In the years we have been representing injured clients, we have been asked certain questions by nearly every person we meet. Here are a few of those to help you understand the basics of your case.
Q: What should I do if I get injured?
- Immediately get medical care. Even if you do not think you are hurt, get checked anyway. Many injuries go undiscovered without medical examinations until much after the injury occurred and the adrenaline has worn off.
- Take pictures. Photograph everything. The scene, the at-fault party, debris, vehicle damage, property damage, witnesses, and most importantly, your injuries. If you are unable to take these photos yourself, have someone assist you. Pictures can be the difference between winning and losing your case.
- In an vehicular case, report your claim to your insurance company, but do not discuss fault, details, or your injuries. Simply tell your insurance company that you were injured, what type of case it is (ie, auto, trucking, bicycle, etc.), and tell them you will discuss the details with them later.
- Go no further without consulting an attorney. Even the simplest discussion with the car or property insurance company can come back to haunt you. When your words are transcribed, they often read differently than you meant them. Yet for the remainder of your claim, or lawsuit, these words will be read back to you time after time, and the insurance company and their lawyers will put a spin on them in a light that best benefits them. The insurance company will also ask you many questions, seeking information they are not privy to and assuming you will be unaware of your rights. Make sure this does not happen by having a legal representative field these questions for you.
Q: Can’t I just handle my case on my own?
You always have that right. And that is exactly what the insurance company wants you to do.
When an adjuster sees that you are proceeding pro se, or unrepresented, that information is entered into their database and the offers they plan to make on your case are immediately reduced. Why? Because the insurance company now assumes that they have the advantage. They understand the intricacies of Colorado law, what you should and should not subrogate, what you are and are not due under medical payments and under-insured motorist coverages, how the statutes of limitations apply to your case in particular, and many other moving parts affecting your case. They assume they will be able to get out of the claim cheaply because you have no one there to fight for your rights.
Injury claims are like the inside of a watch. There are more moving parts than appear from the outside, and if any one of those parts breaks down, the entire process can fall apart. We represent mechanics, doctors, contractors, IT specialists, and many more professionals, and I always ask them, “If my car is broken down, or my heart needs to be repaired, should I do it myself?” The answer is always “No.”
It is no different with your injury claim. The insurance company’s drive to save themselves money at every turn is exactly the reason injury lawyers exist. We are experienced in our field, just as you are in yours. Don’t operate on your own heart or handle your own claim.
Q: What if I don’t have the money to pay a lawyer to work on my case?
Our office works on a “contingency fee basis,” which means that you pay no up-front costs. We only get paid if we are able to successfully settle your claim or win at trial. Our fee is a percentage of the settlement or judgment, and it is a set rate given to you in writing at our very first meeting and signed by a Partner.
Our office also fronts all the costs of pursuing a claim – such as purchasing copies of medical bills, investigating the scene, hiring an accident reconstructionist – and costs of litigation – like fees for hiring experts, deposition costs, mediation fees, and court costs. You will never receive a bill from us during our representation, or a call from us saying that in order to proceed in your claim, we need a check from you for expenses. Our costs and expenses will be reimbursed out of the settlement or judgment.
In summary, you don’t pay us, we make sure the insurance company does when they settle your case. And we don’t see a dime until you do.
Q: I need medical treatment, but I can’t afford it. Who is supposed to pay?
Many of our clients come to their first meeting with us assuming that the defendant’s car insurance company or the property owner’s insurance carrier is responsible for paying their medical bills and setting up treatment. When they are told by the adjuster that the insurance company in fact does not assist with medical treatment, they are frustrated and confused.
There are several ways for your medical bills to be paid following an injury. If your injury involves a motor vehicle – whether a car, tractor trailer, or otherwise – you may be covered under the Medical Payments, or “MedPay,” portion of your own insurance policy. Of course, in order to use this coverage, you must have purchased it when you bought your car insurance. If so, your insurance company must allow you to use the full amount you purchased to pay for your medical bills without punishing you, raising your rates, or dropping you.
If you are injured in a non-auto case, or in an auto case whether or not you have MedPay coverage, your health insurance carrier can and will cover your incident-related medical bills. In fact, many clients are told by their primary care physicians that their doctor does not accept MedPay payments or “third party liability.” That means they will only accept health insurance. Other clients are told by their health insurance carrier that they cannot use their health insurance for incident-related treatment. This is false, just a way for your health insurance carrier to save money. Finally, other clients believe they should not have to use their health insurance and that their health insurance carrier should not have to pay for something someone else did.
The truth is most injured parties use their health insurance for incident-related treatment, and are better for it. You pay a lot of money for your health insurance coverage, and you should get the benefit of using it. Also, at the end of a case, your health insurance company will get reimbursed for every penny they paid for your treatment, so they will not be at a loss. Finally, just like with a car insurance company, the health insurance company cannot raise your rates or drop you for having to use your coverage.
Q: What if I do not have health insurance or a primary care physician? How can I get better?
It is very common that injured people are not covered under health insurance or they are not established with a primary care doctor. They go to the hospital after their injury, but have nowhere to go after that. There are many clinics throughout Colorado who will treat uninsured patients side-by-side with their insured patients, making sure everyone gets the same level of care. The State Legislature has just recognized this need and has enacted laws to allow doctors to treat uninsured patients who have been injured through negligence. Colorado law allows these doctors to hold the bill accrued for the treatment until the case settles or the jury renders their verdict. Then, the law ensures the doctors get reimbursed for their services.
Our office has studied these new laws, as well as similar laws in several states across the country. If you need help understanding these processes or need information on how to find a doctor near you, contact us for assistance.
Q: What should I put on social media about my injuries and what happened to me?
As soon as a claim is reported, insurance companies begin tracking all online presence of an injured party. They hire investigators to find your social media and websites, no matter how well you think you have hidden them, and they will download, screen shot, or print everything you have posted about the incident.
But wait… it gets worse! The insurance company will continue to monitor your social media and websites for posts about what you are doing with your friends, family, and work. They will then argue that you cannot possibly be injured as bad as you claim because your best friend posted a picture of you smiling at brunch last week. They do not care that it was your first time out of the house since your injury, and just going to brunch caused you to lay on the couch with ice packs for the rest of the day.
Social media is a dangerous game, never more so than when you are involved in an injury claim.
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Call our office as soon as possible after an injury occurs. Let us have the nuanced conversations with the insurance companies, get out to the scene for a full investigation before vital evidence disappears, and make sure your medical bills and treatment are being properly managed, so at the end of this claim, you are in the best position to be fully compensated.