value of the services he/she has provided to you. If you then retain a new attorney on a contingent fee basis, the newly retained and the discharged attorney will divide the fee among them; you will not pay a double fee. If we replace your old attorney we will negotiate a division of the attorney’s fees at no additional cost to you. You have the absolute right to change attorneys at any time during your claim. Therefore, if you are dissatisfied with your current attorney, for whatever reason, we may be able to help you.
Do I have to repay medical benefits which I receive from my major medical and/or medical payment carrier as a result of my accident? Do these monies usually come from my settlement?
Yes. Your health insurer carrier and your medical payment carrier, both have a provision in their policies that permit them to file a lien for reimbursement on your case. This means that you will be required to pay these liens from your settlement. Our office will help to negotiate a reduction in the amount of these liens thus maximizing your dollars to you at the conclusion of the claim. Most, if not all, of the major medical and medical payment carriers today, have this reimbursement lien provision as part of the policy verbiage.
No, there are no minimum settlement amounts. Remember, our law firm receives a percentage of the recovery which we achieve for you. Naturally, we are highly motivated to maximize your recovery which, in turn, ultimately affects our fee.