Having the right to file a personal injury claim does not mean you have a right to have your claim paid right away. Many people don't realize they must go through the insurance claims process before they can receive the compensation they deserve. This leaves many who've been injured in an accident in a financial bind. They need the money to pay for treatment so they can recover. But, they cannot receive compensation for their losses until they've already incurred those costs. In most cases, the injured party must pay for all his or her medical expenses out of pocket, then file a claim for compensation in one lump sum. But if you don't have insurance or your insurance leaves you with significant out of pocket costs, you might be in a position where you're tempted to settle early so that you can pay your bills and avoid creditors.
In reality, patience pays off in personal injury claims. In an ideal scenario, you would heal from your injuries fully before you even begin settlement negotiations. But some injuries take years to fully heal while others may never heal completely. If you are in this catch 22, try to be patient, and review these pointers so you can make an informed decision about when to settle your claim.
Seek Medical Treatment
After an accident, you might not feel that bad at all. In fact, it could be 24-48 hours before you feel the effects of your accident. Nevertheless, you should seek emergency or urgent medical treatment after any accident, no matter how minor. X-rays and other diagnostic imaging may reveal injuries you can't see or feel yet. And if you fail to seek medical treatment right away, the insurance company might try to use that to claim you weren't really hurt. It's best to listen to professionals, err on the side of caution, and seek medical assistance as soon as you can.
Listen to your doctors before you listen to the insurance company.
The insurance company might tell you it won't cover certain services or that you shouldn't need further treatment. In reality, the company must pay legitimate claims for reasonable and necessary medical expenses. They aren't the ones that get to decide whether your physical therapy is necessary to heal your dislocated shoulder. That's the physician's responsibility entirely. If the insurance company is threatening not to compensate you for further treatment, listen to your doctor, follow his or her treatment recommendations, and call an attorney. An attorney can fight on your behalf to argue your treatment was reasonable and necessary. This often takes corresponding with your treatment team and the insurance company.
Don't Skip Treatments
Recovering from injuries such as soft tissue injuries can take months of grueling physical therapy. It's unpleasant and expensive. But if you don't complete your treatment, you could be suffering for years to come. You want to reach maximum medical improvement, or MMI, before you settle your claim. This is a concept used in workers' comp claims but can be useful to help you know when to stop treatment when healing from your accident. MMI means you've treated your injuries to the extent that you can, and your doctor doesn't expect your condition to improve. If your physician says you have more treatment to go, follow his or her advice. You might reach a point where further treatment will not improve your injuries, but you might need ongoing treatment for pain management. At this point, it's OK to work with an attorney to begin settlement negotiations. Just make sure your physician gives you an idea of how much treatment you will need in the future. Your attorney can factor the cost of that future treatment into your settlement.
Don't Settle Just to Pay Your Bills
If you are tempted to settle so you can pay your bills, call an attorney. An attorney might be able to arrange for a lien, wherein your medical provider stakes a claim in your settlement. He or she treats you in the meantime with the expectation of reimbursement once you settle. Your attorney can then satisfy any liens out of your settlement. This can help you focus on what's important. Also, it's not uncommon for health insurance companies to threaten not to pay your medical claims if they think another insurance policy (e.g., auto insurance) should pick up the tab. Filing the right paperwork can ensure your medical insurance company continues to pay your claims and then seeks reimbursement from the auto insurance policy claim payout once you settle.
Patience is the key to fair compensation in a personal injury claim. It may take months for you to heal and many more months to settle your claim. But the benefits typically outweigh the costs. You waive your right to further compensation once you cash the insurance company's check, so make sure your physician and California personal injury attorney agree it's time to settle before you do so.
Do you need help getting the compensation you deserve? Fresno area personal injury attorney Christopher Martens can help you protect your interests and rights while settling your claim. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide knowledgeable personal injury claim guidance. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.