If you’ve been in an accident you will get a phone call from your insurance company. There are two insurance companies involved; the victim’s insurance company and the insurance company of the person that hit you. Relative to your insurance, you have a duty to cooperate with them. What the insurance company is going to try to do is verify who’s at fault in the accident, and they’ll ask you. If there are other witnesses, please report that. They’ll gather that to determine for sure if it’s your fault or the other side’s fault. They will give you some instruction on how to have your car fixed, where to take it, how many estimates to get and then they will ultimately make you an offer on the property damage.
If the estimate is $5,000, they’ll pay you $5,000. If it’s a total loss, then they’ll look up the value of your car, given its condition, given its mileage, given its age and make you an offer on that. If your policy has Med-Pay and that’s an endorsement on your policy, that typically will pay your bills up to $5,000 regardless of who’s at fault. The client or the attorney needs to find out if you have Med-Pay and then the insurance company will reimburse for medical bills up to that number. If the other insurance company calls you, I would recommend that you do not talk to them, particularly if you’re intending on getting an attorney.
I would just tell them that you don’t feel like talking, or if you have an attorney just say, “I’m not talking to you. Here’s my attorney,” and give them the attorney’s name and number. Insurance companies will tell you things like, “You have to give us a statement!” That’s not true. You don’t have to. What they’re really saying is we want this. The opposite insurance company, the at-fault insurance company, they want to start gathering information and they hope you make mistakes. They hope you’re inconsistent, they hope you lie to them and then they bust you on it later and then you get less money. I would not talk to them and I would not give them any statement.
Due To My Injuries I’m No Longer Able to Work the Same Kind of Job I Have Been Working throughout My Career, What’s Going to Happen in that Case?
It seems like an easy question but it’s not. Your prior medical history is important. If you’ve had back problems for 20 years, then you have an accident where somebody rolls into you at two miles an hour and you make the claim that your back is aggravated, that’s a tough case. The doctor says you’ll never be able to work again, but that’s much harder to prove because it’s all related to this small accident. Same scenario and you get hit at 50 miles an hour; it’s much easier to connect the dots. Your pre-existing medical history is important. The type of work you’re doing is important. If you’re an attorney that sits behind his desk all day, maybe having a bad knee doesn’t affect your line of work, whereas if you’re a carpenter or a roofer and you’re up and down ladders all day, a bad knee would affect your work.
Your age is important, your physical condition is important, but if everything falls into place, if the injury is related and if indeed you can’t return to work, then you are entitled to that as a wage loss. One little caveat is you have a duty to mitigate your damages, so if I’m a construction person and I’m making 70 grand a year and now I can’t do that anymore but I could work as an estimator or not doing heavy work and make 50 grand a year, then I have a duty to go do that. The differential between what I was making of $70,000 and what I’m now making of 50 is my actual loss; in that example, $20,000. If you’re going to work another 10 years, it’s 10 years times $20,000.
What we typically do as attorneys is we hire life care planners who come in and look at the medical records and they put together the cost of future care. We hire economists who calculate the present cost of not working for the X number of years, loss of benefits, loss of insurance etc. and we prove the case through these experts. They are entitled to it but a lot of work goes into it.
Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Something that You See Clients For as Far as Injuries Go?
Yes! There are two types of Carpal Tunnel, there is the repetitive use injury that a cashier at Safeway might have from sliding products in front of the scanner all day using the same repetitive motion of the wrist. Often they’ll develop Carpal Tunnel and that has nothing to do with the car accident. Carpal Tunnel can be traumatically induced. You can have an accident and when you’re slammed from behind, the flexion on your wrist on the steering wheel can injure that. We would prove that through a doctor and we would prove that through the lack of symptoms before the accident.
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