Insurance companies lose money when they pay claims, so they pay as few of them as possible. They particularly dislike paying claims in favor of third parties, because there is no customer goodwill at stake. So, in order to obtain maximum compensation for your injuries, an experienced and aggressive attorney is a must-have right from the start.
Call a Lawyer First
In the immediate aftermath of car crashes, nearly everyone calls their insurance companies. This call gets your case started off on the wrong foot, because most telephone operators at insurance companies are specifically trained to extract negative information from the callers without them even knowing it. Later, when the case goes to trial, insurance company lawyers are very adept at manipulating technicalities in the evidence code to get these statements admitted in court.
Calling a lawyer first is almost always the best move. Since the plaintiff has the burden of proof at trial, it’s very important to start gathering evidence as quickly as possible, in order to build a winning case. This phone call sets up other important developments in your case as well.
See a Doctor
Many people believe that if they are not bleeding profusely or if they do not “feel injured,” then they do not need to go to the doctor. That’s almost always a mistake as well.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of head injury deaths in the United States. Even if the victims do not hit their heads on the window or the dashboard or whatever, they may still sustain head injuries, because sometimes the sudden jolt and jostle is enough to cause a serious injury. Think about what happens if you shake a raw egg, and the yoke slams up against the shell.
Furthermore, the brain is very adept at concealing its own injury, which is one reason why many football players who sustain serious head injuries tell the coach that they “feel fine” so they can go back in the game. So, without prompt medical attention that includes specialized diagnostic equipment, many people may not even know they have head injuries until serious symptoms, like personality changes and sleeplessness, start to appear. By that time, these injuries are much harder to treat.
Aside from the head injury risk, it’s important to see a medical professional who regularly handles car crash injuries, because many of these injuries are not apparent to other professionals. Whiplash is a good example. Since many people do not experience symptoms for at least 24 hours, many emergency rooms do not treat whiplash. This condition leads to serious symptoms, including:
- Neck pain,
- Trouble concentrating, and
- Severe fatigue.
All these symptoms make it difficult or impossible to function at work or at home on a consistent basis, and this condition is very significant in terms of the no-fault law.
It is very, very important to see a doctor within the first 24 hours after a car crash if at all possible, because otherwise, the insurance company will claim later that the victim’s injuries must not have been very bad. If you do not know where to go, an attorney can refer you to a doctor during your phone call. If you cannot afford to see the doctor, an attorney has an answer for that problem too.
Over two-thirds of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, and many of these people have no savings at all, so there is usually no money to pay unexpected medical bills. Making matters worse, for liability reasons, many health insurance companies refuse to pay for car crash-related medical bills.
To ease these financial pressures, attorneys send letters of protection to medical providers who assist their clients. These letters guarantee payment when the personal injury case is resolved, so the provider charges no money upfront. There is more good news. When the case is settled or won, attorneys usually negotiate with these providers for lower rates, which means less of the settlement money goes to pay costs and more of it goes into the victim’s pocket.
What Happens When the Case is Over?
About 97 percent of civil cases, including negligence cases, settle out of court. So, most victims do not need to go to trial to obtain compensation for their:
- Economic damages, including lost wages, property damage, and medical bills, and
- Noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (companionship).
Under New York’s no-fault insurance law, which was mentioned above, noneconomic damages are available only if the victim sustained a “serious” injury. Many injuries meet this threshold because of the 90/180 rule. If the victim sustained any injury whatsoever that “prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities” for at least 90 out of the 180 days immediately after the crash, the victim sustained a “serious” injury for negligence purposes. The days do not have to be consecutive, because many people have good days and bad days as they recover from their injuries.
Some other injuries, such as disfigurement (scarring) or a fracture, qualify as a matter of law, so there is no need to look at the calendar at all.
A successful claim for maximum compensation begins the moment you reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney in New York from Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We normally do not charge upfront legal fees in personal injury cases.