Interviewer: So I’m going to put myself in a hypothetical situation. I just got bumped from the back at a stop light or a stop sign. And so there is damage done to my vehicle and I experience some pain.
At what point should I contact an attorney? Should I contact the insurance company first? What are the steps I should take?
Contact an Attorney as Soon as You Have Received Medical Treatment
Daniel Hoarfrost: The earlier in the process that you consult an attorney the better. You tend to get better treatment from the insurance companies. But the first question is how seriously hurt are you?
If you need medical attention then obviously that’s the first consideration. Either go to an emergency room or an urgent care situation depending on just how serious the injury is.
PIP Is Mandatory in Oregon: Contact Your Auto Insurance Company Regarding the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Clause
And then in Oregon you want to contact your own insurance company first because we have what’s called PIP. It stands for personal injury protection. And it’s also known as no-fault coverage. Your own policy is going to pay your medical bills up to a certain dollar limit. The limit is typically $15,000 or a time limit, namely one year after the accident.
But the reason we do it that way is then your medical bills are covered, basically with no questions asked as long as they’re related to the collision. So the doctors get paid earlier rather than having to wait until a settlement is completed. Settlements may not be decided upon for months or even years after the incident.
If the Other Driver Is at Fault, the Potential Claim You Can Make Includes Medical Expenses and Non-Economic Damage or Pain and Suffering
So that process is setup in the Oregon law and that’s the way you should handle your medical treatment. As long as the other driver is at fault, you’re going to be able to turn around and make a claim against them for all the medical bills as well as what we now call noneconomic damage but it’s more commonly known as pain and suffering.
Why Do You Need an Attorney for a Personal Injury Case?
Interviewer: What are the benefits to getting an attorney? What are some of the damages that I would be entitled to if I win the case?
Daniel Hoarfrost: The benefit of getting an attorney is that you know that you’re getting the matter handled correctly. You know you have someone who is experienced in negotiating with insurance adjusters. In most auto collision cases there’s going to be a settlement without having to file a lawsuit.
But at least you know that you’re receiving a fair offer from the insurance adjuster and not being taken advantage of. The truth of the matter is that the insurance companies are in it to make a profit so they don’t offer any more than they think they really have to offer in order to resolve the case.
What Is the Treatment Gap?
Interviewer: What does it mean insurance companies are referring to a treatment gap or something of that nature?
Daniel Hoarfrost: Treatment gap just means that there’s a period of time when you weren’t receiving any treatment. So you’ll go see the doctors for a while and then stop treatment. Weeks or months later your symptoms are still bothering you and you decide to go back in and get some further treatment.
The Insurance Companies Use the Treatment Gap Defensively to Lower Your Potential Claim
It’s one of the common kinds of common defense arguments that you hear. Basically the insurance companies are claiming that since there was a break in time in the course of treatment that now there must be something else causing these problems and it’s not related the auto collision.
It is just a matter of proof and credibility. Refuting that claim involves comparing the testimony of the doctors that are treating you versus whatever kind of opposition testimony the defense side is presenting.