What Do I Do Now That I Have Been in a Motor Vehicle Accident?

What Do I Do Now That I Have Been in a Motor Vehicle Accident?

When you head out on the road, a motor vehicle accident is the last thing you want to happen. However, if you fall victim to a motor vehicle accident on account of another driver’s negligence, you do not want to do anything to jeopardize receiving full compensation for your injuries and damages.

The first thing you want to do is address the immediate medical needs of yourself and others. If you, a friend or family member are able, get the names and contact information from potential witnesses and take photographs of the scene and vehicle damage. Responding officers will likely want statements. Following the incident, be sure to contact the responding agency and request copies of all reports, 911 calls, dash cam video, body cam video, photographs, statements and any other evidence that may have been gathered from the scene of the accident. Depending on the location, street camera surveillance may be available as well. Some of this evidence, especially body cam video, may be discarded shortly after the accident. Therefore, it is critical you request this information promptly. In reviewing the reports and your statement, if you believe there are errors or omissions, bring this to the attention of the responsible agency as soon as possible.

Contacting your insurance company promptly is important as well. Immediately review your most recent insurance declarations. If you have what is referred to as underinsured or uninsured motor vehicle coverage (UIM/UM), your insurance company may provide coverage for injuries and damages you sustained as part of the accident if the negligent party has insufficient insurance coverage or no coverage at all. Your insurance company will also need to be notified to address the property damage to your motor vehicle.

You will also most likely be contacted soon after the collision by the other driver’s insurer. His or her company will likely want to abruptly resolve matters with you for an amount that may be far less than the true value of your loss. If your accident occurred in the State of Wisconsin, you have 3 years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit. Therefore, there is no immediate need to settle your claim within days or weeks of the accident. What may seem like an expected ache or pain that you feel will go away in days or weeks, could be a far more serious (even permanent) soft tissue injury. Waiting to more fully assess the extent of your injuries and damages is vital to being fully compensated.

The other driver’s insurance company will also likely want you to give a statement that is recorded. This insurance company does not represent you and does not have your best interests in mind. This statement could be used against you later. You have no obligation to give a statement to the other driver’s insurer. If you do give a statement, you are entitled to a copy of the statement and we recommend securing one as soon as possible.

If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, the attorneys at Anderson O’Brien are here to help. We have decades of experience representing those injured in motor vehicle accidents to ensure that they are protected. We are only a call away.

 

Who Pays Medical Bills Before a Settlement?

Who Pays Medical Bills Before a Settlement?

If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you probably have many questions, including questions about how your medical bills will be paid. If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident due to the negligence of another person, you may recover your medical bills through a lawsuit. However, it may be months or even years before you receive a settlement or judgment from the negligent driver and his or her insurance company. In the meantime, you need to ensure that your medical bills are covered. How those bills are paid will ultimately affect your recovery.

The first place you will want to look for insurance coverage for medical bills is your own automobile policy. Many drivers are unaware that their automobile policy may carry a certain amount of coverage for medical bills arising from an automobile accident. This amount is usually minimal, but every bit helps. If you reach a settlement with the negligent driver’s insurer, your automobile insurer generally is not entitled to be refunded for the medical bills it paid unless and until you are made whole by the settlement – meaning that you are fully compensated for all elements of damage. In most cases, a negotiated reduction is reached to avoid a separate mini-trial on this issue.

The next place you will want to look for medical coverage is your own health insurance. If you have health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan that is fully-funded by the employer, you may have to pay that health plan back all of the amount it paid for your medical bills regardless of whether you are made whole. These plans, referred to as self-funded ERISA plans, are governed by federal law, which preempts state law concepts such as the made whole doctrine. Some of these plans, however, are insured by a third party. An experienced lawyer will know to research the plan to determine whether it is insured or self-funded and whether arguments can be made in an effort to reduce the amount you are required to refund the plan from your settlement.

Finally, if you are insured through Medicare, the federal government has established a specific formula to calculate the amount that must be refunded. That formula is based on the amount of the settlement or judgment and the amount of legal fees and costs associated with achieving it.

Before resolving any case, it is always important to know what your payback obligations are to third parties that paid for medical bills related to the accident. Having an experienced lawyer involved gives you the benefit of determining what these payback obligations are and how to negotiate reductions where possible to account for the time and effort you and your counsel spent to recover from the negligent party.

 

Arbitration? What am I Gaining? What am I Losing?

Arbitration? What am I Gaining? What am I Losing?

You have probably heard the word “arbitration” before. Maybe you have purchased a consumer product and looked at the fine print to discover a reference to arbitration. Perhaps you have seen a reference to it in some other context. In some situations, such as a consumer product purchase, you may not have much of a choice when it comes to submitting any disputes to arbitration. In other cases, however, you may have some negotiating power over the terms of a contract you are a party to. For example, perhaps you are negotiating a contract with a homebuilder for the construction of your new dream home and you have come across an arbitration clause. In these and similar instances, it is to your benefit to have a basic understanding of the concept of arbitration and know what you are losing and what you are gaining by agreeing to submit your disputes, should they arise, to arbitration.

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution. In other words, it is a means of resolving disputes privately as an alternative to a formal lawsuit in court with a judge and jury. In arbitration, the judge is replaced by a private individual, usually chosen and paid for by the parties. Arbitrator rates vary widely and can range anywhere from a couple hundred in total to several hundred dollars per hour.

The benefit of an arbitrator, as opposed to a judge, is typically faster action on disputes that arise during the process. The arbitrator, unlike a judge with many other cases, will usually have more time to turn to your particular matter sooner. However, unlike a judge, who is funded by the taxpayers, an arbitrator’s bill can grow fast.

Another difference between arbitration and a formal lawsuit is the time between start and finish of the case. Lawsuits in court can drag on for months and oftentimes years. Arbitration, on the other hand, can be over in under six months or even sooner.

Arbitration moves faster than a formal lawsuit for a number of reasons. First, in arbitration, the parties are not competing for the court’s priority with hundreds, and oftentimes, thousands of other cases. Second, the arbitration process typically does not provide for beneficial tools known as “discovery” that help parties prove their claims and defenses. These discovery tools, including depositions, written questions, document requests, and more, while very useful in finding and fleshing out evidence, add time to the process. Because the tools are usually not available in arbitration, the process tends to move faster but it can also make it more difficult to prove claims and defenses if there is information you want from the other side.

Before agreeing to any contract with an arbitration clause included, you should consider consulting an attorney who can advise you further on these and many other advantages and disadvantages of choosing this method for resolving disputes with the other party or parties to your contract, should they arise.

 

Are you Adequately Covered to Head out on the Road?

Are you Adequately Covered to Head out on the Road?

We hope that you never end up in an automobile accident. However, automobile accidents happen every day, and should you become involved in one, you want to make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage.

The type of automobile insurance coverage that most drivers are familiar with is liability coverage. In Wisconsin, you are required to carry automobile liability insurance of at least $25,000. Liability coverage means the amount available to cover your liability to another party should you be responsible for his or her injuries arising from the accident. While $25,000 is the minimum coverage you must legally carry, that amount is likely insufficient to protect you in the event the other driver and passengers sustain injuries. Larger liability coverage amounts are available through most insurers, including amounts up to $250,000 or even $500,000.

Beyond basic liability coverage, you should also consider acquiring umbrella coverage, which is relatively inexpensive coverage that applies in the event a claim exceeds your basic liability limits. Umbrella coverage is usually for $1 million or more and usually requires underlying limits of a minimum amount, such as $250,000.

If another driver is responsible (or at-fault) for injuring you in a vehicle accident, that driver might not have auto insurance (even though the law requires it) or might have insufficient insurance coverage. This is where two other relatively inexpensive coverages may help—underinsured motorist (UIM) and uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. For example, if you sustain damages of $250,000 and the other driver has only $100,000 of liability coverage, if you have $250,000 of UIM coverage, your UIM coverage will pay the remaining $150,000. Thus, by having UIM and UM coverage, you will be protected in the event the other driver has insufficient coverage or no coverage.

Hopefully, you also carry good medical insurance. If you are injured in an auto accident, medical expenses can be substantial. What most people do not know is that their automobile policy includes medical coverage for injuries arising from an automobile accident. However in most cases, that coverage is minimal, such as $10,000. You may, and we recommend you consider, acquiring much higher coverage. Medical payments coverage in an automobile policy is usually relatively inexpensive.

Protect yourself and buy sufficient liability, medical, umbrella, underinsured, and uninsured insurance coverage. In the unfortunate event you are injured in an automobile accident, you will know that you have sufficient coverage available to compensate you for your injuries and damages.

Finally, while you might have sufficient coverage, wrestling with an insurance company to pay your claim is not a simple task. Attorneys who handle car accident cases all the time know what works and can help you get the top dollar from your insurance company. In the event you are in an auto accident, don’t wait and contact your personal injury attorney right away.

 

Statute of Limitations in Auto Cases

Statute of Limitations in Auto Cases

If you have been in an automobile accident, you may have several claims to consider. First, you may have a bodily injury claim to consider if you were injured and the other party was equally or more responsible than you. If that party does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance, you may have what is called an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim under your own automobile insurance. Finally, if you lose a loved one to a motor vehicle accident, you may have a wrongful death claim against the negligent party.

If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may have several categories of damages. These include medical expenses, lost wages for time you may have been off of work, and future lost wages if you will not be able to return to your current job. In addition, you may be entitled to pain and suffering. If your damages total $100,000 but the other driver who is responsible only has a $25,000 liability policy, where will you recover the other $75,000 from? If you have underinsured motorist coverage under your own automobile policy, you should begin by looking at your limits. If you have $100,000 of underinsured motorist coverage, under most policies the $25,000 you recover from the negligent driver’s insurer will come off of your limits, leaving you with $75,000 of underinsured motorist coverage. If the other driver had no insurance, you would look to your uninsured motorist coverage. In this case, if you have $100,000 of uninsured motorist coverage, you will be looking entirely to your own automobile insurer for recovery.

In the above scenarios, you have three years from the date of the accident to sue the other driver and his or her insurer. Of course, you should always put your own automobile insurer on notice immediately after the motor vehicle accident, especially in light of the fact that you may not learn of the other driver’s liability limits until much later. The lower the other driver’s limits and the higher your damages, the more likely an underinsured motorist claim becomes. For automobile accidents occurring on or after February 6, 2016, you have three years from the date you resolve your bodily injury claim with the other negligent driver to bring a contractual claim (by lawsuit or, if required by your policy, by arbitration) against your own automobile insurer for underinsured motorist coverage if your insurer refuses to pay the full underinsured amount that the policy requires. The same is true if you learn that the other driver is uninsured. For automobile accidents occurring on or after February 6, 2016, you have three years from the date that you resolve matters with the uninsured driver to sue your own auto insurer if you feel the insurer has not paid the full amount of the uninsured claim that the policy requires.

Finally, in the unthinkable event that you lose a loved one to an automobile accident, depending on who else has survived the decedent, you may have a wrongful death claim. Unlike bodily injury claims, the time limit within which to bring suit for a wrongful death claim has recently been reduced to two years for auto accidents occurring on or after February 6, 2016.

Contacting a lawyer after being injured in a motor vehicle accident is always a good idea. Representatives for the other driver’s insurer will usually be looking to settle your claims quickly. Having a competent lawyer on your side will protect you against settling for an amount that does not fully compensate you for your injuries.

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