What you need to know
Who will pay my wage loss?
PIP will only pay $200/week for wage loss (a small number of PIP policies will pay $700). For most people this does not come close to what they earn. Unfortunately, the at-fault driver’s insurance company does not have to pay wage loss on a weekly or even monthly basis. Wage loss is paid only when the entire personal injury case settles; this is usually after medical treatment is done. For most people, wage loss is the most serious financial hardship of being involved in an auto accident.
How much is my case worth?
The at-fault driver is responsible for paying for all property damage, towing and rental car charges. They are also responsible for medical bills, lost wages and what are called “general damages.” General damages include not being able to do things you used to enjoy before you were hurt or being limited in what you can do because of pain. General damages also include embarrassment because of scars or burns, as well as pain and anguish both immediately after the collision and throughout the healing process. There is no set formula to determine how much is allowed for general damages, but important factors are how serious the injuries are, the extent of medical treatment and whether there are any permanent injuries. Being an honest, hard-working and good person also help increase the amount of general damages.
Do I need an attorney?
If your case involves only minor property damage or the medical treatment and injuries last only a few months, it is not necessary or cost-effective to hire an attorney. However, if you were involved in a high-impact collision and will have over $10,000 in medical bills, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer. An insurance industry study found that people who hire a lawyer recover 3 ½ times more money on average than those who do not. A good personal injury lawyer will not charge you anything discuss your case. If they agree to take your case they should give you the option of a contingent fee where you only pay attorney’s fees if they win the case and recover money.
What is a contingency fee?
A contingency fee is an agreement between the client and his or her lawyer that that lawyer’s fee will be contingent on wining the case. The amount of the fee is typically a percentage of the money recovered by the lawyer on behalf of his or her client. A major benefit of a contingency fee for clients is that they can hire a lawyer even if they are unable to pay at the time. This is especially important in personal injury cases, because often the client will be temporarily out of work due to the injury and would not otherwise be able to afford to hire a lawyer.
How do I choose a lawyer?
Some lawyers have a general practice. They take DUI, divorce and also some personal injury cases. Personal injury law is complex and you are better off finding someone who is 100% devoted to representing injured people.
It takes many years of trial experience to become a highly-qualified personal injury lawyer. You should find someone with at least 10 years of personal injury experience and who has done 50 or more jury trials.
You should find someone who has a successful track record. A good guide is whether the lawyer is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum – The Top Trial Lawyers in America or has a perfect “10.0” AVVO rating.
Who will pay my medical bill?
Your PIP insurance pays the first $10,000 of your medical bills. After that your health insurance will pay medical bills. If the collision happened at work, the Dept. of Labor and Industries will pay medical bills. All of these entities will want to be reimbursed from money you recover from the insurance company. You may or may not have to pay reimbursement depending on the circumstances.
What should I do after an auto accident?
Get needed medical treatment right away. If you delay, the insurance company will deny or minimize your claim.
Follow all of your doctor’s recommendations.
Take lots of photos of the damage to your vehicle.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after an auto accident and cooperate with their requests.
Be polite and professional even when the insurance company is not. If you get upset, tell them that you are not feeling well and you will call back later.
Document everything related to your accident. Write down claim numbers, names and phone numbers of insurance representatives, and all of your doctors and medical providers.
What should I NOT do after an auto accident?
Do not sign anything from an insurance company without reading it very carefully.
Do not give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. They are trained to achieve one goal: to pay as little as possible for your claim. Give only the minimum information necessary to open a claim. Do not discuss the extent of your injuries or details about the collision.
What you tell your doctor will be in your chart notes and read by the insurance company. So if you are still hurting, don’t say you are feeling better just to make your doctor feel good. Have a positive outlook, but be honest.
Your Facebook and other social media posts may be seen by the insurance company. So if you are hurting, don’t make it seem like you are having a great time just to keep up appearances.
What are the laws about property damage
- You are allowed to take your vehicle to the shop of your choice.
- The insurance company cannot make you travel unreasonably to get an estimate, go to their suggested repair shop or pick up a rental car.
- When fault for the collision is clear, it is an unfair and deceptive practice for the other driver’s insurance company to recommend that you make a claim under your own collision coverage.
- A “Total Loss” is when the cost to repair your vehicle is more than it is worth. The insurance company owes you the retail market value of your vehicle, including taxes and license fees.
- If you owe more on your car than it is worth, your only recourse is to have “Gap” insurance which will pay the difference (or gap) between the retail value of your car and what you owe.
- Your property damage claim and your personal injury claim are distinct. It is a violation of state law for the insurance company to hold up payment of your property damage claim in an attempt to get you to settle your personal injury claim.
- If the other driver’s insurance company accepts responsibility for the collision, they will pay for your rental car while yours is in the shop. If they delay making a decision about who was at fault, then check to see if you have rental car insurance as part of your own auto insurance.