In my experience, people don't know what to expect during their first appointment with a car accident attorney. Typically, an attorney will ask a lot of questions about your car accident, your car insurance, and even your health insurance. A lot of people are surprised by these inquiries, so I wanted to take some time to explain why we ask these questions.
1) "Where Did the Accident Happen?"
This is generally the first question an attorney will ask you. Why? Because attorneys are licensed to practice in specific states, and if the accident happened in a state they are not licensed to practice, they need to refer you to an attorney who is.
BenGlassLaw is located in Virginia, near Washington D.C. and Maryland. Many people living in Northern Virginia travel through all three regions regularly. If you are a Virginia native who had a car accident in Maryland, we have to refer you to a Maryland attorney.
Our intake staff will ask this question before your first appointment, and if your accident happened outside Virginia, we will send you to an attorney we trust in the region where your accident happened.
2) "Is it Possible You Contributed to the Accident in Any Way?"
This is not a fun question to ask because it may seem like the asker doubts your story. However, because of Virginia car accident and personal injury laws, this is essential information for your attorney to know.
Virginia is a pure contributory negligence state. This means that if you are responsible for your accident, even 1% responsible, you are barred from recovering damages. In other states, you may be eligible to recover damages if you were only partially at fault, but in Virginia, you will have to prove you are not responsible in any way to get compensated for your injuries.
3) "What are Your Current Medical Bills Due to the Accident?"
This question does not always surprise people, but they sometimes misunderstand what we mean. When we ask what your medical bills are, we are asking for the total amount, even what your health insurance paid. We understand that this could require you to do some research, so come prepared will all the invoices and statements from your medical providers and health insurance company.
When we file a claim with the other driver's insurance company, we want to make sure we include the total amount of your medical bills, including what was paid by health insurance. This is very important with specific health insurance policies because when your car accident case is settled, you may be required to reimburse your health insurance company (see question #6 for more information).
4) "Do You Have Health Insurance?"
You may wonder why your attorney needs to know this since the defendant (the person who caused the accident) should be responsible for paying for your injuries, not your insurance company. The first reason why we need to know this is very complicated because of Virginia state laws regarding car accidents.
Two, we want to know that our client's medical bills are being paid while we resolve their case. Car accident cases can take months, even years, before the case is settled. If you wait for the settlement to pay your bills, the doctor could send those debts to collections, damaging your credit. We want to make sure you are aware of this, and if you have health insurance, we encourage you to use it.
5) "Have All Submitted Your Medical Bills to Your Health Insurance?"
Some people have the misunderstanding that medical bills that are the result of a car accident should not be submitted to health insurance. In Virginia, all of your accident medical bills should be sent to health insurance assuming you have it.
Being compensated in a personal injury case can take many months to years. Meanwhile, your doctors and hospitals will want their money. To the extent that you have health insurance, and have treated with an “in-network-provider,” you should use your health insurance to protect your credit.
Note: some doctors/providers will try to convince you not to use your health insurance even though they are “in-network-providers.” Remember, they have a financial incentive for you to pay out-of-pocket because health insurance companies typically pay their bills at a negotiated discount rate.
If the doctors give you any grief, tell them that Virginia law (specifically Virginia Code § 8.01-27.5) requires all Virginia “in-network-providers” to accept health insurance regardless of whether treatment was due to an accident.
6) "Who is Your Health Insurance Carrier?"
Your health insurance carrier is important because some carriers, to include Medicare and Federal Health Insurance Benefit plans require “reimbursement.” In other words, if you are awarded money in your injury case, you may be required to reimburse your health insurer. If you don’t, you’ll get sued for the amount you owe and will get kicked off of coverage.
While this may come as a surprise to you, remember two important points. One, because your health insurance initially covered you, you didn’t have to pay the money upfront, so your credit was in a better position to be protected. Two, when you reimburse the health insurance carrier, it will be at the “negotiated rate” that they paid out, and not the full medical bill.
For example, let’s say you were billed $100 for a particular treatment, which was covered by health insurance. Typically, your health insurer will have gotten a discount from the providers, so they’d have paid out let’s say $40. When you end up claiming that bill for your injury, you’ll claim for the $100 plus pain, suffering, inconvenience, lost wages and other value lost, while you’ll have to reimburse at the $40 rate. Hopefully, you’ll be compensated sufficient funds to make pursuing the claim worth it.
7) "What’s your car insurance?"
You may ask, “why does my car insurance company matter? I didn’t cause the accident?” While this is true, you should keep in mind that your insurance coverage can be used to cover what the defendant's insurance coverage does not cover. Under Virginia law, you can have as little as $25,000 in coverage and still be insured. If your injury is serious enough, and $25,000 won’t be enough to compensate you, you may have additional funds under your policy.
Specifically, you should check to see how much Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) you have. You can find this amount by looking at the “Declarations Page” or “Insurance Summary Page” on your own car insurance policy. If it turns out that you only have $25,000, then your UIM policy will not come into play. Then we will need to focus on how much coverage the defendant has. We will discuss how to obtain their coverage limits).
There are other questions that an attorney may ask you during an interview, but these are the questions that tend to raise a few eyebrows. We want everyone to understand why we ask them so they can better understand the process of a car accident case.