Here at the Reyes firm, we try our absolute best to ensure our clients understand every step of their case. Instead of leaving them in the dark, we want to answer every and all of your doubts.
What if I can’t pay medical bills?
Depending on the nature of your case, your medical bills may be covered by one or more of the following:
Your health insurance.
Health insurance obtained by your spouse (or your parents, if you are under age) for your benefit.
If you were driving your car and involved in a collision, medical payments insurance coverage from your auto policy.
Medical payments insurance coverage from the person you were riding with, if you were a passenger in an automobile that has auto insurance coverage.
Your personal funds, if you were not insured and are able to pay medical bills as they are incurred.
Workers’ compensation insurance, if you were injured on the job and the injury occurred as a result of your employment.
The liability insurance coverage for the person, persons or company who caused your injuries. This coverage likely will be paid at the time of settlement, rather than when you incur your medical bills.
If you have no insurance coverage, you and your lawyer will save your medical bills so that they can be paid at a later date, when and if your case settles. If you are unable to pay your bills as they are incurred, many doctors, hospitals and other medical facilities will wait to receive payment until your personal injury case is resolved by way of a settlement or a verdict in court. It is important to let your medical providers know, early in the process, if you have no insurance or financial means to pay your medical bills as they are incurred. Many doctors and medical facilities will require that you sign a form (usually called a “subrogation” or “lien” form), which allows your attorney to withhold enough money from any settlement or verdict to pay your medical bills directly from the insurance settlement proceeds.
Why won’t the insurance company for the person or entity who caused my injuries automatically pay my medical bills as they occur?
Most insurance companies for the person, persons or company who caused your injuries (in legal terms, the “tortfeasor”) will not automatically pay medical bills as they occur for two primary reasons. First, the insurance company does not want to spend a substantial amount of money for medical bills up front, only to be faced with an unreasonable or excessive demand at the time of final settlement. Put another way, the insurance company does not want to expend a substantial sum of money on medical bills and then be faced with the possibility of defending a lawsuit. Second, 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.
Do I really need a personal injury lawyer?
You may choose to handle your personal injury claim on your own, but having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side will improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome. An attorney is trained in the law, and understands the rules of evidence and procedure. Perhaps more importantly, an attorney can rely on the wisdom gained from hard-earned experience in dealing with adjusters and defense attorneys. Here are just some of the ways a personal injury law- yer can help you resolve your claim:
Conduct a thorough investigation into the facts surrounding the incident, including:
Interviewing witnesses and taking statements.
Visiting the scene of the incident to take photographs and notes, and make a diagram.
Obtaining the police report, if one exists.
Obtaining and reviewing your medical records and any statements made by you or witnesses.
Analyzing the facts of your case in light of the law in your juris- diction to answer the most basic question: Do you have a case?
Prepare a demand letter in a format that encourages the adjuster to negotiate a prompt, fair and reasonable settlement.
Quickly recognize and deal with adjuster negotiation strategies, tactics and tricks.
Guide your case through the litigation process, including:
Timely filing a lawsuit that names all the potentially responsible parties as defendants and raises all viable legal claims.
Serving written discovery on the defendants and take depositions.
Helping you prepare for your deposition and attend the deposition with you to protect your rights.
Presenting your case to a jury at trial.
You may be able to do some or all of these tasks on your own, but a personal injury attorney will do them more efficiently and effectively.
What if I can’t afford a lawyer?
Most personal injury cases are handled on a “contingency” basis, which means that you do not have to pay attorney’s fees unless you receive a favorable settlement or verdict. In other words, your attorney’s fee is “contingent upon” a settlement or successful court award. Your lawyer’s fee will be calculated as a percentage of your recovery.
What is the difference between “attorney’s fees” and “costs”?
It is important to distinguish between “attorney’s fees” and “costs.” Your attorney’s fee is based upon his or her work, time, effort and expertise, as well as certain fixed expenses (e.g., secretarial time, rent). Other costs associated with handling a personal injury cases include:
Fees that doctors and hospitals charge for medical reports.
Photocopy charges for copies of medical bills, medical reports, police reports, witness statements, proof of wage loss, and other information demanded by the insurance company.
Costs associated with obtaining and/or enlarging photographs of your injuries, your vehicle, the defective product, etc.
Reports of experts.
Litigation costs — the costs incurred as a result of the filing of a lawsuit.
These costs are your responsibility, regardless of the outcome of your case. Your attorney may ask you to pay these costs as they are incurred. As a general rule, it is not economically feasible for a law firm to “finance” personal injury cases. For this reason, the law provides that out-of-pocket expenses, like those itemized above, are the client’s responsibility, even if the case does not settle.
What can I do to help my case?
One of the best ways to help your case is to be honest and forthright with your lawyer, from your very first meeting. A successful outcome to your case depends upon mutual confidence and cooperation between you and your attorney. A surprise during settlement negotiations or, worse, at trial can derail your case. That won’t happen if you are truthful with your lawyer from the outset. Other ways you can help your case include:
Being a good patient. Keep all your medical appointments. Follow your doctor’s treatment orders.
Being a good record-keeper. Maintain a file of your medical bills and your out-of-pocket expenses associated with your injury. Keep all your receipts. One easy way to keep track of your medications is to keep all your empty prescription bottles.
Helping your lawyer gather your medical records by making a list of all doctors, hospitals and other medical providers/facilities that have treated you. Promptly sign authorizations to release medical records, as requested by your attorney. Be sure to let your attorney know if you are released from a doctor’s care or you begin treating with a new doctor.
Providing documentation of your medical bills, your out-of- pocket expenses and your wage loss (e.g., tax records) to your lawyer, upon request.
Staying in touch with your lawyer – return phone calls promptly; read and respond to all correspondence; advise your lawyer immediately of any changes in your contact information.
Advising your lawyer of any changes in your personal life, e.g., loss of employment; change of jobs; change in marital status.
Letting your attorney know about any changes in your physical condition or the progress of your recovery.
Keeping a personal injury diary. Your diary may take many forms, from a traditional handwritten journal to notes on your laptop to notes on a desk calendar. The important thing is to regularly record how you are feeling and how your symptoms are affecting your daily life.
How long will it take to resolve my case?
This question is impossible to answer with certainty because the facts of each case are unique. In general, though, it will take several months to settle a personal injury claim, and may take several years to resolve a case through the court system. This is so because:
Your case will not be ripe for settlement until all the facts are known and the full nature and extent of your injuries is established. Your lawyer must have all of the medical reports and bills from all of your doctors, and must have thoroughly investigated all of the facts. When a liability case is settled, it is settled for one lump sum, and the settlement is final. Any increased expenses — additional lost wages or increased medical expenses as a result of a change in your physical condition — cannot be the subject of future claims once the case has been settled. For this reason, your lawyer will wait until he has all the facts before attempting to settle your claim.
In general, insurance companies are in no rush to settle smaller personal injury claims. Adjusters will engage in a host of negotiating “tactics” designed to delay settlement of the claim in an effort to put pressure on you to settle for less.
The litigation process — particularly the discovery phase of the litigation — takes time.
Most court dockets are overcrowded with cases, resulting in unavoidable delays.
In legal terms, the value of your case is measured in terms of “damages.” If you have been injured by the negligence (that is, the unreasonable carelessness) of another person or entity, then you may be entitled to recover damages to compensate you for the losses you have suffered as a result of the defendant’s negligence. Compensatory damages are meant to cover your economic losses, as well as non-economic losses, as the following chart illustrates: