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What You Need to Know About Your Personal Injury Claim

The odds are you’re reading this days or even weeks after a car accident. The following provides helpful information after you’ve left the accident scene.

1. What is the most important thing to do immediately after an auto accident?

Accident Information
Keep in a safe place the at fault drivers information — name, address, phone number, drivers license number, and insurance information.

Keep photos of the accident scene and damage to your car, and any other cars involved. Be sure to have a back-up copy on your computer, or in the cloud.

If there are witnesses, be sure to keep their contact information. What the at fault driver says at the scene, may be very different from what they tell their insurance company. Witnesses make all the difference when the other driver is not being truthful about what happened.

Following the Accident:

Get medical treatment.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, what is most important is having a full recovery as quickly as possible. Do not delay in seeing your medical provider. Waiting a week or longer to get treatment not only slows down your recovery, but the insurance company will say that if you were really hurt you would’ve seen a provider immediately.

Be sure to let your providers know all of your injuries including: tingling in arms or legs, knee pain, anxiety you are having driving or being in a car, bad dreams about the accident, foggy thought process or memory problems. Even if the provider does not specialize in the areas of medicine that fits your injury — let them know. They can refer you to the right medical provider.

Contact your insurance company.
Under Oregon law, the insurance that covers the car you were injured in is required to pay all of your medical bills for 2 years or $15,000 worth of medical treatment — whichever happens first. Medical bills and wage loss are paid via the Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which is a part of every car insurance policy sold in the state of Oregon.

To often we see injured people delay or not get medical treatment because they don’t have health insurance and they don’t know about PIP. If you have doubts or concerns about your medical bills will be paid, ask your provider or talk to an attorney.

Be very careful talking with the other driver’s insurance company.
While they do need basic information to open a claim and take care of the damage done to your car, they are also looking for information they can use against you.The biggest problem we see is the injured person giving more information than they need to. Keep your answers short and to the point. In a perfect world, you would talk with an attorney before giving a recorded statement.

2. Do I need a personal injury attorney if I've been involved in a car accident?

It’s best to talk to a lawyer as soon as reasonably possible. We are more than happy to give you free legal advice.

60% of the people we talk to do not need to hire an attorney. 100% of them find the information we provide very helpful.

There is a lot of good information we can give you to make sure that you are protecting yourself, while dealing with the insurance companies such as:

  • It’s a week since the accident and the insurance company wants me to settle, what should I do?
  • Should I sign a medical authorization release for the at fault driver’s insurance company?
  • Do I continue treating when my insurance company is refusing to pay my medical bills?
  • My friends and family are giving me advice about my claim, what really are my rights and what should I be doing?

3. How much will it cost me to hire a personal injury attorney?

It cost you nothing to talk to us, or hire us. There are no upfront fees or costs that need to be paid. 

We work on a contingency fee basis. Which means, if we don’t get you a settlement, you don’t owe us a fee.  If your case settles without a trial, our fees are 33.33%. 

4. Do I have a personal injury case?

To have a personal injury claim — be it from a car collision, in a store or on someone’s property — you have to prove that the other person’s actions caused you to be injured.  Usually this means that the other person failed to drive in a way that a reasonable person does. Reasonable drivers don’t run red lights, they don’t pull out in front of another car that has the right away, or driving so fast that they cause danger. 

Claims against grocery stores or on someone’s property are more complex. If you have one of these claims, please call us. We represent many people injured in these incidents as well.

If you have questions are concerns about your claim, give us a call.

5. How are my medical bills and lost wages paid?

What is PIP?

A helpful way to visualize your auto insurance is to think of it as a book.  Books are usually divided into chapters.

One of the chapters in your auto insurance book is called PIP, or Personal Injury Protection. It’s like a mini health insurance policy that wraps around your car. It is required by law in virtually every auto policy sold in the state of Oregon — even if you only have liability coverage.

When you, and anyone in your car is injured — PIP is required by law to pay both medical bills and wage loss.

If you are in someone else’s car when a collision happens — their PIP will cover you. Just like, if they are in your car, your insurance will cover them.

What are the basic PIP benefits?

  1. All medical expenses incurred for two years after the date of injury, up to a maximum of $15,000. The medical bills must be reasonable in amount and related to your injury from the accident.
  2. Wage loss benefits of $3,000 a month or 70% of the average monthly income, whichever is less. You must be “usually engaged in paid work.” You must be off work for at least 14 consecutive days.
  3. If you do not “usually” work, you can receive up to $30 per day for “essential services.” This benefit applies if your  medical provider states in writing that you require assistance with household work. This, like wage loss benefits, can continue for a total of 52 weeks. As with wage loss, the disability must be for at least 14 days. Typically the insurance company will want proof of payment and the name, address, phone number and social security number of the person doing the work.
  4. If you are a parent of a minor and you are hospitalized for at least 24 hours, child care benefits can be claimed up to $15 a day, with a maximum of $450.
  5. Reasonable and necessary funeral expenses incurred as a result of the accident, within one year of the accident. The minimum coverage required by law is $5000.

6. What if the driver who caused the accident does not have car insurance?

If a collision is caused by someone who does not have insurance, your UM coverage will step in and cover your losses from your injury, including pain and suffering, just as if your company insured that person.

Every car policy sold in the state of Oregon is required to have Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage — even if you only have liability coverage.  It’s one of the chapter in your auto insurance policy ‘book’.

7. How long do I have to settle my personal injury claim after a car accident?

In Oregon, the statute of limitations for an adult is two years for a personal injury claim caused by a car accident. This means if your claim is not settled or a lawsuit filed within two years of the collision, then all of your rights are lost.

For minors the statute of limitations is 7 years from the date of the collision, or their 19th birthday — whichever comes first.

Additionally, there are numerous statutes that require written notice within 180 days of an injury — such as an injury caused by a city, county, state or federal employee.  

8. What does the other driver's insurance company not want me to know about my rights if I've been injured in a car accident?

What’s important to remember is that the adjuster works for the insurance company. Their primary jobs is to protect and save the insurance company money — just like any good employee will generally do for their employer.

An adjuster is professionally trained to do their job. Most of us don’t have the benefit of that training. To best protect yourself, make sure you understand what you need to do and not do with your claim.

While you may not need an attorney to represent you, it’s good to talk with one to better protect yourself. Talking to an attorney does not obligate you in any way to hire them, and it won’t cost you any money.

It’s not talking to an attorney that can cost you.

9. How do I find out what my personal injury case is worth?

We are often asked what is the value of a claim. It is a surprisingly challenging question to answer. There are many factors that go into answering the question.

The following is a partial list of factors that go into evaluating a claim:

  1. Is there a question of who caused the collision?
  2. Does the injured person have pre-existing conditions?
  3. What does the visual damage to the cars look like?
  4. Are there any gaps in treatment?
  5. How long did the person treat?
  6. Was there time loss?
  7. Who were their providers?
  8. What type of treatment did they have? 
  9. Are there permanent injuries? 
  10. Will there be verified future medical treatment? 
  11. What are the total cost of the medical treatment?
  12. How much of the treatment has been paid by PIP and how much is owing to your providers and health insurance company?

To accurately determine a fair settlement range for a personal injury claim it is important that the injured person has been released from their medical providers care.

If anyone is telling you they know they settlement value of your claim, before you are done treating, they either do not know what they are talking about or they are not telling you the truth.

10. What is the most important thing I can do to recover from my injuries after a car accident?

First, let your doctor know about all the injuries and discomfort you have because of the collision — even if the provider does not treat for that injury. They can’t refer you to the right provider if they don’t know about the injury. Also, if the injury is not properly documented in your chart notes, it can raise substantial issues as to whether it was really caused by the collision.

Second, tell your doctor about any similar pain, discomfort or problems you have had in the past, even if you had a full recovery. The information you give your doctor will allow them to better understand your injury and to establish the best treatment plan for you.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that informing your doctor of prior injuries or treatment might hurt your claim. The opposite is true: telling your doctor everything will actually help your claim. Honesty and candor are critical to a full recovery and a successful claim.

Third, make sure to follow your doctor’s advice, including instructions on home care, and keep your appointments.

Your goal is to have a full recovery as soon as possible. Everything you do to get better, is always what’s best for your personal injury claim.

We’ll help you determine whether you have a case and if you need an attorney. It doesn’t make sense to hire a lawyer if you don’t need one.

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