Monday Myth Busters Personal Injury June 22, 2020

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedJun 25, 2020
9 minute read

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 need help with your personal injury, please call us at 303-688-0944 to schedule a 30-minute consultation with a member of our Personal Injury Team.

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If I win a settlement, do I have to pay income taxes on it?

So just like any good answer from an attorney, the answer is, it depends. Most often, no. If your injury settlement is just for the very basic things like pain and suffering and your medical bills, and maybe even lost wages, those types of personal injury settlements are not taxable.

Is my personal injury case public record?

So a couple of thoughts I have on that. If you file a lawsuit, yes, your personal injury case is public record. That is it’s a court record, it’s a court document. Not everything that is filed in your case with the court or with the other party is public record. But the fact that you have filed a lawsuit against another driver or against an insurance company, that is public record and cannot be erased.

Now, there’s also an insurance database called ISO that all insurance companies subscribe to. And so all other insurance companies have your information. They have your social security number, date of birth. They know if you’ve been in prior car crashes and have made prior insurance claims.

So that’s not a public record, but it is the knowledge that the insurance company does have of you and your history without you even knowing it.

Does my personal injury claim affect my car insurance premiums?

So the answer should be no if you are not the at-fault party. So if you did not cause the car crash, then your insurance rates should not go up, because you are using your car insurance benefits for your case.

So, if some other guy hit you in a car crash and you need to use your insurance for collision, that should not raise rates. If you need to use your insurance for medical payments coverage for your injuries, that should not raise your rates.

If you need to use your underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage for your injury claim, that should not raise your rates. Insurance rates go up all the time, you know? So you may see a rise in your insurance, but it’s not because of these claims. Very common question.

Will the at-fault party’s car insurance cover my trip to the ER?

A very common misconception that people have is that the other insurance company is going to pay for your medical treatment as you incur it. And that is not what happens.

So the other insurance company isn’t going to pay you a dime until you settle with them, and you can’t settle with them until you know the full extent of your injuries, all of your treatment, any future treatment that you will need in the future and any impairment.

So, “Will the at-fault party’s insurance cover my trip to the ER?” The short answer is, yes, they should, insurance companies will even dispute an emergency room bill.

I had a client about a year and a half ago who had a $10,000 ER bill, completely reasonable, and Allstate reduced it to $500 and said that her emergency room visit should have only cost $500.

I’ve never seen an emergency room bill cost $500. So, that’s a fight that we had to have that we should not have had to have. But that’s what insurance companies do.

So will they cover it? They should. Will they cover 100% of it? Probably not. Same with copays and all future treatment. And so I was just talking about the emergency room bill. You would think that that would not be disputed, but insurance companies dispute everything.

Should I have to use my paid time off for doctor appointments from the car crash, or can I get money for that?

This kind of goes back to what I was saying before is that you’re not gonna see any money until you settle your case. So, as part of your demand for settlement, we can include your lost wages. And that includes everything.

So even if you had to burn a couple of vacation days, or if you had to take some time off for surgery, or if you had to… Even here, an hour or two to go to physical therapy or to go to chiropractic treatment is time lost that you would not have otherwise lost, but for the person who was at fault for this car crash.

So yes, we can make a demand for it and you should be compensated for those damages.

So yes, you should use your paid time off, because you’re not gonna see payment for that until the time of settlement, which I said before is a long time from now. And can I get money for it? Yes, you should. We will ask for it, and you should be compensated for it.

Do previous injuries from when I was in a car accident hurt my chances of getting a fair settlement in a current case?

A lot of times people are concerned about prior injuries or preexisting conditions, and they are afraid that that’s gonna be a bad thing. I don’t see it that way.

We all walk around with things wrong with us. We all have had prior injuries from something, or a prior condition, or something else with our bodies, and our history has led to us being in a certain state to sustain compounding injuries from a car crash.

So if you have a prior neck injury, or if you have a prior knee injury, and in the car crash you injure your neck and your knee, don’t hide that from anybody. Don’t hide that from your doctors. Don’t hide that from the insurance company. Don’t hide that from your attorney. Don’t hide it from anybody. That possibly makes you more susceptible to a subsequent injury.

So an insurance company of course is always going to bring up any, any potential defense that they can. And so they are going to look at your prior neck injury.

But your medical records will show that you were getting better, or that you had completely healed, or maybe you weren’t. And very, very rarely do I ever see a case where I go for knee surgery the day after a car crash, right?

So at some point that would be a complicated manner to address, but you can explain to the insurance company that you were done treating, or that your doctor said you wouldn’t need anything else or that your doctor said you might need physical therapy in the future, but you were asymptomatic prior to this most recent car crash.

So everything, you just gotta be honest, you know? You’ve got to talk about where you were before the car crash, if you are experiencing any symptoms or not, and just address it.

So, key takeaway here is, don’t hide it. So let me make sure I address the question here. “So is it gonna hurt your chances of getting a fair settlement?” No, that’s not gonna hurt your chances. The insurance company will try, but you just explain and let the evidence show what state you were in before the car crash.

Can you collect damages from a minor car accident? And is it worth it to get a lawyer?

Almost every insurance company is going to hammer you if you’ve been in a minor car crash, a low speed or low damage car crash.

There are plenty of studies out there that say that significant injuries can occur from even a four-mile-per-hour car crash. And so nothing is… Don’t be, if you were injured, get the treatment that you need, okay?

And yes, the insurance company is definitely gonna fight you for it, you know? But if you’re injured, get the treatment that you need and document all of your injuries, and you will have a harder time negotiating more often than not, but if you’re injured, you’re injured. And that’s just all there is to it.

So is it worth getting a lawyer? It’s worth getting a lawyer if the lawyer can add value. If your car crash is minor, I don’t wanna focus on the car crash part, I wanna focus on your injuries. So if your injuries are minor, maybe you go to urgent care. Maybe you get some chiropractic treatment. Maybe you get a little physical therapy treatment even.

If you have recovered a 100%, and your bills are low enough, then there’s probably not a lot of value an attorney can add to that case to make it worth his or her time and to make it worth you paying the attorney’s fees on that.

So if your injuries were minor, the question of is it worth getting a lawyer? Maybe not, you should always talk to an attorney period. You should always talk to an attorney to address those questions and get an actual answer based on your own circumstances. But it may or may not be. But the question of, can I collect for a minor car accident, meaning minor damages? Yes, definitely. And again, always talk to an attorney.

What happens if I’m partially at fault for the accident? Do I still have a case?

The law in Colorado is a comparative fault. That means that if a jury finds you some percent at fault for the car crash, you are not going to be able to collect that percent of damages.

So if a jury, if there are two drivers, and a jury finds the other person 75% at fault and finds you 25% at fault, you will only be able to recover 75% of the damages that the jury says that you have sustained. But you know, if that’s the ultimate answer is from a jury.

So when an insurance company is assessing comparative negligence, comp neg, if they said that you were partly at fault, you might challenge that. So I’ve seen too often where insurance companies like State Farm or Allstate will slap 10% on the other driver for anything.

Oh, your hair is brown, you’re 10% at fault. It’s kind of ridiculous, but they do that again because they can save 10% from your settlement claim. So if your damages are $10,000, they’re gonna offer you $9,000 because you were 10% at fault.

So, if you think you didn’t do anything wrong, then you definitely need to challenge their finding of comparative negligence. And that’s probably a time where you would want to consult an attorney as well. And maybe you are 10% at fault. Maybe I think you’re 25% at fault, almost possible, but not always true.

How long can an insurance company drag its feet on a claim? Do they have a time limit?

No, they don’t. Unfortunately, they do not. Well, I guess your own insurance company does, but an at-fault party’s insurance company does not. So if you are making a claim, sorry, if you are making a claim with the insurance company for the at-fault party, they do not have a time limit on when they return your phone call, when they return your demand, when they anything.

You have three years to make a… To settle a case or to file a lawsuit. So you have three years to take care of that, but they don’t have any deadline to respond to you. Now that is the other person’s insurance.

So, your own insurance company does have duties to you, because that is a contract between you and your insurance company. Those would be for coverages of collision if you are having to use your own insurance company for the damages to your car. And then also medical payments coverage, and then also uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

There are time limits for that and expectations and duties that your own insurance company owes you.

How do I know if I even have a case from my car accident?

If you’re injured, you have a case, because you have to get those medical bills paid for. If you haven’t seen a doctor for some time. If the car crash happened two weeks ago, and you haven’t seen a doctor, it’s gonna be very hard for you to get any kind of a settlement for that. So, number one, if you’re hurt, go see a doctor now. If you don’t know where to go or how to pay for it, call an attorney.

There’s plenty of options out there for you to seek treatment if you have injuries from your car crash and if there’s car insurance available for an injury settlement for you. So yeah, the short answer is, if you’re injured, yes, you have a claim.

It might not be something that I can help you with, or other attorneys can help you with. It might be something that you can handle on your own without having to hire an attorney. But if you’re injured, you have an injury claim. And a lot of times insurance companies will try to settle real fast.

So if you’re on the phone with Progressive and Progressive is asking you what happened in the car crash, of course, they’re gonna say, “Well, are you injured?” And if you say, “Yes, but I haven’t seen a doctor yet, or I went to urgent care and I may follow up with my doctor.” They’re gonna try to settle your case real fast because they don’t want it to turn into anything more.

So, if I would recommend not settle anything for at least 30 days. So if you’re in the car crash and maybe you went to urgent care and you feel like you’re okay, give yourself 30 days of your life of doing everything that you do in your life, laundry, unloading the dishwasher, grocery shopping, playing with your kids, working, all of those things that you typically do. And if you really truly can do all of those activities 100% pain-free and restriction-free, then fine. It’s perfectly fine to settle your injury settlement.

And the next question that I always get is, “Well, how much is my case worth?” And it’s all very independent and personal to you and your situation and your life and your injuries and your work and your family, et cetera. So it’s personal to you. So if you find yourself in a situation where you have fully recovered and maybe you only had one or two doctor’s visits or a few chiropractic visits, then that is something you can negotiate on your own. And you just, you send in your bills and records and the insurance company makes you an offer and you negotiate.

So their first offer to you is not all that they’re willing to pay. It’s a negotiation, so you can take their offer and you can say, “Well, thank you for that. However, I feel my case is worth more, and here’s a reason why, or two reasons why.”

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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 30-minute consultation with a member of our Personal Injury Team.

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