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.

How long does a personal injury claim take to settle?

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 Personal Injury Claimdiscuss 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.

Liability

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.

How to prove your personal injury case?

How to prove your personal injury case

To prove your personal injury case, you need to “prove” your damages. But how do you do that? Contact Morton Personal Injury AttorneyGrove personal injury attorney Barry Zlotowicz at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation.

In a word – “Document” it!

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve represented personal injury clients and there simply isn’t any evidence to support their claim. There is evidence that the collision occurred, that they were taken to the emergency room and treated, and that they underwent physical therapy afterwards. But there isn’t any evidence that documents:

  • The severity of the impact
  • The injuries they suffered
  • Their pain and suffering
  • Their expenses such as prescriptions and mileage

How to prove your personal injury case? Read further.

Severity of Impact

Severity of impact is one of the factors an insurance company looks at to determine, at least preliminarily, how significant your injuries are. It makes a little sense (but that’s it). Sure, the severity of impact could be an indicator of how severe your injuries are. However, it is not always accurate.

We have handed countless cases where there was a minor impact but resulted in a significant injury. To avoid this issue, take photographs of the damage to your vehicle.  If you can demonstrate “significant damage” through photographs (and other evidence like repair estimates) you can end this issue quickly.

Despite nearly every cellphone having a camera, we have handled many cases where our clients did not take photographs of the damage to their vehicle. Don’t make that mistake. Begin your efforts to document your case with your property damage.

Photographs are also necessary if you are going to recover for damage to your personal property as well, such as cell phones, your GPS, your clothing, or any other property that may have been damaged.

Document Your Injuries

Most people think that their injuries “speak for themselves.” That an insurance adjuster will review your medical records and make you an offer that is fair based on your injuries, among other things.

It doesn’t work that way. Not the part about an insurance company making a fair offer – that doesn’t happen either. But specifically, the presumption that your injuries are apparent to the insurance adjuster. They are not. It is critical to document your injuries during your recovery so that the significance of your injuries is apparent.

If it’s not in the medical records, it doesn’t exist!

It would seem reasonable that you would suffer headaches if you were rear-ended and suffered a concussion. But how do you prove it to the insurance company? Through documentation.

  1. Tell your nurse/doctor/physician’s assistant about all the significant pain or discomfort you are suffering from after the collision. She/He will hopefully enter it in the medical records. And, she/he will hopefully identify it with the appropriate codes that medical providers use to get paid by health insurance companies. These codes, called ICD 10 codes are important to getting you compensated for your injuries.

If there is no documentation to support your claim that you suffered headaches after your accident, it will be very difficult to recover for your pain and suffering they caused, no matter how real they are to you.

We have represented countless accident victims who swear they suffered injuries (headaches or shoulder pain etc.) after a collision but there was no documentation of it in the medical records. Absent direct testimony during a deposition or at trial, it is very difficult for an attorney to obtain compensation for your injuries if they are not in the medical records.

  1. Take photographs! A picture really does tell a thousand words. There is no better way to demonstrate the significance of your injuries to an adjuster or a jury than through photographs. You cannot take a photograph of a headache of course. But if you are in a splint or cast, take a photo of it. If you are walking on crutches, get a photo of it. If you have bruising, lacerations and abrasions, or end up with any scarring as a result of your injuries, take photographs of them.

We represented a client recently who suffered a simple ankle fracture. For many reasons, the insurance company disputed many of our client’s claims for damages. In our demand package, we sent over photographs of our client. However, for some reason, the insurance adjuster did not see them. During our negotiations with the adjuster, she attempted to diminish the significance of the fracture. We argued that our client couldn’t even walk after the collision and we had the photographs to prove it. We re-sent the adjuster a photograph of our client in a wheelchair (a photo that we took ourselves). The adjuster immediately offered an extra $5,000.00 to our client and that was enough to settle the case.

We had another case just recently where we had an excellent photo of a large scar that resulted from road rash to our client’s leg. That scar was in a highly visible place on our client’s body. It was visible and apparent to everyone our client came into contact with. And as a result, we were able to obtain the policy limits of $100,000 for our client.

Pain and Suffering

Like documenting your injuries above, you can document your pain and suffering by telling your doctor what you’re going through. However, it may also be helpful to your case to keep a daily journal or log. Your journal should document your:

  1. Symptoms: “I feel an aching and throbbing pain in my left shoulder every time I move it.” It’s also stiff and I can’t rotate my shoulder at all.
  2. Pain levels: “The pain is an 8 on a scale of one to ten.”
  3. Activities effected: “Today I was unable to go to the gym” or “drive my kid to dance/baseball practice.” “I couldn’t ride my bicycle/motorcycle.” “I had to get a ride to work.”
  4. Doctor’s visits: “11/18/2017 visit with orthopedist Dr. Smith”
  5. Impact on your ability to sleep: “I woke up 2x last night in pain. Had to take Aleve and ended up sleeping on the Lazy boy.”
  6. Anything else you’re going through

Be careful what your write. This journal could end up as evidence and if so, the insurance company or defense lawyer could use it against you. Keep your journal brief and to the point. Do not rant. Simply document what you are going through.

We had a case where our client hand-wrote thirty pages documenting his pain and suffering, his anger at the defendant, at the insurance company and at the system. This was not helpful.

For an example of a journal, check out this article on Enjuris.

Expenses

It seems obvious, but our clients often don’t keep their receipts for items they purchased to treat themselves after a collision. This could include prescription medicine, splints, an Ace bandage, or gauze. Keep receipts of everything you purchased. You can recover from these expenses.

Also, keep a “mileage log” of all the trips you took to your doctor’s office or to physical therapy. You can recover from this as well.

Our client often sends us documentation of their co-pays. This is not necessary. While it is helpful to document what medical providers you are seeing, we will not recover specifically for your co-pays. However, you will be reimbursed for them and more. Your co-pay is a small percentage of the actual cost of seeing your doctor/physical therapist etc. Your attorney will try to recover for the entire cost of your medical visit – not just the co-pay.

Conclusion

In sum, if you want to know how to prove your personal injury case, in a word – “document” it! For additional information on how to document your case, contact Morton Grove personal injury attorney Barry Zlotowicz at 847-305-4105 for a free consultation.

Northbrook Personal Injury Lawyer

Northbrook Personal Injury Attorney
Liens in your personal injury settlement

One of the most important and trickiest issues personal injury attorneys deal with is how to handle liens in your personal injury settlement.

In short, if you were injured in a personal injury accident in Northbrook or anywhere else, whether it be an automobile, motorcycle, bicycle or slip and fall accident, it is likely that your health insurance company will file a “lien” against your recovery, which requires that they be reimbursed for medical bills paid on your behalf.

Liens are frequently filed by health insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Medicare and Illinois Medicaid, among many others.

Confused?

Many accident victims are confounded by this. They argue, and rightly so, that they’ve paid insurance premiums for years. As such, why should they be penalized for being injured through no fault of their own?

It’s a matter of contract law. While you may not have noticed, it is likely that your health insurance company included subrogation (i.e., reimbursement) language in your health insurance contract which gives them the right to be reimbursed if you are injured by a third party (i.e., the person who caused the accident).

So, if you are injured by someone else’s negligence and your health insurance pays your bills, you will have to pay them back.

How it works

Let’s say you are injured in an automobile accident and you recover $100,000.00 from the defendant’s insurance company for your injuries. The $100,000.00 is then reduced by, among other things, the amount of the health insurance lien you must pay your health insurance company.

Some people have asked, if I must pay my health insurance back, perhaps I should not use my health insurance to pay the bills. That is an option. Many medical providers would be fine delaying payment of the bills pending settlement or other resolution of your case. Why? Because the doctors or hospitals have contracted rates with the health insurance companies. This means, they get paid significantly less than what their retail (for lack of a better word) rates are.

Normally, if a healthcare provider agrees to postpone collection of their bill, they will file a “lien” against the recovery that you and your attorney must sign. However, many providers will not accept a lien or “letter of protection.” For those providers, you may have to make monthly payments to keep your bills from going to collections.

Collections? Yes, when you get in an accident, if you or your health insurance doesn’t pay for the bills, those bills can and often do go to collections companies for recovery. This can negatively affect your credit.

As such, it’s extremely important to manage your bills after an accident. This is also an example of why in the end, it is usually beneficial to have your health insurance company pay your medical bills.

Note that while most of your bills may be paid, you will still be responsible for paying your co-pays and deductible before your health insurance kicks in.

Often your medical bills and/or liens, amount to more than your potential settlement. If this happens, your attorney will rely on the Illinois Healthcare Services Lien Act to resolve your bills. Generally, the lien act states that health care providers are limited in how much they can recover against your settlement.

If you are in Northbrook and unsure how to handle liens in your personal injury settlement, contact my office today for a free consultation. Call 312-848-9783 and ask for attorney Barry Zlotowicz.