You are stopped at an intersection and the light turns green. You proceed through the intersection when another driver talking on their cell phone runs a red light and smashes into the side of your car. You are injured and your car has sustained serious damage. What you do in the hours and days after will have a profound effect on your right to recover against the careless driver.
What about Medical Treatment?
If you are injured, you should seek immediate medical treatment. Typically, the local police and EMS will respond to the accident. It is important to advise the emergency personnel exactly what hurts and what your injuries are. If an injury has occurred, the police will typically prepare a report which would include interviewing witnesses and diagraming the accident scene. If no injury is reported, it is unlikely that any report will be prepared. Do not refuse treatment if you are truly injured, as this could be used against you by the negligent driver’s insurance company.
Who Pays Medical Bills?
On October 1, 1984, the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law took effect. This law required every vehicle owner to maintain basic insurance coverage on their vehicle. Each owner is required to have a minimum of $5,000.00 in first party medical benefits. Your auto insurance covers medical benefits for any occupant injured while riding in that vehicle regardless of fault. This means that your insurance company pays your medical bills even though someone else caused the accident.
Should I Cooperate with the Insurance Company?
Your auto insurance carrier will need information about the accident. They will also need you to complete a medical benefits or I’lP application. In order to receive your medical benefits, you must cooperate and provide them with this basic information. Cooperation with your insurance company will also expedite the property damage claim that you will have on your vehicle.
Although cooperation with your insurance company is required, you do not have to provide any information to the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident. Often times, the other insurance company will call you and ask for a recorded statement. 1 do not allow my clients to provide recorded statements without legal counsel being present. Often times, the questions are phrased in such a way as to minimize the responsibility of the driver causing the accident and placing some or all of the blame on you. The other insurance company may also ask you to sign medical authorizations so they can obtain your medical records. You should be aware that these authorizations will enable the other insurance company to get any medical records from any doctor you have ever treated with. Many times, the other insurance company will attempt to use these medical records, as well as the recorded statement against you. As a rule, I do not allow insurance companies to obtain your medical records, as this is a direct invasion of your right to privacy. Your attorney can provide whatever medical records are necessary to confirm the injuries from the accident. This will avoid the insurance company prying into your medical history, which may be entirely unrelated to the automobile accident.
Do I Need an Attorney?
An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to effectively deal with the insurance company to obtain the best possible resolution to your case. Depending on the seriousness of the injuries and the accident, prompt attention by an experienced attorney can result in securing physical evidence, identifying witnesses, photographing the scene and obtaining other important information which will be necessary to bring the case to trial. If the insurance company of the negligent driver chooses not to negotiate a reasonable and fair settlement, the case will need to be decided by a trial.
An experienced personal injury attorney can also review your medical records and medical history to ensure that you obtain the best possible resolution to the case. The worst thing that can happen in a personal injury case is for a person to agree to a quick settlement prior to being released from a doctor’s care. Often times, a person’s medical condition worsens or additional injuries are discovered through continued testing and treatment. If a person jumps at the first offer to settle by the insurance company, they will be unable to recover for an injury that becomes more serious and may ultimately require surgery or lead to permanent impairment.
Our office offers a free consultation to discuss your legal rights. We handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis and we pay for all costs and expenses up front so you will not have to pay any out-of-pocket expenses yourself. In all cases, there are no fees or costs, unless a monetary recovery is obtained on your behalf. For a free consultation to discuss your legal rights, please contact Rolf Louis Patberg at the law firm of Patberg Law Firm at 412.232.3500.