Monthly Archives: June 2009

Personal Injury 101 For Clients – Part I

 

1. What is the most important thing for me to do after my injury?

 

The most important thing for you to do, quite simply, is to recover from your injury. The law requires injured people to “mitigate their damages.” In other words, the law requires you to do that which is necessary to improve your physical condition and recover from your injury.

 

For you this may mean some, or all, of the following steps:

 

a. Do not miss appointments with your doctor. Stay in touch with your doctor and be certain to maintain your appointments. If you have to cancel, notify the doctor with as much notice as possible. The words “no show” on a doctor’s record sheet can be used against you at the time of settlement or trial.

 

b. Attend physical therapy sessions as prescribed. Your physician or hospital may prescribe therapy to facilitate recovery from your injury. Such a procedure is often helpful in many types of injuries including strains, sprains and other so-called “soft tissue” injuries. If physical therapy is prescribed, be sure to keep your appointments and participate actively in the process. Again, if you have to cancel an appointment, be sure to call, but try to avoid cancellation as much as possible.

 

c. Do what your doctor tells you to do. If your physician prescribes certain medications, therapy exercises, or limitations on activities, be sure to follow your doctor’s orders. Failure to follow your doctor’s advice can be used against you when it comes time to settle your case, or can be used against you in court if your claim proceeds to litigation.

 

d. Follow your doctor’s advice with respect to work and leisure activities. If your physician advises you to rest, stay home from work, or avoid certain activities, it is important that you follow such advice. If you resist your doctor’s advice and do activities that have been limited, it will not only prevent a speedy recovery, but could also affect the legal aspects of your case. Even though staying out of work may have an impact financially, it is important that you follow such advice so that your recovery will be enhanced. Your attorney will attempt to recover lost earnings.

 

2. How do I pay my medical bills?

 

Your lawyer will discuss the payment of your medical bills in detail with you. In summary, your medical bills may be paid by one of the following methods:

 

a. Your own health insurance from your employment benefits package.

b. Your own health insurance that you may have paid for personally.

c. Health insurance obtained by your spouse for your benefit or by your parents if you are under age and living with such parents.

d. Medical payments insurance coverage from your own automobile policy if you were driving your automobile and were involved in an automobile collision.

e. Medical payments insurance coverage from the person you were riding with if you were a passenger in an automobile that has automobile insurance coverage.

f. Your own personal funds if you were not insured and are able to pay medical bills as they are incurred.

g. Workers’ compensation insurance if your injury occurred while you were working on the job and the injury occurred as a result of your employment.

h. The liability insurance coverage for the person, persons or company who caused your injuries. Such insurance coverage will most likely be paid at the time of settlement rather than during the period that you incur such medical bills.

i. Other possible sources.

 

Depending on the nature of your case, your medical bills may be covered by any of the above possibilities. If there is no insurance coverage, your bills will be saved by you and your lawyer, and will be paid at a later date when and if your case settles.

 

3. Will the doctors, hospitals and other medical facilities wait for payment if I am unable to pay my bills as they are incurred?

 

In most cases where there is no immediate method to pay medical bills as they are incurred, many doctors, hospitals, and other medical facilities will wait to be paid for their services when the case is finally resolved by way of settlement or verdict in court. It is important to let medical providers know early in the process if you have no insurance or financial means to pay medical bills as they are incurred.

 

4. How does my lawyer make sure that the doctors and medical facilities will got paid?

 

Most lawyers have a policy of withholding money from the settlement or court verdict to pay doctors and medical facilities. Many doctors and medical facilities require that the patient/client sign a form (usually called a subrogation or lien form) which allows the attorney to withhold enough money to pay medical bills directly from the insurance settlement proceeds.

 

5. Why won’t the insurance company for the person or company who caused my injuries automatically pay my medical bills as they occur?

 

Most insurance companies for the tortfeasor (the person, persons or company who caused your injuries) will not automatically pay medical bills as they occur. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that they do not want to spend a substantial amount of money for medical bills and then be faced with an unreasonable or excessive demand at the time of final settlement. In other words, they do not want to expend a substantial sum of money on medical bills and then be faced with the chance of defending a lawsuit. Secondly, most insurance companies want to conclude or settle the claim with one sum of money. Therefore, most liability insurance companies will wait for the letter of demand from your attorney and then try to conclude the case all at once with one payment.

 

6. How do I keep track of all my bills?

 

One of the most important things for you to do is to keep an accurate record of your medical bills. This is how you do it:

 

a. Ask for a medical bill each time you see a doctor or facility.

 

Maintain a record of your visits and make sure that you obtain a medical bill for each visit to your doctor, hospital, physical therapist or medical facility.

 

b. Save all prescription bills.

 

Be sure to save copies of your prescriptions and drugstore charges for medicine that you purchase as a result of your injury.

 

c. Keep a separate chart with dates, amounts of medical bills, and purchases of medication.

 

Maintain a separate record which has the date of the medical service or purchase of medication, the amount charged, and how the bill was paid (by insurance, your own personal funds, etc.). This requirement is very important because it will be your actual record of medical bills incurred as a result of your injury.

 

d. Be sure that your lawyer receives a copy of each medical bill, prescription bill, or other bill related to your injury.

 

It is important for your lawyer to receive copies of all your medical bills as well as a copy of your medical bill summary when your case is ready for settlement. Even though your lawyer may receive copies of bills directly from the medical facilities, a double-check process will assure that your claim settles for the maximum value. If your lawyer does not have a record of all your medical bills, your case may be settled for much less than its actual value.

 

e. Keep a record of medical bills even if they are processed through a health insurance carrier.

 

Even if your medical bills are paid by a health insurance company or your employer, you must still maintain copies for yourself and be sure to get copies to your lawyer.


Automobile Accident Statistics and Injury Prevention

Between the years of 2000 and 2005 there were over 6 million auto accidents in the United States. In each of those years approximately 2.9 million people were injured and over 42,000 people were killed. About 115 people are killed every day in vehicle crashes in the United States. In 2007 there were approximately 300 million people in the United States. Of the people killed in automobile accidents in 2007 approximately 20% were passengers. In 2007 approximately 5,000 people were killed in motorcycle accidents. Also, in 2007 approximately 4,600 pedestrians were killed in accidents involving motor vehicles. There were 255 million vehicles registered and approximately 200 million licensed drivers.

The motorists advocacy group AAA reports that accidents cost $162 billion each year. The cost of auto accidents to each American is more than $1,000 a year. Also, according to AAA car accidents involving drivers 15 to 17 years of age cost society more than 34 billion in medical expenses, property damage and related costs in the year 2006. 15-18 year old drivers were involved in 974,000 crashes that injured 406,427 people and killed 2,541. According to the Center for Disease Control motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens, accounting for 36% of all deaths in this age group.

So, what can be done to protect motorists from injury and death caused by motor vehicle accidents? The answers to this question are as follows:

  1. Don’t’ drink and drive. Don’t ride in a car when the driver has been drinking.
  2. Require your teenagers to enroll in driver safety programs.
  3. Drive large vehicles. Full sized passenger cars weighing over 4000 pounds have a lower injury and fatality rates.
  4. Lower your speed. Speed kills.
  5. Practice defensive driving.
  6. Stricter enforcement of traffic laws.
  7. Make drivers who cause accidents criminally and civilly responsible.
  8. Lower the center of gravity on Vans, SUVs, and pick-ups to prevent roll over accidents.
  9. Incorporate some form of roll cages in vehicles.
  10. Incorporation of more safety glass in vehicles.
  11. Restricted licenses for the elderly and those with poor vision.
  12. Better highway design. Fix the bad roads before we build new ones.
  13. Raise insurance rates for at-fault drivers and lower them for safe drivers.
  14. Better DMV reporting of traffic infractions to insurance companies.
  15. Use of and incorporation of safety equipment such as seat belts, air bags, side curtain air bags, crumple zones and energy absorbing bumpers.
  16. Don’t drive if you’re tired.
  17. Raise the driving age to 19.
  18. Require drug and alcohol testing for all traffic infractions.

 – John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.