Part IV: Should I Bring a Personal Injury Case?
By Chris Dixon
Not every accident victim truly needs to bring a personal injury lawsuit. In certain instances, such as where no injuries are reported and only minimal property damage is incurred, it may not be advisable to bring a case at all. To determine whether you have a viable claim, we recommend you ask yourself the following questions:
- Did you suffer an injury?
- Was your injury caused by the act or omission of another?
- Do you have recoverable damages?
If you answer “yes” to the questions above, you are likely able to bring a case to recover your damages. Of course, for more help in answering the questions above, we recommend you speak with a personal injury attorney before deciding for or against bringing a claim.
If you decide to bring a personal injury lawsuit, you will want to choose an experienced personal injury attorney to help you do so. Choosing a lawyer can be difficult as you are tasked with finding someone with knowledge, experience, and a strong track record, but also who is responsive, fair, and approachable. We recommend using the following questions when searching for lawyers and attempting to strike the above-mentioned balance:
- Is the consultation really free?
- If my case is lost, do I really not owe you any money at all?
- What is your reputation in the legal community?
- What is your reputation with insurance adjusters?
- Have you ever handled a case like mine before?
- How many cases have you brought to full resolution?
- How long have you been practicing in this field of law?
- Will you be the lawyer who will actually handle my case, or will it be someone else at your firm?
- Do you have other staff members who can speak with me if you are unavailable?
- Will you be the lawyer who is taking depositions and speaking to the insurance company on my behalf, or will it be someone else at your firm?
- Do you actually file lawsuits and try cases or do you just settle with insurance companies?
- What are the possible outcomes of my specific case?
- Can you help me find medical providers for my injuries?
- Can you fight my liens?
- Are expenses included in your fees?
- Will you answer my phone calls and communicate with me?
- Will you inform me what is going on in my case?
- Do you give out your personal cell phone number so that I can reach you regarding my case?
- Is my case big enough to need a lawyer?
- How strong is my case?
- How long do you estimate it might take for my case to be resolved?
- What are the weaknesses of my case?
- What are the strengths of my case?
- Why are you the right lawyer for my case?
What Do Personal Injury Lawyers Do?
At the Dixon Injury Firm, car and truck accidents are the most common types of personal injury claims we handle. We have handled hundreds of these types of cases for Missouri and Illinois victims. Our experience ranges from accidents involving injuries such as whiplash and soft tissue issues to major debilitating injuries and death. Of course, we place an equal importance on all claims and understand that the resolution of these claims is extremely important to each suffering victim. This is because victims face a great deal of stress following a car accident: haggling from insurance companies, property damage, outstanding doctor and hospital bills, car repair and rental car bills, lost time from work, and nagging pain. We provide each of the following services to our clients:
- Help with car repairs;
- Help with obtaining a rental car;
- Help with finding medical professionals with experience treating car accident injuries;
- Interview and obtain statements from accident scene witnesses;
- Investigate the scene of the accident;
- Research the Missouri or Illinois laws applicable to the case;
- Preserve evidence of damages in a manner that ensures admissibility in court if the case goes to trial;
- Advise as to the value of the claim through research on settlements and verdicts in similar cases;
- Guide clients through the legal process;
- Create detailed settlement outlines to provide to the insurance company to achieve a full and fair settlement;
- Communicate actively and aggressively with the insurance company to achieve appropriate financial recovery;
- Litigate the case through trial where necessary to obtain full and fair compensation.
Even after providing all of these services, we only get paid if we collect money for you. This is because we work on a contingency fee basis, which means that we take a percentage of the money we collect for you on the condition that you do not have to pay us any money upfront. We also generally front litigation expenses. Simply put, you do not have to pay to talk to us.
We understand that the choice of a lawyer is an important decision, so should you wish to research personal injury attorneys beyond the attorneys at the Dixon Injury Firm, we recommend finding an attorney who is “Board Certified” in personal injury trial law by the Missouri or Illinois state bar. To receive this certification in personal injury litigation, an attorney must met several standards, such as:
- Handle a wide variety of personal injury trial matters;
- Devote a specific percentage of practice solely to personal injury law for a number of years;
- Have an active law license for at least five years;
- Attend personal injury continuing education seminars annually;
- Undergo evaluations by fellow judges and lawyers;
- Pass an extensive written examination.
How Much Time Do I Have to Bring a Case?
There are specific time limitations for filing lawsuits. In Missouri, for example, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim, like a car accident, is five years. That means if you do not file your case within five years, you cannot file a claim. Notably, in Missouri the statute of limitations applicable to wrongful death claims is even shorter, providing only three years within which all such claims must be filed. In Illinois, on the other hand, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years. Beyond this general guidance, there are various other limitations periods that may also affect your claim.
While statutes of limitations confine the time periods within which accident victims must bring their claims, there are other general common sense rules that surround the time within which one must act on their claim. Simply put, where injury victims are not diligent after their accident, they damage their claim. For example, if you do not contact your insurance company after a crash, if you fail to get medical attention following a crash, and/or if you do not act fast to pursue your claim, your claim suffers. Waiting to act can result in hardships up to and including the following: inability to locate key witnesses, inability to investigate the scene of the accident, inability to identify photographs, inability to document incident or injuries, and inability to refute the other driver’s inaccurate testimony.
Each of these repercussions to failing to take quick action highlights the importance of hiring a lawyer early on for your claim. Lawyers can investigate the circumstances surrounding your crash. They can locate and talk to witnesses and research into the background of the other driver. They can secure physical evidence and documentation relevant to the claims. Plus, they will quickly communicate with the at-fault party’s insurance company to ensure fair play. Lastly, they can manage case deadlines and time limitations so that you have one less thing to think about.
Who Will Pay the Medical Bills For My Injury?
If you have been injured in a car crash, you are likely wondering who will pay your compounding medical bills. You are probably thinking that a negotiated settlement or trial verdict sounds great, but does nothing to pay your current medical bills. The simple answer to who pays your bills depends largely on the facts of the crash and the type of insurance coverage involved. However, in Missouri and Illinois, the unfortunate reality is that you are responsible for paying your medical bills, regardless of whether or not you were at fault in the car crash. Settlement or personal injury verdict recovery will reimburse you for your expenses, including any medical bills, but will not pay the bills directly.
Missouri and Illinois are both “fault” states which means that, unless you have a specific type of insurance policy, you are required to pay your medical bills through your health insurance, out-of-pocket, or otherwise. Of course, in practice this typically means that an at-fault insurance company will be required to pay certain damages to the victim, but he or she will be responsible for making direct payments to medical providers.
Unfortunately, even if you are bringing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and/or the police report clearly lists them as the at-fault party, there is no federal or state law that requires the at-fault party to pay your medical bills on an ongoing basis. The only requirement of the liable at-fault driver, is that he or she pay damages to settle your claim. Your medical bills may be part of those damages, but because settlements can take several months or even years to achieve, you’ll likely have to have the bills paid another way. It is your responsibility to research your potential options, but a few options that may be applicable include:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage for bodily injury
- Medical Payment (Med Pay) insurance coverage
- Health insurance coverage
- Workers’ Compensation — applicable only if you were injured in a crash while on the job
- Negotiated payment plans with healthcare providers
A car crash lawyer can review your insurance coverage and the facts of your claim to help you analyze your options. Additionally, your legal representative can also help make sure your medical bills are properly paid.
Who Will Pay the Bills for the Damage To My Car?
When you are involved in a car crash, you can can claim damage to your vehicle. The party responsible for paying for the car damage depends on who is at fault for the accident and the types of insurance coverage each driver carries.
Where the other driver is at-fault for the accident, he or she will be liable for paying the cost of the damages. However, in most cases, the liability is passed from the other driver to their insurance company, who will pay the damages on his or her behalf. If the other driver’s insurance company agrees with the determination of fault, then they will likely pay for any car repairs you incur. If the other driver’s insurance company argues that their insured was not the at-fault party and refuses to pay for the damages to your vehicle, the case will likely go to trial.
If the other driver is deemed at-fault but he or she does not have insurance, your insurance company may be responsible for the costs associated with repairing your vehicle. This is especially likely where you have collision coverage under your insurance plan. Collision coverage is a type of no-fault insurance coverage wherein the insured is generally covered thereunder regardless of which party was at fault for the crash. However, even with collision coverage, the insured will still be liable for paying the deductible. A Missouri or Illinois personal injury attorney can work with you to determine what coverage options are available in your case and whether or not you are entitled to repayment of your deductible by the other driver or his/her insurance company.
Finally, if you are deemed the at-fault party in the accident, then you are more than likely responsible for paying the costs to fix any damage to your car. However, as discussed above, if you carry collision coverage, you may only be on the hook for paying your deductible, after which your insurance company will likely pay any additional costs. If you’re struggling to determine which party was at fault or what insurance coverage is available to you, it is best to review your claim with an experienced auto accident lawyer.
How Long Will My Case Take to Resolve?
On average, Missouri and Illinois personal injury claims take anywhere from a few months to a few years to come to full resolution. Ultimately, the life of a claim is determined by the specific facts and circumstances relevant to each claim. Where injuries are significant and ongoing, for example, the claim process may take longer as the injured victim will want to comply with treatment while fighting for fair compensation for any treatment that may be required in the future.
Where the insurance company is inflexible and unwilling to provide a fair settlement offer, the crash victim may bring a personal injury lawsuit. These types of car accident lawsuits involve a discovery period in addition to out-of-court negotiations. In circumstances where the parties still cannot reach a satisfactory offer, the case will likely go to trial. Each of the stages in the legal process from filing the claim to trying the case takes time to complete.
In general, cases involving inflexible insurance adjusters, questionable liability, serious injuries, multiple parties, or a potentially high settlement value may take longer to successfully resolve than straightforward claims. Although the timeframe may seem intimidating, there are numerous benefits that come with taking time to achieve a full and fair settlement. These benefits include each of the following:
- Improved settlement offer
- Compensation for ongoing medical care and support
- Fully developed legal arguments on the validity of the claim
- Offset legal fees
- Hold other driver fully accountable
Ultimately, the life of a claim can vary widely from case to case. An experienced car crash attorney can gauge the timing and/or the potential outcomes of your claim before deciding to accept a hasty settlement offer. In sum, the closure and compensation that come from a well-negotiated claim may better support your financial, mental, and physical recovery process.
This ebooklet is merely a short synopsis of questions commonly asked by Dixon Injury Firm clients after car accidents. You undoubtedly have several other questions as you now know that litigating your car accident claim can be a complex process. To discuss your questions with a Dixon Injury Firm attorney immediately, contact us and call (314) 409-7060.
About the Dixon Injury Firm
The Dixon Injury Firm is passionate about helping accident victims get the compensation they deserve. Chris Dixon is intimately familiar with car accident litigation in both Missouri and Illinois. In fact, Dixon dedicates his practice to representing individuals and their families in serious personal injury and wrongful death cases, such as those often involved in car accidents. If you or someone you know has been in a car accident, call the Dixon Injury Firm for a free consultation to discuss your case. You can reach us 24 hours a day at (314) 409-7060, or toll free at (855) 40-CRASH.