Pursuing a personal injury case in Pa can be challenging and confusing without the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer like Stuart Carpey. For over 30 years, Carpey Law has withheld a reputation for being a top personal injury firm in the greater Philadelphia area. Here’s our secrets to success for winning personal injury cases.
How to Handle Your Medical Care During a Personal Injury Case
In regard to your medical care, we provide the following recommendations:
- Attend your doctor appointments and other medical appointments: Stay in touch with your doctor and be certain to maintain your appointments. If you do have to cancel, notify the doctor with as much notice as possible. The words “no show” on a doctor’s record sheet can be used against you at the time of settlement or trial.
- Tell your doctor “everything” that hurts: One of the most critical pieces of evidence is how you feel and how your injuries have affected your ability to function on a daily basis. Your doctor is required to keep accurate and detailed records of your medical history and care. The records include your description of how you were injured, your physical complaints, and your injuries, the doctor’s examination findings, and the treatment you received. The insurance companies will base its offer to you on this critical information. If you fail to tell the doctor everything that hurts, not only will it not be treated properly, but also no one will know about it. If you first begin to complain about some problem weeks or even months after you were hurt, the insurance company will claim that the problem was not from the accident and reduce their settlement offer to you.Also, whenever you see any doctor for any reason you need to make sure you tell the nurses, doctors and write down on any written forms they request that you sustained injuries in an accident, the injuries you sustained and the current problems you are having because of the accident.
- Follow your doctor’s orders, If your physician prescribes certain medications, therapy exercises, or limitations on activities, be sure to follow your doctor’s orders. Failure to follow your doctor’s advice can be used against you when it comes time to settle your case, or can be used against you in court if your claim proceeds to litigation. If your doctor tells you to get therapy three days a week, but you only go once a week, you will damage your claim. The insurance company will say that “you could not have been truly injured, or you would have followed your doctor’s recommendations,” and will reduce their settlement offer to you.
- Attend physical therapy sessions if prescribed: Your physician or hospital may prescribe therapy to facilitate recovery from your injury. Such a procedure is often helpful in many types of injuries including strains, sprains, and other injuries. If physical therapy is prescribed, be sure to keep your appointments and participate actively in the process. Again, if you have to cancel an appointment, be sure to call, but try to avoid cancellation as much as possible.
- Follow your doctor’s advice with respect to work and leisure activities: If your physician advises you to rest, stay home from work, or avoid certain activities, it is important that you follow such advice. If you resist your doctor’s advice and do activities that have been limited, it will not only prevent a speedy recovery, but could also affect the legal aspects of your case. Even though staying out of work may have an impact financially, it is important that you follow such advice so that your physical recovery may be enhanced.
- See your physician if you are having continuing symptoms: Failure to see a physician regularly is considered evidence that you have fully recovered by an insurance company and eventually, perhaps to a judge or jury. While you should not go to the doctor every day, you need to see your doctors and tell them if you are still having problems. If your doctor says “follow-up as needed”, that means to come back in a few weeks if you are still having problems. If you do not follow-up, then in the eyes of the doctor, insurance company, and judge, you are no longer having problems and have made a full recovery.
- Keep a diary to document your injuries: Few people ever think of writing down how they felt. You need to remember the details of your injury and how you felt on a day-to-day basis. A diary helps to provide acute accounts of your injuries and how they affected your ability to function on a daily basis. Your diary will help you prove the extent of your injuries, and can mean a higher evaluation of your claim.
- Keep documentation regarding missed work: It is important that you keep track of the time you missed from work. This includes keeping doctors excuses for missed work and keeping track of time you miss work for doctors’ appointments.
How to Handle Your Medical Bills During a Personal Injury Case
The defendant’s insurance company is not obligated to make payments for your medical bills. This in true even if their liability is obvious and they have already paid for the property damage, if any. They are not required to make payments and cannot be compelled to do so before a jury verdict. Insurance companies routinely make payments only at the time of a final settlement when they can obtain a release. Therefore, you should not count on the other person’s insurance carrier making payment for your medical bills until the time of settlement. Therefore, you should look to one of the following ways to have your medical bills paid:
- Your own health insurance from your employment benefits package.
- Your own health insurance that you may have paid for personally.
- Health insurance obtained by your spouse for your benefit or by your parents if you are under age and living with such parents.
- PIP (Medical) coverage from your own automobile policy if you were driving your automobile and were involved in an automobile collision.
- PIP (Medical) coverage from the person you were riding with if you were a passenger in an automobile that has automobile insurance coverage.
- Worker’s Compensation coverage if you were injured while working.
- Medicaid (DPW) – If you are not covered under an insurance plan you may be eligible for state insurance programs. You should contact your local Department of Public Welfare to find out.
- Medicare – You may also be covered under Medicare depending on your age and whether you receive other Federal benefits.
Almost all medical insurance policies with the exception of automobile polices, have a subrogation provision. What this means is simply that they require reimbursement if you obtain money through a lawsuit from a third party. However, the amount paid back by way of subrogation is usually at a reduced rate.
If there are insufficient funds to pay doctors, hospitals, and other medical bills, our office will help facilitate assignments whereby the client authorizes our office to pay the medical provider directly from any settlement or verdict. These often will serve to satisfy the health provider and often they will wait until the time of settlement rather than pursue collection against you.
General Information About Successful Personal Injury Cases
It’s extremely important to you don’t discuss your case with anyone besides your personal injury attorney and your medical providers: If any insurance adjuster, investigator or other person calls you, please immediately tell them to contact your personal injury lawyer. DO NOT talk to anyone besides your doctors about the details of your case. This is the best approach to take because anything you say to anyone can be used against you in court if we get that far. Therefore, your personal injury lawyer should handle all contact with the insurance company. If there is a problem with something regarding your case, be sure to contact your lawyer, not the insurance adjustor.
Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Our recommendation is for you to remove any and all social media sites while this matter is pending. In our technology society, this information can be found by defendants and if they find something that they can use against you, they will.
- FACT: Courts have ordered people to produce their Facebook and other social media pages to the other side in the case.
- FACT: Evidence from Facebook and other social media pages has been admitted in Court and used against people making claims.
- FACT: Every defense lawyer has a law clerk on Facebook who is looking for information about you including profiles, pictures, posts, etc.
However, if you decide that you must keep your social media sites active then there are some steps can you take to protect yourself:
- Do not put information on social network web pages or other internet pages, send emails or texts about your case, injuries or anything else that could potentially damage your case.
- Take a critical eye to your social media sites to see if there is anything you would not want the other side to see. Remember that the other side will not know the context of your photos or comments. They won’t know if you had to take extra pain medication the next day after you did something.
- Check your privacy settings. Most sites allow you to block certain people altogether from seeing that you even are on the site. Block the opposing lawyer and email addresses ending with the name of the firm. Keep in mind, however, that the defense lawyers can hire law students and others whose names and email addresses you won’t know, so this is not foolproof.
- Search for your name in the search field to see what comes up and make sure it is acceptable.
- While you are at it, do the same thing on Google and YouTube. Make whatever adjustments are necessary.
- Don’t accept friend requests or answer emails through social medical from people you do not know. For example, on Facebook if you send a message, you grant the receiver access to your profile for a certain number of days. This is a common device to get access to your profile. Keep in mind that because of the lawsuit process, the opposing legal team knows a lot about you and could send you an email that might make you think you know each other. If you are in doubt about whether or not your pages are acceptable, then chances are they are not.
Social Security Disability
If your injuries are severe and permanently disabling then at some point you may be considering filing for Social Security Disability or SSI (Supplemental Security Income). If you are considering filing then you need to discuss this with your attorney before actually filing. There are various forms that must be completed which can later be used against you so it is very important that your attorney is involved in the process.
Understanding a Health Carrier’s Right of Reimbursement
Settlement for Personal Injury Cases with Carpey Law
We will generally not commence settlement until you are fully recovered from your injuries or until a doctor will state that your condition will not further improve. In my experience, few physicians will render such an opinion unless at several months have elapsed since the date of injury. Once this occurs, we obtain complete copies of all the medical bills and medical records. We obtain these through our own office even though you may already have some medical bills. The reason for this is the insurance carriers have many rules about documentation necessary before providing a claim. They need itemized statements rather than insurance bills to ensure that the bill correlates to the medical record. Therefore, we obtain that information and provide it to the insurance carrier. Our staff is very well experienced in dealing with medical providers for this purpose. Unfortunately, there is always a delay in obtaining bills and records from hospitals and doctors of at least 30 days.
If there has not been a complete recovery from your injuries, it may be necessary to obtain a written report from the physician indicating that your symptoms will persist into the indefinite future.
I may be requesting from you at the time of settlement a detailed letter which sets out the problems that this injury has caused you in all aspects of your life. The reason for this is that the medical records are very dry and rarely communicate the effect of an injury on an individual. Please include in detail the effect of your symptoms on matters such as sleeping, housework, employment, etc. I may use all or part of such information in my demand letter to the insurance carrier.
Upon receipt of all the medical records, medical bills, the letter from the client, and any medical opinions if necessary, I will put together a demand package to send onto the insurance company. Most insurance companies will respond to our demand within 6 to 8 weeks. There is no routine response to a settlement demand. It varies according to the nature of the case and the insurance carrier. If the matters cannot be resolved through typical negotiation we have the following alternatives:
We can suggest mediation to the insurance carrier. This is a procedure utilized more recently wherein both parties select a mediator to sit down and attempt to reach a settlement with both sides. It has been my experience that insurance carriers sometimes pay more in a mediation setting than they would otherwise. The mediation requires that an individual from the insurance carrier be present who has the power to issue the check and therefore it is often helpful. It is normal for both sides to split the costs of such mediation.
Settlement negotiations are not admissible in a subsequent jury trial. In other words, if we attempt to make a settlement, we are not bound by the amounts that we have agreed to settle to in settlement negotiations nor is the insurance carrier bound by his previous offers of settlement and can even deny liability at a trial. For this reason there is little to lose by attempting to settle.
If a settlement is not reached, we have no other choice but to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. In most cases the insurance company will not be the named defendant. After a petition is filed, the insurance carrier must hire a defense attorney to defend the claim. There are certain rights that a defendant has once a lawsuit has been filed which they do not have otherwise. They routinely do the following:
- Take your deposition which is simply a sworn statement under oath concerning the accident and your injuries.
- Request all medical records, including medical records before the accident to determine your medical condition before the injury.
- Submit written questions called interrogatories which are somewhat detailed concerning past employment and past medical history.
Our office will also use interrogatories and document requests. Depending on the circumstances, we may also take depositions.
After a Complaint is filed, the court sets up a scheduling conference approximately four months later at which time a trial date is established. It is typical for a trial date to set 12 to 24 months after the Complaint is filed. In my experience if the case is not settled prior to filing suit, then mostly likely it will not be settled until just before trial. This is because defense attorneys and insurance companies have very little incentive to settle the case until just before trial. However, mediation and settlement attempts can be pursued at any time before trial.
If you or a loved one has a personal injury case you would like to pursue, contact us today!
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.