Clients have many questions after their car accident. Getting answers to these questions is extremely important and should be easy to obtain. The more you know and understand your legal rights after a car accident, the better decisions you will make for yourself going forward. You have been injured once, we don't want to see you or anyone make a bad situation worse by making a wrong decision. Motor vehicle accidents, regardless of how serious, are scary events. The experience of the collision can be terrifying regardless of whether you've been in a fender bender or major wreck. In addition to the trauma and injuries you sustained, you now have to deal with your physical recovery and take care of your legal rights.
Below you'll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions and free resources from Spada Law that will allow you to learn as much as possible before you take any legal actions. Attorney Spada has written the book on car accident cases here in Massachusetts. His free book, free downloads, and videos are all available to help you on this journey you didn’t choose to take.
Questions You May Have for a Car Accident Attorney
The Short Answer: Your Auto Insurance Company Will Pay a Portion of Your Lost Wages and Then, If Your Are Successful Against the at-Fault Driver, Their Insurance Company Will Pay the Remainder
- Immediately after an accident, you may be unable to return to work for several days or possibly longer. The car insurance policy for the car you were in at the time of the accident provides Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits. PIP benefits will cover 75% of your lost wages up to a maximum of $8000. It is important to remember the benefits available under PIP cannot exceed $8000 in total. So it often makes sense to document your lost wages as soon as possible so that PIP can provide you with 75% of your lost wages before the $8000 in maximum benefits is exhausted from paying your medical bills. This will help you during your recovery to maintain some income, so you can meet your financial obligations while you recover.
- Your PIP insurance company is going to need proper documentation before they will begin paying you your lost wages. They will want to review your medical records and your bills, any disability notes written by your doctor, and proof of your earnings; such as pay stubs. Accordingly, you or your attorney should quickly gather relevant medical records, medical disability notes, and wage verification forms from your employer.
- Once you have exhausted your PIP benefits, if you are still out of work you will have to rely on another source of income until your case is either settled or you receive an award after trial since the at-fault party’s insurance company will not make ongoing payments during the case. This can be a difficult time for many clients. If you are entitled to benefits under a short or long-term disability policy they may be options until your car accident case is resolved.
The Short Answer: Not Before Talking To An Accident or Injury Lawyer
You most likely will get contacted by your insurance company and possibly the insurance company for the at-fault driver soon after your accident. It's natural to want to be helpful and to talk to these insurance adjusters. But I can't stress enough how careful you must be in dealing with the insurance companies. Many good people work for the insurance companies, but you must remember they are not your friend and they are not in the business of making it easy for someone to collect money. My advice to clients is to only speak to the insurance company adjustor about property damage issues. Issues relating ONLY to getting your car fixed or paid for in cases where your car is a total loss. When and if the conversation turns to your injuries or how the accident happened, you must be much more careful.
When dealing with your own car insurance company in Massachusetts you have an obligation to cooperate with them if you are seeking benefits under your policy. Your insurance company also has a legal right to require you to give an Examination Under Oath if they request one. An Examination Under Oath is a formal, in-person statement where a representative from your insurance company, often a lawyer, asks you questions that you must answer under the pains and penalties of perjury. Under no circumstance should you give an Examination Under Oath without first speaking to (and preferably hiring) an experienced car accident attorney. We routinely provide free advice to people on this issue even if they do not ultimately become a client.
Oftentimes an insurance company will request a Recorded Statement. This is different from an Examination Under Oath in several ways. A Recorded Statement is not given under oath and is most often taken by an insurance adjuster, not a lawyer. Also, a recorded statement is often taken over the phone. The adjuster will ask you questions and record what you say. As stated above, when dealing with your insurance company they have the right to an Examination Under Oath for which you cannot refuse without forfeiting your right to receive benefits. Occasionally your own insurance company will first ask for a Recorded Statement (which you are not required to give) and then later assert their right to take an Examination Under Oath. What this does is give your insurance company two bites at the apple to see if your story ever changes. We frequently suggest that if our client’s insurance company is adamant about getting a recorded statement we make it an Examination Under Oath and be done with it.
Our Recommendations About Communicating with Insurance Companies
If It's Your Insurance Company
- Speak freely about damage issues to your car.
- Speak to a car accident lawyer BEFORE talking to them about how the accident happened or your injuries.
- ALWAYS get a lawyer if a statement or Examination Under Oath is requested.
If It's The At-Fault Driver's Insurance Company
- Always speak to a car accident lawyer BEFORE talking to the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- ALWAYS get a lawyer if a statement is requested.
The Short Answer: Your Auto Insurance Company Will Initially Pay a Portion of Your Medical Bills and If You Have Private Health Insurance They Will Pay the Remaining Bills
If you have private health insurance
If you have a private health insurance plan your car accident-related medical expenses will be covered by your automobile insurance policy (or the policy for the car you were in at the time of the accident) up to the first $2000 in “reasonable and necessary” medical expenses. Related bills over $2000 will be submitted to (and presumably paid by) your private health insurance plan. Amounts paid by your health insurer may have to be repaid if you are successful in recovering money from the at fault party. This is because your health insurer most likely has a right to "subrogation" which simply means they have the right to be paid back IF you recover money for these expenses from someone else. But it is important to note that the amount to be paid back should have been included by your lawyer when valuing and negotiating your claim so that any settlement takes into account your obligation for repayment. Now if you do not ultimately recover money from the at fault party you do not have to repay your health insurance company anything.
If you DO NOT have private health insurance
If you do not have a private health insurance plan (or have MassHealth or an ERISA based plan) your medical bills will be paid by your automobile insurance company up to a maximum of $8000. Now if you do not have private health insurance and you have medical expenses that exceed the $8000 that you obtained or could have obtained from your PIP insurance benefits, you will have an outstanding balance to the medical providers for the amount over and above the $8000. Just like you had an obligation to pay your private health insurance company back under the right of subrogation, you similarly will have an obligation to pay the medical providers who provided you treatment but have not yet been paid. The balances owed them may also come out of your settlement or award if in fact you receive one. Most experienced injury attorneys will negotiate the balances owed medical providers and attempt to get the balances reduced so that you may net more of the settlement proceeds. I can tell you from experience that getting a medical provider (doctor, physical therapist, etc,) to take less than what they are owed is much easier to do than getting a health (Blue Cross, Tufts, Cigna etc.) plan to do so.
The Short Answer: Yes. You Can Recover Monetary Damages if You are 50% or Less at Fault for the Accident
If you are found to be 50% OR LESS at fault for a car accident (and your injuries qualify you for more than just PIP benefits) then you can recover damages from the other party or parties. The problem however arises in the determination of fault. Who is to say that simply because an insurance company adjustor determines you to be more than 50% at fault for an accident that you are? Why is their determination of fault the final word? We can tell you, it’s NOT! We have represented many clients who were initially told by an insurance company that they were more than 50% at fault and therefore could not make a claim for personal injuries under Massachusetts law. In many of those cases, after careful review of the file and investigation by our office, we were able to prove that the determination of fault by the insurance company was incorrect and have been able to recover damages for these clients. The question of who is at fault for an accident is not always clear-cut and may require a more professional and thorough examination of the facts before a client gives up on their case.
The other important point to remember here is that Massachusetts is a comparative negligence state, meaning that the negligence of the parties to an accident is compared when determining damages. A client who is partially at fault (but not more than 50% at fault) may still recover damages, but their damages will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
For example, if a client is found to be 20% at fault for an accident and recovers $100,000 at trial, their award will be reduced by their percentage of fault, or in this example, $20,000 and they will receive $80,000. This deduction in damages is made by the court, not the jury since it is the jury's job to simply determine the percentages of the relative fault and the client’s total damages. Again, if the jury finds the client more than 50% at fault, the client will not recover any damages.
The Short Answer: In Most Cases 3 Years from the Date of the Accident
As a general rule (because every rule has exceptions) you have three years from the date of your car accident to either settle your case or file a claim in court to begin the litigation process. If you fail to do either prior to this three-year deadline (which is called the Statute of Limitations) you lose your legal right to ever pursue the person who was at fault for the accident and caused your injuries and damages.
The Short Answer: The Typical Fee is 1/3 of the Settlement Amount Plus Expenses. No Fee Unless and Until the Client Receives Money
Most, if not all, injury attorneys will require a new client to sign a Contingent Fee Agreement. These agreements state that the car accident attorney receives a percentage of the client's gross recovery as their fee. The exact percentage can vary from attorney to attorney, but the range is most commonly between 25 and 40% of the settlement or verdict.
If you are hiring an attorney to handle your injury case, you will be asked to sign a Contingent Fee Agreement. Before you do, be sure you understand the following:
- how the fee is calculated?
- whether you are required to pay any costs during the process? 2
- what type of costs are likely to be incurred in your case?
- if the case is unsuccessful will you owe the attorney anything?
- if you change lawyers will you owe anything to the lawyer?
- does the agreement cover both the trial of the case and an appeal if necessary? 2
Make sure you fully understand the agreement before you sign it. Take it home, think about any additional questions you may have. Sometimes just sleeping on it for a day or two will bring to mind more questions you would've liked answered. Do not feel pressured to sign right there in the lawyer's office. You sign it when you're comfortable and ready.
FREE PAPERBACK or eBOOK for ALL YOUR CAR ACCIDENT QUESTIONS
When you have been injured in a car accident, you are forced to deal with your physical recovery while trying to understand and protect your legal rights. You may have questions that go beyond the few discussed above, and you want answers. That is why I wrote my book, What You Need To Know About Your Massachusetts Car Accident Case. It is available in either paperback or as a downloadable eBook in PDF format by clicking on the link below.
This book will help you maintain control of your situation by giving you the information you need in a clear and easy to understand manner.
So, if you are injured, we sincerely wish you a fast and full recovery. We hope this book provides comfort in the form of knowledge and puts you in the best possible position to make good legal decisions going forward.
HIRING THE RIGHT LAWYER
After a car accident the last thing you need is to choose the wrong lawyer to help guide you through the legal process of getting compensated. Choosing the right injury lawyer for you and your situation is a major decision, and we sincerely want to help you make the right choice.
Attorney Spada has written a comprehensive guide to help ensure you select the right lawyer for you and your case. He wrote the guide as if he was the client in search of a personal injury lawyer, knowing what he knows about the profession after almost 30 years of successfully representing clients. In this free download, he explains what questions you should ask an attorney and why they are important. Questions like these help you make an informed decision about hiring a lawyer:
* Does the Law firm handle other areas of law in addition to Personal Injury cases?
* What is the attorney’s reputation?
* What is the average time it takes from the beginning of a case until settlement?
* Does the lawyer have the financial resources available to aggressively and adequately prosecute your case?
ANATOMY OF PERSONAL INJURY CASE PART 1: INTAKE TO SETTLEMENT
Most car accident cases settle before a trial or even going to court but preparing every case from day one like it will go to trial is the key to ensuring your case settles for its full value. In order to help clients, understand what happens from day one up to the point a case is settled we offer our free comprehensive guide, Anatomy of a Personal Injury Case Part 1: Client Intake to Settlement.
The time after a serious accident can be chaotic. You may be dealing with the police, medical professionals, your employer, insurance adjusters, other people involved in the accident, and more. At the same time, you are trying to get the medical treatment you need and wondering how you are going to pay for it. Is this the time to call a lawyer? Find out by requesting our free e-book and getting the information you need to make some important decisions. Our book covers the following:
* When to consult a lawyer on legal matters
* What will happen at the first meeting
* What documents you need to gather
* How you will pay your lawyer
* Calculating damages, including medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more
* How an accident settlement works
ANATOMY OF PERSONAL INJURY CASE PART 2: WHEN A CASE DOESNT SETTLE
It is a fact that for a variety of reasons some cases do not settle quickly and need to be brought to court. Whether you worked with us on the first part of your case or not, we inviteyou to request a free download of our book, Anatomy of a Personal Injury Case Part 2: What Happens When a Case Doesn’t Settle. You will learn about your options when your attorney is unable to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company for the person who caused your injuries. This is a comprehensive guide for bringing difficult personal injury cases to a conclusion.
Why Your Claim Might Not Settle Quickly
Despite your motor vehicle accident attorney’s best efforts, he or she may not be able to settle your claim through negotiations with the insurance agency. This is usually because there is a dispute over who is at fault in the accident or because the insurance company for the at-fault party makes no offer or too small of an offer to settle the case. Either way, you will have to decide what to do next. At Spada Law Group, LLC, we educate our clients about their options and advise them on the best way to proceed.
Your Options if Your Case Doesn’t Settle
Our free e-book provides more details about your options, and when you work with us, we will offer our advice and guidance, but here is a quick summary of what you can do next:
* Mediation. If direct negotiations fail, you may choose to work with an impartial mediator to work out a solution. This person is usually a retired attorney or judge and is trained in the mediation process. Either side may choose not to accept the result of mediation.
* Arbitration. Arbitration works much like mediation, but the outcome is legally binding. This is risky as you may be forced to accept an outcome that is not ideal for you.
* Accept the settlement. If mediation and arbitration are not possible, you may decide just to accept what is being offered to avoid going to trial.
* File a lawsuit. The majority of our free e-book discusses the steps involved in litigating a personal injury case. This is a complicated and time-consuming process, but our guide breaks down the steps and helps readers understand what they are in for if they decide to file a lawsuit. 3
Videos and Other Online Resources
We also have an extensive video library which will help answer many questions you have before you set foot into a lawyers office or a courtroom. Learn what to say to your insurance company after an accident or the steps on how to best pay back health and car insurance after an accident settlement, plus so much more! We currently have over 40 videos in our library.
Why Spada Law Group?
In our experience, when clients come to us after a car accident they are looking for several things. First, they want to be treated well. They are hurt, and they simply do not want further aggravation. They want to be listened to and want their case to be given the attention it deserves by people who know what they are doing and are good at their profession. They also want their case settled as quickly and for as much as possible. They want to know that if their case doesn’t settle and needs to go to court, their lawyer has the courtroom skills and experience necessary to take their case to the finish line which is a jury trial. At Spada Law Group we are proud of the way we meet all these needs.
We are proud of the Team we have at Spada Law Group. They are a group of talented, caring, and empathetic people who love helping others. It may sound like a cliché, but the truth is our clients are treated like family members! Just check out our client reviews. We pride ourselves on providing our clients with a level of care that is unheard of in the legal industry. Our clients are regularly kept up to date on their cases, are assigned a Case Manager and an Attorney from day one, and will never go more than 24hrs without a return call or email, guaranteed! As we mentioned, all clients would like their cases settled quickly if possible. How do we make that happen? Well, the best way to get an insurance company to do its job correctly is to know what its job entails, and how they operate. That’s where our experience comes in. We have both Attorneys and Case Managers who have previously worked for the very insurance companies we now go up against daily. That insider knowledge we take to each fight helps us level the playing field and is a true advantage for our clients. Lastly, when a case doesn’t settle, unlike many firms you see on TV or a billboard, we don’t refer the case out to another attorney to go to court, we don’t have to because we have the trial experience necessary to go the distance. Our Attorneys have tried over 100 cases to juries over the last 25 years, so we are no stranger to the courtrooms of Massachusetts.
When you visit our main office in Chelsea (which is less than a mile from downtown Boston), you will immediately see that we are different. Every member of our staff is trained and committed to making your experience comfortable and relaxed. You’ve been through enough; you do not need a stressful first experience with a lawyer. We get it! At your initial consultation (which can be done virtually if desired) you will find the following:
- Free onsite parking
- A warm welcome, including a private conference room and light refreshments
- An attentive, focused Case Manager and an Attorney who will listen to you and answer all of your questions
- A free packet of helpful information written by us to take with you
- Follow-up calls on a regular schedule from members of our legal team to answer additional questions and keep you informed of the process
- Transportation to our office for those who need it
- And NO pressure to sign anything at your initial consultation
Best of all, you have nothing to lose by meeting us. You are under no obligation to hire us after we meet for our initial consultation, and you won’t owe us a dime unless and until we successfully resolve your case. We invite you to get more information from our website and to call us when you’re ready to talk.
MEET ATTORNEY LEN SPADA
If you want to learn more about Attorney Len Spada, the video below may give you a better understanding of who he is and where our firm’s philosophy of leveling the playing field for the average person comes from.