How to damage your personal injury case?

How to damage your personal injury case

Personal Injury Case
How to damage your personal injury case

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.

Dishonesty

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.

Medical Treatment

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.

Social Media

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.

Why personal injury cases take so long

People are often surprised when we tell them that their personal injury case may take twelve to twenty-four months to resolve. They always

Personal Injury Cases
Why personal injury cases take so long

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.

Demand Letter

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.

Negotiation

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.

Lawsuit/Litigation

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.

Conclusion

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.

Reasons People Don’t File Suit in a Personal Injury Case

Need to speak to a Morton Grove personal injury lawyer? Call our office today at 312-848-9783 for a free consultation about whether you Personal Injury Caseshould file a lawsuit in a personal injury case.

You Need to File a Lawsuit When….

There are times when you have no choice but to file a lawsuit for injuries suffered in a personal injury accident. The main reason being when the police report (if there was one filed) does not contain the auto (or other) insurance information of the party who caused the accident and the defendant refuses to reveal what insurance he or she has. Feel free contact a Morton Grove personal injury lawyer to determine whether you should file suit. But frequently there are situations when people choose not to file suit

When Personal Injury Victims Do NOT File Suit

There are situations when filing a lawsuit does not make sense. The main reason is when the person who caused the accident has no insurance or has the minimum insurance limits – $25,000.00 in Illinois.

As I’ve mentioned many times on this site, if there are no insurance proceeds to go after the likelihood of recovering against the defendant personally is small. I had a call this week with the victim of an accident and had to tell him we couldn’t help him because there likely were no insurance proceeds to go after. I hate those calls. The only way to protect yourself is to have adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist protection.

Another reason people don’t file suit is when the numbers do not “make sense”. What does this mean? As a Morton Grove personal injury lawyer, we are experienced in crunching the numbers to determine the potential difference in recovery by an accident victim who accepts an insurance company’s offer or who files a lawsuit.

For example, we have an auto accident case we recently worked on. The insurance company offered approximately $50,000.00 to settle the case. We estimated that at trial the case could be worth up to $70,000.00 – though a jury could always award more or less. If we went to trial, our client’s attorneys’ fees would increase from 33.3% to 40.0% and costs would increase from approximately $250.00 to approximately $10,000.00. To understand how much money more our client would have recovered in litigation, check out the numbers below.

Settle pre-litigation:

$50,000.00
$16,333.33 attorneys’ fees (33.3%)
$ 250.00 costs
$33,083.33 Total recovery

Jury Verdict of $70,000.00:

$70,000.00
$28,000.00 attorneys’ fees (40.0%)
$10,000.00 costs
$38,000.00 Total recovery

As you can see, assuming we won a $70,000.00 jury verdict, our client would have recovered less than $5,000.00 more by going to trial (not taking into account paying back medical bills and liens). And, she would have had to wait approximately 18 to 24 months to have the jury trial in the first place. Most people do not want to wait 18 months to get another $5,000.00.

This is not accurate in all situations. There are many times when insurance companies low ball accident victims. As such, a trial is the only way to get a fair and just recovery. The example above is to point out those situations when filing suit would not make sense.

Other Reasons People Do Not File Suit

Time, Aggravation, Money

We have handled a couple of cases in the past six months where our clients, one a female bicyclist and an another a female auto driver, were affluent and suffered moderate injuries. For these two ladies, the issue wasn’t so much the amount of the compensation but to see justice done. Neither party wanted to file a lawsuit and get involved in litigation that would have required them to undergo a deposition, respond to discovery and possibly spend time in a courtroom. So, we settled both cases on their behalf for a little less than they might have been worth at trial. In addition to the case not being about money, neither of our clients wanted to spend the time required in litigation and/or to deal with the aggravation of litigation.

Fear of the System

Some people don’t file lawsuits because of fear of the system. I’ve heard this from some people recently who might not have the residency status that many of us enjoy. Not making a value judgment here, just pointing out that some people are scared to go to court because they fear being deported.

Others are just afraid of the legal system in general regardless of their citizenship status. They don’t know the system works, they are distrustful of attorneys (sometimes for good reason) and they don’t want to get caught in something they know nothing about. And these people often think they will owe their personal injury attorney money that they cannot afford or that it will cost them money (they aren’t aware that p.i. attorneys work on a contingency fee basis – no recovery, no fee).

Severity of Injury

Finally, as a Morton Grove personal injury lawyer, it’s our duty to advise people when it is and when it is not a good idea to file suit. Often, a person’s injuries will dictate whether they should or should not file a lawsuit.

If you were involved in an auto accident and suffered a back or neck sprain or strain, it is not likely that a jury is going to compensate you very much for your injuries. This is not to diminish the pain or discomfort you are going through. Simply pointing out that those are not the kind of injuries that juries compensate victims for. I think jurors feel that these types of cases should have been resolved out of court. Most judges would agree with that as well.

Our firm is located in Northbrook, Illinois but we practice all over Chicagoland and throughout the state of Illinois. As such, if you are seeking a Morton Grove personal injury lawyer, or you want to confer with an attorney about whether you should file a lawsuit, call our office today at 312-848-9783 for a free consultation.