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Automobile Accident FAQ's

Date Added: May 06, 2008 04:00:03 PM
Author: Kamensky-Cohen & Associates
Category:

The Pains of an Auto Accident:
Being involved in an auto accident is often far more than a mere inconvenience. In addition to the pain of injuries, concerns about your recovery, possible shock/psychological trauma and financial concerns, there are complicated legal and insurance labyrinths thru which you will need to maneuver.

 

How we can help:
In our legal practice, focusing on Personal Injuries, we encounter many of the same questions and concerns from our clients who have been involved in auto accidents. Below are some of the most common followed by brief, helpful answers. Above all, we highly recommend that you consult Jerrold Kamensky & Associates as soon as possible before you agree to any settlements offered by insurance adjusters, both those of the other driver(s) involved and your own.

 

Before you settle:
Sign nothing and accept no checks to cover your property or medical damages before consulting a lawyer! Even if you end up with no serious injuries, it is best to find out your rights before you agree to anything. Only a lawyer will be able to explain all of the legal, medical and financial issues with your best interests in mind. The insurance companies that contact you with advice are protecting their pocketbooks so be careful and consult with an attorney before you make any agreements.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:
Note: As our legal practice is in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, a few of the following answers are specific to each of these two States and will be noted as such.

 

Do I need to notify my own insurance company if it is the other guy's fault? 
Yes, because, in order to obtain all the benefits and rights to which your auto insurance policy entitles you, notice is a pre-requisite regardless of who is at fault. 

 

Should I notify the other guy's insurance company? 
Yes, if you are able to obtain that information at the scene of the accident, all insurance companies should be notified regardless of fault. If you have been hit, notice to the other party's insurance company will help to insure that they will step in sooner rather than later and will help effectuate an early return of your various costs for property damage as well as establish a claim number to work with on all other related claims. If you engage an attorney, he/she should also give notice to the other party's insurance company in writing.

 

Who should I notify if I am injured? 
Aside from getting medical attention as soon as possible, you must, by law, notify the police. Most states require that they should be called to the scene of the accident. If they are not called, you should go to a nearby police station and make a report of the accident immediately. They will fill out an accident report form that will be referred to should a lawsuit arise, so be sure you respond accurately to their questions. If there are any witnesses, do everything you can to obtain their names, addresses and telephone numbers. As soon as you are able, you, or, if you are too injured, a family member or friend, should contact Jerrrold Kamensky & Associates immediately to insure that your rights are being protected. Following the proper procedures will give you the choice of whether or not you want to pursue a claim later when the extent and true nature of your injuries are known.

 

Should I cash any checks from any insurance company sent to me to cover my damages? 
Not without legal advice. Cashing a check may prejudice your rights in the future as regards the accident. We advise that you call Jerrold Kamensky & Associates to discuss your accident before accepting any monies offered you by an insurance company (your own or those of any other party involved in the accident) to be sure you are not jeopardizing your rights for future claims.

 

To whom should I send the doctor/hospital bill for any treatment I receive for injuries arising from an auto accident? Who pays for my or my family's medical treatment following an auto accident?
NJ: In New Jersey: Your own auto insurance will pay for medical treatment arising from an auto accident in which you are involved regardless of who is at fault. However, make sure your medical providers know the regulations and requirements necessary to submit their bills to your auto insurance carrier to insure payment. We at Jerrold Kamensky & Associates can help guide both you and them on this matter.In some circumstances, your health insurance carrier will provide the coverage. Again, we will be able to assist you in determining this.

 

PA: In Pennsylvania, medical bills go first to your auto insurance carrier. They will pay all bills up to the amount of your policy's medical coverage (generally $5,000 up to $100,000, with even more available if you choose). When your medical coverage through your auto insurance is exhausted, bills are sent to your health insurance carrier. If your health insurance is with an HMO, it is wise to look for the highest medical coverage you can afford on your auto policy.

 

The difficulties encountered with HMO payments are only enhanced when dealing with an auto injury caused medical claim. While the HMO may be required to pay for your auto related medical care they will seek reimbursement from you when you receive your recovery from the party who injured you.

 

What should I do or say if the other guy's auto insurance contacts me? 
The short answer to this is...nothing. Refer him/her to your lawyer, and let your lawyer know that you have been contacted and who it was that contacted you. Insurance companies have been severely reprimanded for unfair practices having to do with these types of contacts. Do not become a victim of an insurance company's "bad faith" practice. 

 

How do I know if I have a case against the other guy? 
This can only be answered by a competent attorney. There should be no charge for discussing a potential Personal Injury case with an attorney.

 

If I do sue, how long will it take to collect on my damages? How much will I get? 
Hard question to answer in a general way. Each case is different and the length of time and eventual payout depends upon the nature and complexity of your case. Some will take only a few months to resolve, others may take several years. How much you will eventually receive on your case also depends on the nature of your injuries and the overall impact they end up having upon your life. Another factor is how competent your attorney is. A good attorney will maximize and "work" the case to achieve the best possible results for you. This may take a little more time and effort on both you and your attorney's part, but the results are usually worth it. When choosing an attorney for your case, look for someone who has particular skill and experience in personal injury litigation (rather than your estate planning lawyer, for instance). A Certified Civil Trial Attorney is designated as such by the Supreme Court of the state in which he/she practices as able to demonstrate sufficient levels of experience, education, knowledge and skill in civil trial practice and is a good criterion to look for when choosing a lawyer to handle your case.

 

If there is damage to my car, who pays and how much? How do I get a car in the meantime and who pays for it?
Property damage is almost always paid for by either your or the other party's insurance company depending on who is at fault. If your insurance pays for it, you will have to pay the deductible, however, if the other party's insurance company pays, they will pay the entire cost of repairs/replacement and reimburse your insurance company for any payments they have already made on the repairs and you for any amount of deductible that you may have already paid. As to a rental car, whether or not your insurance company pays for it depends upon your insurance policy benefits. If the other party is at fault, however, the cost of a rental car is a legitimate claim added to your claim for damages, however, it may take a while to get reimbursed and you or your insurance company will have to pay for the rental car initially. Speak to your lawyer for more information about reimbursement for these expenses.

 

If I sue, how do I pay my lawyer?
Injury cases are almost always taken by lawyers on a "contingency" basis. This means that nothing is paid to the attorney until, and usually, unless there is a monetary recovery for damages. At that point a percentage of the recovery is given to the attorney, the amount of which is set by the contract between you and your attorney. Some states, such as New Jersey limit those percentages that an attorney can charge. The costs involved in the process of bringing the case to either trial or settlement are usually fronted by the offices of Jerrold Kamensky & Associates and are deducted from the recovery at the time of settlement before the dispersing of monies is made. That means, in effect, both you and the attorney share the costs of the case at Jerrold Kamensky & Associates. Some law firms deduct all the costs of the case from your share of the recovery. Costs are for services that your attorney's office must pay besides our fees such as court fees, doctors' reports and testimony, document production from outside agencies/offices, etc. We will explain all of these things to you at your first meeting and should present you with a "Fee Agreement" outlining all of these issues and be able to answer any questions you may have. Bottom line: there are no fees or costs to you until there is a settlement and then a set legal percentage of the recovery, after costs, is paid to your attorney.

 

Is there a limit to how long after an accident occurs that I can still sue for damages? 
Yes, and although a general rule in New Jersey and Pennsylvania is two years from the date of the accident, it can vary with the circumstances of the case. For instance, a minor involved in an accident has two (2) years from the date of his/her 18th birthday to sue regardless of how long ago the accident occurred. It is important to consult with an attorney regarding this question as these time periods vary from state to state and can also vary due to the nature of the claim.

 

What if I'm injured in an accident in which I'm a passenger, who do I sue for damages? Who pays for my medical treatment? 
The answer to these questions vary with the circumstances of the case. As an injured passenger in a car that is involved in an accident, you will probably sue whoever is responsible for the accident, but remember, it is the person's auto insurance you are suing that pays the claim in most cases! The driver responsible for the accident may even be your spouse, but a suit against your spouse's insurance company (probably the same as your own insurance company) may be necessary to protect you and your health. If the responsibility for the accident is shared by both drivers and you are injured, both will be named in a suit, the percentage of responsibility determined by the two respective insurance companies during the settlement negotiation or at the time of a trial. The answer to who pays for your medical treatment is also complicated. If you or anyone in your household owns a car and has insurance coverage, that insurance company will probably pay your medical costs. If not, the insurance company of one of the parties involved in the accident will pay your medical costs. In all cases, these issues are best handled by Jerrold Kamensky & Associates to insure that your rights are protected and that you receive the benefits to which you are entitled.

 

What if I'm involved in an auto accident with someone who has no auto insurance or has very minimal coverage...not enough to cover my damages? 
A very important question, especially in New Jersey where recent legislation has made available a very minimal policy which offers very little to no protection in the event of an accident. It is very important that the auto insurance policy you choose to cover yourself and your family have adequate Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverages. It is these coverages that compensate for any lack of insurance policy benefits of others. No matter how serious your injuries in an accident are, you will have little luck in recovering any amount more than available insurance coverages...either the other party's, or your's. Since you cannot count on being involved in an accident with someone with adequate insurance coverage, make sure that your own UM/UIM coverages are at the highest level you can afford. Talk to your insurance agent and review your policy, or better yet, call us at Jerrold Kamensky & Associates to review your insurance coverages with you. If the accident has already happened and the guy who has hit you has no insurance and your Uninsured/Under Insured coverage is for $15,000, your total recovery will be $15,000 or less depending on how severe your injuries are. Your recovery amount cannot be any more than the amount of your own auto insurance policy's Uninsured/Under Insured benefits if the responsible party has no insurance. 


If the other driver has a $15,000 policy and your injuries/damages are determined as being "valued" at $50,000, how much of that $50,000 you actually realize will also be determined by your Uninsured/Underinsured Benefits. If your benefits are for $100,000, the other party's insurance company will pay his $15,000 and your own insurance will pay you the balance, or $35,000. If your UM/UIM coverage is only $15,000, you will not recover anymore than the $15,000 paid by the other party's policy regardless of how serious your injuries are or what impact they have upon you economically and/or your quality of life.

 

Also, please note that if you are driving without auto insurance, you cannot sue for damages even if the other guy is at fault and there are no medical benefits available to you through any auto insurance policy.

Written by

Kamensky - Cohen & Associates
194 S. Broad Street
Trenton, NJ 08608
Tel: 609-394-8585
1-800-LAW-8009WWW.KC-LAW.NET





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