Karpe Litigation Group | Indianapolis, IN
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q. WHAT IS MY CLAIM WORTH?
When an injured person first consults a personal injury lawyer, one of the first things this client would like to know is how much the case is worth. An experienced personal injury lawyer would never try to answer this question until the lawyer has completed a full investigation into the accident, all the damages and expenses have been totaled, and the client's doctors have reported how the injury will affect the client in the future. Often it is several months after the accident before all the necessary factors are known which will enable the lawyer to evaluate the value of the claim and begin settlement negotiations with the insurance company. If the client insists on a quick settlement, this can be accomplished, but almost always the client will get less than the full value of the claim. Another danger of settling too soon is that a latent or unknown injury may appear weeks or months later. If the claim has been settled and the responsible party released, it cannot be reopened. In our firm we endeavor to settle every claim for "top dollar." We are not a "personal injury mill," which sacrifices full value in favor of quick-and-easy settlements. That is, we deal in quality, not in quantity. We employ state-of-the-art technology by applying a special case evaluation computer program which analyses jury verdicts in cases all over the country and compares similar case facts to arrive at a statistical prediction of what a jury in any geographical area is likely to award in a case similar case. We often use this data in our settlement negotiations with insurance companies. We make every effort to achieve a full and fair settlement before we resort to filing a law suit in court. If, despite our best efforts, settlement negotiations do not result in settlement, we file suit immediately and push the case through the court system as rapidly as possible. Our goal is always the same: To achieve the best possible result for our client.
Q. WHAT WILL MY INSURANCE COVER?
Auto Insurance Policy:
Most people do not think about what is in their auto insurance policy until after they have been in an accident. Many times, our clients are surprised to find out only too late that they did not have the coverage they thought they had. Here are some hints on how to decipher your insurance policy to see what coverage you have. The face sheet of the policy is typically called the "Declarations Page". It is the paper you receive periodically showing what the premium is and what portion of the premium is for each item of coverage. Here are some of the typical types of coverage found in an auto insurance policy:
Bodily Injury Liability--This coverage pays for damages for injury or death if your car is involved in an accident which was solely or partially your fault. It also pays for a lawyer to defend you if suit is brought against you. Typically, your policy will contain "split limits" such as 50/100. This means that the most any one claimant can receive is $50,000 and the most the company will pay out in total to any number of claimants for the same accident is $100,000.
Property Damage Liability--This coverage pays for damages to property when you or another driver of a car are at fault in an accident. It also provides coverage when you are driving a rental car.
PIP (Personal Injury Protection or "No Fault" Coverage)--This is the coverage for you and others in your family for medical expenses and lost earnings due to injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident regardless of who is at fault. The basic PIP coverage provides up to $10,000 coverage which will pay 80% medical expenses and 60% of lost wages and all replacement services such as child care, maid services, etc.
Medical Payments--This coverage will pay those medical expenses which PIP does not pay up to the extent of the amount of coverage you have purchased.
Collision--This coverage pays for repair or replacement of your car if it is damaged in a wreck regardless of who is at fault. If your car is financed, the bank will probably require you to have collision coverage. Since collision coverage typically carries a deductible, if your car is damaged in a wreck which is the other party's fault, many times it is better to make a claim against that party's damage liability coverage.
Comprehensive--This coverage is for property damage to your vehicle from causes other than collisions, such as fire, theft, floods, etc. The coverage typically carries a deductible, but windshield damage may not carry a deductible. This is to encourage motorists to repair damaged windshields promptly.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM)--This coverage pays for injuries to you, your passengers and family members who are injured by another motorist who is at fault but does not carry any bodily injury liability insurance or does not have insurance in a sufficient amount to pay for all your losses. Because one-third of all motorists on the road do not have liability insurance, UM is probably the most important coverage you can have. It is like buying bodily injury liability insurance for every driver on the road. The premium for the coverage is modest in comparison to the protection it gives you if you should ever need it. Remember, automobile insurance is like just about any other product. You get what you pay for. Avoid the false economy of bargain basement coverage for substandard companies if you can. UM coverage not only protects you from drivers with no liability insurance, it can also provide benefits when the driver responsible for the accident has liability insurance, but not enough to fully compensate you for all of your injuries. This is called UNDERINSURED MOTORIST coverage. Suppose you receive a serious injury and your claim is worth $50,000. The party responsible has only $10,000 in liability insurance, but you have had the wisdom to buy $50,000 in UM coverage for yourself. The two coverage amounts are added together and amount to a $60,000 pool of money which would be enough to fully satisfy your claim.
Another important feature of UM insurance is what is called STACKING. If you have more than one vehicle insured under the same policy, you can and should elect Stacking. This means that if you have say, $50,000 UM coverage in your policy and two vehicles insured, the two $50,000 coverage amounts are added together or "stacked" to create $100,000 in UM coverage. If you have four vehicles insured under such a policy, with stacking you would have $200,000 in UM protection. If you are eligible to stack UM coverage, we strongly recommend that you do so.
Buying UNINSURED MOTORIST coverage is like buying liability insurance for every other driver you meet on the road. Don't rely on the other guy to have insurance. Call your insurance agent today to make sure you have adequate UM coverage.
If you are a homeowner, you surely must have homeowners insurance. How many of us have even looked at our policy to see what coverage it provides? You may be surprised to learn there is probably a lot more protection than just the repair or replacement coverage for you home if you suffer a loss in a fire, hurricane, or other disaster. You have liability coverage to protect you if someone suffers an injury while on your premises that will pay their damages and legal expenses, if you are sued. There is also coverage for a visitor's medical expenses, if he or she is injured on your property.
Suppose you are in the supermarket and accidentally injure someone by bumping into them with a grocery cart? Your homeowners liability coverage will apply there too. In fact it will cover most other non-motor vehicle related liability situations. What if your dog gets out and bites a neighbor's child? Homeowners insurance will probably take care of it. Even if you are a renter, it is a good idea to get a "Renter's" policy to cover your valuables and protect you from personal liability.
Q. WHAT IF MY INSURANCE REFUSES TO PAY?
You have paid your health insurance premiums for over a year. Then one day you become ill and have to go to the hospital. You present your health insurance card at admissions, and the clerk calls the 800 number to confirm your coverage. You are admitted and are given a battery of medical tests. The doctor decides that you have appendicitis and operates. In a couple days you go home to recuperate. The bill is $15,000. Thank goodness you had the good sense to buy the insurance.
Weeks go by and then the bills and letters start to come. You call your insurance company and are told they are still looking into your claim. Weeks later, you get a letter from them telling you that your claim has been denied because you did not provide full medical disclosure on your applicable for the health insurance. What will you do now?
Give me a call. You have been a victim of a common insurance practice known as "Post-Claim Underwriting." Many health insurance companies issue policies without following up on the insured's original application to try and find out an applicant's full medical picture. Although this practice is not illegal, many companies use it as an excuse to wrongfully deny legitimate claims. When a claim comes in, they order all the insured's medical records for many years back and pour over it and match it against the medical history the insured put in the application. If they find that the insured left anything out, they may use this omission as an excuse to deny the claim on the grounds of "material misrepresentation." When applying for any kind of insurance, it is important to check the application very carefully to make sure it is complete and accurate. Don't rely on your agent filling in the blanks to provide all the necessary information. Read the application carefully before you sign it.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, all may not be lost. If your insurance company is wrong, the law provides a remedy. We will look into it for you and advise you what you can do. Just as we do in personal injury cases, we offer free consultation in cases involving denial of insurance claims. Let us try to help.
Q. HOW LONG CAN I WAIT TO ACT?
People who have been wronged must decide whether to make a claim. Sometimes they ponder this question a long time before deciding.
It is important if you are injured to see a physician as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to prove your injuries were caused by the accident. You should also follow through with the treatment recommended by your doctor. Otherwise, a portion of your claim may be denied for “failure to mitigate” your damages.
When considering whether to make a claim, people must also think about "statutes of limitations." This is the time limit on when actions may be brought. If you wait too long to make a claim, and the statute of limitations passes, your claim will be denied even if it was valid. As an example of an actual case, once a man was injured aboard an airliner when the overhead bin opened during flight, dropping a heavy package onto his head. He tried negotiating his claim himself with the airlines for many months. Finally he went to the law library and looked up a form to draw up and file his own lawsuit. A court noted that the statute of limitations for personal injury actions had passed, so his claim was dismissed and he lost the chance to recover damages for his injuries.
Statutes of limitations have harsh results, and ignorance of the law is no excuse. Thus, if you are considering whether to make a claim, consult a personal injury lawyer properly to assure your claim is not lost by delay. The state whether the accident occurred is important, since statutes of limitations vary from state to state. Also, even if it seems like a claim arose long ago, don't decide for yourself that your claim must be too old to file. If you are in doubt, call us. We offer free consultation on all injury cases.
Q. HOW DO I FIND A GOOD LAWYER?
In the days before lawyers were permitted to advertise their services, the only way to find good lawyer was to ask around and get a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance. This is commonly referred to as word-of-mouth referral. It is still the most common way that lawyers get new clients. Since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that lawyers should be permitted to advertise just like any other business, there has been a virtual explosion of lawyer advertising, especially in the yellow pages, particularly in the area of personal injury law. Some firms have even taken to advertising on television in a search for new clients.
How does a consumer decide when confronted with so much information? You should check the attorney’s qualifications. I have successfully handled numerous jury trials across the country. For two years, I served as Deputy Attorney General in Indiana. My legal writing has been published in both the United States and Europe.
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