I Was Hurt, Now What?

I Was Hurt, Now What?

So you were hit from behind by a driver that was not paying attention and rammed you from behind. Before this accident, you were running three miles a day, managing a home and three children, working full time, and handling your life. All of the sudden, your sleep in interrupted by the terrible head and neck pain, your fingers are numb and if you decide to run, your back is hurting so bad that you have to stop. You are only 42 years old and not ready to quit living your life. The medical bills are going to pile up and you are not sure what to do. It is time to get an attorney but you should know what to expect.

Attorney choice – There are so many commercials on television and billboards on the road that it is nearly overwhelming to decide who you want to trust with your case. You have heard the horrible “ambulance chasing” stories and wander if there are attorneys out there that care about your case. When selecting attorney, you should consider their experience. Have they ever worked on the side of the insurance company (this usually means they understand the insurance mentality)? How long have they been practicing? Do they try cases? What are their results?

Do I have time to be in suit? Proving a claim for injury means that someone has to say that you are injured and that you were injured as result of this car accident. Settlements are based upon the amount and necessity of treatment. This is a fine line because there are some attorneys that believe that the more the dollar amount of the medical bills the more the settlement. This may be true in some instances, but often insurance companies are wary of the person that “overtreats” and gives much more credence to the person that seeks care initially from a specialized medical doctor along with objective radiological findings. It is rare that soft tissue injury case (those treated with chiropractic or physical therapy alone) brings a huge settlement. You will have to seek medical treatment but the treatment should be tailored to your injury not your lawsuit settlement.

Will I have to go to trial? More than 95% of injury cases settle outside of court. About 55% settle without even filing a lawsuit. The remaining 40% do go into litigation. Once the case goes into litigation, it usually will not settle until two things happen. First, the insurance company is going to want to hear your story. They will want you to answer their written discovery which will ask your version of the accident and provide them with all medical bills, lost wage documentation and future care and loss of capacity and take your deposition. Second, they are going to send you for an examination (compulsory medication examination) with one of the doctors they select. After your deposition and the compulsory medical examination, the case is usually set for mediation and this is where settlement beings. Over half of the injury cases in litigation settle in mediation. If they do not settle in mediation, the settlement discussions start there and continue until the time of trial. If after mediation, the parties see the case completely different and are so far apart that it is apparent that neither side is willing to budge, then you will likely go to trial.

What is my case worth? Most cases on the plaintiff and defense end are evaluated at full liability. This means that they are initially evaluated with the defendant being 100%. This gives each party a starting point. For instance, for a rear end automobile accident case the defendant is likely 100% liable. However, consider that the person in front came to a sudden stop and the evidence supports this defense (black box or other technical evidence) the defense may argue that they are only 80% liability and will subtract 20% from their evaluation to offer for settlement. The second element that has to be proven before damages is causation. You must prove that the accident caused the injury. Things that can complicate this are pre-existing conditions, differences of medical opinions of MRI or cat scans, believabily witnesses or lack of property damage. If the injury is proven, the settlement total is derived with these elements: total of past medical bills, total of future medical bills, past lost wages, future lost wages, loss of earning capacity (introduced through a vocational rehabilitation specialist) and pain and suffering. As a general rule (not the law but as a measuring device) most insurance companies and attorneys use three times the medical bills (past and future) to determine the value of the pain and suffering claim. It is worthy to note that in Florida the jury must find that you were permanently injured in order to recover pain and suffering damages.