Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Personal Injury Cases
Below, we have provided answers to common personal injury questions. For more information, call Sachs & Hess P.C., at 219-227-4259 or contact us online.
If I am involved in an accident and have some pain, do I need to go to the doctor or emergency room right away, and if I don’t, does it hurt my case?
If your pain is strong enough that you believe medical attention is necessary, then you should absolutely go to the emergency room. Sometimes, especially with soft tissue injuries, the pain doesn’t develop until later. It is common for people to see their doctor later in the day or the next day when they start to feel the pain.
Should I give a statement to the insurance company?
You should always cooperate with your own insurance company; however, we would never suggest that anyone give a statement to the opposing insurance company without consulting with a lawyer. The reasons are the other person’s insurance company has their insured’s version of the accident as well as an accident report. In certain cases, we may allow insurance adjusters to take a recorded statement from our client, but only if we are present.
Is the other driver’s insurance company responsible to pay my medical bills?
No, not directly. The only thing that you, on your own, or an attorney is going to obtain from the other driver’s insurance company is ultimately a lump sum of money by way of settlement, or a judgment after a trial of your case for all of your damages, including the injury; the medical bills incurred; the pain and suffering; lost time from work; lost wages; and potentially loss of consortium of a spouse. In this regard, we advise clients to utilize their own automobile insurance coverage for medical payments to the extent of its limits and whatever health insurance they have as a primary/secondary carrier to cover all medical bills. This insures the bills are paid now as opposed to not paid until the case is settled, which can result in credit problems.
What if the other person involved in the automobile accident does not have insurance?
In the state of Indiana, if the other person does not have insurance, it is likely that you or the driver of the car you are in will have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to the same extent of their own liability coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is provided to protect you in just that type of situation: when you are involved in an accident with someone else who does not have insurance. Your lawyer will ultimately resolve the case for a lump sum of money with your insurance company. Your insurance company will pay the damages up to the extent of your coverage by settlement or trial.
What if the police officer says it was partially my fault, or I think it was partially my fault? Does this preclude me from recovering for my injuries and damages?
It is up to the judge or jury to decide, not the police officer, how much you are entitled. Indiana has a comparative fault law with regard to negligence accidents. Your damages are reduced by your percentage of fault. In other words, if you were determined by the jury to be 15 percent at fault, then the amount of your damages are reduced by 15 percent. The only time you would not be able to recover is if the fault assessed to you is 51 percent or more.
If I fall on somebody’s property, is he or she automatically required to pay me money or pay my medical bills?
No. The only way you can collect money for an injury that occurred on someone’s property for damages is if the owner of the property is somehow negligent in causing the injury. If the property owner has insurance coverage which includes medical pay, you may collect the medical pay to reimburse you for your medical bills or to pay your medical bills to the extent of the coverage or limits of that policy. These amounts are usually low, sometimes being only $1,000 to $5,000.
Do I need a lawyer in any personal injury case?
That is a personal choice you have to make. The law can be complex and confusing, especially to a nonlawyer. For instance, in the case of any claim against a governmental agency (city, state, county, school, etc.) there is a Tort Claim Notice requirement that must be served within a certain amount of time, the shortest of which is 180 days. Most nonlawyers are not aware of this requirement and if it is not met, your claim will fail. We, of course, as a firm which has been handling this type of case for over 50 years, believe we can present your case for compensation for your injuries better than individuals can for themselves. The quicker you hire an attorney, the quicker that attorney can start working on the case as fast as the other side’s insurance company’s attorney or representatives.
How will I pay the attorney?
Most personal injury cases are handled on a contingent fee basis. The attorney is paid a percentage of the recovery so there are no attorney fees unless there is a settlement or recovery at trial. Indiana requires that contingency fee agreements be in writing.
How long do I have to hire an attorney after an accident?
In Indiana, the time limit for filing personal injury cases is generally two years from the date of the accident. There are certain exceptions that extend the time, but they are very limited. Obviously, depending on the complexity of how the injury happened, a lawyer needs sufficient time to investigate and determine who the proper parties are to sue. In short, as soon as you think you need an attorney for your injury case, you should hire one right away.
How do I know which attorney to hire?
You can certainly talk to friends and acquaintances regarding the reputation of lawyers in your area regarding certain types of cases. While the yellow pages are available to indicate, through advertising, what types of cases different firms handle, a better source is Martindale-Hubbell, which has a website that is accessible where lawyers are actually rated by their peers. An AV rating is the highest rating that a lawyer can have for his or her skill and knowledge of the law, and honesty and integrity. Certainly, many firms, as this one does, now have websites to provide additional information regarding the firm and the lawyers in it.