Common Questions about Car Accidents & Insurance Carriers
What to do if you’ve been injured in an automobile accident
At the law firm of Krug & Zupke, P.C. we assist people in St. Paul, the Twin Cities Metro and throughout Minnesota who have been injured in an auto accident. Often when we are providing our free initial consultation for accident and injury victims they have a lot of the same questions. In the interest of trying to provide some very basic information, we put together the answers to some of the most common car accident questions. Please understand that this is NOT meant to be legal advice, rather general information about car accidents and the related insurance claims. Telephone 651.645-7746 to receive a free consultation to assess the legal procedures and remedies specific to your case.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What to do first if you are injured in an auto accident
- Exchange insurance information with involved driver(s) at the scene.
- Provide the police with accurate information about how the accident occurred as this will affect who will be determined to be “at fault” for the accident.
- If you recognize you are injured at the scene, seek medical treatment as soon as possible, giving an accurate and complete history of the body parts injured.
- Notify your insurance company about the accident giving accurate histories about the cause of the accident and what body parts are hurt.
What information do I give and to whom?
The insurers involved in your case will exploit any omissions you make about your medical history. If you feel neck, shoulder and back pain after an accident and you go to the Emergency Room, report all three body part regions hurt, even if the neck pain was worse in the beginning and is a little better at the time you are there.
What if pain comes on gradually and I’m not sure I’m hurt?
Use common sense. Pain that is new, increasing, severe, constant, involves shooting pains into the arms and legs, causes sleeplessness or affects functioning at home or at work is generally of a severity level that medical treatment should be obtained. Failure to obtain prompt treatment is a common defense asserted by insurance companies.
What do I do if the insurance company wants to take a statement?
If the insurance company contacts you to take a statement, call us immediately and do not provide the statement until represented by an attorney. What you say in your statement will be compared to your medical and other records in an attempt to show inconsistencies or omissions.
What happens if I’m injured by an uninsured or hit and run driver?
You have claims against your own Insurer under your Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. The amount of this coverage varies depending upon the coverage purchased.
When will benefits begin?
Your No-Fault insurer will require that you complete an Application of Benefits form, which will inquire about the date and location of the accident, the identity of the drivers and passengers, a description of your injuries and sources of medical treatment, the name of your employer(s), wage rate and period wage loss is claimed. You will also be required to sign medical and general authorizations. The Insurer will use the authorizations to obtain your current and past medical records as well as wage, salary and employment information to scrutinize your claims.
Will my medical bills and wage loss automatically be paid?
Not necessarily because the Insurer will evaluate your medical records and employment information to determine whether your medical bills and wage loss were substantially caused by the claimed motor vehicle accident. The existence of any prior medical treatment(s) for body parts injured in the current accident may be exploited by the Insurer to argue that your current medical treatment is caused by a pre-existing condition. Medical evidence must be obtained to rebut the Insurer’s pre-existing injury defense.
What must I do to prove my wage loss?
You must present a proof of past earnings statement from your employer along with a written workability release statement from a doctor or a chiropractor that removes you from work entirely, or, restricts your hours or job duties in such a way as to result in a loss of earnings. For example: an accident may cause you to undergo a surgery resulting in disability for eight weeks. Thus, your No-Fault Insurer would be responsible for eight weeks of wage loss subject to the $250 per week limitation, unless you have additional “stacking” coverage.
What is meant by stacking?
If you insure more than one vehicle, you may purchase multiples of $20,000 in PIP coverage, depending upon the number of vehicles you insure. Your insurance agent should ask whether you want to “stack” your coverages at the time of purchase. Stacking may result in increasing the limits of your wage loss and medical bill payment claims.
What should I expect in a personal injury lawsuit?
As the injured party you have the “burden of proof.” You must show:
- that the person or company you sue is more at fault than you for the accident;
- that you sustained injury due to the defendant’s negligence; and
- that you meet one of five minimum requirements under the law which are:
- incurred medical expenses greater than $4,000, excluding diagnostic scans and x-rays;
- incurred a disablement of 60 or more days;
- have a permanent scar from cuts, lacerations or surgeries caused by the accident;
- permanent injury, or
- death was caused by the collision.
Fatal accidents require special procedures and “proofs” under Minnesota Wrongful Death Law for the benefit of spouses, dependents, parents and siblings of the decedent. Exploration of all aspects of damage is essential.
During a lawsuit depositions will be taken, written questions and answers will be exchanged by the attorneys, and you will be required to undergo an Adverse Medical Examination with an insurance company doctor. The case will undergo settlement discussions through “mediation,” and, if unresolved, the case will go to trial.
Choice of Treating Physician?
Your choice of treating physician is critical and may affect the viability of the case. Such a critical choice is important when a specialist (e.g., orthopedist or neurologist) is selected, as doctors are needed who understand the significance of their opinions and who are fair in the assessment of an injury. The treating physician’s chart notes and opinions will be scrutinized throughout your case.
Coverage for Catastrophic Injuries?
Closed head, paraplegic and/or quadriplegic injuries are devastating and no amount of compensation will be sufficient to replace good health. Injuries to children can result in a lifetime of medical care and may require the establishment of a special needs trust. The cost of ongoing medical care and the value of future wage loss and lost earning capacity constitute extraordinary damages that should be covered first, from your own No-Fault insurance coverage and second from all sources of insurance covering all involved parties at fault for your injuries, and third, if the first and second insurance coverages are inadequate to cover your injuries, a claim for recovery from your own Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage would be made.
These cases can be procedurally complex. Contacting an attorney promptly to conduct a thorough investigation of all sources of insurance coverage is extremely important.
What will I pay in attorney’s fees?
Attorneys fees are handled on a contingency fee basis. The attorney/client Retainer Agreement provides that there will not be an attorney’s fee unless your case results in a settlement or judgment at trial awarding you money benefits. The attorney’s fee is then calculated on a percentage basis based upon the amount of the dollar recovery.