You Have Questions? We Have Answers!
Our clients often have the same questions, so we’re sharing those frequently asked questions with you in our Q&A section.
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Auto Accident Q&A
Q: I’ve heard people say I should take pictures of the accident scene. Is it really that important?
A: As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. After an accident, taking pictures of the scene helps capture and preserve evidence. These photos may then be used by us to assist in your accident claim. They will also serve as a refresher for you to look back on after the accident to help accurately explain road conditions, locations, impact points, and many other details, if you need to provide a statement, or testify.
Q: The person that ran into me got a ticket for the accident. Does this mean I automatically win my case?
A: No, it does not. Generally speaking, unless the police office witnessed the auto accident, the report is not admissible. This means that further investigation must be done to prove who is at fault.
Contributory or comparative negligence may be a factor in determining whether or not you have a case. In some cases, if you are even 1% at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you cannot recover from the other party.
Determining fault is not always easy. Even in cases where the other individual was ticketed for the accident, you cannot automatically assume that they would be considered “at fault” in a court of law. Additional investigation may be required. Even if the other insurance company determines their insured driver was at fault, they may still dispute the dollar amount of your expenses. It is important that you keep documentation of all your expenses, including property damage (your car and any personal possessions), medical bills, prescribed medications and devices (i.e., crutches or a neck brace), lost wages (including sick days and vacation days your employer may require you to utilize), rental car charges, mileage to and from medical appointments, etc. All these expenses should be taken into account when a settlement amount is requested.
Q: Where can I get a copy of the police report from the accident?
A: The officer who will responds to the accident will tell you how to obtain a copy of the accident report. Some departments do offer online access to accident reports. Generally, you will need the case number, accident date and last name of the driver or vehicle owner to pull the report. It’s always a good idea to get the officer’s name and badge number.
Q: Is there anything I can do to prepare ahead of time in case I ever have an accident?
A: There are several things you can do to be prepared. It’s always a good idea to review your own insurance coverage and make sure your policy limits meet your needs. You may want to add optional coverage for Med Pay or rental insurance. If you have a lot of assets, you may wish to bump up your coverage in case you are ever at-fault in an accident. Also consider increasing your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage above the minimums in the event you are hit by someone with no or low insurance. Check with your insurance agent for more information about these additional coverages.
In addition, you should carry a pad of paper and pen in your glove box. If your cell phone takes decent quality pictures, you can use it to document the accident. If it doesn’t, buy an inexpensive disposable camera and keep it in the glove box; replace it every few years. You may want to keep one of those small emergency camping blankets and a pair of disposable gloves to use if you have to render aid until the paramedics arrive. Also, make certain you always have your driver’s license and insurance card with you when you are driving.
Q: If I’m in an accident, what do I need to do?
A: Protecting your rights starts at the scene of the accident. If you are seriously injured, you may not be able to do these things on your own; you may need to rely on others for assistance. At the accident scene, you should immediately check for injuries and then call 911. Get witness information and exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. Take photos of the vehicles and surrounding area to show positioning. Do not talk about the accident, but give a factual account to the responding officer. If you are injured, go to the hospital for treatment.
After you get home, or as soon as possible, contact your insurance company and report the accident. You may also be required to file a formal notice of the accident. Write down all the details of the accident as soon as possible, sketching the positions of the vehicles. Notify your employer if the doctor has told you to stay home from work.
Then, make an appointment to speak to an attorney at Charles G. Pitman Attorneys at Law, LLC to learn your rights, as soon as possible after an accident. We offer a free consultation, and don’t charge a fee unless we win your case.
Q: What is my car accident claim worth?
A: Valuing an accident claim where injuries are involved can be difficult. The value of the claim should include property damage, medical expenses (including prescribed medications, medical devices, and rehab), lost wages, rental car expenses, and any other expenses you would not have incurred had you not been injured.
Unfortunately, what you are charged by the hospital and doctor may not be considered “reasonable and customary” by the insurance company. In addition, if your injury does not heal and you are unable to return to your pre-injury condition, your claim may need to include estimates of future loss of earnings and future medical expenses. In some cases, pain management becomes an issue (pain and suffering) or you may no longer able to enjoy the same activities as they did before (loss of enjoyment of life). Proving a case, and putting a value on these future or intangible expenses, can be very challenging.
Q: Do I need an accident lawyer?
A: If your accident involved only property damage – you were not injured – then you may not need a lawyer. If, however, you were injured, it is worth your time to at least speak to an attorney. At Charles G. Pitman Attorneys at Law, LLC, we offer a free consultation, and there’s never a fee unless we win your case. In your free consultation, we’ll explain all your rights, and all your options. We have seen serious injury cases where the injured party attempted to settle their case by themselves. This usually ends up being much more of a challenge than people realize. Many people believe that if they hire an attorney, they will get less money.
According to the Insurance Research Council, injured people receive an average of 3 times more money when they are represented by an attorney!
Q: I was hit while driving, and the other driver did not stop. What happens now?
A: You should call 911 and report the accident so a police report is on file. Call your insurance company and let them know what happened. If the police are unable to find the hit-and-run driver, you will need to file the claim against your own insurance.
Q: The woman who hit my car did not have insurance. What happens now?
A: Although the law requires anyone operating a motor vehicle have the minimum levels of insurance, there are some irresponsible drivers out there who drive without insurance. If an uninsured driver causes your accident and you have optional UM/UIM insurance coverage, your insurance company may cover your bodily injury claims up to the coverage limits that you purchase. It is noteworthy, however, that there are certain legal elements that must be proven to recover under UM/UIM coverage. Just because you have this type of insurance doesn’t mean your insurance company will have to pay it!
Depending on your insurance coverage, some or all of your expenses may be covered under your policy. Unfortunately, most people who drive without insurance do so because they simply cannot afford it. This means that your chances of recovering your expenses from them are slim, even if you take them to court and get a judgment.
Q: My car was totaled, but the insurance company is telling me they will only pay up to the coverage limits carried by the man who caused the accident. The car is worth a lot more than that! I thought because he caused the accident his insurance would pay for my car.
A: The law requires that drivers carry minimal levels of insurance before they may drive. The minimum amounts required for liability coverage vary by state. Examples of minimum coverage are:
- Alabama – 25/50/25
- Tennessee – 25/50/15
- Georgia – 25/50/25
For example, if the person who caused the accident resulting in your injuries carries the minimum in Alabama, your medical bills, lost wages and other damages related to the accident would be covered up to $25,000. The second number represents the total dollars that would be paid for all bodily injury claims in the accident ($50,000). The final number ($25,000) is the payment limit for property damage to another person’s property as the result of the accident.
Again, using Alabama as an example, if the at-fault driver carries these minimums, then the insurance company will only pay up to $25,000 in total property damage for the accident. This includes all other vehicles, fences, road signs, etc. If there were multiple cars involved, other types of damage or your car is worth more than $25,000, you may need to pursue the difference elsewhere, either through your insurance company, if you carry optional collision coverage, or by filing suit against the at-fault driver for the difference.
Q: My truck was totaled in an accident that was not my fault. The insurance company told me how much they would pay for it but I owe more than that on the loan. Can I get them to pay the difference?
A: Insurance companies will pay the fair market value for your vehicle. They may look at the Kelley Blue Book values, or use some other source to determine value. The pre-accident condition of the vehicle should be taken into account, as well as any upgrades you made that you can document (keep your receipts). If you recently spent money on repairs (i.e., just bought new tires or just repainted the car), and can provide a bill of sale, you may be able to claim that amount over and above fair market value.
As far as the bank is concerned, they loaned you the money, not the car. Their expectation is that you will repay the amount you borrowed in full.
Q: My grandchild was attacked by the neighbor’s dog while playing in our backyard. She has terrible injuries. Who will pay for her medical care?
A: Dog bite liability laws differ per state, city, and township. In this instance, the dog owner may or may not be liable for medical care and other damages. An experienced personal injury attorney at Charles G. Pitman Attorneys at Law, LLC will be able to help determine if the grandchild’s injuries were the result of unusual mitigation or negligence.
Q: I missed two weeks of work after the accident and did not get paid. Will the insurance company pay me for the work I missed?
A: If the reck was not your fault, the insurance company should pay you for wages lost due to the accident. Make certain to document all lost time and wages. If your employer paid you for any of this time using sick days or vacation days, have them provide notice of this, as you should not be penalized for an accident that was not your fault. In addition, if you have been regularly working overtime, you may be able to claim an average of the hours you would have work as lost time.
Q: I had a passenger in the car with me when another driver caused an accident. Whose insurance covers the passenger’s injuries?
A: If the other driver was at-fault, their insurance should cover your passenger subject to the insurance limits. It is worthwhile to speak with an accident attorney at Charles G. Pitman Attorneys at Law, LLC about the specific situation.
Q: Will the at-fault driver’s insurance company give me money up front to go to the doctor, pay for a rental car or buy a new car after mine was totaled?
A: Insurance companies do not typically provide advances against your accident-related expenses. You will need to keep receipts for all expenses, and submit them for reimbursement as part of your claim. Be careful if an insurance adjuster offers a check to pay for your car and medical bills. By accepting this check, you may actually be accepting a “settlement in full” of your claim, meaning that you cannot go back later with more bills and have them paid.
Social Security Disability Q&A
Q: How do I know if I am eligible for Social Security disability payments?
A: Your eligibility is dependent upon having worked and earned sufficient credits over your lifetime. If you qualify based on work credits, then the Social Security Administration makes the determination regarding eligibility based on the type and degree of disability. The SSA maintains a list of conditions it considers disabling, however, it is ultimately your responsibility to prove you are disabled.
Q: How do I apply for Social Security disability?
A: You may apply online or through your local SSA office. It is critical, however, that your initial application be fully documented. The majority of initial applications are denied, and if you must appeal the decision, the overall time frame lengthens significantly.
Having an experienced social security attorney at Charles G. Pitman Attorneys at Law, LLC help you file your application, may greatly reduce your chances of being denied.
Q: How long does it take to get Social Security disability?
A: The process can be lengthy. The SSA typically rules on initial applications within 3-5 months. If approved, you are eligible to receive your first disability payment in the sixth month following the date you became disabled.
Q: Do I need an attorney?
A: You do not need a lawyer to apply for disability, however because the denial rate is so high, many individuals will hire an experienced disability attorney to help them through the process. There are multiple appeal levels, so if your initial claim is denied, your attorney can work your case through the appeals process.
Personal Injury FAQ
Q: I tripped over a broken sidewalk in front of the grocery store and broke my hip. Now I have to go into a rehab center for at least two weeks. I don’t have insurance. Is there anything I can do?
A: In a situation where a property owner or manager is aware of a dangerous situation and takes no action to prevent consumers from being injured, they may be liable for your injury. I would recommend you speak to an attorney about the specifics of your case. It is very possible that the property owner’s insurance carrier will pay your claim under their premises liability insurance.
Wrongful Death FAQ
Q: My husband and I were hit by a drunk driver coming home from an evening out and he was killed. Do I have a case?
A: You may very well have a Wrongful Death case. Anyone who has lost a loved one as the result of another person’s negligence should speak with an attorney. Each case is different, so we cannot answer specific questions here, but know that there are resources available to assist you through this tragedy.
Q: Can I file a Wrongful Death case by myself?
A: We do not recommend that individuals pursue this type of case without representation. The law can be complex. You will likely have the best chance of winning your case if you are represented by an experienced Wrongful Death attorney.