When you have been injured in an accident the choices that you make in the days and weeks after an accident will be crucial to the outcome of your case and your well-being. The sooner you have an experienced injury attorney involved in your case the more likely you will have a better result. Insurance companies are not likely to pay you a fair settlement without a competent attorney representing you. No insurance adjuster was ever given a promotion or bonus because they gave a injured person a fair settlement.
An insurance adjuster is not going to voluntarily offer to compensate you for all the damages that you are entitled to. Have you missed work or will you miss work in the future because of your injuries. You are entitled to be compensated even if you have sick pay or disability pay. Elements of damages that may be recoverable under the law may include pain and suffering, temporary and permanent disability, loss of a normal life, lost wages, lost earning capacity, disfigurement, medical bills and prescription costs, emotional distress and in some instances, punitive damages. In the case of a wrongful death, the damages are much more complicated but may include loss of earnings and other support that the deceased may have provided and compensation for the grief caused by the loss of a loved one.
Know Your Rights
Soon after an accident you may be contacted by a an insurance adjuster and their motive will be to save the insurance company money. One of the first things that the adjuster will try to have you do is give a recorded statement. You may have a thousand concerns on your mind, you may be in pain, you may be on medication, but they may insist on taking the statement. You have absolutely no legal obligation to give a recorded statement. You may think that since you did nothing wrong, the adjuster seems helpful and concerned, so why not do as you are asked? This is a natural reaction for an accident victim who is blameless to have. Giving a statement to an adjuster before you talk to an attorney, however, may significantly reduce the value of your case. Remember, the insurance company wants a recorded statement because it helps them, not because it helps the victim. Giving a recorded statement is very serious matter and doing so without consulting a lawyer gives the insurance company a significant advantage.
Insurance Companies do not Volunteer Information to Victims
Insurance company adjusters like to ask questions but they do not like to answer them. They will want you to provide them with signed documents that will allow them to have complete access to your complete medical records and perhaps even your employment records. However, insurance companies routinely refuse to provide basic information to victims such as what the policy limits are of the negligent party. They will never tell you if there are additional polices that might apply or if any excess or umbrella polices might provide coverage for your accident. Sometimes, insurance companies misrepresent what insurance coverage the negligent party has. In some instances this is done accidently. An attorney cannot take the word of an insurance adjuster but find out for certain what polices apply, what assets the defendant has and whether an underinsured claim might be brought.
Without any information about the insurance polices, you are negotiating blind. A knowledgeable attorney familiar with the Insurance Code will know how to make an insurance company disclose policy limits. If you have a serious injury, you should never settle a case without knowing the full amount of insurance coverage that may be available to you.
A Good Lawyer will Help you Reduce Medical and Insurance Liens
When an insurance adjuster offers to settle a case, they may not make you aware of your obligation to reimburse insurance companies and doctors. In most cases if your medical bills have been paid by your health insurance company, the insurance company has the right to be reimbursed. However, if you have an attorney the insurance company may have a legal obligation to reduce the amount of money that is paid back. In other instances, an attorney can help negotiate significant reductions in the amount that has to be paid back. If this is not done before you settle your case, the doctors and insurance companies may receive the entire settlement amount.
An Experienced Attorney Knows how to Determine the Value of your Case
Do you know what your case was worth? Unlike the value of the car, the value of an injury is something that cannot be readily determined by reference to a book. This is where experience matters. The value of a case depends on many factors: the nature and extent of your injuries; the extent of disability; the circumstances regarding liability; the venue where the accident occurred. In the most serious of cases, experts, including doctors and vocational experts will be required to help determine the value of the case. Years of experience in trying and settling cases, knowing what juries are awarding in similar cases, are some of the things that an experienced attorney will consider before settling any case.
An Attorney Can Determine if other Parties might be at Fault
If you are the victim of a drunk driving accident, there may be various parties that are legally responsible for your injuries. In addition to the drunk driver, other parties, such as a bar who over-served the driver may be responsible under the Dram Shop Act. If the negligent driver was working at the time of the accident, his employer may be responsible for the collision as well. If the negligent driver was using a car belonging to someone else, the owner may be liable for negligent entrustment or may be liable under an agency theory You may also have coverage under your own insurance policy. By law, Illinois insurance companies are required to provide drivers with uninsured under-insurance coverage. These coverages protect you when the other driver has too little coverage or no coverage at all. However, if you do not follow the rules set forth in the Illinois Insurance Code, you may lose your right to bring an under-insured case by settling with the negligent party.
An Attorney Will Help you Determine When and if a Case Should be Settled
Many times an insurance company will try to have you settle a personal injury case within weeks of an accident. Many times, the full extent of your injuries may not be known for many months or even a year after an accident. A disc that becomes herniated in either your neck or back may be diagnosed initially as a strain or sprain. Many times an MRI will not be ordered until the pain persists for a long time. Once a case has been settled, the victim cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more money if the injury turns out to be more serious than originally anticipated. An experienced attorney can help you decide when the time is right to make your settlement demand or whether it is necessary to file a lawsuit.