Monday Myth Busters: Personal Injury- July 13, 2020

In 2020, Robinson & Henry held a weekly personal injury event during which common personal injury case questions were answered. While we no longer air the program, the content remains relevant to car crash and other personal injury victims.

If you have a question about any of the content below or you need help with your personal injury, please call us at 303-688-0944 to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation with a member of our Personal Injury Team.

Have a Personal Injury? Get a Lawyer.

Set up a free case assessment with a member of our Personal Injury Team.
Call 303-688-0944 or schedule the appointment online when you click here.

What other damages can I recover after a crash apart from having my car fixed?

In a car crash, you’re gonna have two claims. If it’s your car, you will have a claim for property damage. That is damage to your car. And then, maybe if you did have any other property in the car, if you were carrying bikes on the bike rack or something. So, the car is a property damage claim. Those are the repairs.

Now, the injury claim is completely separate. You can and will resolve your property damage claim first independent of your injury claim, which may take a couple weeks or a couple years to settle. So, in the injury claim, there are three main things that you will recover.

One is damages, so, economic and non-economic related to the injury.

Economic is bills, anything with a dollar sign, lost wages if you have an injury. Number two, or the other part of that, is non-economic damages. That is the pain and suffering that everyone always talks about. Non-economic damages are pain, suffering, things like that. And then you have impairment.

If you have gone through all of your treatment for your injuries and you still have some degree of dysfunction, whether that’s pain, range of motion issues, loss of strength issues, that is impairment that you should be compensated for.

So, damages, impairment, and then disfigurement. If you have had to have arthroscopic surgery or you have a scar, that is disfigurement, and that is a separate category of damages that you can recover for.

How often does a case go to court?

We try to settle the claim with the insurance company. So, you get treatment, you get better. We get bills and records. We send that to the insurance company.

We negotiate, and if we can reach an agreement, then great, we’re done. That’s the settlement.

Now, if we cannot settle, then we have to file a lawsuit and go into litigation to continue to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the case and their defenses as we go on.

Now, the point of going to litigation ultimately is trial, so when people ask me this question, how often do you have to go to court, what I think that they’re meaning is, how often do you have to go to trial. I will let you know that maybe 1% of car crash cases actually go to trial in Colorado.

Chances are, you will not be going to trial, but we don’t know, right? So, we have to prepare from day one even when you’re still treating before we’re negotiating anything. When you’re treating at the very beginning, we have to think about developing evidence to document all of your injuries, should we have to go to trial in two years.

So, chances are it’s, going into litigation means you’re going into the court to file a lawsuit and get that process going. But actually going to trial is not likely.

How soon can my medical bills get paid and can I get paid for the time I had to take off work?

If you have medical payments coverage, that is money on your policy that gets paid by the insurance company as you treat. So, if you have that coverage and depending on the limits of that coverage, say you treat with a doctor, you have a $100 bill, you send that bill to your auto insurance company and they process it and they send you a check.

Now, that’s not always one for one, but, so, it can happen quickly like that if you have that coverage and if you haven’t used all that coverage yet.

The second part, the second possibility is if you have health insurance. If you have health insurance, your health insurance will pay, and then when you get a settlement with the at-fault party, part of that settlement has to go back to your health insurance company to pay for what they paid.

That is called subrogation or reimbursement. All health insurance contracts have those provisions in their policy, but there are circumstances under which those provisions would not apply.

So, you have to pay your health insurance company back unless you don’t. The third way that your bills are gonna get paid is when you pay them after you have reached a settlement with the insurance company, with the at-fault party’s insurance company, and who knows when that’s gonna be.

It could be three months after the car crash if you’re done treating relatively quickly and your case is straightforward, or it could be 12 months, or it could be two years, or it could be three years, or it could even be longer than that. The at-fault party, their insurance company does not pay you a penny until you have settled everything with them for your injury, for your claim against their insured. So, three answers to that first question.

Next question is, can I get paid for the time I had to take off from work? Yes, you can.

Everything is under a reasonableness standard, so just because you took a week off of work doesn’t mean that you are absolutely guaranteed to get it reimbursed.

Everything is reasonable. So, was it reasonable for you to take that week off of work? Do your injuries and medical records support the need for you to have missed a full week of work? If the answer is yes, then we should be able to recover for those lost wages.

Again, everything is evaluated by the insurance company. Nothing is a slam-dunk, nothing is a given.

If you have treatment later or if you have to take two hours out of your day to travel to the physical therapy appointment, have physical therapy, travel back to your work office, that is all time that should definitely be calculated and it should definitely be submitted to the other insurance company, even if you didn’t actually lose wages from your paycheck.

If you’re a salaried employee, you may not lose wages, but that is still a loss to you and your time because you have to make up that time, right? And obviously, if you’re an hourly employee, that of course is a loss.

But again, you’re not gonna see that money and that reimbursement until you reach a settlement with the insurance company for the at-fault party. And insurance companies know this. They know that you’re out of money because you had to miss work and you’re out of money because you had to pay for prescriptions and you had to pay for co-pays and you had to pay for deductibles.

They know all this, and the longer that your case goes, they know that you’re struggling each month because you have missed all that money and all the time from work, and they use that to their advantage.

Do you help people who’ve been hit by a car while biking?

Our attorneys represent all people who were involved in car crashes, so if you got hit by a car as a pedestrian, if you got hit by a car while riding a bike, if you were in a car crash, those are all cases that I can absolutely help with.

Biking cases have some different components to them because the biker has their own rules that they have to follow when they’re biking on the street, so, a little bit different than just regular cars where it’s one car versus another car. But yes, we do represent bicyclists.

What happens if I’m injured by an uninsured driver?

Hopefully, you have underinsured motorist coverage for yourself. Underinsured motorist coverage is something that you would have on your policy on your car.

There are several different possible avenues of recovery, but if you were hit by a car who doesn’t, by a car, by a driver who doesn’t have insurance for that car, then you have to go to your own policy. And if you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, we need to verify that you don’t have it through somebody else, through somebody else’s policy. But if they don’t have insurance and you don’t have insurance, there’s nothing we can do for you.

You’re on your own to file a lawsuit against that driver who was uninsured, and guess what?

If they don’t have money to pay for insurance, they probably don’t have money to pay for your judgment. So, it’s a really bad situation, so if you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage now and you haven’t been hit by an uninsured driver, go get it.

It’s actually quite inexpensive compared to liability coverage, so you might as well just get it for yourself anyway, right? If you’re insuring yourself for causing damages to somebody else, why don’t you do that for yourself, right?

How can I get compensated for my injures?

The first thing is liability. Before we can talk about anything else, we have to make sure that you are not at fault for the car crash, and that the person who was at fault has insurance. Sometimes people can be partly at fault. That’s comparative negligence.

If a police officer cited the other driver, but maybe you contributed to the car crash, the insurance company for that other driver is going to assign you with comparative negligence. That can be tricky when you’re looking at trying to get recovery for all of your damages, because the insurance company’s not gonna pay for all of your damages, because they think that you’re partly at fault.

So, first one is liability. The question again is, just because I was injured in a car crash doesn’t mean that I’m gonna get compensated for my injuries. What do I have to prove to get compensated? So, what do you have to prove? We just said liability, and then the next thing that you have to prove is your injuries.

If you have a neck injury, you need to have medical records and treatment that document your neck injury, and specifically, what type of neck injury you have. So, you know, if you’re claiming some herniations in your neck, then you need to have an MRI that shows that the herniations were a result, you know, acute, that they were new, that they were a result of the car crash, or whatever other kind of damage, right?

So, what do I have to prove to get compensated? You have to prove your injuries. It is your burden of proof. It’s not the insurance company’s burden to say that you didn’t have it. It’s your burden of proof to say that you did have it, and what treatment you had was reasonable and necessary, and that the costs for that treatment were reasonable.

So, if you get knee surgery and it costs $200,000, well, knee surgeries, arthroscopic knee surgeries for a torn meniscus don’t cost $200,000, so it’s up to you to prove why costs were what they were, why treatment was needed, and why it was related to the car crash.

So, sometimes people think that whatever happens to them after the car crash must be related, and sometimes that’s a difficult thing to look through to determine what was medically probably related to the car crash.

So, if you have something that can’t be related to the car crash, you’re not gonna get compensated for that.

Will my insurance come after my settlement money?

There is a law in Colorado that says that the insurance company cannot seek reimbursement unless you have been made whole. Now, there are exceptions to that. So, made whole. This is called the made whole doctrine.

If you have received policy limits from the at-fault driver, you are presumed not to have to, not have been made whole, meaning you didn’t recover fully, you know, you didn’t recover 100% of your damages.

If you don’t recover 100% of your damages, under this law, you don’t have to pay your health insurance back unless they are a specific type of policy to which this law does not apply.

Sometimes the law doesn’t apply and we go back and forth and figure out the legal basis and who’s correct and whether or not you have to pay back that money.

So, it depends on what kind of a policy you have, how bad your injuries were, how much of a settlement you got, and what the policy limits were. The idea is, yes, you have to pay your health insurance company back unless you don’t.

What should I do if the at-fault party’s insurance calls and wants a recorded statement?

We would say don’t give one, because it’s just something that’s gonna be used later to set you up. Now, you can talk to them and you can, what I always say is, look, you know, you can tell the insurance company, let’s figure out my car situation, ’cause you need to get your total loss resolved or you need to get your car repaired in the shop as soon as possible so that you have your car back.

So, you can talk to the insurance company about all of that stuff without going into your injury claim. At the beginning of this, I mentioned that there is a property damage component.

Your car is completely separate and independent of your injury claim. What we recommend is, deal with the insurance company about the car and just tell the insurance company, “Yes, I was injured. “I am seeing a doctor. “I am treating for my injuries. “We will talk about it in a month.” Just buy yourself some time so that you can figure out what you’re experiencing, what you’re going through before you say something that might limit your recovery in the future. So, that’s what we would recommend.

You know, and they might say, “Well, we require you to give us a recorded statement,” and that’s not, I mean, they can say that they require that, but again, there’s a law in Colorado that says if you’re injured and you’re treating, you do not have to give a recorded statement, and the insurance company can’t hold that over your head in exchange for paying something else.

Now, they will say, “You know, oh, well, we can’t determine liability,” or, “We don’t know who’s at fault. “We have to hear your side of the story.” You can tell them your side of the story as far as the liability so that they can conclude their liability investigation, but it doesn’t have to be a recorded statement.

And in fact, if you are treating, if you’re injured, and if you’re under the care of a doctor, they cannot require a recorded statement for a defined period of time. Let’s see, let’s look at, we’ve got two more questions, here.

Will I be asked questions by the insurance company’s attorneys?

Usually, insurance companies don’t hire attorneys until a case goes into litigation. That means until and unless you file a lawsuit for your case because you can’t reach a settlement, there aren’t gonna be any attorneys involved. You’re just gonna be dealing with the insurance adjuster.

Every once in a while, if an injury is really significant and an insurance company is struggling with the decision on whether to pay your claim or not, they might hire an attorney at that time, and that attorney might want to talk to you.

If that’s part of the evaluation process and if that’s what you need to do to get your claim paid, then you can. Nothing’s gonna prevent you from doing it. But we would definitely say, consult with an attorney before you talk to one of their attorneys, absolutely.

Almost all personal injury attorneys that we know provide consultations. This would be the perfect time to seek out an attorney for a consultation to let us know where you’re at in the process, and then we can better give you advice as to what to do and what not to do.

So, the summary answer is, you’re probably not gonna have to ever talk to an attorney unless you hire an attorney, and then your attorney talks to the attorneys, and it’s just the attorney-to-attorney talk. Let’s see.

Can I get a letter of protection to delay collections on medical bills caused by the accident?

Generally speaking, if you have a bill, a medical bill that came from treatment related to injuries caused by the car crash, most providers, if you just tell them, “This was from a car crash. “I have a claim with State Farm “and you know, I’m still treating it, “and we’re trying to figure things out.”

If you let them know, sometimes they will put it on hold and not send it to collections. Also, you can just make a very nominal payment. You can make a $25 a month payment, and that usually will keep it from going to collections as well. If you get an attorney, usually, the attorney calls the provider, same thing. You know, the medical company or the medical provider will have the attorney’s information and will not send it to collections. That generally is what happens, but nothing is ever guaranteed.

Get Help with Your Personal Injury Case

If you have a question about any of the content above or need help with your personal injury, please call us at 303-688-0944 to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation with a member of our Personal Injury Team.

More Than Just Lawyers. Lawyers for Your Life.

Learn more about our law firm’s philosophy and values.