Our firm is expert at providing legal services to people who have been injured in automobile, motorcycle, premises, or any other kind of accident resulting in injury or death.
We have represented injured clients and estates for many years and have the experience and know-how to work on your behalf with insurance companies and their lawyers to obtain for you the best resolution possible in your case.
I’ve been in an accident, what should I do now?
Assuming that the accident was your fault, you are still able to obtain medical treatment for you injuries which will be covered by your insurance company under the Personal Injury Protection section of your policy. So long as your insurer believes that the services you are seeking are reasonable and necessary as a result of the accident, they are bound to pay those expenses up to your level of coverage.
In the event that the accident was not your fault or you were perhaps a passenger in someone else’s vehicle, you are entitled to recover for not only medical expenses, but also for noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages consist of compensation for pain, suffering, anxiety and interference with your life.
There are categories of economic and noneconomic damages that are encountered in automobile/vehicular accidents, including pedestrian accidents. These include loss of earning capacity, loss of earnings, future medical expenses and permanency of your disabilities from the accident. You may assume that it will be the job of your insurance company or the insurance company’s lawyers to minimize these damages as much as possible. To do so means that their “cost per claim” goes down. The “cost per claim” is the benchmark by which insurance adjusters are judged.
You may view your insurance company as your friend; you will stop doing that as soon as you make a claim. It is true that your agent may be someone that you know and have regard for, may even be your friend. However, insurance adjusters are paid to minimize the amount that you receive from your own insurance. The same principal applies to adjusters for insurance companies for other drivers.
The most important thing for you to do if you have been injured is to get better. In doing that you will be consulting with medical service providers. These will include medical doctors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, pain consultants and others in the healthcare industry who can help you get over your condition. From a legal perspective, it is best for you to be medically stationary, that means you are not going to get better or worse, before making efforts to resolve the claim. Since you want to obtain and maximize your recovery for injuries from your claim, one of the first important things to do is to retain an attorney. You want to hire someone who has experience and know-how.
Most lawyers will meet with you at no charge and some will try to make you think that that is somehow unusual. It is not so. Any attorney who handles a personal injury case will do so on a contingent basis. This means that the attorney fee is dependent upon the amount that is recovered for you. Lawyers do not charge a fee on recovery of your PIP expenditures, that is your medical expenses, unless your own insurance carrier denies those expenses.
A good lawyer can help you work through these foreign paths in order to assist you in arriving at an appropriate conclusion to your case.
The at-fault person either has no insurance or only has minimum limits. What now?
A common misunderstanding is that “full coverage” is all a person needs. Sometimes to save money folks will reduce their liability limits. Not smart, for more than one reason. If you are responsible for someone else’s injuries, you want to have enough coverage to protect yourself and your assets from large claims. If you have minimum limits, get more.
If the at-fault driver has low limits that don’t compensate for your injuries, you can pursue your own coverage to the extent that your limits exceed the other party’s limits. For example, if the person who hits you has $25,000 maximum liability limits per person and you have $100,000 maximum, generally you will have $75,000 additional limits available to compensate your claim. This is called an “underinsured motorist claim”. If the other driver has no insurance, it is called an “uninsured motorist claim”.
This area of the law is complicated and you will need an attorney well-versed in insurance law to help you navigate these waters.
The insurance company wants to get my recorded statement. Should I give them one?
This question has two answers. If it is your company who is attempting to take your statement, you are bound by contract to give it. Nevertheless, it is wise to be accompanied by an attorney, usually at his office, when giving such a statement. This is another reason to obtain an attorney in the early stages after your accident.
It is well to remember that there is no insurance company that is on your side. Not even your own.
If the other insurance company wants to interview you, you should politely decline and advise the adjuster that you will be obtaining the services of an attorney.
What are some of the steps in the process of obtaining compensation for injuries?
This question has several answers. The first step in the process, generally, is going through your period of medical treatment, obtaining clearance from your doctor or chiropractor, and getting well. Sometimes injuries have lingering effects. Since most states have a statute of limitations that applies to the time in which you can bring a case, it is often necessary to file a lawsuit prior to the time that your injury has reached a point of maximum medical improvement.
The second step is evaluation of the claim for purposes of settlement. We will work with you to determine what we believe is the best possible result from your claim and make a proposal to the insurance company for settlement in that amount. It is extremely difficult to make any prediction in advance of obtaining all medical records in any given case.
Subsequent to making a proposal for settlement, the case will either settle with the insurance company or, if not, it will be filed in the court system and go through the process of judicial determination before a judge and jury.
What is the best way to make sure I get a fair compensation for my personal injuries?
There are certain steps that will help you get the best results from your personal injury claim.
1. Report all of your complaints. Don’t ignore any symptom. Stiffness, headache or dizziness could be early warnings of a more serious problem. Even if you have had similar symptoms before, discuss them with your doctor. Prior conditions can be severely aggravated by an accident.
2. Keep records. Keep anything that can confirm the extent of your injuries. Photographs of wounds, such as lacerations and bruises, confirm that you were hurt. Make sure you get photographs of the damage to your car. Pictures of the other driver’s car, skid marks on the road, and other damaged property are important also. Remember that accidents are cleaned up. You don’t want your only proof of the accident to be a police report (which you want to have).
3. Get witness names and contact information. It’s amazing how stories can change. Even if the other driver admits that they were at fault, get the name, address and phone number of anyone who witnessed the accident.
4. Start keeping a journal. From the time you are in an accident, start keeping a journal. Record details about your injuries, treatment and progress. Also express your feelings about things that are happening around you. If your case goes to court, your journal will be a powerful resource for defending the fact that your injury caused real harm.
5. Don’t stop treatment. Try to tell a jury or an insurance company that the reason you stopped treatment wasn’t connected with your feeling better. They may not believe you. The only proof you have that you were suffering symptoms is your continuing need for treatment. If finances due to lack of insurance are an issue many doctors will continue with your treatment when they know you have legal representation.
Make sure that your lawyer is familiar with all of your treating physicians and chiropractors. It will be necessary for us to obtain your records when the case is evaluated. Toward that end, we will be obtaining Authorizations for Release of Information.
If you are fortunate, this accident will be the only accident that you have. So it isn’t as though you will be building a lot of knowledge from experience before going into the process. It is absolutely essential that you have an attorney representing you at all stages of the seeking of compensation for your injuries and damages resulting from accidents.
How long will this take?
It is impossible to generalize with respect to the amount of time it will take to complete the processing of your claim. There are many variables, such as your healing time and the willingness of the insurance company to deal fairly.
It is possible that litigation will be necessary in order to bring the matter to a conclusion. You will be advised each step of the way as to your options and our best advice.
How much will I get?
There is no such thing as an average case. Each case is different. It is our job to obtain for you the best possible result in the shortest possible time.
Medical and Legal Negligence
Warren Allen LLP has the expertise to represent you in a claim involving medical negligence. We also have the expertise and ability to represent you involving legal negligence.
These are specialty fields which require years of experience and knowledge to successfully pursue. We have that at Warren Allen.
Should you seek information in any of the above fields, do not hesitate to contact John J. O’Hara at (503) 255-8795 to discuss your potential case at any time.
Authored by John J. O’Hara, Partner
Warren Allen LLP
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is based on Oregon law and is subject to change. It should be used for general purposes only and should not be construed as specific legal advice by Warren Allen LLP, or its attorneys. Neither this website nor use of its information creates an attorney-client relationship. If you have specific legal questions, consult with your own attorney or call us for an appointment.