The insurance company has offered to settle my case, why should I hire an attorney?
Insurance companies are greedy: Insurance companies are in business to make money, period. They make money by paying as little as possible for every claim that comes to them. Often, insurance companies may offer to pay your outstanding medical bills and pay for damage to your car and if your lucky sometimes a little extra for you depending on the severity of your injury. They want you to believe that you are getting a fair settlement within days or weeks after the accident. Don’t be fooled! The purpose behind this rushed settlement is so that you won’t consider hiring an attorney who will help you get the full value of your claim. Remember, the full value of your medical treatment is used to calculate the value of your case without regard to health insurance coverage or payments.
An attorney can properly value your claim: If you have been severely injured it is nearly impossible to know the full extent of your injuries within one week (or sometimes even several months) after the accident. Aside from physical injuries, there are several types of damages from which you can recover including lost wages, medical bills, property damage, decreased earning capacity, pain and suffering, etc… Most insurance companies do not factor in all of these damages when making an initial offer. A knowledgeable attorney can help you know what your case is worth and can help you obtain a successful result. Additionally, an insurance company will likely not consider the full value of your injuries but rather the amount of the medical bills not yet paid.
Medical liens: Your health insurance company or medical providers may have a lien for treatment provided or payments made on your behalf and will be entitled to payment from the settlement proceeds you receive. This can be a big surprise after your case has settled. Our office will help identify, dispute, and reduce these liens at no extra charge.
Other factors: There may be many other reasons to hire an attorney that you may not know until it’s too late. Just to name a few: (1) knowing what to do when the insurance company denies your claim or only accepts partial responsibility, (2) knowing what to say when they ask for a recorded statement, (3) having to set up a conservatorship or appoint a personal representative in the event it involves a minor child or if the injuries result in the death of the individual. You may also need to hire experts to determine the extent of an injury, prove that the accident caused the injuries complained of or determine who was at fault in an accident with no other witnesses. The possibilities are endless. Having an attorney on your side prevents you from making a mistake that could cost you the case.
What is the difference between a claim and a complaint?
A complaint initiates a civil lawsuit in a court of law and sets forth a request for relief for damages caused by the defendant. A claim is a request for compensation outside of a court of law with either the defendant directly or the insurance company representing them. A claim does not protect your rights nor does it satisfy the statute of limitations within which your complaint must be filed in a court of law. Often times the terms complaint and claim are confused or not used correctly. If you are seeking to recover damages from a defendant or their insurance company a claim is usually established first and it may be settled without ever filing a complaint. If, however, the insurance company refuses to fully compensate you for your damages you will likely have to file a complaint with the court in order to preserve your rights and seek compensation for which they will be required to pay if you win your case. Insurance companies are supposed to work with you in good faith but more often than not they seek their own interests above yours and will attempt to settle your case for much less than full value in order to protect their bottom line.
What are the timeframes that I need to know about if I want to pursue my personal injury claim?
It depends. If the defendant is…
An individual/private company: Per Arizona law, a personal injury or wrongful death case must be filed within two (2) years of the date that the injury or death occurred (A.R.S. §12-542). There are however some exceptions to this rule such as when your claim involves a minor child or if it is a strict liability case (such as dog bites).
When the person injured is a minor under the age of eighteen (18) then the statute of limitations does not accrue until the age of majority, meaning that you have until the minor child turns the age of 18 before the statute of limitations begins to run. You must file a complaint with the proper court before the age of 20 or your claim will be barred (A.R.S. §12-502).
A government entity: If your claim is against a government entity or employee you must file a notice of claim against that entity within 180 days from the date of the injury or death. This claim must contain the necessary elements and be served upon the person(s) authorized to accept service of process for that entity before the 180-day limit (A.R.S. §12-821.01). After the notice of claim is served you have until one year after the date of the injury or death to file a complaint within the proper court or your case will be barred (A.R.S. §12-821). When injuries to a person result in their death then the date at which the cause of action begins is the date of death.
Do I have a personal injury case?
Not all injuries are the fault of another person and must be proven. Every personal injury case is different. Whether or not you have a personal injury case depends upon the facts of your situation and sometimes only an attorney can tell you if you have a valid case.
Can I file a personal injury lawsuit at any time?
No. The time to which to file the personal injury lawsuit is controlled by the statute of limitations. At Budge Law Firm, we will help you determine what the applicable statute of limitations is for your case, but it is important to discuss your case with our firm as soon as possible after the personal injury occurs. If your personal injury case is filed after the statute of limitations has expired, it is very likely that the lawsuit will be dismissed, and you will have no recourse or method for monetary compensation, legal or otherwise. Please contact us to discuss your deadline for filing your case.