Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury Cases
Frequently-asked Questions (FAQs) asked by people who have suffered through personal injuries, or motor vehicle accidents, through no fault of their own:
- Should I wait to seek medical care until I’m sure my bills will be covered?
No. Seek the medical care you need to take care of yourself and protect yourself as soon as possible after an accident. Keep in mind that there are many sources we can rely upon to pay your bills:
- If another driver is responsible for your injuries, his coverage is available to pay your bills.
- Your own auto insurance policy will usually have Medical Pay coverage.
- Your health insurance should help pay for needed medical care following an accident.
- What’s important is that you get the medical care you need soon after an accident. Keep in mind that some problems, if not corrected immediately, will get worse. You owe it to yourself to get appropriate medical care when you are hurt.
- Should I talk to an insurance company representative?
Generally, you must talk to your own insurance company — they have the right to prompt notification of the accident and to details from you about how it happened. However, you should generally not talk to the insurance company for the other side because they are not looking out for your interests. They are solely focused on the interest of the other driver and keeping down their own potential responsibility to you. Any information you give them could be used against you later on. That’s why we advise you not to talk to the other driver’s insurance company.
- Should I give a statement of any kind?
- Generally speaking, you should only give a statement to law enforcement agencies (police, sheriff deputy, or the state patrol) or your own auto insurance company if they ask for a statement.
- What is best, if any insurance company wants to take your statement, is to consult with an attorney to determine whether you need to provide such a statement. An attorney would want to review the facts of the accident with you, discuss your medical history and the status of any medical treatment, and prepare you for some questions that you may not expect and for which you may not have ready answers. However, when a statement is requested by law enforcement, you probably need to respond and cooperate unless there is a potential criminal charge against you.
- If I was the passenger in a vehicle, can I be compensated for my injuries?
You certainly can. Any passenger who is hurt by another driver can make a claim against that driver’s insurance company. If that driver does not have insurance, you still will be covered by your own uninsured motorist coverage. If the other driver does not have enough insurance to cover your injuries, your own underinsured motorist coverage will cover you for this accident. (Underinsured motorist coverage is a special, optional coverage, for which you pay a small additional premium but the added protection is well worth it.)
- How much time do I have to decide whether to seek compensation?
In Wisconsin, the law gives you three years before a lawsuit must be filed. This is called the Statute of Limitations. There is no reason to wait, however, and many reasons why you should act promptly. Witnesses move away and forget details. Skid marks and vehicle damage will fade or be repaired. Also, unexplained gaps in medical treatment may create problems later on. The best practice is for you to get qualified, experienced legal help to get through this process.
- How can I preserve my credit rating while medical bills pile up?
The best way to preserve your credit rating is to submit your bills promptly to your own health insurance coverage. Do not wait to submit medical bills to the other driver’s insurance company when the claim ultimately settles six months or a year later. It’s better for you to promptly submit the bills to your own health and your own auto insurance “medical pay” coverage. Let the insurance companies work out later who will be responsible. It is better to use the resources you have to arrange for bills to be paid NOW rather than have continuing damage done to your credit rating because payment of medical bills is delayed.
- Should I use my own health or auto insurance to pay medical bills?
First, use your health insurance. Often they pay 80 percent or 90 percent of your bills, and there may be a deductible. Second, we can use the Medical Pay coverage from your auto insurance as a back-up to pay the co-pays and deductibles not covered by your health plan.
- What kind of documentation do I need from my doctor?
You will need three things from your doctor in order to settle your personal injury claim. If you don’t have these materials available, a qualified attorney will know how to help you:
- A copy of your doctor’s records that document your injuries, his or her diagnosis, and your progress toward recovery.
- A copy of your medical bills that are related to the treatment for your accident.
- If the doctor believes you have a permanent injury, you will need a medical note or report from your doctor stating that your injury is permanent. You will probably not be compensated for a permanent injury without a doctor’s report stating that your injury is permanent and that it was caused by your accident.
- What can I do to keep my job?
Make sure to ask your doctor, during your appointments, whether you can return to work on full duty or on restricted duty. If he or she places restrictions or limitations on your work activity, ask your doctor to put these in writing so you can provide a copy to your employer. Be sure to stay in contact with your employer during any period you will be away from work. Keep your employer in the loop about your progress and about when you expect to return to the workplace. This lets them know you want to keep your job. This usually prevents your employer from thinking about replacing you, as long as they know when you are likely to return.