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FAQ: Auto Accidents

The Realities of Auto Accident Personal Injury Claims:

The top frequently asked questions and straight-forward answers provided by attorney, Kevin Yen.

Like many personal injury law firms, the large majority of my clients are those who have been injured in car accidents, either as a driver or pedestrian. During my years of practice, I often found myself reciting the same advice, answering the same questions and correcting the same misconceptions held by the general public regarding car accident injury claims. I thought it was due time that I put these in writing.

Most clients have expectations from the very start of their case, and so they should. And, all clients have questions that need answers. My task here is to align expectations with reality and to answer the most common questions. My aim is to do so without any spin, salesmanship or “sugar-coating” so that you are receiving straight-forward answers, and not being told what you want to hear by a lawyer trying to earn your business.

It is true that an insurance company generally will make me a settlement offer equal to three times of the cost of my total medical bills?

This general “Rule of 3” is long out-dated and has little truth to it. There is no equation or formula to compute your recovery simply by multiplying your medical bills times three.

Insurance companies employ claims adjusters that in my experience evaluate all aspects of your claim, which does include the cost of your medical bills. The adjusters consider many factors. Some examples are if you were treated by a specialist, if the doctors who treated you were experienced in the field of medicine that applied to your injuries, if your job duties were physically demanding so that it was necessary for you to miss work, etc.

Your particular claim may settle at a value that turns out to be three times the costs of your medical bills. However, that most likely is an outcome reached after considering all factors, not just applying a simple mathematic formula.

Is the other driver’s insurance company required to pay for all of my medical bills?

Not necessarily. Again, there is no guarantee that if you see a doctor or go to the hospital after your accident that the insurance company will, in turn, automatically pay for the bills. Generally, the standard of whether a medical bill is compensable is whether the treatment was “reasonable and necessary”.

A large part of my time is spent debating with insurance adjusters as to what treatment received by my client was “reasonable and necessary”. Often times, an insurance adjuster will argue that a medical bill for treatment received 7 days after the accident was not reasonable and necessary given the delay in treatment.

Another important fact is that the other driver’s insurance company generally will not pay for your medical bills as you incur them. So, if you go to the doctor and leave with a copy of your bill and send that bill to the insurance company, that bill will not be paid immediately. Instead, the insurance company will only begin the process of deciding which bills are compensable after you’ve completed treatment and your attorney forwards all of your claimed medical bills with the corresponding medical records. That’s why it is a good idea to submit your bills to health insurance, if available. Your car insurance may also be a source to have your medical bills paid.

Is the insurance company required to settle my case within 2 years of my accident?

No. There is no law that requires the other driver’s insurance company to make you a settlement offer within 2 years of your accident. In fact, there is no law that requires them to make you an offer, at all.

What are my options if I feel that the settlement offer is not enough?

It is quite common for clients to feel that the offer from the insurance company is too low, not enough or less than what they feel they deserve. Generally, this comes about because personal injury claims can take a long time to finalize. At times, our clients may feel that they deserve more for waiting longer. However, the case value does not increase with time.

Some of our clients are influenced by the opinions of other people who are estimating the value of their cases. Everyone has a friend of a friend, or a cousin or co-worker who recovered a large sum of money for a minor fender-bender. My advice is to disregard this rhetoric because every case is different and most likely their stories are exaggerated.

Basically, if you are not satisfied with the offer, you have 3 options:

  • Ask that your lawyer make a counter-demand to increase the offer;
  • Proceed to litigation i.e. file a lawsuit; or
  • Accept the offer.

Your attorney should explain in great detail the consequences of each option before you make a decision.

I was injured by a hit-and-run driver or a driver with no insurance, what should I do?

Seek the necessary medical treatment, and contact law enforcement and report the incident.

To recovery for your injuries, you can file for an uninsured motorist claim against your automobile insurance company, even if you were not operating your vehicle at the time of the incident. The latter part is important. There is a misunderstanding shared by many that their car must be involved in the accident to file an uninsured motorist claim. Unless your insurance policy explicitly makes that a requirement, you do not need to be using your vehicle. You can be a pedestrian and file a claim.

Is the insurance company required to pay me for all of the time I missed from work?

Not necessarily. Similar to medical bills, the time you miss from work must be reasonable, and that is something for your lawyer to argue with the insurance adjuster. You are entitled to lost wages due to medical appointments. But, those appointments must be for reasonable and necessary medical care.

Does the amount the insurance company offered me include my medical bills or is that amount after the insurance company pays for my medical bills?

Typically, the offer you receive constitutes compensation for all of your elements of damages, including your medical bills. So, if you owe outstanding balances on your bills, a portion of your settlement offer may be used to pay those bills. Rarely, will the insurance company pay your medical bills and then make a separate offer for the other elements of your claim.

More accident questions? Get them answered.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car crash, you will have many more questions that need to be answered. We provide you a free case review with one of our experienced injury attorneys. Please contact us to schedule your free consultation today.

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If you, or a loved one, have been injured at work or in an accident, contact our office today at (312) 609-0400 to schedule a free consultation.

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