If you’ve been in an automobile accident, you’re likely wondering what you should do. Before you talk to an insurance adjustor, you should take time to reach out to an attorney! Most are willing to chat for free, so you’ve got no excuse. If you reach out to BenGlassLaw, this is what I’ll need to know:
1. How, When, Where, Why? The first topic of discussion I have with every personal injury victim deals specifically with the mechanics of the accident. I want to know when the accident happened to determine when the statute of limitations runs. Keep in mind, with every accident claim, there will be a deadline in which you have to file the claim or forever waive it.
I also want to know where it happened to know which court the case would be filed.
I also want to know why the accident happened. Virginia applies a rule called “contributory negligence.” This rule means if the other party was 99% at fault and you were 1% at fault, you may be in trouble. Virginia bars recovery for anyone who a contributed (at all) to an accident.
2. What happened to your body in the crash? I ask this question because I want to know the actual mechanism of your injury. So if you’re claiming neck pain, I’m wanting to know if your neck was jolted back and forth due to a rear-end impact, for instance. If you’re claiming hand pain, I’m wondering if you remember your hand striking something within the vehicle that explains that pain in a common sense way.
3. What was the property damage to your car (and do you have photos)? Think about it. If you are claiming significant injuries, but there was only a scratch on your bumper, it’s going to be difficult to convince a jury of your claims. However, if the entire back end of your car was crumpled in, that’s something I want a jury to see. Either way, I need to know because it’s something that the insurance companies will be looking for.
4. Do you have a police accident report (or exchange of information)? KEEP IN MIND, ACCIDENT REPORTS ARE NOT ADMISSIBLE IN COURT. But what they do is provide a lot of very useful information. They give me a better idea of how the accident happened. They provide me with the defendant’s vital information (so I know who to sue.) They let me know if he/she was charged with an offense. And they provide additional information such a possible witnesses. I’m always going to ask you for this document – so get it!
5. Were you transported from the accident scene to the hospital (or seek treatment shortly after the accident)? To prove injuries in court, I’m forced to prove that the accident “caused” those injuries. The longer a plaintiff waited to seek treatment, at least in the minds of jurors, the less likely that injury was related to the accident. That doesn’t mean you should just ask for an ambulance in any accident. In reality, I advise everyone to focus on your physical recovery, first and foremost. But if you need treatment, by all means, get it.
6. What was your follow up treatment? Did the ER or your primary care physician refer you for follow up? Was it physical therapy? Did you follow through? Insurance companies will do a thorough evaluation of your treatment following an accident to determine whether it “sounds right” for lack of a better term.
If you were referred to physical therapy for a month, followed through, and got better, an insurance company may be more inclined to agree that treatment and injury is related to your accident. However, if you received referrals, but failed to follow through, then sought treatment months later, it becomes more difficult.
Also, if your treatment doesn’t correlate with your injuries, insurance companies may start picking at injuries and treatment. The moral of this answer is LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTORS. If they tell you to get additional treatment, get it. If not, but you’re still hurting, get second opinion. At the end of the day, your physical well-being should guide you.
7. Tell me about your medical history? When you make a claim for personal injury, insurance companies have a right to know your medical history (to a certain extent) to determine if your claimed injuries were actually caused by the accident. Generally speaking, I want any medical records for five years prior to your accident. But beyond that, I want you to tell me of any significant medical treatment you’ve ever received – particularly any treatment to areas that were injured in your accident.
So if you had physical therapy to your neck ten years ago, and now you claim a bulging cervical disc, I want to know. Prior medical history can wreak havoc on your injury claim - particularly, if I’m unaware of it and therefore unable to deal with it.
8. What UIM coverage do you have? UIM means under-insured motors coverage. To determine this, you need to look for the “declarations page” of your auto insurance.
In Virginia, drivers can drive un-insured if they pay a fee or have a minimum of $25,000 in coverage. For serious accidents, that amount is not enough. And the problem is that you cannot determine how much insurance a driver who caused your accident until you can produce $12,500 worth of medical bills.
So I need to know your UIM coverage. UIM will come into play if the defendant driver is underinsured. So the higher UIM you have, the better position you are in to be properly insured for your claim.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT – go to your auto insurance company and get a $1 million dollar policy. In reality, it’s not all that much more expensive. And if you’re hurt badly, this may make a tragic circumstance somewhat easier.
9. Do you have health insurance (be aware of possible reimbursements)? Health insurance is important when you’re injured because medical bills become like any other debt when not paid – they go to collections. If you have health insurance, this will ease the tension of your auto accident claim. Unfortunately, personal injury cases can take a long time (years even) to resolve. During that time you’re not getting paid.
So health insurance will provide a means to pay those bills.
Keep in mind, however, they may ask for reimbursement for what they paid out. It really depends on your health insurance contract. But even so, health insurance companies only have to pay a percentage of medical bills to satisfy them. And you, in turn, only have to reimburse them for what they paid out. That means more money in your pocket.
10. Are there unpaid medical bills? This one is in line with the health insurance question. Even if you have health insurance, you may still owe co-pays or some providers may not accept your insurance. And, of course, if you don’t have health insurance, outstanding medical bills are just like any other debt. They go to collections.
What Plaintiffs attorneys are unable to do is stop bills from going to collections. However, what I often times do is, upon the client’s request, write to the medical providers and ask them to withhold from collections, and we will pay them out of any settlement we get. While this isn’t a guarantee to work, many providers are willing to work out such arrangements. Hey, it’s better to get paid late rather than never.
While these ten questions aren't the only ones that I will be asking, they are certainy some of the most important. If you've been hurt, let's chat. Give me a call at BenGlassLaw.