Q:

How do I get my car fixed after a crash?

A:

Depending on who was at fault, and what insurance they cover, the at-fault party’s insurance, or your insurance will contact you about getting the car inspected and determining if the car is fixable or totaled.  If the car is fixable you can have the car fixed by a body shop of your choosing. The insurance companies will send payment to you personally, or to the shop that does the work to fix the car.

Q:

How long is my personal injury case going to take to finish?

A:

There is no way to know for sure how long an injury case will take to finish.  Things that can impact the length of time a case takes to resolve are: Time spent getting treatment for injuries, time spent for treatment providers to provide the medical records necessary to establish the treatment you received, and the willingness of the at-fault driver’s insurance company to pay a fair amount to compensate you fully for the damage the other driver caused.  Some claims can be settled within days, others take years. A fair estimate that I often give is that a case takes at least 6-9 months to get resolved if treatment is not major, and the other driver’s insurance is willing to provide a fair settlement offer prior to filing of a lawsuit.

Q:

How do I know if I need to hire a lawyer?

A:

If you were injured in the crash, you will most likely need to hire a lawyer to get full compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.  If you were not injured you can probably work out fair compensation for your property damage (the damage done to your car) without hiring a lawyer. If Insurance adjusters are calling you and pressuring you to make a statement, sign a settlement, or accept any percentage of fault for an accident you did not cause, you should at least consult with an attorney prior to making any statements or agreeing to settle any claims you have with the other insurance company.

Q:

Whose insurance is going to pay to fix my car?

A:

Whoever is at-fault will ultimately have to pay the expenses to have your car fixed.  If you have full coverage on your car, you can choose to pay your deductible and get your car fixed under your own policy.  In that situation your insurance company would then recover their costs (hopefully also your deductible) from the at-fault party.  You can also make the at-fault party pay to fix your car directly, however this is subject to the limits of coverage that person has.  If you have a valuable car or a new car, it is very possible that there will not be enough property coverage from the at-fault driver to pay for your car to be fixed or totaled out.

Q:

What can I do if I’m hurt and cannot go to work?

A:

If you are unable to work due to your injury, you can recover lost earnings from the at-fault driver.  Unfortunately, the recovery will most likely not come when you need it most (while you aren’t working).  In the event that someone is unable to work for an extended period of time there are some options that can be pursued to help cover costs of living and other expenses.  This is definitely an issue to go over with in more detail with your attorney if and when it becomes a necessity to miss significant time from work.

Q:

Is the other driver responsible for my Medical Bills?

A:

The other driver, if found to be at fault for the crash, IS responsible for your damages which does include medical expenses.  The caveat is that it is your responsibility to prove that the medical bills were incurred as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.  Insurance companies try to limit the amount you recover for medical bills based on a variety of factors, such as claiming the injury was pre-existing, or was caused by something other than the crash.  Adjusters will often times ask you to tell them all of your injuries within days of the crash, which is well before symptoms of injuries often times begin to present themselves. That is why it is important to consult with an injury attorney prior to making any statements with the other driver’s insurance regarding injuries you sustained in the crash.

Q:

Is the other driver responsible for my time missed from work?

A:

As is the case for medical bills, and other damages that you sustain as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash, the other driver, or their insurance, IS responsible to reimburse you for any economic (money) losses you incur as a result of that injury.  In the case of lost wages, they can be very difficult to prove sometimes. Before you turn over your tax returns to an insurance adjuster, it is a good idea to talk to a personal injury lawyer to determine the best way to go about seeking recovery for all of your damages, including lost wages for time you had to miss at work due to the injury.

Q:

Is the other driver’s insurance going to pay for my rental car?

A:

They should, but often times they will wrongfully deny payment for rental cars.  The at-fault driver is on the hook for all the expenses you incur as a result of the damage they do to your car, which include not only fixing or replacing the car, but also for the reasonable costs you incur as a direct result of not having a functioning car due to the crash.  That means they are on the hook for the cost for you to be in a rental while your car is being fixed, or in the event of a total loss, they are on the hook for your rental for a reasonable amount of time AFTER they send you the check for your total loss. Keep in mind you will need a car to take to go shopping for a new car to replace the one the at-fault driver totaled.

Q:

Is the other driver’s insurance going to pay for my deductible?

A:

If you have full coverage on your insurance and choose to file a claim under your own policy, your insurance will pay the cost to fix or replace your car, minus whatever your deductible happens to be.  Deductibles are sometimes $250, $500, $1,000, or sometimes even higher. The way that works out is your insurance will pay the cost to fix or replace your car, minus that deductible amount, which you pay out of pocket.  An example is if your car costs $2,000 to fix, but you have a $500 deductible. The insurance in this example would write you (or the body shop) a check for $1,500, leaving the balance for you to pay.

If you choose to file the claim under your own policy you will pay the deductible up front.  This doesn’t change the fact that the at-fault driver is still on the hook for all the damages they caused, which are often paid back to your insurance by the other driver’s insurance.  The problem that people often run into when going about fixing their car in this manner is that their insurance company may or may not pursue recovery for reimbursement of the deductible you paid.  If they don’t get the deductible it is your responsibility to collect that from the other party.

Q:

Can I use my health insurance to pay for my medical bills?

A:

Depending on how an injury is sustained your personal health insurance may or may not be able to pay for your medical expenses.  For instance, if there is a work related injury that is covered by workers compensation laws, your health insurance might be able to deny coverage for the treatment of that injury.  Another consideration to take is whether the health insurance will be able to get reimbursed by any recovery you receive from the at-fault driver’s insurance. In certain situations health insurance companies place liens on 3rd party claims such that they can “subrogate” any money you get from a settlement from the other side.  It is very important to speak to an attorney about taking any settlement if you have used health insurance to pay for medical treatment that resulted from an injury caused by someone else’s negligence.

Q:

If I don’t have health insurance, how am I going to be able to afford to go to the doctor after I got hurt?

A:

In Missouri the legislature has enacted laws that allow medical providers to place liens on claims against at-fault drivers so that someone can get access to medical care when they need it (after the crash) without having to worry as much about how and when they will get paid.  This is a real benefit to victims of negligent actors because it opens the door to getting medical treatment without having to pay up front, out of pocket, or through their health insurance in certain situations. Because there are limits to the amount a provider can collect for their services under the Missouri Lien Statute, not all providers are willing to provide treatment on a lien basis.  There are several doctors and hospitals that are willing to provide treatment under the lien statute, which include some of the very best hospitals, surgeons, and other specialists in the St. Louis area.

Q:

After my case settles, how long will it be until I get paid?

A:

Settlements are typically paid by check once the settlement has been agreed to by both parties.  The check is sent by mail, and often times will require a bank hold to verify funds prior to “clearing”.  Once the settlement funds have cleared the bank, there is sometimes some delay in getting paid. The reason for delay in most instances is that any liens on the claim must be paid from the settlement and those liens must be confirmed and paid by yout lawyer prior to final disbursement of the settlement funds to you.

Q:

Will my case settle?

A:

Whether a case will “settle” depends on a variety of factors, but in the end is dependant on 2 things: What are you willing to take as compensation for all of your damages incurred as a result of the crash, and what the insurance company for the at-fault party is willing to pay to obtain a release for their driver’s liability for causing the crash.  Sometimes cases settle prior to filing of a lawsuit. Even if settlement can’t be reached between the victim and the other driver’s insurance prior to a lawsuit being filed, the case can still be settled after a lawsuit is filed but before a trial. Still, there are situations where negotiations are never successful, and cases go to trial. In situations where an insurance company is unwilling to pay a fair amount to compensate you for your losses, the only way to make them pay is to have a trial to get a verdict against the at-fault driver.

Q:

Will my case settle out of court?

A:

In many injury claims, settlement outside of court can be achieved.  The factors that determine whether settlement happens before or after a lawsuit is filed are numerous.  This question is one that is best to ask your lawyer specifically about, as there isn’t really a general answer for which cases settle and which ones don’t.

Q:

When do I have to file a lawsuit?

A:

When negotiations for settlement happen prior to a lawsuit, but ultimately do not lead to a settlement of the case, a lawsuit must be filed in order to continue to pursue recovery.  Unfortunately, the only way you can actually make an at fault driver’s insurance company pay for the damage they caused is to sue the driver, and get a verdict from a jury or a judge.

Q:

Do I have to sue the driver who hit me, or can I just sue their insurance company?

A:

In order to recover you have to sue the actual person who caused the damage, not their insurance company.  Their insurance will most likely be on the hook for actually paying the amount you win in court though. Our firm almost never sues an individual UNLESS there is an insurance company involved, as it is much more difficult to actually collect money from an individual without insurance.