Have you been involved in an auto accident? Here are some frequently asked questions that you should consider immediately following an accident:
1) Should I report this accident to my insurance carrier, even if the accident was not my fault?
Yes, Kentucky is what is known as a “no fault” state, meaning regardless of who is at fault for an accident, every Kentucky driver has $10,000 in PIP (personal injury protection) coverage under their auto insurance policy available to them to pay for basic services such as medical bills and expenses as well as a minimal amount for lost wages (up to $200 per week). Your insurance adjuster will start a PIP benefits claim for you immediately. PIP benefits can also be utilized to cover household expenses if you are not able to perform these tasks yourself following the accident. PIP will reimburse mileage or taxi service to and from doctors’ appointments. In all instances mentioned, it is important to keep all receipts and to document any and all expenses associated with the accident claim.
Once a PIP claim has been established, it is important to give the insurance information and PIP claim number to all of your accident-related medical providers.
2) Should I go to the Emergency Room to have tests done or should I wait to see how I feel in a few days?
You should consider it. No one likes to sit in an ER waiting room; it is easy for us to convince ourselves that we just have a few bumps and bruises from the accident and there is no reason to waste time going to the hospital to be checked out. Car accident injuries are not always immediately noticeable. There may be obvious soft tissue injury, whiplash, contusions, abrasions, etc., but it is also wise to make certain there are no fractures, torn ligaments and tendons, or concussion. Most often after a car accident, the emergency room staff will order x-rays, CT scans, possibly other diagnostic tests, and will prescribe pain medication, muscle relaxants, and follow up referral, if needed.
3) What about my car – who pays for the damage to my car?
Depending on the type of coverage you have, your insurance company will handle the property damage claim and make sure you are reimbursed if the car is totaled or pay the repair bill. The property damage adjuster will guide you on what to do if the car is totaled, getting estimates for repair work, and getting you in a rental car in the meantime.
4) Should I talk to the at-fault driver’s insurance company?
If you are not represented by an attorney, you should be cautious when communicating with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. It is not their job to make sure that you are fully compensated for the damages you incur in the wreck. They are working for the insurance company and their incentive is to keep any settlement pay out as low as possible.
5) Who pays bills after PIP money runs out if I am still in treatment for injuries?
Once PIP benefit monies are exhausted, you will want to charge your medical visits and expenses to your health insurance carrier, just as you would for any other injury or illness. It is important to keep track of what is being charged and to keep a separate folder for your health insurance EOBs related to the accident injuries and treatment.
6) Why do I need to hire an attorney?
It is not always necessary to hire a lawyer to represent you in an accident claim. If for example you really were not injured and you required little or no medical treatment, then you may not need to hire an attorney.
For the same reasons mentioned in number 4 above, if you suffered injury as the result of a car accident that was not your fault, you would be wise to consult an attorney. The attorneys at SBWH have years of experience handling the ins and outs of a personal injury claim, and we have helped our clients navigate the murky waters of seeking medical treatment, giving statements to liability carriers, and handling the liability claim from beginning to final settlement.
7) What kind of information do I need to gather in case I decide to hire an attorney?
Your attorney will let you know exactly what he needs from you when you make the initial appointment. If you have certain documents available at the time of your first meeting with the attorney, such as accident report, photographs of the accident scene and damage to vehicles, photographs of your injuries, list of hospitals and doctors where you have treated, insurance information, and any letters or other communication you have received from insurance companies, it is helpful to have that information with you for your first meeting.
8) How long will it take for my case to settle, and how much is my case worth?
That depends on the type of injuries you sustained in the accident and how long you will require treatment for those injuries. The attorney will communicate periodically with the liability carrier adjuster to provide updates of your treatment and case status. Once you have completed your treatment and have reached what is known as “maximum medical improvement”, all of your up-to-date medical records and expenses will be gathered and evaluated for a settlement demand to the liability carrier.
It is your attorney’s job to calculate a “value” for your personal injury claim in order to make a settlement demand. That value is based on the seriousness of your injuries, the amount of your medical bills and expenses, and a reasonable amount for your pain and suffering. If, for example, you have medical bills totaling $7,000 and you were in treatment for three months, your case is not going to be valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. On the other hand, if you have suffered catastrophic injury to your person as the result of an accident and you have medical bills that are $25,000 or more, your case could be valued at a higher amount. That is not to say that the at-fault driver will have enough coverage to pay the value of your claim. The minimum amount of Kentucky auto liability insurance coverage is $25,000 per person for bodily injury, with a total maximum of $50,000 per incident.
9) What if I have serious injury and my case is valued at a higher amount than the policy limits of the liability carrier?
This is when you would look to your insurance company and examine the type of auto insurance coverage you have available to you under your own policy. You may have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). This will help compensate you should the other party not have adequate coverage. Kentucky does not require motorists to purchase this type of coverage, but it is something highly recommended by the attorneys at SBWH, as it has proven to be valuable coverage to many of our personal injury clients who have been involved in accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers.
10) So, if the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance and I do not have UM/UIM coverage, what recourse do I have?
Another good reason to hire an attorney. If this is the scenario you find yourself in after a car accident, an attorney can advise you on possible other options available to you, one being the filing of a lawsuit. This is where a case is taken to a higher level of expertise and can get complicated. Be sure you consult with an attorney to examine all options.