How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Personal Injury Case?

An accident whether it be a trucking, auto or fall case is not a pleasant thing to experience. It comes unexpectedly often with devastating consequences. Medical bills can pile up, income can be lost, and you can be put in a desperate financial situation. The insurance looks at your case through different lens. They want to settle your case as quick as possible so they can move onto the next case. They often pressure you to settle now with promises that they will pay your medical bills and throw a few hundred dollars at you to sweeten the pot. Their promises are usually hollow and have many strings attached to them and not in your best interests if you are genuinely hurt. The payment of medical bills often is conditioned on a period of time or a certain amount that the insurance company thinks is reasonable, and often you are left holding medical bills that still need to be paid. Insurance companies do not care. You are a statistic to them or an avenue for a bonus for an adjuster if the claim is closed quickly. Don’t fall for this trap.

It is usually never in your best interest to try to push for a quick settlement in your personal injury claim because this leads to taking far less for your injuries than you are entitled to. It is often difficult to hold out and be patient in your personal injury claim, but it is the best strategy to get fair compensation. It can be a burden financially and mentally to endure through the claims process, but you must if you want justice for your injuries. A good personal injury attorney will not delay in his representation of you, but understands certain things must happen before the claim can be submitted with a settlement demand.

  • You must finishing treating with all your medical providers. If you try to short-circuit the process by not showing up for appointments or discharging yourself from treatment, it will dramatically effect the value of your claim. You are not a doctor and you must trust your doctor’s advice. Do what your doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor tells you to do. Do not slack off if you want to get better. If you do not treat or discharge yourself, the insurance company will think you are not injured or your injuries are not severe. Treatment varies by the severity of the injury. Insurance companies try to pigeon hole treatment into a set amount of time or a set amount of bills. This is not true as it varies for each person. A sprain/strain injury could take 5 weeks for some of treatment or 6 months of treatment.
  • Make sure you receive treatment for all of your physical and mental complaints. This also entails getting to the right specialist for your injuries. A good personal injury attorney will be able to help you to make sure you get to the right specialist and medical providers for your injuries. All physical complaints need to be checked out and treated if necessary. Not getting to the right specialists can undermine the value of your case.
  • Document all loss of income or loss wages due to your injuries. This can include tax returns, W-2s and letters from your employer. Also letters from your medical providers taking you off work. You need proper documentation for the insurance company to consider this loss.
  • Be truthful about your injuries and do not exaggerate or have selective memory. It is not credible if after the accident every ailment you have experienced is suddenly caused by the accident. If you exaggerate, it hurts your claim and makes the insurance company question your motivations in the case. Be truthful with your treating medical providers and make sure you give them an accurate history. Often pre-existing injuries can be aggravated and this is still a compensable injury.
  • Keep copies of all bills, prescription expenses and out of pocket expenses and provide them immediately to your attorney.
  • Be patient with the process. If you try to push the claim thru quickly or become desperate for money, it can dramatically affect the amount the insurance company offers on the claim. Finish treatment and be patient. A good personal injury attorney will not cause delays, but keep the process moving.

Once you are done treating, your personal injury attorney needs to act quickly and not delay. All of the medical records and bills from the remaining providers must be requested immediately. The medical providers have 30 days to provide this information, but often provide it much quicker. Your attorney and his staff must keep up with each provider to get the records and bills as expeditiously as possible. Provide you attorney with all documentation concerning your wage loss claim including paycheck stubs and or letters from the company showing the time missed because of the accident. If the attorney needs to request this information, let them know immediately so there is no delay. Often it is quicker if you get this information directly from your employer.

If you have had a history of pre-existing conditions, it is important to let your attorney know as usually the insurance company will request past medical records going back 3-5 years to explore these issues and what injuries were caused by the accident. Do not be offended as when you make a personal injury claim, your medical condition becomes at issue and this is normal procedure if you have had problems before with the same body area that was injured. A good personal injury lawyer will request these past records before the insurance company wants to see them as this will expediate an offer on your claim. Also if you need future medical treatment, this should be documented by the medical provider which should include the future cost.

Once all of your medical records, bills and lost income information is received and you have reached maximum medical improvement, a pre-suit demand is submitted to the insurance company. The insurance company usually takes 30-60 days to evaluate this information and will then make a pre-suit offer. There initial offer is usually low and is negotiated up until they make their final pre-suit offer. This offer is evaluated in the context of what a jury may award on the case and if it is reasonably in that ballpark. Bills can be negotiated down and liens reduced and you will have a net amount you walk away with. At Rowe Law Offices, I will not recommend a settlement where I am getting more on my fee than the client is walking away with. This will entail at times reducing the fee if it is necessary to settle the case. If you decide to reject the offer, you must also look at the cost of litigating the claim in court that can become expensive with filing fees, expert witness fees, deposition costs and demonstrative evidence costs. Unfortunately filing a lawsuit is not free as there are litigation costs associated with it that are additional to the attorney fee. Although sometimes the offer is so low, that filing suit is your only alternative. Often the offer is at or below medical bills which leaves no alternative but to file suit. A good personal injury attorney will discuss your options with you and the risks and benefits of pre-suit settlement or filing suit.

If suit is filed, the insurance company hires a defense attorney to defend the claim, and the suit proceeds into the discovery phase where you will be required to answer written questions on your claim and have your deposition taken which is a statement under oath where you answer questions by the defense attorney. This process can take 6-9 months on average. The court will order mediation before the case goes to trial and many cases settle in the mediation process. A certified mediator conducts a mediation session with the parties, the insurance company and the mediator present and offers and demand are exchanged in an attempt of settlement. Mediation is usually conducted a year or more after the suit is filed. Sometimes the parties may agree to conduct a pre-suit mediation also. If mediation is unsuccessful, then you have the right to have your case tried in front of a jury and to let the jury decide its worth. Jury trials can go either way and carry a certain amount of risk expense that you must be aware of. Furthermore a jury trial further pushes your case out and may not be conducted until a year and a half to two years or more after suit is filed.

Sometimes when a lawsuit is filed, a new set of eyes with the insurance company gets assigned to the claim, and the new adjuster may call and offer more money before the case proceeds into litigation. This does not always happen, but it provides another good opportunity to settle before incurring further costs of litigation.

This is just a basic outline of the personal injury case, but there are more details that a good personal injury lawyer will discuss with you. It is important your personal injury attorney communicates with you each step of the way so you can make fully informed decisions on your case. If you have been injured in an accident and want to consult an attorney for free about your case, call Rowe Law Offices now to discuss your case.

 

Florida PIP Law in an Auto Crash Case

Personal Injury Protection, or “No-Fault” car insurance, is mandated by the state of Florida for all drivers to carry. PIP pays for injuries you sustain in an accident regardless of who was at-fault in the accident. Just like other states that mandate PIP however, Florida has its own set of special laws and regulations. Under Florida law it is required that every vehicle owner and driver on the road have $10,000 worth of PIP insurance coverage.PIP benefits are paid by your own insurance company if you are in an accident. Florida PIP covers medical costs, lost wages and death benefits. 19,000 of PIP coverage can be used up quickly so it is important to make sure you have adequate uninsured and underinsured coverage, as many drivers have no insurance or just the minimum coverage of $10,000 per accident.

Medical Costs

Most medical costs will be covered by PIP with the exception of popular, but not widely accepted practices such as acupuncture. In other states, PIP will generally cover the injuries of anyone in your household, but in Florida you can choose whether you want your PIP to cover just yourself or other residents in your household. The following are eligible for a PIP claim:

  • Medical Services and Medication Surgical Services and Hospital Expenses
  • Rehab Costs
  • Diagnostic Services
  • Ambulatory Services

What sets apart Florida from other states is that only 80% of your medical costs will be covered by PIP. So if you have injuries which cost $10,000, PIP will only pay for $8,000 worth of that. Furthermore, if your injury is not considered an emergency, you will actually only be entitled to $2,500 worth of benefits. If you have a good health insurance policy, it should be able to take care of the rest of the costs, but be sure it will cover car accident injuries.

Florida PIP and Economic Benefits

If you are injured in an accident, and are disabled, Florida PIP will pay for 60% of your lost wages, subject to a $10,000 limit. This payment also includes services you would normally do, but now cannot because of the accident. These services include daily chores like doing laundry, cleaning the house, taking care of pets, etc.

Death Benefits of Florida PIP

If the policyholder were killed, PIP would pay for their funeral and burial expenses in addition to the benefits listed above. You, or your next of kin, are entitled to $5,000 for those associated costs.

When and How to File a PIP Claim in Florida

Florida has strict rules to follow when filing a claim for PIP. The most important is that treatment for any injuries must happen within two weeks of the car accident to be eligible for PIP reimbursement. Your claim will not be accepted after 2 weeks. Due to a high incidence of insurance fraud in the state of Florida, your insurer has up to 60 days to investigate your claim for any falsehood, but must pay for your damages within 30 days, even if there is suspicion. If your case is not straightforward, or your insurance company is giving you issues, it may be a good idea to get a personal injury lawyer to ensure you get your payment. In the meantime, you should keep a log of all of your medical expenses following the accident.

For the work loss benefits, you will need to submit a “Wage and Salary” verification that is filled out by your employer. The verification documents your wages in the 13 weeks prior to the accident. A lawyer might help ensure your employer fills out the verification in a timely manner. You may also be required to get a note from your physician detailing how you are disabled.

Florida PIP Law Still Gives You a Right to Sue

No-fault states like Florida institute PIP laws to reduce the amount of people suing each other over damages. Most no-fault states, including Florida, only allow drivers to sue when the injuries are considered severely disfiguring and/or permanent or resulted in death. Florida however, also allows drivers to sue even if the injury is not severe, so long as the medical costs exceed $10,000. So if you are injured in an accident, which results in $20,000 worth of hospital bills, you are allowed to sue the other driver for the remaining $10,000 not covered by your PIP. You may also sue them for any emotional pain and suffering you think the injuries have caused you.

Considering the average hospital stay after an accident is around $60,000 it is probably a good idea to have a good amount of bodily injury liability coverage on your policy. While Florida does not make that coverage mandatory, if you were to get sued for excessive medical costs, the other driver can sue against your bodily injury insurance, rather than you directly.

Why You Should Also Consider Adding Medical Payments Coverage

Medical Payments or MedPay is essentially the same type of insurance as PIP except it does not have economic benefits. It may be worth having on your policy in Florida because the limits are quite low. MedPay can add an extra $5,000 worth of coverage for around $100 per year for our sample 30 year old driver. Additionally, MedPay can also help pay for the 20% of your costs that PIP won’t cover, if your health insurance won’t cover it as well. MedPay can also help pay down the deductible on your PIP.

If you have been injured in a Florida accident, and want to know your legal rights under PIP and compensation for your injuries and pain and suffering, call Rowe Law Offices for a free consultation.