We understand that after a car accident, you're probably in unfamiliar territory. The process of trying to process what has happened to you, while at the same time dealing with claims adjusters, their insurance companies, and recovering from your own injuries can be stressful and complicated.
We've prepared answers to some of the more common questions we hear from our clients for you to use as a guide. Remember, there's no substitute for speaking to an attorney face to face and having them by your side to represent your interests. A serious auto accident is a major, life-altering event. A qualified automobile accident attorney can protect you and make sure that you have the representation that you deserve throughout the entire process.
Do I Need an Attorney?
Understand that insurance companies and their claims adjusters deal in this line of work all day, every day, year after year. This may be your first or second time being involved in a situation such as yours. There are a tremendous number of issues that arise from an accident or injury. The issues may include having your vehicle repaired or totaled out, obtaining a rental car, minimizing the storage fees on your car, settling on a total loss amount for your car, paying your medical bills, receiving the medical care you need, dealing with all of the paperwork, letters, and phone calls from the various insurance companies, tape recorded statements, medical release forms, reimbursing your medical insurance companies, receiving reimbursement for your wage loss, getting a fair settlement for your injuries, etc. Consulting with an attorney will answer questions such as these and help you through this difficult process. The sooner you consult with The Rishwain Law Firm, the better your chances of protecting your legal rights and resolving your claim at a fair price in a timely manner.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire an Attorney?
Your initial consultation with this law firm is complementary. If you do hire this law firm to represent you, the attorney fees are based upon a percentage of the injury settlement only (not the property damage settlement), and it is not paid until your case is settled. All out of pocket costs in your case are advanced by this law firm. Our firm receives reimbursement for the advanced out of pocket costs at the conclusion of the case. Therefore, you do not pay any money until your case is resolved.
Can I Trust the Insurance Companies?
Insurance companies have a duty to their stockholders to resolve claims for the least amount of money possible. Each company has an enormous number of claims open at all times. The longer the insurance company can hold onto its money, the more interest it can earn on its money. This creates an incentive to delay paying out on claims. If you are dealing with the negligent party’s insurance company, that company does not have a duty to act in “good faith” with you. If you are dealing with your own insurance company, it is supposed to act in “good faith” with you (although many people believe otherwise). In either case, due to downsizing of insurance companies and other reasons, claims adjusters have a significant number of claims assigned to them each month. It is simply impractical, in most instances, for them to be motivated to process your claim in a timely manner.
How Do I Get My Vehicle Repaired?
If you have collision insurance, you can resolve the property damage with your own insurance company. However, you will have to pay your collision deductible up front, and you should receive your deductible back several months later if the responsible party had insurance. If you do not have collision insurance or if you cannot afford to pay your deductible, you will have to deal with the responsible party’s insurance company to repair or total out your vehicle.
Can I Get a Rental Car?
If you have rental car coverage on your insurance policy, your insurance company will pay for your rental vehicle up to the daily amount of coverage on your policy. If you do not have rental car coverage, you will have to receive approval from the responsible party’s insurance company to get a rental car, or pay for it yourself until the responsible party’s insurance company reimburses you.
How Do I Pay for My Medical Bills?
It is up to you to pay for your medical bills until you are ready to settle your injury claim. Therefore, you must look to either your health insurance company or your automobile medical payments coverage (if you have either or both) for payment of your medical bills until your case resolves. The insurance company will not pay or reimburse you any money for your medical bills until you are ready to settle your case, regardless what the claims adjuster may tell you up front. It is important that your medical bills do not go into collections while your case is pending so that the unfortunate incident does not affect your credit report. It is also important that the health care providers that you receive medical attention from know who to bill for their services, and that your bills are processed timely and appropriately because most health insurance companies require medical bills to be submitted within 60 days from the date of service or else they will deny payment.
What do I do if I do not have Medical Insurance?
You should consult with an attorney immediately to discuss the various options you may have and how you can still receive the medical care you need.
Should I Sign a Medical Release or Give a Tape Recorded Statement to the Insurance Company?
No. Not until you consult with an attorney about your legal rights. Any information obtained through a tape recorded statement can and will be used against you at a later time. Any medical records of yours obtained through a medical release by an insurance company will certainly be used against you at the time you attempt to settle your case.
Can I Receive Compensation for My Loss of Earnings or Wage Loss?
Yes. It is important that if you miss time from work, that you have a doctor’s note taking you off from work. Even if you were obviously injured in an accident, the insurance company may take the position it will not reimburse you for the time you missed from work without a note from the doctor taking you off from work. It is also important that you keep detailed records of your time off from work. However, the insurance company will not reimburse you for your wage loss until you are ready to settle your injury claim in its entirety.
Should I Take Photographs of My Vehicle or My Injuries?
Absolutely, and do so as soon as possible after the incident. A picture says a thousand words. Oftentimes, your vehicle will be taken by the insurance company shortly after an incident. Therefore, you must take the photographs before that happens because it is often not easy to gain access to your car after an accident. Do not rely on the body shop or the towing yard to give you pictures. It is also very important to take pictures of any visible injuries you may have so that several months later it is obvious that you in fact sustained the injuries you claim to have sustained in the incident.
Do I Have Any Legal Rights if I was Injured by An Uninsured Driver?
California law requires automobile insurance companies to sell what is called “uninsured motorist coverage.” However, consumers may waive this type of insurance coverage on their automobile policies. If you carry “uninsured motorist coverage”, you may bring a claim with your own insurance company. That is the very reason why insurance companies sell “uninsured motorist coverage” and the very reason consumers pay for it as a part of their automobile insurance. California law prohibits insurance companies from increasing your rates if you bring a claim under your “uninsured motorist coverage.”
Will I have to Go to Court?
Most personal injury cases settle without having to go to Court. Hiring an attorney soon after an accident decreases the chances of making mistakes as you maneuver through the process that may later put obstacles in your path of resolving your claim, for a fair price, in a timely manner.