Do I really need a lawyer to settle my case?
How do I find the right personal injury attorney for my case?
If I am injured, how do I know if I need a lawyer?
How much is my claim for injuries worth?
The insurance adjuster is requiring a recorded statement. What should I do?
What should I do about my immediate medical bills?
Why did we write a free book about how to deal with insurance adjusters and how to hire the best lawyer for your case?
No. You definitely do not need a lawyer for every small injury case. In fact, we do not accept cases where there is no or only very little property damage, or if your injuries are very minor. Although we do not take these types of cases, you may be entitled to some compensation: the payment of your property damage and medical bills, for example. So, why won’t we take these types of cases? There are actually two reasons. First, we do not and will not take every case people ask us to take. There are only so many hours in a day. We have decided to concentrate our practice on a small number of larger cases. This allows us to devote the time that is required and necessary to obtain full and fair settlements or take the cases to trial instead of being “spread too thin” and having to accept “pennies on the dollar” settlements. The second reason we do not take those small cases is that after attorney’s fees, costs and the repayment of your medical bills, there will be little or nothing left for you. We don’t think that would be fair to you. In such cases there is little we can do for you, and we would rather see you end up with your bills paid and a little for yourself instead of us getting any additional money.
So if you think your case is one that you can handle on your own there are a few things you should know. Don’t let the insurance company or adjuster take advantage of you Remember, nobody knows your claim better than you. Get organized and be prepared each and every time you talk to the adjuster. Have a game plan and stick to it. If the adjuster calls when you are not prepared or organized, don’t answer the phone. Let them leave a message and call back when you are ready. If you answer the phone and are not prepared, tell the insurance adjuster that you need a moment to get your papers and that you will have to call back in a few minutes. Then, take your time to get organized and call back when you are ready.
Don’t be afraid to ask the insurance company for just and fair compensation. The insurance companies spend money hand over fist every day, year in, year out on well-placed so called “news” stories trying to convince the public that most people who file personal injury claims are trying to cheat the poor defenseless insurance companies. You know the stories; someone grossly exaggerates their injuries, someone stages a fake accident, the McDonald’s case, or most recently the infamous “Wendy’s finger” case. The purpose of the insurance companies’ propaganda campaign is two-fold: (1) to cause everyone (potential jurors, your neighbors, and you) to be suspicious and distrustful of anyone who does file a claim or lawsuit, and (2) to cause many people with legitimate claims to be too embarrassed to file a legitimate claim or the injured people accept far less than they are entitled to settle their claims when the insurance company adjuster takes a “high-and-mighty” tone.
Here are the facts. The insurance industry collects vast sums of money in premiums from ordinary people like you and me to provide us protection for all areas of our lives such as our cars, our houses, our health and our businesses. The insurance companies make huge profits even after disasters like the Florida hurricane season, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the insurance industry reported record profits. Their stock prices continue to soar. All of that money, minus the huge insurance company profits, is specifically intended to compensate people who have been injured in accidents. That is the promise the insurance companies sell us. Notice insurance companies do not sell us a product; they sell us a promise. That promise is that they will protect us and compensate people when we accidentally injure someone else. Injured people are not being greedy or somehow trying to cheat when they make a claim for compensation when someone else has hurt them. Insurance companies are not being kind or generous when they finally agree to pay your legitimate claim. They are merely paying what you and I have been paying them for years and years and years to do: that is, to live up to the promise of protection that the insurance company sold us.
So, if you have had the misfortune of being injured in a crash, do not be afraid to ask them for fair compensation. Pursue you claim vigorously. After all, you paid for it.
Choosing an attorney or law firm to represent you in your serious personal injury case is one of the most important decisions you will make. Your decision MUST NOT be made on the basis of television and yellow pages advertising alone. Anyone can buy a slick commercial, buy a page in the yellow pages or put an ad on billboards and busses. Just look, all those ads say the same thing: “free consultation; aggressive; 24/7; great results.” None of that really gives you any information about the lawyer or his ability to handle your case. In fact, most lawyers who use mass advertising require huge volumes of cases to pay their advertising budgets and cannot and do not give the attention required for your case to be resolved for a full and fair amount. Instead, they settle cases for “pennies on the dollar” and move on to the next case. That is why Murphy & Murphy Law Offices is not a “come one, come all” law firm. We only accept a limited number of cases each year so we can give your cases the attention and hands on work that is necessary.
So how do you figure out who is the best lawyer for your case? You ask questions; that’s how. If our years and years of representing insurance companies and corporations have taught us anything, it is that not all attorneys are created equal. Also, the area of personal injury law is much too specialized for a lawyer who does not handle these cases full-time. There are many intricacies in personal injury law that can cost you thousands and thousands of dollars if the lawyer you choose does not know about them.
There are certain claims where it is not necessary for you to hire a lawyer. Those instances include crashes where the person who hit you has no insurance and no assets. Unfortunately, no matter how badly you are hurt, if the person who caused the crash has no insurance, there is very little chance that you will be able to collect anything from that person. The sad reality is that a person with no insurance probably does not have sufficient assets and property for you to collect any judgment you would get against him or her. It will be virtually impossible for you to have an attorney represent you in such a case. This is why we tell all of our clients, family, and friends, that you should have as much uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your car insurance policy that your insurance company will let you buy. It is one of the only situations where you protect yourself with your insurance instead of covering other people you do not even know.
If the amount of your medical bills is much more than the amount of the insurance policy of the person who hit you, then you will probably not need a lawyer. The insurance company should offer you its policy limits immediately. If the insurance company does not offer to pay you the policy limits right away when your medical bills are more than the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits, you must get competent legal representation right away. This is another situation where you must have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your car insurance policy. Because of the number of people who have no insurance or insufficient insurance, you are placing yourself at great risk if you do not maintain uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your policy. You should not decline this coverage. If you did, call your insurance company today and get it. You should get as much uninsured/underinsured coverage that your insurance company will let you buy.
In any instance where the insurance company for the person who hit you is being unfair, unreasonable, unresponsive or just stalling or delaying, you should immediately talk to a lawyer. In almost all other instances where you have serious injuries loss of income, and future medical needs, you should talk to a lawyer.
The question is much easier than the answer. The answer is difficult because no two claims are exactly the same. Insurance companies, however, attempt to quantify and categorize injury claims by the type of crash involved and the type of injuries involved. For example, there is a category of collisions and injuries that insurance companies categorize as “MIST” claims. A “MIST” claim is a minor impact soft tissue claim. In other words, a collision with little or no visible property damage to the vehicle and only “whiplash” or sprain/strain, soft tissue injuries. In those type of claims your treatment may consist of a few doctors visits combined with chiropractic treatment. “MIST” claims have very little value. Many insurance companies will only pay a minimal amount, often not even as much as your doctor and chiropractor bills. In this type of claim you must beware if your health insurance paid your doctor and chiropractor bills, you may have to repay your health insurance before you get any money from the insurance company. Be careful. When a third party is responsible for your medical bills your health insurance only “loans” you the money. You have to pay back your health insurance the money it spent back. And, you have to pay your health insurance back first, before you get to keep any compensation for your injuries. (We only accept significant injury cases. We do not accept “MIST” cases. If you have a MIST case and need to hire a lawyer, call us. We will refer you to a number of young lawyers who will accept your case and provide you with legal representation for your injuries against the insurance company).
Typically the insurance company for the person who caused the crash must pay for your:
- Medical care and treatment
- Missed time from work and other lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent physical disability and disfigurement
- Future medical treatment that is caused by the crash
- Emotional damages caused by the crash
It is easy to add up your medical bills, prescriptions and time missed from work. There is no science or formula for placing a value on the other elements of your injuries.
In the old days (before 1990) insurance companies paid three times the amount of your medical bills to settle most claims. That is no longer true, but it is a good starting point to get an idea of where you may want to end up at the end of your negotiations with the insurance company. Depending on the seriousness of your injuries and other damages, you may need to add or subtract from that amount. In the end, only you can decide what is fair. If the insurance company refuses to pay you a fair amount for your injuries and lost wages, hire a competent personal injury lawyer right away.
Do not give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster. Many insurance companies and insurance adjusters immediately push to get a recorded statement from you. Typically they say that they cannot settle your claim or pay you any compensation without first getting your recorded statement. Often, the adjusters claim that they want the recorded statement and that you should give one because it will “protect you later.”
You have no legal obligation to give a recorded statement. Do not agree to have any conversation or telephone call recorded by an insurance company, an insurance adjuster, or the insurance company’s private investigator. It is against the law for the insurance company and insurance adjuster to record a telephone conversation without your permission.
What is the point of the recorded statement? After all, what does the insurance company and adjuster want from a recorded statement that it cannot get from written correspondence? Simply, the insurance company and adjuster know that verbal statements are not as concise as written statements. Insurance adjusters have years of training and experience at taking recorded statements. Questions are asked in a manner to shape your answers. Critical information can be manipulated, or avoided. Often, the recorded statement will be taken on the spur of the moment when you have not had a chance to organize your thoughts you may be nervous or you may be unprepared. Certainly you will be at a distinct disadvantage and you may unknowingly do serious damage to your claim.
This is a very common and very important question. Many people think that the insurance company for the person who hit you must pay your medical bills as the bills are incurred or as the bills become due. Common sense may seem to indicate that the insurance company should pay your medical bills as the bills become due but that is not how it works. The insurance company for the person who hit you does not have to pay your medical bills when the bills become due. In fact, the insurance company may decide that not only will the insurance company not pay your bills as they become due; the insurance company may decide that it will not even pay all of your medical bills at all.
So, what do you do as you have medical bills coming in and piling up because someone crashed into your car? If you have healthcare insurance, follow the requirements of your health insurance plan and use your health insurance to pay for your medical expenses. Even though your health insurance pays your bills, this does not put an end to the payment of your bills. In reality your health insurance is only making a loan to you. In most cases, you will have to repay your health insurance before you receive any money from the insurance company for the person who hit you.
You may have other options. If you were hit by a commercial vehicle, there may be medical payment coverage available to you. This coverage is often limited, but every little bit helps. Your own insurance policy on your car may have medical payment coverage. You or your lawyer should check.
What can you do if you do not have health insurance and the insurance company for the person who hit you won’t pay the medical bills? You should talk with a lawyer right away; you may be in need of medical treatment. This may be one of the limited times where a referral to a doctor by a lawyer is necessary.
If you have been injured in a car crash you are going to be going up against an insurance company. The insurance adjusters have years of sophisticated training and experience. You, on the other hand, may have never been in a car crash and have never had to deal with an insurance adjuster. We are sick and tired of insurance companies taking advantage of people before they have had a chance to talk to an attorney. Insurance companies often pressure people into making fast settlements for insignificant amounts before the people realize or know the extent of their injuries. Skilled adjusters convince people to accept settlement for amounts far below the true value of the claim. For years one major insurance company even encouraged people not to hire a lawyer. Even if you do not need a lawyer, you should be armed with this valuable information right from the start of your claim. We wrote this book to arm you with information and to level the playing field.
We also wrote this book so you can make an informed and educated decision if you have to hire a lawyer. We are sick and tired of outrageous lawyer advertising where lawyers with reputations for handling hundreds of cases at a time make outrageous promises that can’t be kept and who evaluate car accidents to “cash, cash, cash.” We are particularly sick and tired of the lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits. Frivolous lawsuits harm everybody. They clog the courts and delay real claims from getting to court. Frivolous lawsuits also cast an unwarranted cloud of suspicion over the legitimate, real cases.
Time is another reason we wrote this book. Every personal injury attorney we know of offers “free consultations.” Those attorneys are quite anxious to get you into their offices and have you sign a retainer agreement. Hopefully during that “free consultation” you would be provided with some of the information that we provide in this book. Sadly, many attorneys do not even provide a little portion of the information provided in this book. The hiring of an attorney for your case is too important to make without sufficient information or for you to settle for the first attorney who had an immediate opening to meet with you.
This method of talking to you and providing you with information save us time. By packing tons of information into this book, it saves us hours of time that it would take each and every day just to talk to all of the potential clients who call. We cannot and do not accept every case. Each year we turn down many good cases that simply do not meet our case selection criteria. So rather than spending all day on the phone or in “free consultations” or having to cut people like you short on the phone, we wrote this book to tell you what you need to know so you can make informed decisions about your case. Even if we do not accept your case, we want you to be educated about the process so that you do not become a victim to the insurance companies.