Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Personal Injury Victims
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Should I settle my personal injury case?
If you suffered injuries in a car, truck, slip and fall, or another type of personal injury accident, you will need to file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company. At some point, you will need to decide whether to settle your case or take it to a jury trial.
Factors to Consider When Deciding Whether to Settle Your Claim
Making the decision on whether to settle your claim is one of the most important ones you will make, and you may have to consider this more than once if you receive additional offers from the insurance company. You should not decide this without the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. Here are some of the pros of settling your case versus taking it to trial that you should consider.
Benefits of Settling Your Claim
Most personal injury cases are settled at some point before a scheduled jury trial. There are benefits in reaching a settlement with the insurance company:
- You will receive the settlement proceeds quicker.
- Your legal costs will be less because you will not incur trial costs.
- You avoid the time and energy that a jury trial takes.
- You have the certainty that you will receive some compensation for your injuries. Even if you have a strong case against the negligent party, there is no guarantee you will win at your jury trial.
Benefits of Taking Your Case to Jury Trial
If the insurance company refuses to make you a reasonable offer or the statute of limitations, which is the deadline you have to sue, will expire soon, you will need to file a lawsuit and litigate your claim. However, you could still reach a settlement at some point down the road.
However, there are benefits to taking your case to trial. They include:
- Finality. Presenting your case to the jury and receiving a decision—which will hopefully be favorable to you—can give you a sense that your case is truly over and that you received justice.
- Larger award. A settlement would most likely be for less than what you may receive at trial. While there is no guarantee that you would win your case at trial, you could receive much more money in a jury award.
Proving your right to damages after a personal injury accident is complicated. You need the help of a skilled personal injury lawyer to collect the evidence you need, go up against the insurance company, and decide whether it is in your best interests to settle your case. Call our Roswell office or start a live chat to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can assist you in pursuing your claim.
What should I do when an insurance adjuster requests a recorded statement?
After you’ve sustained injuries in a vehicle accident, you may be contacted by an adjuster from your own insurance company, as well as the adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company. Your response to requests from these adjusters can have a huge impact on your vehicle accident claim.
Responding to the Insurance Company
Regardless of whether you are contacted by your own insurance company or the other driver’s insurer, the insurance adjuster’s job isn’t to help you. The adjuster works for the insurance company, with the goal of saving the insurer as much money as possible. The insurance adjuster will likely ask you for a recorded statement. The appropriate response to this request depends on whether you are being contacted by an adjuster from:
Your Own Insurance Company
If the adjuster from your own insurance company asks for a recorded statement, you must either comply or risk denial of your claim. This is because you, as the insured, are contractually obligated to cooperate with your insurance company. While you are required to comply with your insurer’s request for a recorded statement, you should only do so under the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney.
The Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The other driver’s insurance company will likely contact you and request a recorded statement. However, you are under no obligation to provide a statement to someone else’s insurer—and you shouldn’t. Insurance adjusters are experts at asking leading questions, and they will attempt to make you admit that the collision was partly your fault. If you say anything that can be interpreted as an admission of guilt, the other driver’s insurance company will likely use your statement to reduce or deny your claim. Instead, you should have an experienced personal injury attorney speak with the insurer on your behalf.
Don’t Jeopardize Your Claim
If you’ve been injured in a vehicle collision, a personal injury attorney can help you avoid making mistakes that jeopardize your claim. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
How are damages calculated for pain and suffering?
Injury victims frequently cope with high medical bills, loss of income, and long recovery periods. In addition, they sometimes endure pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is a legal term that encompasses the physical and emotional pain stemming from accidental injuries.
Special Damages Versus General Damages
A personal injury claim has two primary types of possible compensation, special damages and general damages. Special damages include economic losses, such as property damage, medical bills, and loss of income, while general damages include pain and suffering. Special damages are typically relatively easy to value, since they are based on bills for vehicle repairs and medical expenses. However, calculating general damages, such as pain and suffering, is far more challenging.
Pain and Suffering Calculation Methods
While there are a number of approaches that insurance companies may take when calculating pain and suffering, the two most common are the multiplier method and the per diem method. The following is a brief overview:
- Multiplier method. The multiplier method is the most frequently used approach for calculating pain and suffering. An insurance company totals all of an accident victim’s special damages and multiplies them by a number of the insurer’s choosing. This number, called a multiplier, depends on many factors that may include: the extent of a victim’s injuries, the prospects for a full recovery, the impact of a victim’s injuries on his life, and the degree of the other party’s fault for the accident.
- Per diem method. The per diem method requires payment of a fixed dollar amount, or daily rate, for every day an injury victim must live with the pain caused by an accident. While this daily rate may be calculated using a variety of methods, the victim’s actual, daily earnings are frequently used.
An Attorney Can Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve
If you’ve been injured in a vehicle collision, or any other type of accident that was someone else’s fault, you deserve compensation for the physical and emotional pain you’ve suffered. An experienced personal injury attorney can prove the extent of your injuries and demand that you receive fair compensation. To learn more, contact us today by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
Should I Use My Personal Health Insurance After an Accident in New Mexico?
After an accident, you should seek immediate medical attention. The most important thing is to get the treatment you need and do not let issues of insurance and payment prevent you from getting the proper treatment. Your safety and health will always be top priority!
If given the option, you should insist on using your own personal health insurance for all of your medical treatment, even if the accident was caused by another person.
Understandably, many people are hesitant to use their own health insurance to pay since their injuries were caused by someone else—shouldn’t the responsible party’s insurance have to pay? The answer is yes, they should!
Important Reasons to Use Your Personal Health Insurance After an Accident
One of the most common questions that I get asked in my personal injury practice is whether I should use my personal health insurance to pay for medical treatment after I've been in an accident that was caused by someone else.
The answer is, yes, every time. and here's why.
Anytime you've been in an accident, one of the main goals is going to ensure you don't have any lingering bills or ongoing debts after the accident. Using your personal health insurance is the best way to do that.
#1 – There could be a dispute as to who was at fault.
After an accident. you may think the other person was at fault. But you never quite know if there is going to be a dispute as to who caused the accident. It is not uncommon for there to be an argument as to who actually caused the accident. And since most of your medical treatment is going to take place soon after the accident. You should never assume that there's going to be that insurance to cover you because that may not be determined until a much later time. If you use your personal health insurance you eliminate the risk that that bill could go unpaid.
#2 - The other driver could be uninsured or underinsured.
You don't know if the accident was caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. This is true even if the police report shows the other driver has insurance. Often times those listed policies have expired, so you can’t rely on the insurance provided to the police at the scene. Even if the other driver caused the accident, they may not actually carry the minimum insurance required because in New Mexico we have a very high rate of uninsured drivers – in fact, the third-highest in the United States. So you never quite know if there is insurance to cover your injuries, even if the other person was clearly at fault. You also don't know if they're going to have enough insurance to cover all of your bills. So again, use your personal health insurance to completely eliminate that as a possibility.
#3 - Health insurers pay discounted rates.
Your personal health insurance company – for instance, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Medicaid, Medicare, and virtually all health insurers—have contracts with medical providers that allow them to pay a reduced rate, called a “contract rate” for your medical treatment. This means it is in your best interest for your health insurer to pay those bills at a reduced contract rate, as opposed to the other drivers auto insurance company paying your medical bills, because the auto insurer will pay the full amount of those charged bills. This will help put more in your pocket when your claim is finished.
#4 – You can negotiate with your health insurer.
If you do ultimately receive a settlement and your health insurance has paid out on your behalf, you will have a legal obligation to pay them back. That's part of your contract agreement with them. But there are also some benefits under the law that allow you to negotiate down what you potentially have to reimburse to your health insurance company. Therefore, it will be in your best interest to negotiate the reimbursement owed to your health insurance company versus getting stuck with an unpaid medical bill.
IMPORTANT BONUS TIP - Don’t be surprised if the medical provider does not want to bill your personal health insurer and they instead want to bill the auto insurance for the person that hit you. This has to do with the economics of how much they make off of that medical treatment. My advice is to be persistent and insist the provider bill your health insurer—it may be the single most important step you can take to maximize your take-home pay from a settlement.
A Note of Caution: Do Not Delay Medical Treatment
Since medical treatment is typically required immediately after an accident, you do not want to delay medical treatment while the legal issues of the accident are sorted out. This is where New Mexico law provides the appropriate remedy.
Medical Payments Paid By Your Insurance Must Be Reimbursed
Keep in mind: New Mexico law provides reimbursement rights to your health insurer for benefits paid out on your behalf that were caused by another person’s negligence. That means if your health insurer pays for your medical expenses for treatment caused by someone else’s negligence, and you ultimately recover monetary damages from that negligent person, your health insurer has a right to be reimbursed (these are called rights of subrogation) from you out of the accident money you received.Quick Example:
You are driving and a negligent driver runs a stop sign and hits you. An ambulance arrives and transports you to the hospital. You remember reading something from The Injury and Disability Law Center that said to use your personal health insurance if you are in an accident. The hospital bills your personal health insurance for payment for your treatment. It is later determined that the other driver was at fault for causing the accident, and carried auto insurance. The negligent driver’s insurance company then pays you for your bodily injury damages from the accident, which include your medical bills. Your receipt of payment from the responsible party’s insurance for your damages triggers the legal right of your health insurance company to be reimbursed what they paid out for your treatment caused by the negligent driver.
Financial Burden is on the Wrongdoer
As you can see in the example, the law ultimately is designed to place the financial burden on the wrongdoer. In this example, the negligent driver. Even though your health insurance paid out initially, the wrongdoer paid for those damages through a settlement with you, and you are then able (and required) to pay your health insurer back. This process ensures there is no improper shifting of the financial burden unfairly to your health insurer, while at the same time allowing you to receive the timely medical treatment you need.
Contact Our Roswell Injury Law Office for Help
Our team would be happy to talk with you if you have additional questions about using your personal health insurance, ensuring your medical bills get paid, or any other questions you may have following a car wreck or other accident in New Mexico. Give us a call at (575) 300-4000 or fill out our contact form so we can discuss the details of your specific situation in a free consultation.
How much is my personal injury case worth?
When you must make the difficult decision to file a claim for compensation after suffering an injury in a car, slip and fall, or other personal injury accident, it's important to know whether or not it's worth your time to file a claim. To start this assessment, you first have to know the damages for which you can receive a settlement.
Types of Compensation You're Entitled to in Personal Injury Cases
Although each personal injury claim is unique, most people report the same type of damages in order to regain financial stability after suffering an injury. You may be awarded compensation for the following:
- Medical bills. You're entitled to reimbursement for the cost of doctor visits, hospitalizations, surgery, prescription medications, physical therapy, and any other expenses associated with treatment for your injuries.
- Wage losses. This includes income you'll lose while you're off work, vacation and sick time benefits, bonuses, and commissions. If you must make a career change or become disabled due to your injuries, you may also be entitled to lost earning capacity, which is the future income and job benefits you might lose as a result of those changes.
- Pain and suffering. You're entitled to be reimbursed for emotional trauma, pain, and suffering caused by your accident and injury. Since there isn't a set formula for calculating this amount, you'll need the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney to value this part of your claim.
- Wrongful death. If a family member died as a result of his or her injuries, you may be entitled to compensation for the financial losses you suffered as well as the support, companionship, and advice of your loved one.
- Punitive damages. When the at-fault party’s actions are grossly negligent, punitive damages may be awarded.
Factors That Affect the Value of Your Claim
The exact amount you receive in a settlement is based on a number of factors that affect the strength or weakness of your claim. Some of these factors include:
- Liability. If the liability of the negligent party is clear-cut, or he admits being at fault, this strengthens the claim and makes it more likely that you'll receive what you are owed. When there are issues about your fault in contributing to your injuries, you may have to accept less when settling the case.
- Severity of injuries. Your claim will be worth more if your injuries are more severe or cause some permanent injury than if you suffer a minor injury that you recover from quickly.
- Insurance coverage. The amount of insurance coverage for the negligent party affects the value of your settlement in a practical way. No matter how much the amount of damages, you can only receive the insurance liability coverage in settlement of your claim.
- Your attorney. Having an experienced personal injury attorney with a track record of successfully settling and trying cases similar to yours can increase the value of the case. He or she will be able to thoroughly investigate your accident, build a strong case against the negligent party, and negotiate a settlement that provides you with deserving compensation.
Contact a New Mexico Injury Attorney Today
If you were injured in a personal injury accident, call our office today to schedule a free consultation. We'll discuss the parties who could be responsible for compensating you and the value of your personal injury claim.
How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in New Mexico?
If you or a family member suffered a serious injury in a motor vehicle, slip and fall, or personal injury accident, you may need to file a claim for compensation with the negligent party’s insurance company.
When you do this, it's important to understand the basic process, such as the types of compensation that you may be entitled to, how personal injury claims work, and the evidence that you will need to prove your case.
In addition, a crucial law to understand is the statute of limitations in New Mexico.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in New Mexico?
The statute of limitations is the New Mexico law that sets the time period for you to file a personal injury lawsuit against all negligent parties who caused your accident. If you fail to file a lawsuit within these time periods, you waive your right to do so, and the judge would most likely dismiss your case.
It is very important that you always consult an attorney to make sure you are filing your claim within the statute of limitations.
As a general guideline, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury case is:
- Two years from the date of the accident for a claim against a governmental entity, including a 90-day tort claim notice from the date of the accident
- Three years from the date of the accident for personal injuries suffered
- Three years from the date of the victim’s death if a loved one died from his or her injuries and you must file a wrongful death action
- Four years from the date of the accident for property damage suffered
Act Fast: Contact an Attorney Soon After Your Accident
One of the best ways to ensure you receive what you deserve in a settlement is to retain an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after your accident. Even if your accident happened recently and you have a long time to file a lawsuit, you might be making a big mistake that could weaken your claim for compensation.
If you wait to hire a personal injury lawyer, you limit his ability to promptly investigate the cause of your accident and interview witnesses. If too much time lapses between the incident and his investigation, scene evidence may disappear, or individuals may move or forget important details to help your claim. Your attorney can also handle all communications with the insurance adjuster and help you avoid mistakes, such as agreeing to give a recorded statement or signing the insurance company’s medical release, which could hurt your case.
Do you need to file a claim following a personal injury accident? Call our office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options, and how we can help you fight to hold the negligent parties accountable.