No. In most cases, I advise against it. There is very little to be gained by giving a statement to the other party’s insurance company. This is especially true at the beginning of a case when you probably don’t have a full understanding of the extent of your injuries. Statements are rarely used in your favor. In most cases, they will use the statement against you. I’m not saying it’s true for all insurance adjusters, but after working for years in the insurance industry, I have rarely seen a recorded statement be helpful to a plaintiff.
Answer: Right away. Don’t delay. After nearly 2 decades of practicing law, I have found that clients who wait more than 10 days to seek medical attention have done themselves a disservice. The insurance company will view this delay as an indication that the injuries weren’t all that bad. If you waited so long, how bad could it be? Of course, there are many reasons why you may not be able to seek medical attention right away, but the insurance company for the party at fault won’t be quite that understanding. If you are claiming injury from an accident, your actions (i.e., seeking medical help) need to be consistent with that claim.
Many people are surprised to learn that the insurance company for the party at fault does not pay their medical bills as they become due. In other words, they won’t pay your medical bills until you are finished with your treatment in most cases. This can prove to be an unpleasant surprise for many people. Also, the treating doctors aren’t terribly happy about it because they want to get paid.
Keep in mind the insurance company for the party at fault doesn’t really have any obligation to you. First, they have to “investigate” and “determine” whether or not the accident was your fault or not. After that, don’t expect them to pay your medical bills whenever you present them. First, they will have to “determine” whether or not your treatment was reasonable in THEIR opinion. In some cases, they use databases or other computer software to make that determination. Then, they will look at every single charge you incurred to see whether or not they agree with the charge by the doctor. If they don’t agree, they will slash the doctor’s bills – in many cases dramatically, leaving you with a big hole to fill. So all the assurances of the world from the other party’s insurance company should mean nothing to you at the end of the day because there is no guarantee they’re going to pay your medical bills.
Short answer: None.
Longer Answer: I have bad news for some folks. There is no magic formula that exists when determining the value of your personal injury case. I certainly wish there was. It would make my job easier. The BIGGEST misperception by far is that one only needs to multiply their medical bills by a multiple of three. Therefore, if they have $3000 in medical bills, their case must be worth at least $9000. Unfortunately, that is not the formula, nor is there any magic formula for determining the value of a personal injury case.
The value of a personal injury case depends on many different factors that are too new numerous to mention in this blog entry. It has to do with where you live, jury sentiment, the economy, your likability (yes, unlikable people who rub insurance adjusters the wrong way don’t do as well). Suffice it to say there is no magic formula or secret recipe of any sort when it comes to determining the value of a personal injury case. Some factors, however, can influence the amount. Those include the severity of the impact, how bad the pictures look, the severity of the injury, the age of the individual, whether or not there were any lost earnings, whether or not the client will continue to suffer from the injury, and whether or not there was any residual injury and how long that injury might last. There are many other factors, but please know there is no magic formula.
For a longer discussion of what goes into valuing your personal injury or accident case, visit our library page.
What Is a Personal Injury Case?
A personal injury case is when the negligence of another causes you harm. Negligence occurs when someone violates their duty to use due care (i.e., failing to drive safely, obey traffic laws, etc). However, their negligence must be the cause of some harm to you. The harm has to be appreciable. If someone’s negligence causes you to get a tiny scrape on your arm, then you probably shouldn’t waste time pursuing anything. However, if the harm is appreciable (economic harm, non-economic, and/or both), then you should consult with an attorney.
Talk to an experienced lawyer who will let you know if you have a case worth pursuing. In short, imagine if someone was telling you the same story while you were sitting on a jury. Would you feel compelled to provide them with compensation or would you simply say, “So what?” I got a call from a client who bumped his head on a door at McDonalds. I asked him if he had any significant injury. He said he only got a slight bump on the head. He wanted to know if he had a case. I told him to imagine a whole bunch of resentful jurors (who’d rather be doing anything other than jury duty) sitting for a week in trial for him to tell them about his little bump on the head. I asked him, “Now do you think they’d want to give you anything for that?” He said, “Probably not.” I replied, “Then that is your answer.” Some people think they have a case simply because something “happened.” That alone does not mean you have a case.
In personal injury cases, it is usually rare to get punitive damages. Such damages are designed to punish a defendant for knowingly harming someone. In most cases, defendants are negligent but rarely did they mean to cause you harm. Many personal injury clients are surprised to find out the law is not designed in most cases to “punish” defendants or make examples of them. The focus is most often on the plaintiff and what his/her damages are.
Insurance companies are not your friends. Without getting into all the details, you need someone on your side who knows what you are entitled to obtain from the insurance company. In most cases, they don’t volunteer all the information. They are not there to be your buddy. They want to close files…and quickly. I’ve heard stories of insurance adjusters insisting on meeting at a coffee shop days after an accident to dangle a few dollars in front of my clients in exchange for a full release of all claims. There is usually no emergency and no urgency to talk to the opposing party’s insurance company right after an accident. Of course, it’s usually ok to speak with your own company. You actually employ them and they have a fiduciary duty to you the other insurance company simply doesn’t have.
In most cases, you should get a consultation ASAP. When it comes to injury cases, there are several things you should know from the beginning. You don’t want to learn as you go along.
Most personal injury cases are resolved prior to any claim being filed. Even then, most settle before a trial commences. There are many factors that can affect this, but the most important factor is whether or not there is a liability dispute or a huge difference in opinion regarding the case value.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,