Clients are often surprised at the conclusion of their case regarding how much money they will net from their personal injury settlement. In this blog post you will learn how a personal injury settlement actually works and how much you can expect to walk away with. If you have any questions about this topic, please feel free to contact attorney Barry Zlotowicz at 847-305-4105.
Pieces of a personal injury settlement
When the insurance company makes you an offer to compensate you, all aspects of your case are (usually) encompassed in that offer (aside from property damage). Meaning that if you were offered $100,000 by Geico or State Farm to settle your case, that money is intended to compensate you for everything, including:
Pain and suffering
Health insurance lien
In addition, if you retained an attorney, the law firm’s attorneys’ fees and costs will come out of the $100,000 as well. Consequently, accident victims can be surprised as to what they will net at the end of their case.
So, how might your case look upon completion? If you look below, you will see the breakdown of a personal injury settlement I resolved and how a “settlement statement” (accounting of the costs of your case) might look:
Client: John Smith
State Farm Insurance Claim No.: 123456789
Date of Accident: June 1, 2010
Attorney Fees (33.3%)
ATI Physical Therapy
Illinois Bone & Joint
Geico Insurance Medpay lien
Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance
*Amount negotiated by Chicago Legal Group down from $2,500.00
**Amount negotiated by Chicago Legal Group down from $9,900.00
AMOUNT OF SETTLEMENT CHECK TO CLIENT: $47,513.34
As you can see, after you take out medical bills, liens, the health insurance lien and attorneys’ fees, the client’s net recovery is significantly less than the actual gross settlement amount.
Often the net amount is significantly less than what is showed here. In the above example, the victim’s medical bills were extremely small. Often the bills are much higher and as such, subtract much more from the potential settlement amount.
Also, there are many other expenses that could be deducted/owed out of the settlement proceeds including child support liens, money paid from a disability insurance policy, and more.
Bottom line is that trying to tie up the loose ends of a personal injury settlement can be confusing. Many people want to handle claims like these on their own or “pro se.” That is an option. But to be assured that all ends are tied, I strongly consider speaking to an attorney at 847-305-4105.
Quite often I get calls from people who were injured as a passenger in a car accident. They always ask, who do you sue? The quick answer is it depends upon who was at fault for the accident. If you were injured as a passenger in a car accident, call our office today for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.
Injured as a passenger in a car accident
Who was at fault for the accident?
First, most likely you won’t have to “sue” anyone. But certainly, the question will arise which driver’s insurance company you should file a claim with. If the driver of the other vehicle was at fault, there is no issue. You will have the same rights as the person driving your vehicle.
But what happens if the driver of your car was all or partially at fault for the accident? If that’s the case, it could be very complicated as in most of the cases I’ve seen like this, the driver of the car or motorcycle is often the parent, significant other, friend or colleague of the injured party. Filing a claim against their insurance could cause friction in your relationship with that person.
For example, a while back I worked on a motorcycle accident case. My former firm represented a woman who was riding on the back of a motorcycle driven by her male friend. As they tried to make a turn, the motorcycle hit some gravel and went down. Our client filed a claim against her friend’s motorcycle policy.
The driver seemed fine with the claim at first until it came time to settle her case. He heard how much money we demanded and he angrily called our office and told us he was not at fault for the accident, the gravel was. However, his insurance company had already accepted liability for the accident.
Our client was also upset as she did not want to anger her friend. We advised our client that if the driver was not at fault for the accident, then there would be zero recoveries. In the end, our client agreed to continue to pursue the case and she recovered nicely from her injuries.
As an aside, as a passenger, if you are injured as a passenger in a car accident, you are also entitled to utilize the driver’s medpay insurance through his/her own insurance policy to pay for some of your medical bills.
Taxi, Uber and Lyft accidents
I have received several calls in the past couple years from people who were Injured as a passenger in a car accident involving an Uber driver. I generally support the rideshare concept but have noticed that often when I see a car driving erratically it often is a rideshare vehicle.
If you are injured as a passenger in the back of an Uber, you can recover for your injuries. The issue again will be who caused the accident, the Uber or Lyft driver or the driver of the other car. I have handled cases where a passenger was injured by a third party while driving in an Uber and I have also represented Uber drivers who were injured by others while driving.
Uber uses James River Insurance Company to handle their driver’s claims. Clicking here will take you to the page to file a claim for injuries suffered as a passenger in an Uber.
The same rule applies if you are injured as a passenger in a bus accident. I’ve represented bus accident victims before and we deal with trying to figure out who is responsible for the accident, the CTA or other bus agency or the driver of the car the bus crashed with.
Solo vehicle accidents
I recently received a call from a very nice woman who was involved in a solo vehicle accident. She admitted to the insurance company that she crashed her vehicle when she bent down while driving to pick something up. Her car flipped and she and her 2 small kids were injured.
In that situation, the woman has no claim as she caused the accident. However, both of her children have a claim to file against their own mother for their injuries. Fortunately, the mother knew she was at fault and her auto insurance rates were going to increase regardless. As such, she had her kids file claims against her own policy.
If you are Injured as a passenger in a car accident, call our office at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation. This situation can get sticky and often times it’s better to have an outside party like a personal injury attorney make the call for you.
We’ve unfortunately seen a few accident victims who could teach a course on “how to damage your personal injury case.” To avoid damaging your case, contact our office for a free consultation today at 312-848-9783. Or read below for a few of the common ways that accident victims damage their case.
The first lesson in how to damage your personal injury case is by lying to the insurance adjuster. The truth is going to come out. The facts will be verified by the parties, an independent witness, an expert witness, or the physical evidence/property damage. As such, it’s better to be honest up front with your attorney or the insurance adjuster. It avoids being called to the carpet later.
Also, in Illinois and many other states, you can recover for your damages even if you are partially responsible for the accident under the theory of comparative negligence. It’s much better to accept 20 (or whatever) percent responsibility for the accident up front than have the insurance deny your claim entirely because you were dishonest.
Another way how to damage your personal injury case involves your medical treatment. First, often accident victims don’t immediately seek medical treatment – this is a mistake. If you didn’t get medical treatment right after the accident, it is very difficult to tie subsequent ailments to your accident.
Many people will get medical treatment after an accident but then won’t get any additional treatment (like physical therapy) for weeks or months thereafter. That results in a “gap in treatment.” Gaps in treatment are something that insurance companies utilize to diminish claims. Their argument is that something else could have caused your injuries during the gap (slip and fall/another accident/work injury). As such, it’s important to engage in a continual course of treatment after an accident.
Some people don’t follow their doctor’s instructions regarding medical treatment. The doctor instructs them to undergo physical therapy or use crutches, but they refuse. As a result, they are “non-compliant” with a doctor’s instructions. This is something that an astute insurance adjuster will point out to diminish your claim. You have a duty to take steps to minimize your injuries and failure to do so will be used against you.
Don’t “tough it out.” When you’re at your doctor’s office, tell the doctor/RN/NP about all your injuries. Do not diminish the pain you are going through. As we discussed in another blog article on documenting your injuries, if your injury is not documented in the medical records, it doesn’t exist to the insurance company. Don’t tough it out, tell them about everything you’re going through.
Posting on Facebook or any other social media about your accident can hurt your case. I’ve discussed a situation before where I observed a client engaging in vigorous activity at a time when he was recovering from an injury. If we saw it online, so did the insurance adjuster. As such, be cautious about what you post on social media.
As an aside, whenever we sign up a new client, we check the defendants’ social media as well for information we can use against them. So social media can be a double-edged sword.
Recorded Statements/Sign Documents
Another “how to damage your personal injury case” is to give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster and/or to sign any of the insurance company’s documents without consulting with an attorney first.
The insurance adjuster is not on your side. They want to delay, deny and diminish your claim. As such, they will use the recorded statement against you later to call into your question your credibility. Few people can tell a story the exact same way two or three times.
Also, insurance adjusters will often get you to sign a release as soon as they can. If any additional medical issues arise after you sign, you are out of luck. Also, they will get you to sign a medical release which gives them the authorization to obtain all your medical records. You should control what they see, not them.
For more information about to avoid damaging your personal injury case, contact our office for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.
People are often surprised when we tell them that their personal injury case may take twelve to twenty-four months to resolve. They always
ask why personal injury cases take so long. For the answer to this and other personal injury related questions, see part one of the blog article, or contact our office for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.
Why personal injury cases take so long – Part Two
In part one of this blog article, we explained that obtaining insurance from the defendant who caused your accident, confirming that the defendant’s insurance company has accepted liability or responsibility for the accident, and the severity of your injury, can all affect how long it takes to resolve your case.
In part two of this blog, we will address additional factors that explain why personal injury cases take so long.
Factors that affect how long it takes to resolve your case
Obtaining medical bills and records
The medical bill and record aspect of your cases is a primary reason why personal injury cases take so long.
Once you are through treating, your law office will have to order all your medical bills and records from your medical providers – and there can be a lot of them. This is a slow process that requires dealing with medical bureaucracy. We are constantly required to order and re-order bills and records. And there are often significant fees for ordering the bills and records that have to be processed and paid.
Often our clients send us copies of the bills they receive and wonder why those won’t work. When we order bills from medical providers, they come with ICD Codes which are the codes insurance companies require before they compensate an accident victim for his or her damages. Our clients do not receive bills with ICD codes, we have to order them ourselves.
Medical bill and record review
Once we finally obtain the bills and records, they are reviewed in detail. This is a time intensive process and must be performed by an attorney or paralegal. Often there are hundreds and hundreds of pages of bills and records that have to be reviewed.
In addition, often when records are first reviewed, we learn that there was additional medical treatment that we did not know about, that there are records we have not ordered or received as yet, or that there were dates of service that were not provided to us. As such, we have to order those bills and records and that starts the process over again.
Once all the documents have been reviewed, your attorney will get on the phone with you to review your case before taking the next step in the process described below.
Writing the demand letter to the insurance company is also a time intensive process. The demand letter will document:
The facts of the accident
Your theory of liability
Analysis of the medical bills and records
Description of your pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment, among other things
A demand for compensation
Once the letter is written, it must be reviewed and sent to the client for corrections, suggestions and approval. Then we will mail the demand to the insurance company. We will give them 30 days to respond to the letter – though it often takes much longer.
The negotiation process can take several weeks or months. Our demand letters often include very high demands and the insurance companies often begin with a very low offer. Then the process of negotiation begins. Your attorney will argue to the insurance adjuster about the value of your case and where the insurance company has exposure.
The insurance company will attempt to reduce your claim by disputing the severity of your injury and the amount of your medical treatment. They may point out you have pre-existing conditions and allege that the injuries you suffered were not actually suffered in the accident at all.
In many cases, the two sides are able to come to a mutually agreeable resolution of claims. However, that does not happen in all cases, discussed below.
As an aside, it may be that your injuries are so severe that they are more than worth the value of the insurance policy. In that situation, the insurance adjuster may just “tender” or offer the entire amount of their insured’s insurance policy.
Underinsured Motorist Protection
If the defendant offers you the full value of their insurance policy, you may be able to seek to recover additional compensation from your own underinsured motorist policy. We have handled several cases where we were able to quickly obtain the $25,000 or $50,000 policy limits from the defendant and then went after our client’s own insurance policy to compensate our clients for the rest of their damages.
Medical Bill/Lien Negotiation
Once your case settles, your attorney will attempt to resolve all outstanding medical bills you have as a result of injuries suffered in the accident. There are often deductibles, co-pays and in some cases entire medical bills outstanding.
Health insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois also intend to be reimbursed for the medical bills they paid on your behalf. Your attorney will attempt to negotiate a reduced amount with your insurance company as well. Do you have to pay your health insurance company back? Yes, often you do.
If you used your auto insurance medical payments (or “medpay”) benefits to pay your medical bills, you will have to pay your auto insurance company back as well. Your attorney will attempt to negotiate this amount down for you as well.
Be aware that some health insurance companies just simply take forever to settle with, mainly Medicare and Medicaid. They are huge governmental bureaucracies and just move much slower than a private health insurer.
The last reason why personal injury cases take so long, is that if you are unable to reach a settlement with the insurance company, your attorney may be forced to file a lawsuit against the defendant on your behalf. If you are in Cook County, you might not get to trial for eighteen months to two years. That’s on top of all the time you already spent on your case.
Despite this, it’s still optimal to try and resolve your claim amicably first as litigation costs a lot of money. Every dollar you spend on costs and expenses for your case comes out of your settlement/your pocket. Pre-litigation expenses cost a few hundred dollars while litigation can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.
All the above are many of the reasons why personal injury cases take so long. These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless other tasks that your law firm must to do prep your case and they all take time. If you want a free consultation to discuss why personal injury cases take so long, contact our office at 312-848-9783.
Were you involved in a personal injury accident? If so, your first question may be – how long does a personal injury claim take to settle? To discuss this and/or any other issues regarding your accident, contact our office for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.
How long does a personal injury claim take to settle?
If you’ve dealt with personal injury attorneys before, you’ll understand that it’s hard to get a definite answer out of them. That’s because there are many factors that go into a personal injury case. Anyone of them could delay your case. For that reason, the only honest answer to the question of how long does a personal injury claim take to settle is – “It Depends”.
Factors that affect how long it takes to settle your case
There are many factors that affect this answer. The most important being the severity of your injury. Instead of starting there, however, we will address this question by looking at the normal pattern a personal injury case takes.
Finding the defendant/insurance
Many times our clients were taken from the scene of an accident in an ambulance. If that’s the case, chances are you didn’t have a chance to get the defendant’s contact information let alone his/her auto insurance information. As such, you may have to wait until the police report is ready to identify the defendant or his insurance. That can take weeks in big cities like Chicago. The easiest way in Chicago to obtain a police report is on the CPD website. You can also obtain reports from the Illinois State Police, your local Sheriff’s department and/or your local city.
Once you find the defendant, you or your attorney will file a claim with their insurance company. Most insurance companies have websites with instructions or a phone number to file a claim, like this one from State Farm insurance.
Just because you filed a claim, however, does not mean that State Farm etc. will immediately compensate you for your damages. Normally the insurance company will investigate the matter first. This could include ordering the police report, interviewing their insured about the facts of the accident, interviewing witnesses, inspecting the scene of the accident and so forth. Then, they will either accept “liability,” meaning responsibility for the accident, or they can deny liability, or they might split responsibility between their insured and you the victim.
This can take a long time, especially if a serious injury or a death is involved. In the meantime, your car is damaged and you’re in pain. You may get frustrated and for good reason. However, aside from filing a lawsuit, there is little you can do to speed the insurance company’s investigation up. That’s one of the reasons why we recommend filing a claim with your own insurance company as well.
This is the quickest way to get your property damaged resolved. Yes you will have to pay your deductible in order to get your vehicle fixed, but you should get that money back shortly.
Severity of Injury
The one factor that most affects the question of how long does a personal injury claim take to settle, is the severity of your injuries. Why? Because this will (in many situations) dictate how long you obtain medical treatment for.
Once you sign a release from the insurance company accepting compensation for your damages, you waive away your right to recover anything else from the defendant/his insurance in the future. It doesn’t matter what happens. We just received a call from a woman who signed a release from an insurance company six months ago. She was just recently diagnosed with bulging discs in her neck and wanted to go back to the insurance cover to obtain additional compensation. We had to tell her that once she signed the release her case was over. There was no going back for more money. Consequently, you want to make sure your medical treatment is completely finished before you sign on the dotted line.
Ironically, the severity of your injuries may also mean that the amount of time it takes to settle your case is very short. For example, we had a case recently where our insured (a pedestrian) suffered a severe leg fracture when she was hit by a car while crossing the street. She underwent open reduction internal fixation surgery on her leg.
This is a severe injury for which she could have recovered significantly for. However, the driver of the car that hit her only had $50,000 in insurance and our client did not have any auto insurance. As such, she was limited in her recovery to $50,000. The insurance company offered the $50,000 within weeks of the accident occurring. Theoretically, we could have settled her case right then but for the time it took to negotiate her medical bills.
We will discuss that and other issues that effect how long it takes to settle a personal injury claim in part two of this blog article, which we will post next week. If you want a free consultation to discuss the question – how long does a personal injury claim take to settle? Contact our office at 312-848-9783.
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