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What to Do After an Accident

After doing this for almost forty years, the problem I see for people in motor vehicle collisions and also slip and falls are basically the same. What I see most frequently is people in car accidents may exchange information, but they do not call the police. What ends up happening is many times there is an argument about what happened in terms of who was at fault. If a police officer comes upon the scene immediately, usually, it is pretty obvious who was at fault in the motor vehicle collision. If the person that was not at fault gets injured as a result, then that part of the issue is resolved.

In terms of slip and falls in any type of commercial establishment, a lot of people get up and just walk out. Many times, they do not get hurt and that is fine. However, many times they do get hurt and did not follow up immediately, and do not follow up within a day or so with the establishment. Please remember most stores have cameras. They would be able to detect a person is telling the truth that they fell. However, many stores do not store their video very long, and if you wait too long, the video has disappeared.

What ends up happening when you do not report it, they are going to deny it ever happened. It will be your word based on no substantiation. If you end up slipping and falling, or some piece of merchandise falls on your head, please make sure it is reported immediately. If it turns out you feel ok, then you do not lose anything by doing it. What people do not understand is many times the feelings of the injury do not start until sometime after the car accident or fall. With car accidents and slip and falls, the adrenaline is running high in the body. When the adrenaline stops and you go to sleep that night, your body tightens up. As a result, you start feeling problems that were caused by the collision or fall because your body is not in constant motion, and your mind is not running 100 mph which is keeping you from feeling the pain.

Obviously, if you broke a bone or have some type of severe injury, you will know immediately. However, there are a lot of back and neck injuries that turn out to be very severe that you will not notice in a car accident or slip and fall until the next day.

As I stated above, the fact that there are cameras in most business establishments helps a case. If you report it immediately, and get to a lawyer immediately, a lawyer can write that establishment and say the camera should not be rewound and should be saved. Many times, it comes out to be excellent evidence that you did nothing wrong except you fell on a wet floor or something fell off the display that was stacked improperly. You often help yourself in proving the hardest part of a personal injury case, and that is who was at fault.

Take Care of Your Body

You have car insurance and, hopefully, regular insurance. I just talked about a sequence of events for slip and falls and motor vehicle collisions where people do not report them immediately to the police or report it immediately to the owner of the establishment. People end up having pain if not immediately, then normally the next day. However, they figure the pain is going to go away, and they do not seek medical attention. In this say and age, almost everyone has a family doctor. They can make an appointment with their family doctor immediately. The longer you wait to complain about the injury, the biggest problem is that injury may get worse. Money is going to come and go if you have a case against the other driver in a car accident, or the owner of the store in a slip and fall. However, your body may not adjust properly if it is not treated quickly.

If you are in a car accident, you have what is called No-Fault/PIP insurance on your vehicle. Unless their some type of deductible, it gives you at least $15,000.00 for medical bills and/or lost wages. Most insurance companies except for one, will allow you to utilize that amount whether it be $15,000.00 or more for your lost wages.

For the medical bills, most people do have either private health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicaid. You can use health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid to pay for the medical bills.

One thing I also see with slip and falls, motor vehicle collisions, or any other type of injury you believe someone else is at fault is people stop treating before they get better. Obviously, especially with the COVID pandemic, people have other things to worry about in life, and they seem to believe the injury will go away. Sometimes it does, and most times it does not. Obviously, a lawyer is there to help you get fair money for your injuries, not too much for it, and not too little for it. The more you treat, and the more the doctor can find with wrong with you, the fair value of your case increases. However, and even more importantly, you only have one body. If you do not get your injuries correct as best as you can, it is not going to come back after a certain period of time. It is not worth having any problems with your body that will never go away. We all have enough problems as we get older in life, or have other things happen to us not to have someone else cause you an injury that you do not treat and rehab properly.

It sounds self-serving, but you should contact an attorney immediately. The longer it goes, the more harm can come to you when it is not your fault. In terms of a car accident, you need to have certain forms sent by the insurance company to fill out to get medical bills and/or lost wages paid.

Prepare for What Happened

In terms of what happened, sometimes there are independent witnesses and they need to be contacted. Many times, people do not want to get involved but if you get them early they will tell you exactly what they saw. If you try to get them two months later, a lot of them will not be interested in getting involved. What is going to be happening now with the states allowing more activity on the roadways and also people being able to frequent businesses, there is going to be a rush of people trying to get to places they need to go, that have not been able to go for a while, or to go shopping when they have not been able to for a while. That is going to increase the problems in terms of car accidents, and will increase the traffic in the stores. In the last few months, most establishments have had little business or no business. Now to go back to full business again in the near future, they are not going to be equipped to do it, and as I said above, people will be trying to get places very quickly, and, not paying attention to the roadway.

Any responsible lawyer will get you in as quickly as possible. The interview does take a while because you want to go through all of what happened, and will go over any injuries you had in the past. Insurance companies are the best in terms of trying to find out whether you had a previous injury. It is important that the lawyer knows to get the previous medical records and find out how long it hurt and how long you have not been experiencing pain for that previous injury or injuries. Sometimes, people still have pain from a previous injury, but the pain has gotten much worse. You need to talk to your lawyer about how the differences in how the pain has changed or increased as a result of what happened. In all types of personal injury cases, the devil is in the details. Defense lawyers are very good at attempting to poke holes in a person’s treatment, and the injuries they sustained. The more upfront you are, and the quicker you get treatment, the easier you can explain to the doctor that you had a problem, but it is slightly different or majorly different, from the recent injury, can be the difference in receiving fair money, as opposed to seeing no money.

As I have stated above doing this for almost forty years and handling thousands of cases, you understand what exactly needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Also, lawyers need to keep in constant contact with their clients to make sure the proper forms are executed.

Get Your Vehicle Fixed

Another reason to contact an attorney immediately is because of the damage to your vehicle. If a police report is done and done correctly, the striking vehicle’s insurance is obligated to fix your car or give you fair market value if it cannot be fixed. Also, they are supposed to supply a rental car while your vehicle is being fixed or the appropriate time to find a new car. What happens many times if you are not represented, the insurance company will offer to pay for your car, and also try to give you a certain amount of money to try to resolve the case for your pain and suffering. Generally, it is way below what you have already endured and will endure as to pain. However, under most laws, if you accept that money, that is all the money you are going to get. An attorney can stop that from happening and certainly advise a client not to sign anything. They are still obligated to fix your car and provide a rental car if their insured is at fault.

Other Insurance

I would say also in terms of falling in terms of some commercial establishment or being hurt in some commercial establishment and it was not your fault, some establishments have what is called “med-pay”. That means there is a certain amount of money they have in insurance to pay for your injuries. A lot of them do not, but some do. It is important the attorney contact the establishment to find out if med-pay is available. You do not have to pay back the med-pay as opposed to paying back health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare. Under the law, you have a duty to pay back any insurance you have on your own whether it be the three above. You do not have to pay back your car insurance payments for any of the medical care or lost wages.

Need to Have Enough Insurance

Unfortunately, one of the problems I run into is people have very limited insurance. I have written about this before and you can only afford what you can for car insurance. However, you see ads for certain insurance companies stating that they will allow you do pick any type of insurance policy you want for car insurance. That really makes no sense because every insurance company will allow you to tailor your policy the way you want. There has never been an insurance company that tells you that you have to have so much insurance, unless it is mandated by law. Therefore, it is just a bait line that gets you to go to that insurance company. Unfortunately, some of those insurance companies are just extremely cheap in trying to get you fair money for your injuries if you need to go after them for what is called uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is exactly what it means. The person that struck you did not have insurance on their vehicle. Underinsured motorist coverage means the other person had insurance, but your injuries are more than their insurance. You are then able to go after your own underinsured motorist coverage to try to get up to the amount of fair money for your injuries.

I have written about this before and people only have so much money especially with people losing their jobs in the last few months. However, you need to find out the price of the different types of insurance for your medical bills, lost wages, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. The prices do not go up dramatically when you increase your limits. You need to ask how much it would be to raise your limits to a higher amount. You can only afford what you can. However, you do not want to have less insurance than you could possibly need. I hope you never have to use it. But if you do and you only have $15,000.00 for your medical bills and lost wages, and you do not have short term or long term disability through your employer, you can end up spending the $15,000.00 in lost wages within a short period of time, and you will not be able to get the rest of the lost wages paid until you get paid by the other side. What happens many times is the other side does not have a lot of insurance and you will never get back the full amount of money you lost at work or medical bills. Hopefully, people do have short term/long term disability through their employer, but that is becoming less and less.

Talk to Your Attorney

The attorney and his/her staff are there to answers your questions. Never be afraid to call an attorney and ask. The worst type of client is one who never calls. No one wants to hear from a client every day unless the client has problems every day, but not to hear from a client for month and months after the case starts, can be extremely problematic for the client. The client may not know something and continues to do something that by the time you hear about it, you cannot help. What ends up happening when you have an injury is you have to get medical records and bills. Generally speaking, in the past, the lawyers would get them. The attorney would pay for the medical records and they would bill back to the client when the case is resolved, the amount of money he/she paid for the medical records. However, there was a law passed some years ago called the HiTECH Act that allowed either the attorney or the client to receive medical records for a very low fee. You would be unbelievably surprised as to what doctors charge to supply medical records. Most will charge at least $25.00 to retrieve the records and then charge all kinds of money per page. The HiTECH Act stated a patient or designated third party would have to pay $6.50 whether it was five pages of records or five hundred pages of records. The reason for that is because almost all medical establishments are required by law, to have their records stored digitally. Therefore, what they can do is burn the records to a disc or send a secured email with the records attached.

Unfortunately, what has happened in the last few months is a federal court decision stated the patient can get their own records for a nominal amount of money, but a third party, such as a lawyer, cannot. Therefore, I always ask my clients to get their own records and I provide them with the forms in which to get those records. I tell them I do not have a problem getting them myself, but the costs come out of any amounts received at the end. Furthermore, I would reimburse them if they are low on money for the amount of money they are paying. There are a lot of good doctors. However, doctors make a lot of money for their services, and then still charge patients and lawyers for their medical records at a high price. The law is still intact for patients to get their records for a very minimal amount of money. In a case that lasts a long time, that can be hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in medical records that come out of the client’s pocket when the case has ended.

Overview

I have tried to give you somewhat of an overview of what should be done. I have written about this before, but I still see it happening a lot where people do not call the police, do not explain to the police what happened, do not call their insurance company immediately, or wait too much time to contact a lawyer. It can end up becoming problematic for them in terms of getting bills paid, lost wages paid, and getting healthy. Most people do get healthy as a result of a motor vehicle collision or slip and fall. Also other types of injuries such as a dog bite. However, the longer you wait, the fewer chances you have in getting healthy. Insurance companies are very quick at sending you to a doctor of their choice who will state 98% of the time you are healthy and do not need any further treatment, even though you are not. Then you will have to sue your own insurance company to get your medical bills and lost wages paid. That can take years.

I hope no one ever needs an attorney for a car accident, slip and fall, or any other type of personal injury they believe was as a result of someone else’s negligence. A lot of people never do. However, thousands and thousands end up having that type of problem at least once in their lifetime. The only way you can get fair money is to get a lawyer who cares, will listen to you, and will be there to answers your questions. It is no fun being injured as a result of someone making a mistake. The last thing you need is to have to handle it by yourself, wait too long to receive the treatment you need, not receiving payment for your medical bills and/or lost wages, or fair money for your pain and suffering. I will say again, you are only entitled to fair money for your injuries. You are not entitled to more. If somehow the insurance company wants to give you more, which usually is the other way around, then that is great. However, you are entitled to fair money and a good attorney will pursue the case as far as it needs to go to get fair money. It is your decision at the end, but you need to be informed about the plus or minuses of what is occurring.

Hit & Runs

Unfortunately, there are too many times someone will hit a motor vehicle and leave the scene. Many times, you will not get a license plate number, and all you have is just the close description of the make and model of the vehicle. You may be able to tell if the driver is male or female, but there is just not enough information for you to pursue the person that struck you.

Initially, it is vital you call the police when it happens. No one wants to wait around for the police to come, but it is essential for your sake that you do. Once the police come, you tell them exactly what occurred. Hopefully, your car will be driveable. If not, it can be towed.

Secondly, you need to let your insurance company know immediately. I have written many times before for the need of uninsured motorist coverage. This is a perfect example. If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, you are going to be stuck with the damage to the vehicle, and if you got hurt, you cannot get paid fair money for your injuries. Also, you have what is called PIP insurance on your policy to get your medical bills paid. Some people have some type of health insurance, but many people do not. Therefore, you may be shut out in three different ways.

Under the law, you need to inform your insurance company as soon as practical to notify them of what occurred. That amount of time is up in the air. However, it is best to have it done immediately. I would suspect that if the car has any significant damage, your deductible for uninsured motorist coverage will be less than your deductible for collision. That happens in most cases.

If you are injured, you need to request an application for PIP benefits to get your medical bills and/or lost wages paid.

You should get something from the police officer that investigated it, and that should be supplied to the insurance company.

Lastly, you should also have coverage to get your medical bills and lost wages paid. I have written many times about the need to have enough insurance to get this done. It is up to you to see how much coverage you have. You should not have deductibles on your PIP coverage, and if you can afford more, you should get more than $15,000.00, which is the minimum.

All too many people do not do things in a timely fashion, and end up paying a lot of money out of their pocket for what occurred. Again, all too many people do not have uninsured motorist coverage, and they will not receive a nickel for anything that occurred.

 

The Distinction Between Worker’s Compensation and Ability to Sue for Full Damages in Delaware

A lot of people do not understand when you are hurt at work, most times, you are not entitled to get what you normally see on T.V. That is in terms of your pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and other things that are commonly associated with a personal injury.

If you are hurt at work, either it was something you did while at work, or something negligent by your employer, you are restricted to go under worker’s compensation, except if the employer intentionally tried to hurt you. Worker’s Compensation is something where you can get 2/3 of your lost wages up to a certain amount of money. You get your medical bills paid, and if you end up having a permanent problem with a part of your body, you can receive some money for that problem. Also, if you cannot work again, you can end up receiving money from your insurance carrier for your inability to work.

However, there are times you are hurt at work where you can receive both worker’s compensation and also sue for the personal injury aspect. That occurs when your injury at work occurred as a result of the negligence of a third party. In other words, you did not just hurt yourself at work in the normal course of doing things, or your employer did something that made you get hurt. It is when some type of independent contractor working for our employer or some other person or entity that is not employer caused your injury. A good example would be if you do construction. You work for a specific employer. If some other person working for another construction company does something that causes your injury, you can get worker’s compensation from your own employer, but you can also sue whoever the other person is employed by, if there was negligence that caused your injury.

Another good example is if you are driving the company motor vehicle on a work related matter. Someone runs a stop sign and hits your motor vehicle and causes injury.

Since you were driving on a job related situation, you are eligible for worker’s compensation. However, since it was also due to the negligence of someone else, you can also sue that person that ran the stop sign for personal injuries.

It sounds complex, but it is really not. I do not want to get into graphic detail, but if you are hurt by some person or business that is not employed by your employer, while you are on the job, you want to try to make sure the worker’s compensation pays for certain things, and your own car insurance pays for other things.

Many people do not think they are hurt and they can completely sue for everything that you would see on T.V. or read about in the paper for the types of problems that may end up occurring. That is not the case, unless there is some other third party beyond yourself or your employer.

Insurance Limits

I keep seeing certainly things from so many clients. I realize people can only afford what they can in terms of the amount of insurance. Through the good work of the Delaware Trial Lawyers Association, the legislature has increased the minimum amount of insurance that a person must carry to $25,000 per person/$50,000 for everyone in the motor vehicle collision. That has increased from $15,000 per person/$30,000 for everyone in the motor vehicle collision. That took place at the very end of 2017. That also increased uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to $25,000 per person/$50,000 for everyone in the vehicle.

However, under any policy  of car insurance, you have what is called PIP/No-Fault insurance. That means your insurance company is responsible to pay your medical bills and/or lost wages up to two years from the date of the collision, up to the amount of coverage that you have. In Delaware, it is still $15,000 per person/$30,000 for everyone in the car.

For both liability in terms of getting money from the other person, and also for your own medical bills and lost wages, many times that is a sufficient amount of money. However, many times it is far from the amount people need for coverage. The same thing holds true as to what I stated above in terms of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is when the person who struck you does not have insurance. That means you go through your own insurance company to try to get fair money for your injuries. Underinsured motorist coverage means the amount the person who struck you had in the way of insurance is not sufficient to pay the amount of damages you had as a result of being hurt. Therefore, underinsured motorist coverage can add to that amount you already received from the person that struck you.

Also, what people tend to do, and many times not know, is they get a deductible in their PIP/No-Fault insurance. In other words, they have $15,000.00 in coverage, but there is a $1,000.00 to $10,000.00 deductible. However much the deductible is on the policy, the insurance company is not responsible to pay that amount. If you do not have any back up health insurance, that can be an extreme problem. Also, if you have back up health insurance, health insurance has a right to get their money back in almost every case. If PIP pays for it, you have a right to go after the full amount  of coverage the other driver had.

What I am trying to say, and have been saying is a person should ask their agent how much it costs for different levels of coverage, both for PIP and also uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If you can afford the higher coverages, I strongly suggest you get it. If you got your insurance online, which many people do, the same thing should happen. You should find out what type of insurance is available, and how much you can afford.

I have just seen too many cases where the amount of injuries and medical bills far exceed the amount insurance available. That even includes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which a lot of people have, and some people do not. Too many people waive uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Also, in terms of PIP, you may end up being out of work for months. If you do no have short term disability from your employer, you may not get paid your wages.

Again, you can only afford what you can. However, I think most people would find to increase their amount of coverage is not that expensive, and many can afford it. Hopefully, you will never have a motor vehicle collision where you are injured. However, the one time do you and if you get hurt, you can find that you are just not going to get back to normal, and you are not going to get fair money for your injuries.

 

 

Toxic Mold Cases

I get a lot of calls about mold cases. I will take a mold case. However, many times when I hear about a mold case, what I am being told is there was mold in a property that was purchased or rented. There are problems that a person believes are connected to the mold. Usually, they state they are better but had a problem for a certain amount of time.

When I hear that on the phone or in person, I tell people that having problems with mold can be extremely serious. However, there are certain doctors that deal with that type of problem. Even though there may be mold on the property, you just cannot say you felt bad, and therefore, it had to be as a result of the mold.

If you see mold and start having problems with breathing or any other types of problems, you need to let a doctor know. If you are aware there is mold, you need let a doctor know that also. He or she should refer you to a specialist. You have to prove in any personal injury case that the injuries sustained are both directly and proximately related to, in this case, exposure to mold.

Secondly, what is sometimes difficult to prove is the apartment complex, landlord, or former homeowner knew or should have known that the mold was there. Sometimes it is not very hard to show. Other times it is more difficult. You cannot just show there is mold, and therefore, some other person is responsible.

As I stated above, people can become very seriously ill from exposure to mold. However, you need to make sure you see the correct providers to try to diagnose your problems, and correct your problems. Most primary care physicians will not state your problems are related to mold. That is not their area of expertise, that is why there are specialists for mold and any other problems that can occur. It is not that the doctors are poor doctors, it is just not what they do day to day.

Consistent Treatment

One of the things I see in my practice, unfortunately, quite a bit is people that I think are really hurt do not have consistent treatment. If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, slip and fall, or any other type of injury where you think someone else is at fault, it is just essential that you have consistent treatment by doctors, therapists or anyone else that can help you. The main reason is you want to get healthy. Any money you make is going to come and go. You only have one body, and you want that body to be in good shape throughout your life. If you end up having a bad back, neck, or any other problem, it is just not worth it.

I hear from all too many people that they are busy, they have families and a job. That is understandable. However, the insurance companies, or the attorneys representing the person or entity that caused your injury are just so happy that there are gaps in your treatment. Juries also hate to see gaps in treatment and will reduce your verdict to almost nothing many times.

If you are in physical therapy, most places are open from 8:00am until 7:00pm. If you have to miss an appointment, let them know, and they will reschedule. The last thing you want when you receive the records is “DNS”. That means, did not show.

The same applies for seeing a medical doctor, chiropractor, or any other type of healthcare provider.

This may sound silly, but it happens so frequently. For the most part, it is not people that are unhurt. They just make a decision that other things in life are more important than their body. It ends up that you cannot help them or you can help them very little. Many times it also ends up that they have a problem that never goes away.