Over the years, our personal injury attorneys here in San Diego have encountered a significant number of clients that are unfamiliar with what may occur during their insurance claim. As a result, we have constructed this blog in order to provide instructions, warnings, and hopefully answer some of our more frequently asked questions.
Most importantly, this list should help you avoid some mistakes along the way and hopefully help you maximize your personal injury settlement.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or legal advice.
Tips For How You Can Help Your Attorney
- Make copies of everything.
- Set up a payment plan for your medical and health insurance related billings.
- Inform your treating doctor of anything that relates to your claiming injury.
- Your medical treatment must conclude before your claim can be settled.
- Do not discuss your case with anyone other than your doctors and your legal team.
- Keep your attorneys fully informed of any changes in your life.
- If all else fails, ask your attorney.
1. Make copies of everything
Clients often ask what copies need to be made. Our answer is “everything!” Keep a file with copies of everything you send us. We especially need copies of the following:
- Your own automobile insurance declarations pagewhich was in effecton the date of the accident (or a copy of the one for the automobile you may have been driving)
- All medical bills
- Your health insurance card
- All property damage estimate(s)/evaluation(s)
- Accident-related photographs
- Historical medical records in your possession (and indicate any x-ray or other type studies/films in your possession)
- All witness information and/or information exchanged at the scene of the accident
- Any other related records/documents.
2. Set up a payment plan for your medical and health insurance related billings
Please make sure to handle the payment of any related medical expenses with your health insurance provider. Upon receipt, please send or fax us a copy of any Explanation of Benefits. And if you have any medical payment benefits from your own insurance (or the vehicle you were a passenger), there may be legal time limits to file your claim.
If you do not have any health insurance, it is your responsibility to apply for assistance for payment of your medical bills. These government assistance programs include CHAMPUS, County Medical Benefits, Aid To Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Medi-Cal, etc. If you do not qualify for these programs, then you must set up a medical lien with your health care provider payable at the conclusion of your claim. Just remember that medical creditors are not legally required to provide you with a lien.
If all else fails, you may attempt to establish a payment plan with your medical creditor or, if possible, pay them in full. The important thing to remember is that your related medical and out-of-pocket expenses will be made part of your claim and can be recouped in your settlement.
3. Inform your treating doctor of anything that relates to your claiming injury
Pay particular attention to any changes to the way you feel — no matter how trivial you believe your symptoms might be — and be as honest as possible about any pre-existing conditions that may affect your current case. Insurance companies keep a record of any and all claims against any insurance companies; therefore, please make sure that your doctors and our offices are aware of any and all previous personal injuries, workers compensation claims, disability and other related claims.
Regarding your medical treatment, please remember that your attorneys are not doctors. You and your doctors are completely in charge of your medical treatment, not your attorney. Therefore, please make sure we know when you are done with treatment or released by your health care provider because your doctors will not call our offices upon your release. If you continue to experience pain, please make sure we are fully informed of any further problems or treatment.
4. Your medical treatment must conclude before your claim can be settled.
Experience has shown that it is impossible to predict when your case will be brought to conclusion. A number of factors, including the length of your medical treatment and availability of witnesses, all contribute to the length of a case. Before any personal injury settlement is reached, all parties have to conduct an investigation of your accident.
Many cases do not move as quickly as our clients would like, and there might be time periods when your attorneys have not contacted you in some time. This does not mean that your case has been forgotten, but rather there are sometimes slow periods while you are treating and recovering. Our firm has a system of periodically reviewing and following-up (such calling you or your doctors, but you should still keep us advised). Even though it may not seem like it, our attorneys do everything possible to make sure that your claim is handled quickly without sacrificing attention to detail.
You should also always keep in mind that you must prove to the responsible person’s insurer that: (1) they are at fault and (2) monetary damages were caused by the accident (i.e. medical bills, lost wages or pain and suffering). In almost all cases (with limited exceptions), you will receive one lump bodily injury settlement for your entire claim. If you later find something else wrong with you after you settle, you can not go back and ask for more money. Therefore, it is up to you and your doctor to document what is wrong with you, before you settle your case, and more importantly to document it as objectively as possible (e.g., the diagnostic tests previously mentioned). This is precisely the reason you must reachmaximum medical improvement, keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that you are free of pain or your symptoms.
5. Do not discuss your case with anyone other than your doctors and your legal team
If anyone other than your doctors or attorneys attempt to contact you, please ask them to contact our offices. Any mail from anyone other than your doctors or attorneys should be immediately forwarded to our offices before you fill out or sign anything that could damage your case.
6. Keep your attorneys fully informed of any changes in your life
Please be sure to provide us with the names and addresses of any doctors who treated you for your current injuries as well as any similar injuries you may have had in the past. It helps to keep a daily log of related expenses and time missed from work or school.
In addition, while your claim is pending, your attorneys will need to be aware of any changes or occurrences in your life which may have an impact on your case. Some examples include change of address or phone number, arrests, subsequent accidents, divorce, etc. When in doubt, call us and let us decide whether or not the matter is important.
7. If all else fails, ask your attorney
Our clients often have plenty of questions. After all, the legal process when dealing with an accident can be quite confusing. As you think of questions, write them down, and at the appropriate time, call our offices and speak to an attorney. If the response is inadequate or you are uncomfortable with the answer, please do not hesitate to say so. You only get one settlement in personal injury law, so you need to get it right the first time.
Contact an Attorney ASAP after Your Accident
If the unfortunate happens and you do get into a car accident, the best thing you can do for yourself is to seek legal representation quickly. Experienced personal injury lawyers, like the ones at our San Diego law firm, will help you avoid costly mistakes many people make when dealing with insurance companies who are often looking out for their best interests, not yours.
Contact our bilingual offices as soon as possible at 1-858-551-2090 for a FREE Consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Diego. You may also please click here to submit your case for a FREE Online Review. We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you owe us nothing until we recover money on your behalf.
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines