This post discusses some common NC Personal Injury Pitfalls that we encounter at The Bishop Law Firm. While every case is different, there are some issues that reoccur frequently.
NC Personal Injury Pitfalls
You must report the accident to the authorities.
Unfortunately, many prospects call our office after being injured without reporting their injury to the authorities. Based on the type of accident in which you received your injury, who you would report to varies quite a bit.
In a car accident, you should call 911 and wait for the police/sheriff/trooper to arrive. If you are injured at a business, you should inform the manager. If you are injured at someone’s home, you should inform the home owner. Be sure to write down who you spoke to, when you spoke to them and a description (with their physical characteristics and clothing details).
If you do not report your injury immediately, you have no proof that your accident occurred or was the cause of your injury. Failing to report your injury immediately can result in an inability to recover for your injury later.
The exception to this would be individuals who are so badly hurt that reporting their injury is impossible. If this is the case, the injured person or their family should report the accident as soon as possible.
Should you use your own health insurance to cover injury expenses?
Many of our clients use their own health insurance to pay for the medical treatment they receive after a personal injury. However, the injured party does not have to give their health insurance information but this may cause collection actions against them or claims by the insurance company that they are not attempting to limit their expenses.
In addition, the medical provider has a choice as to if they file with the injured party’s health insurance or assert a lien directly for medical treatment received. Certain insurance (Medicare and Medicaid are examples) have a right to be reimbursed for their expenses if their insurance is used to pay for accident related medical treatment. Whereas, private medical providers can assert liens against a personal injury settlement.
A private medical provider may be more willing to negotiate than Medicare or Medicaid because they have no right to reimbursement under federal law.
Affording medical treatment without health insurance
If you do not have health insurance, you can attempt to see your medical providers on a lien basis if you have a pending personal injury case. You can also try free/low costs clinics for treatment. However, it should be noted that the cost of medical treatment affects the final settlement. If free or reduced cost treatment is received, this can reduce your settlement amount but you must have medical treatment!
Filing the right type of claim
Personal Injury claims do not cover property damage, or vice versa. You will need to file a bodily injury claim as well as a property damage claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Many times, two separate adjusters will handle your claims. Also remember that filing a claim with the insurance company is not the same thing as filing a case in court. If you wish to pursue litigation, you will have to file a case in court before the NC Statute of Limitations runs out for your type of injury.
Obtaining accident reports
Car accident reports should be available relatively soon after your accident unless the crash needs further investigation by law enforcement. You should try to obtain the accident report as soon as possible to confirm that what happened was correctly documented on the report. Car accident reports are usually available online, but some must be requested by mail.
Many commercial properties write incident reports when an accident has occurred on their property. If possible, before leaving the scene of the accident, write down who you reported the accident to (with a physical description of them) and ask them to email you the incident report as soon as possible.
It is advisable to contact witnesses as soon as possible after the accident by phone or email (email is better) so they can give you a statement of what they witnessed. The sooner they give this statement, the more likely they are to give it and remember what actually happened. As more time goes on they can forget details and lose interest in helping.
Dealing with the insurance adjuster
As we have talked about before, dealing with the insurance adjuster can be tricky because if you tell them too much information they can deny your case but if you won’t communicate with them at all, they will definitely deny your claim. This can be tricky! Most insurance adjusters will want to do a recorded statement. Before you do a recorded statement, you should discuss your statement with a NC Personal Injury Lawyer.
Accepting the First Offer or Denial from the Insurance Adjuster
Insurance adjusters often give insultingly low first offers, especially to unrepresented individuals. These offers may or may not even be based on the total of all your medical expenses, lost wages or pain & suffering (it should be noted that insurance adjusters do not want to pay pain & suffering damages at all). Or an insurance adjuster can deny your claim simple because its Monday. Before you accept an offer that will leave you in more debt than you were before the accident or give up on a claim because of an insurance adjuster denial, consider talking to a injury attorney who can help you decide the best course of action.
Knowing when to hire a NC Personal Injury Lawyer
Many injured persons decide not to hire an NC Personal Injury Attorney in their initial dealings with the insurance adjuster when in fact this can be the most critical time for a claim. The information that you give the adjuster before you are represented can and will be used against you to reduce the value of the claim even if you hire counsel later on.
The decision to hire counsel should be based on how complicated the accident was, how severe your injuries are and how much you have sustained in financial loss. Realizing that you need counsel sooner rather than later can help increase your settlement amount.
The Bishop Law Firm represents victims in personal injury claims in Raleigh, Cary, Fayetteville, Durham, Rocky Mount, Wilson, Smithfield, Louisburg, Chapel Hill, Roanoke Rapids, and surrounding areas in North Carolina. We do not get paid unless we win your case and we offer free case reviews. Contact us today, (919) 615-3095! We wish you or your loved one a speedy recovery.