I’ve been injured. Now what?
As soon as possible, write down all the details you can think of regarding what happened. The date, names of people involved, names of witnesses, insurance company information, all that information will be extremely helpful and the best time to remember it is as soon after the injury as possible.
Also, if the injury stems from a motor vehicle crash and you are insured, you should report the crash to your insurance company or your agent immediately as some policies have specific reporting requirements.
You may also want to request a copy of the law enforcement report if police responded.
I feel like I should see a doctor but I don’t have the extra money and don’t want to take time off from work.
If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should go to a doctor for two reasons:
Keep in mind that injuries from crashes often don’t show up immediately. However, as soon as symptoms appear, see your family doctor, an urgent care doctor, or other trained medical professional to address those symptoms.
- The first – and most important – reason is you need to be concerned about your overall, long-term health and peace of mind.
- Second, only a doctor can objectively document your injuries to support your claim.
What do I do about the medical bills I’m getting?
If the negligent person provided insurance information to you, send the bills to that insurance company and request them to pay. If they refuse, you may want to contact an attorney to assist you in dealing with the medical bills.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit if that is what I think needs to happen?
In Iowa, typically you need to file a personal injury lawsuit within 2 years from the date of injury. However, there are a number of variables that can affect that time period. The safe bet is to talk to a qualified personal injury attorney sooner rather than later to make sure your rights are protected properly.
Keep in mind that once the appropriate time period to file has expired, no lawyer can save your claim.
At what point should I talk to an attorney?
The simple answer is as soon as you have unanswered questions. Get advice from competent legal counsel if the insurance company is denying your claim, if the insurance company wants to settle your claim, or for answers to questions regarding your rights. That discussion may uncover other potential sources of recovery and, at the very least, should further your understanding of how the system works and what your options are.
What if I can’t afford an attorney?
Most attorneys will take your personal injury case on what is called a “contingency fee” basis. That means that the attorney does not get paid an hourly fee, but is paid a fee contingent on whatever the attorney recovers for you.
Typically, that payment is a percentage of the amount that the attorney collects for you. If you don’t get anything, your attorney won’t get paid for their time either. Keep in mind that fees are different from expenses, and you are generally responsible for expenses regardless of the outcome of the case.
The insurance company has suggested that they will treat me fairly and I don’t have any need to hire an attorney. Is that true?
Keep in mind the insurance company has lawyers working for them. The insurance company’s goal in any case is to pay out as little as possible, which is a legitimate business goal. They are in the business to make money – not give it away.
As you can see, the insurance company’s goal and your goal are typically in conflict. That doesn’t mean the company won’t treat you fairly. It just means that their idea of fair and your idea of fair may not be the same. An attorney who practices in the area of personal injury law can advise you as to whether the company is treating you fairly.
What if the insurance company is offering me a check to settle?
The best policy is to never accept a check or sign a release until you have spoken with an attorney. You never want to settle until you are finished getting treatment for your injury and have been released by your doctor. Until that time, there is no way to accurately compensate you for your medical bills and expenses related to the injury.
To make sure you are receiving fair and full compensation, check with an attorney. Keep in mind that once you sign off on a settlement, you can’t change your mind. That means if other medical problems crop up or you find out you need surgery after you’ve agreed to a settlement, the insurance company may not have to pay for those expenses.
The insurance company wants me to sign a medical authorization. Should I do that?
Unlimited medical authorizations enable insurance companies to obtain and investigate your most personal information – including medical, employment, educational, and financial records. They are used to find evidence that the insurance company will use against you to deny payment or reduce your recovery.
Under no circumstance should you provide an unlimited authorization to an insurance company without first seeking the advice of an attorney.
How do I know what my case is worth?
Every case is different. The value of your case will turn on a variety of factors which your attorney can assess to determine a range of acceptable settlement values. The severity of your injury, the length of your medical care, the amount of damage to the vehicles involved in the collision, the amount of your medical expenses, the conduct of the defendant, and the jurisdiction in which your case would be filed play a critical role in determining the ultimate value of a claim.
You cannot determine the value of your case based on a simple formula. You shouldn’t evaluate your case based upon stories of settlements obtained from unreliable sources or by friends and relatives under different circumstances. No two cases are alike. Each should be evaluated on its individual merits by an attorney with experience in handling personal injury claims in your area.