Car wrecks are the most common accident in the United States.
Automobile accidents are the most common type of accident in the United States. In our country alone, a person dies every 12 minutes in a vehicle collision, and the majority of victims are 35 years of age or younger. The types of injures that can occur as a result of an automobile accident range from minor to critical, from short-term to permanently debilitating.
You need an attorney to help you recover all that you deserve. Handling a personal injury case is difficult and full of rules and procedures that the common person is unprepared for. Allow the expert attorneys at McCready Law to help you with your case and claim.
Who is going to fix my car and pay my medical bills?
Usually, but not always, an insurance company will accept fault based on the police report. If the police report places blame on you, you may need to contact a personal injury lawyer to recover any damages. If the insurance company accepts 100% responsibility, they are responsible for 100% of your damages.
Getting your car fixed
An insurance company is responsible for paying the lesser of the fair market value of your car or the cost to repair your car. This means if the cost to repair the car costs more than the value of the car, the insurance company only has to pay the value of the car. Be sure to get an estimate for any repair from a collision repair shop that you choose, and don’t rely on the insurance company’s estimate.
If you have a car note or owe money for a loan on the car, the insurance company will pay money to the loan company before paying the remainder, if any, to you. We have had clients who were “upside down” on their car and they owed more money than the car was worth. To avoid this scenario, consider buying gap insurance, which pays off your car if it is totaled out.
The insurance company is also responsible to pay for any transfer tax and title expenses if your car is totaled. When you have to buy a new car to replace the one which was totaled in the accident, you should not have to pay for these additional fees. The at fault insurance company is responsible for paying them.
Sometimes, there is a dispute over which repairs will be covered or over the value of the car if it is totaled. If you are not able to satisfactorily resolve the property damage with the insurance company, you may need to contact a personal injury lawyer.
Getting your medical bills paid
The other driver’s insurance company is responsible for paying your medical bills. However, they will not pay them as they are incurred. For example, the at fault insurance company will not pay each time you go to the doctor or after each test you receive. An insurance company will pay your medical bills from the accident, but only after you agree to settle the case and sign a release.
When you sign a release, your case is over and you cannot collect any more money from the insurance company. This is true even if you made a mistake or if your injuries get worse.
It is very important to get medical attention following an accident, but it can be difficult if the insurance company will not pay your medical bills unless you settle your case. Many doctors refuse to treat patients unless they get paid immediately, and they are unwilling to wait until the case is over to be paid. An experienced personal injury lawyer can often get medical treatment authorized while your case is pending. To learn more, contact us for a free consultation.
Do not fall for the insurance company trick of offering to pay “any out of pocket medical expenses.” Some insurance adjusters use this line in an attempt to lower the amount they pay for your claim. Under Illinois law, an insurance company is legally responsible for the full amount of your medical bills, not just your out of pocket expenses.
The fact that you may have health insurance or some other manner to pay your medical bills does not limit the responsibility of the insurance company for paying your bills. What’s more, you may be legally liable to pay back your health insurance company from any settlement. The claims adjuster will not tell you that and you will be in for a rude awakening if you find out after your case.
What is a lien?
A medical lien is a legal document sent by a health care provider such as a hospital, doctor, or chiropractor which ensures they will get paid from any settlement of your case. When an insurance company receives a lien from a health care provider, they will include the provider’s name on any settlement check you receive. You will not be able to cash or deposit your check unless you get the endorsement from the medical provider with the lien.
So, if you settle your case for a certain amount, that may not be the amount you get if there are liens on your claim. Once again, an insurance adjuster may not tell you about any liens he or she has. All they want is for you to sign a release and close your claim.
Handling your case yourself can be tricky
This article addresses only some of the pitfalls facing people who have been in accidents and deal directly with the insurance company. Having practiced personal injury law for over 20 years, I have come across countless horror stories of costly mistakes made by people handling their cases themselves. There is nothing I can do if they contact me after they have signed a release. If insurance companies dealt with people more fairly and honestly with regard to fixing their car or paying their medical bills, there would be no need for personal injury lawyers.
How to avoid making a mistake with your car accident case
You can avoid making a mistake by contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately following your car accident.
6 Things To Do If You Have Been In A Car Accident
File a police report
Hopefully you already filed a police report at the scene of the accident. If not, you should go to the police department for the town or city in which the accident occurred and make a report. You can make a police report at any time, even after an accident. You can make a police report even if the other driver is not present. You can make a police report even if it was a hit and run accident. A police report is the only proof that an accident occurred. Exchanging information with the other driver, with his or her assurances that they “will take care of everything,” is not enough. File a police report.
Ideally, you should take photos at the scene before the cars have been moved. But we don’t always think of that. The next best thing is to take photos of the damage to your car as well as any bruising, cuts, or any other visible reminder of the accident. The expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” is even more important when it comes to a car accident.
Injuries heal, cars are repaired or totaled, but photos live forever. If you have to go to the tow yard to take photos, by all means do so. Don’t forget this important step.
Call your insurance company
But the accident wasn’t my fault, why should I call my insurance company? First, your insurance may be able to help you with your claim. They may be able to expedite getting your car fixed or your medical bills paid. The insurance company for the other driver may be a substandard carrier which may mean difficulty getting your car fixed or your medical bills paid.
Second, although the other driver showed you or the police an insurance card, it does not mean that their insurance was valid. You may find out days or weeks after the accident that their insurance was not valid. Your accident may become an uninsured motorist claim.
You may not feel like the accident was your fault, but the police may have written the police report up in a way which casts doubt on how the accident occurred. If there is any doubt in how the accident happened, your insurance company needs to know. This is why you have insurance in the first place.
Finally, your insurance rates will not go up simply because you report the accident to your insurance company. If the accident was not your fault, reporting the accident does not count as a claim. Report the car accident to your insurance company.
Seek medical attention
If you are experiencing ANY physical symptoms from the accident, you should go to the emergency room or your doctor. You do not need to go to the emergency room directly from the accident. But you should seek some sort of medical attention as soon as is practical, no more than one week after the accident. If you wait to see the doctor because you hope the pain resolves on its own and it does not, it may be too late to include the treatment in a claim against the other driver’s insurance.
Insurance companies and juries figure that people who are hurt go to the doctor, and people who are not hurt do not go to the doctor. This is not always true, but that is how they evaluate cases and claims. Most pain and injuries resolve after an accident, but for those cases where the injuries are more serious than they initially appear, seeking prompt medical attention is critical to proving your case.
Remove valuables from your car
If a tow truck takes your car to a salvage yard, you should go and remove your valuables from the car. It is not unusual to have things stolen from your car, so it is best to remove any valuables. While at the tow yard, remember to take photos of your car. If the car is clearly totaled, remove your license plates as well.
Protect your rights
You may feel that the accident was not your fault and that the other insurance company will take care of everything. You may be right and they will. But if insurance companies treated everyone fairly and honestly, there would be no need for lawyers, and insurance companies would probably be out of business.
The reality is that insurance companies are in the business to minimize paying out claims. You may be against lawsuits or not wanting to pursue a claim. That’s fine too, but the only one who benefits is the car insurance company. An experienced personal injury lawyer can handle every aspect of your accident, allowing you to focus on recovering or getting on with your life.
How Much Is My Car Accident Case Worth?
The value of your case depends on how the accident happened
If there is any dispute as to how the accident happened, this can lower the value of your case. If the other driver claims you were speeding, you failed to yield, or slammed on your brakes, this can lower the value of a case. In fact, an insurance company may deny your claim and force you to go to court to make any recovery.
Additionally, an insurance adjuster will consider the force of the impact as well as the amount of property damage. While the amount of the impact has no direct correlation to the injuries in an accident, insurance claim examiners still take this into consideration. A case with little property damage will be worth less than if there is a significant impact.
The value of your accident case is based on your medical treatment
Notice we did not say that the value of your case is based on your injuries. An insurance adjuster has no way of knowing what your injuries are, only what medical treatment you had for those injuries. This is a crucial distinction in valuing personal injury cases. You can have serious injuries and experience a great deal of pain and recovery, but without medical treatment, your case will not be worth as much.
Insurance companies, as well as juries, figure that people who are hurt go to the doctor, and those who are not hurt do not seek medical attention. This may not always be true, but this impacts the value of a case. For this reason, a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer will always advise a client to continue to seek medical attention until they have made a complete recovery. Failure to seek medical attention is the largest single factor which lowers the value of your case.
The value of your case is usually proportional to the amount of your medical bills
Let’s get something straight before you read on further. There is no “rule” that a case is worth three times your medical bills. This is a longstanding myth which bears no basis in reality. Now, the greater your medical bills, the greater your recovery. This is because the at fault party is responsible for paying the full amount of your medical bills, not just your out of pocket costs. Logically, the higher your medical bills, the greater your recovery. However, there is no direct, mathematical formula to use in determining the value of your case.
Also, some types of bills increase the value of your case more than others. For example, if most of your medical bills are for diagnostic testing such as x-rays, MRIs, EMGs, etc., those type of bills do not lead to a large increase in value for your case. Medical bills for treatment, such as doctor’s visits, physical therapy, or chiropractic treatment, increase the value of your case more than diagnostic bills.
Don’t let the insurance company tell you the value of your case
Odds are this is the first time you have been in an accident and sustained personal injuries. You are doing the wise thing in learning as much as possible about your case. As experienced personal injury lawyers, we seek to educate our clients. Our website is designed to provide answers to commonly asked questions.
However, our ability to evaluate the value of a personal injury case comes from years of experience and from representing thousands of clients. If it were so simple to know the value of an accident case, there would be no need for lawyers. The job of the insurance company claim adjuster is to pay as little as possible to settle a case. The goal of a personal injury attorney is to obtain the greatest recovery possible from the insurance company. In the middle is you, the injured person.
How you can worsen the situation by handling the case yourself
Many people in automobile accidents just want their medical bills paid and the money they lost from being off from work. There is nothing wrong with this and we will not attempt to persuade you otherwise. But it is important for you to know that you personally may be responsible for paying back your health insurance if they paid any of your medical bills.
There may be doctors or hospitals who do not submit their bills to your health insurance and expect to be paid from the insurance settlement. These and other things can come back and bite you if you settle the case on your own. Of course, the insurance adjuster will not tell you of these things because they just want you to sign a release and settle your case. Accident claims are much more complicated than they appear.
How to get the best recovery for your car accident case
We have tried to provide you with some valuable information in handling your accident case yourself. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to assign a value to your case by reading a few website articles. The single biggest factor in increasing your recovery in a personal injury case is by hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer.
In our experience, even after paying our contingency attorney fee, our clients will usually walk away with more money than they would have if they handled their case themselves. Remember only you, the client, can settle your case.