Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to the questions most frequently asked about personal injury claims in North Carolina, South Carolina & Virginia.
Should I speak with the insurance adjuster?
Discussing repair or replacement costs concerning damage to your vehicle is fine. However, it is not in your best interest to discuss the accident or your injuries with an adjuster. The adjuster works for the insurance company. The adjuster’s job is to limit the amount of money the insurance company pays. To protect your own interests, consult with a personal injury attorney before giving any statement and before signing any document. If you hire an attorney, the attorney can speak with the adjuster and make sure the issues that are important to you are addressed.
Do I really need an attorney?
Most people are involved in one, or maybe two, accidents during their lifetime. The insurance companies and their adjusters handle thousands of accidents each day. By hiring an attorney with experience handling personal injury cases, you are arming yourself with the weapons to ensure you are treated fairly. Published reports have shown that injured parties who hire attorneys receive two to four times more money than people who deal with the insurance company on their own. The insurance companies have professionals watching out for their interests, and you should have professionals watching out for you.
What can I do about my property damage claim?
If you own the car that was involved in the accident, this is often the first battleground with the insurance company. We can work with the adjuster to help get you into a rental car, make sure the repairs are done to your satisfaction, or in the case of a total loss, make sure you get the fair market value for your vehicle. Even if your car is repaired, the amount of damage and age of your vehicle may warrant a claim for diminished value (the loss of resale value due to being involved in an accident). You may also have a claim for personal property that was lost or damaged in the accident. Contact our office
for more details. Also, visit the websites of Kelly Blue Book
or the National Automobile Dealers Association
to learn more about the value of your vehicle.
How will I be able to pay my medical bills?
Our job is to protect your interests. This includes your medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering. While each case is different, there are a number of things that can be done through the other driver’s insurance, your own health insurance, or your own auto insurance to handle payment of your medical expenses and help you receive fair compensation.
Should I use my health insurance for accident-related medical bills?
Yes. While conditions and requirements for health insurance plans vary, your health insurance generally provides coverage in the event you are injured. Filing your health insurance will allow you access to a large number of doctors, help keep the amount of your bills under control, and may assist you in obtaining a larger recovery in your case.
Will delays or gaps in my medical care hurt my case?
Absolutely. We cannot stress enough the importance of immediate and consistent medical treatment. If you are feeling pain or discomfort, let a doctor examine you. Once you have been seen, follow the doctor’s treatment plan. Communicate with the doctor so that he or she can recommend the type and length of treatment that will be necessary to help you recover from your injuries. Remember, the insurance companies and adjusters are looking to limit the amount of money they pay out on your case. If you are injured, but not seeking immediate treatment or not going to the regularly scheduled follow-up appointments, you are helping the insurance company reduce the value of your case.
How can I be compensated for the time I have missed at work?
If you are injured to the point that you are unable to work, you need to do two things:
- Consult with a medical professional and have him or her assess your condition. Have the physician write you a disability note that you can provide to your employer and to your attorney.
- Consult with your employer to verify the amount of time you have missed from work, your rate of pay, and the total amount of income you have lost as a result of your injuries.
Please note: You are entitled to compensation for lost time, even if you used vacation or personal leave time to avoid a financial loss. You would have been able to use that time for other things had you not been injured in an accident.
How long will my case take?
The length of your case depends on several factors, including—
- How long you have been treated by your doctors
- Cooperation from your medical providers in obtaining your bills and records
- Your decision on settlement or trial
We work to make sure each step is done right and provide you with the information and expert advice you need to make the choice that is right for you.
How much is my case worth?
Every case is different and most of the factors that go into evaluating your case are not fully known until you have completed medical treatment. These factors include, but are not limited to the—
- Amount of property damage to your vehicle
- Diagnosis of your injuries
- Amount of medical treatment you received
- Amount of your medical bills and lost wages
- Whether you have a permanent injury or will require future medical care
- Your medical history
- The at-fault parties’ background
- Venue in which your case would go to trial
- Amount of available insurance coverage
What are attorneys’ fees?
Attorneys’ fees are the amount of money that the attorneys, staff, and law firm are paid for providing legal services. In most personal injury and wrongful death cases, attorneys’ fees are on a contingency basis. Under this arrangement, the attorneys’ fees are based on a percentage of what you are awarded in the case. If the case is lost, the attorneys do not typically recover a fee, although you may have to pay some expenses or costs. The contingency fee percentage varies and some lawyers offer a sliding scale based on how far along the case is when it is resolved. A one-third fee (33.33 percent) is common if your case is not litigated. If your case is litigated, the attorneys’ fees may increase and are subject to the amount recovered at trial.
What are attorneys’ costs?
Attorneys’ costs are expenses incurred by the law firm in the preparation and the litigation of your case. Those costs typically include filing fees, investigation costs, copies of records (medical, accident reports, etc.), expert witness fees (not in every case), costs for the production of evidence, costs associated with subpoenas and the taking of depositions, and travel and lodging costs. Typically, our firm will recover these costs at the conclusion of the case. As a general rule, costs tend to be higher in complex cases or when injuries are very serious.
Can your law firm advance me money on my case?
No. The North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia Bar Associations policies are very clear that an attorney or law firm cannot and must not advance or lend money to a client.
How much does it cost to hire you?
Nothing. It does not cost you anything to hire us as your attorneys. Our attorneys earn their fees on a contingency basis. Under this arrangement, the attorney’s fee is based on a percentage of what you are awarded in the case. If the case is not successful, the attorney does not recover a fee.
What is Medical Payments coverage (Med Pay)?
Medical payments coverage, sometimes called medical benefits coverage, is often referred to as Med Pay. Med Pay is a type of coverage you may have purchased through your own auto insurance or the owner of the vehicle you were riding in may have on his or her policy. This coverage is designed to pay for medical bills that are incurred as a result of injury from an accident. Med Pay has nothing to do with the liability aspects of a case, but instead is based upon whether a medical bill can be related to an accident-related injury. If this coverage is available, it may pay for your medical expenses, up to the purchased amount of coverage ($500 or more), without affecting the amount paid out by the at-fault party’s insurance company.
What is uninsured (UM) or under-insured (UIM) motorist coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage protects injured drivers if the at-fault driver has no insurance. Uninsured motorist coverage can also apply when someone is injured in an accident with an unidentified hit-and-run vehicle. If a person has uninsured motorist coverage and is in an accident with an uninsured motorist, he or she may be able to collect from his or her insurance company to recoup damages.
Under-insured motorist coverage provides compensation for injured drivers when the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance coverage to compensate the injured party in full for his or her injuries. An under-insured motorist is generally a person who is responsible for the injuries, but who has opted to purchase only the minimum policy required by law. If a person who has purchased under-insured motorist coverage is in an accident with an under-insured motorist, he or she may be able to collect from his or her own insurance company to recoup damages that are greater than the responsible party’s insurance limits.
Who will decide whether to accept a settlement offer in my case?
You make the decision to settle your case. When settlement negotiations are under way, as your attorneys, we will advise you and let you know our legal and professional opinion. However, the ultimate decision is yours.
Once I sign a contract for you to represent me, what happens next?
Our staff will quickly and completely perform a thorough investigation of your case. We actively seek copies of your medical records and medical bills. We investigate your claim by gathering evidence and witness statements. Once our initial investigation is complete, we determine whether the best course of action is to attempt to facilitate out-of-court negotiations or move forward with filing a lawsuit to either negotiate a settlement or take your case to trial.
Learn about questionable auto insurance practices
Anderson Cooper’s CNN story on questionable auto insurance practices
Need more answers?
For answers to your questions about your personal injury case, speak to a Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban attorney. Call 888-351-1038 or contact us online.