Guide For Personal Injury Clients
Have you been in a car accident or other incident resulting from someone else’s carelessness? Here’s everything you need to know about your personal injury claim.
5 Mistakes Clients Typically Make
When it comes to personal injury claims, staying on top of your medical care is paramount. Here are five mistakes to avoid:
- Not seeing a doctor when experiencing pain following an accident
- Not following a doctor’s instructions
- Not keeping doctor appointments
- Failing to inform a doctor about related medical problems you had before the accident (when being treated or examined by a doctor, don’t make any incorrect statements about any prior injuries or accidents you have in your medical history)
- Talking about the case with people other than your doctors and your attorney (don’t give any written, recorded, or oral statements to anyone about accidents or injuries without first consulting with your attorney)
Retaining an Attorney
Retaining us is easy and won’t cost you any money up-front. We’ll obtain general information from you regarding your case and provide you with guidance about what you should and should not do. We’ll then:
- Ask you to sign authorization forms so we can obtain your medical records and any other information that’s pertinent to your case
- Notify the responsible party and/or their insurance company that you’ve retained an attorney
- Request your medical chart and billing information from the doctors and hospitals where you’ve sought care.
What To Provide Your Attorney
- Photos of the accident and/or scene
- Photos of vehicle damage (before you get it repaired)
- Descriptions of medical items you receive from your doctor(s), such as pill bottles, casts, and braces
- Receipts itemizing any expenses you’ve incurred as a result of the accident
Communicating With Your Attorney
- Report any change to your address, phone number, or employment
- Report any changes within your job, such as your duties, salary, or anything else that’s work-related
- Provide information about any extensive medical treatment or hospitalizations
- Provide any new information that might have a bearing on the case
Handling Your Medical Care
Communicating With Your Doctor
It’s important to follow your doctor’s advice and make all of your appointments. Missing appointments delay your recovery and can harm your claim.
Make sure your doctor has all of the information they need regarding your condition and whether you continue to be in pain. Your doctor will record entries about your medical status during each visit.
When you retain us as your attorney, we aim to recover compensation for the pain and suffering you’ve endured as a result of an accident. If you’re in pain or can’t work but don’t report those things to your doctor, the insurance company, and, ultimately, the jury may not believe you when you tell them those things after the fact. So, be open and straightforward in your communications with your medical treatment providers.
How Your Medical Bills Will Be Covered
Your attorney will try to arrange to have your medical bills paid by your insurance company while your case is pending. For example, you might have a medical payments provision as part of your automobile insurance policy. Workers’ compensation insurance may also cover the bills (if applicable).
You’ll want to send all of your medical bills directly to your attorney so they can make sure the correct insurance company receives them. You will still be responsible for co-pays as your treatment progresses. However, we will recover them for you later from the at-fault party’s insurer as a component of your damages.
Medical Lien (When There’s No Insurance)
Even if you don’t have health insurance, you can get the care you need for your injuries. But your doctor will expect to be paid at the conclusion of your case. In these instances, doctors typically require written confirmation that they’ll be paid from the proceeds you receive. Colorado law allows doctors to render treatment on a lien against the proceeds of your case. If you’re asked to sign a ‘lien letter,’ contact your attorney first so they can evaluate the agreement.
Subrogation is where your insurance company pays for the expenses arising from your injury then attempts to recoup some or all of the money it paid from the liable party’s insurer. Your insurance company is typically required to pay its share of the attorney’s fees and costs involved in recovering those funds. It’s handled on a case-by-case basis, however, and federal law may limit our ability to reduce subrogation interests of self-funded health plans. Either way, we’re in your corner and will work with you to maximize your recovery.
What You Should Know About Your Claim
You May Be Watched (And Filmed) By Investigators
Insurance companies typically conduct detailed investigations for personal injury claims. Investigators will look into your background and may surveil your home and record your activities. You might be photographed or recorded on video.
Investigators are looking for indications that you’re not injured or not hurt as badly as you claim. They may be looking to see if you’re lifting heavy objects, for example, or otherwise engaging in strenuous physical activity. Despite those efforts, it’s important to note that in many cases, photographs and videos taken during surveillance have proved useful in corroborating a client’s claim because they actually demonstrate the client’s injury.
If you believe you’re under surveillance, contact your attorney. Try to avoid the camera if possible, and never exaggerate your limitations or otherwise pose for the lens.
Bankruptcy Can Impact Your Personal Injury Case
If you’re considering filing bankruptcy, it’s important to know that you might lose all your rights in your personal injury case. A bankruptcy court has the power to take over your case, settle it, and give the proceeds to your creditors. Contact your attorney before you file to ensure you understand the ramifications.
How Your Case’s Value Is Determined
Every case is unique—there’s no formula that will provide a specific value for your case.
For serious injuries, the value that’s ultimately determined is typically based on the amount of insurance coverage available, the nature and extent of your injuries (plus duration), and an assessment of liability. It’s your attorney’s duty to you to seek fair and just compensation for your injuries.
Colorado law allows recovery based on the following criteria:
- The nature and extent of the injury
- Whether the injury is permanent
- The amount of disability
- Medical expenses (both already incurred and future expenses)
- Mileage to and from a doctor or hospital
- Wage loss (past and future)
- Property damage (including your vehicle and other possessions)
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium for your spouse (the loss of love, companionship, comfort, etc.)
Be Patient—Claims Can Take Time
While we like to get involved early and assist our clients on the liability issues that confront them, your case may take months or years to resolve. Completing your treatment for accident-related injuries is usually the first step (unless your damages clearly exceed the available insurance policy limits.
To proceed with your claim, we have to first obtain the reports from your doctors that describe your medical condition and prognosis. If we try to settle before we have that information, you could lose money that you’re entitled to recover. It can take doctors some time to provide this information to us, and we may be forced to make repeated requests.
Patience will be required. We will work diligently to resolve your case as quickly as possible while ensuring that full value is obtained.
Will I Need to File a Lawsuit?
Sometimes to obtain fair recovery, a lawsuit will, unfortunately, be necessary. This is a legal decision that we will help you make. Settlement is always a possibility, and it’s important to note that only a small percentage of lawsuits that are filed ultimately go to trial.
What About Mediation?
Sometimes parties in a dispute will agree on mediation. They’ll meet with an independent third person (usually an experienced lawyer or retired judge) who can help them arrive at a settlement. It’s an informal, non-binding process that’s less expensive than a trial but may provide valuable insights as to the strengths and weaknesses in a case and what settlement opportunities are available.
What If I Was Hit by an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver?
You might still be eligible for benefits under your auto policy, a resident relative’s policy, or the policy covering the vehicle you were in when the accident occurred. Auto policies typically have a provision for uninsured motorists. In most cases, you’ll be able to collect lost wages, money for medical bills, and compensation for pain and suffering just like you would from the at-fault driver’s policy. Importantly, Colorado law prohibits insurance companies from raising rates when you pursue an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim because the accident was not your fault.
What About Claims Against the Government?
There are special rules involved in a vehicle accident or other event involving the government (such as a state, city, county, local government, or the U.S. government). It’s important to file a Notice of Claim with the appropriate government agency as soon as possible following your injury. Contact your attorney immediately if you believe the government is involved in your case.