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Personal Injury – Frequently Asked Questions

Will the police do an investigation?
Traditionally law enforcement officers in our community do an adequate job investigating motor vehicle collisions, better than, for instance, in some other communities. Unfortunately, however, the investigating officer will latch on to a statement of “I’m not hurt,” or “I feel okay,” and truncate the investigation. Additionally, unless there are serious injuries, the investigating officer is not likely to request an accident reconstructionist examine the scene, again limiting the details included in the report. The quality of the officer’s investigation may help or hinder future negotiations with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or the lawsuit.
Will the insurance company deal with me fairly?

Attitudes of first line insurance adjusters run the spectrum from caustic to pleasant, but they all have one goal: save the insurance company money! As an insurance company’s Chief Financial Officer recently testified, the less the company pays out in claims, the more money the company makes. Each of the big five insurance companies net approximately $30 billion per year in profit. They spend billions of dollars per year in marketing to turn the public against claimants and attorneys.

Insurance adjusters are graded and often paid bonuses based on how much money they save the company. From an objective perspective, you are not likely to be treated fairly, even if you are treated nicely, and compensated for all the law allows when dealing with the insurance adjuster on your own.

To further their end, insurance companies have built in certain methods of resistance, delay claim’s processes, demand that you take additional steps to support your claim, and generally make your life, as a claimant, as difficult as possible. The adjuster is trained to scrutinize every detail of your records and find reasons to lower the value of your claim or deny it altogether. The American Association for Justice has dubbed the approach: confuse & refuse.

What kinds of lawyers handle injury claims?
There are three types of lawyers or law firms that handle injury claims. The first type is a general practitioner. A general practitioner is a lawyer that handles many different types of cases. For example, divorce, real estate, employment, wills, estates and trusts, etc. People with insurance claims are often referred to the family’s lawyer or a friend’s lawyer because that is the only lawyer they know. These lawyers often have generalized knowledge of the law. The second type are larger law firms that only settle injury claims. These law firms handle a high volume of claims and make their profit on settling a lot of claims at marginal value. The lawyers in these firms do not go to court, even if they cannot get fair compensation for their client. These law firms traditionally advertise heavily. The third type is law firms that focus or specialize on injury cases and go to court when justice demands. The lawyers in these firms are often highly trained in handling injury claims and continue to train on a regular basis. They put that training to use so that they can better represent their clients and get the justice that their clients deserve.
How long do I have to bring a claim and/or lawsuit?

You only have a limited time to bring a claim for your injuries. If you do not bring a claim within that time, referred to as the statute of limitations, you cannot collect any compensation for your injuries.

Claims against the state or local government are a two step process. First a claim must be served within 180 days from the incident. Unless settled, a lawsuit must be filed within 1 year of the incident. Other claims, like false imprisonment, strict liability under Arizona’s dog bite statute, and other statutory claims must also be filed within 1 year.

Most personal injury or wrongful death claims, however, must be settled or a lawsuit filed within 2 years of the incident.

Why should I seek necessary medical treatment?
If you are injured, even if it is just a sore head and neck, you must seek appropriate medical treatment immediately for your health, as well as for your claim. Even a minor collision can cause serious injury or death. For example, Liam Neeson’s wife, Natasha Richardson, died after falling on the bunny slope while skiing. Her fall appeared minor–she reportedly refused to be taken to the hospital. If her head injury had been tended to quickly at a qualified trauma center, she would likely have recovered. Moreover, without medical documentation of your injuries, you will not be able to support a claim for fair compensation. Further, you should not miss appointments with your treating doctors. Any gaps or delays in treatment will negatively impact the value of your claim.
What should I do to document my injuries?

If you are injured, you should be keeping a daily log or journal of how you are feeling and the limitations on your movement. For example, 1Jan10 I had difficulty sleeping because the pain in my upper back and neck was an 8/10; I had difficulty moving to get out of bed and get to the bathroom; I could not get to the toilet without my husband’s help; he helped me in the shower . . .etc, etc. You should include the names of any witnesses to your pain & suffering, the limitations on your movement, the impact that the injuries have had on your daily living, and any changes in your activities and behavior. Common witnesses are your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, and your co-workers.

You should keep a photo log of your injuries as well. Either have your spouse take pictures, or take selfies of your condition with a digital camera or your smart phone. Bruises darken and then lighten, headaches go from severe to tolerable. A picture of your face while you’re in pain typically shows your suffering. Keeping a photo log ensures that you have an accurate objective record.

Posting things on social media is a personal choice. Be aware that the insurance adjuster and/or insurance defense lawyer will likely request access to, or printouts of, all your social media postings. It can be used as evidence in your case. Do not make posts contrary to your injuries. For example, when you have made a claim for neck and back injuries, do not post about your Ultimate Fighting Championship victory.

Who is going to pay for my medical treatment?

You are required to initially pay for your own medical treatment, even if you were not at-fault. If you have private health insurance, it will pay for your treatment. If you have state medicaid (AHCCCS), Medicare, or Tri-Care, it will pay for your treatment. Some medical providers, like the ambulance company, emergency department and/or chiropractors will treat you on a lien for their services when they know you were in a motor vehicle collision.

A medical lien is a legal document that guarantees payment when your case resolves. There are other options, too, like medical payment coverage on your auto insurance policy.

The rules and regulations of which entities get paid, or paid back, out of your injury claim are complex and change regularly. The general rule of thumb in Arizona is that if the government is involved, it gets paid back. Private insurance does not get paid back even though you collect the medical expenses as part of your injury claim.
See other issues in the series for more information on “What to Expect When You’ve Been in a Wreck.”

How do I get help and where do I start?

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured as a result of an accident, or if you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to an accident, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced legal team and take advantage of our Free Consultation today.