Auto and Commercial Truck Accidents
If you are injured in a car accident because of someone else’s carelessness, you are entitled to be compensated for your medical and other treatment bills, your future medical care, and for your loss of quality of life, called “general damages.” If you have lost work or are unable to work because of your injuries, you are entitled to recover for that as well. In Nevada a person can still recover damages even though the accident may have been partially his fault. If it is determined that your fault is equal to or less than the other driver’s, you can still recover damages, but those damages are reduced by the proportion of your fault, as determined by the judge or jury.
If the other driver is cited in the accident, it is easier to establish liability. If not, liability may be established by the driver’s recollections, by witness statements, and by physical evidence. Most often, liability is clear, although some accidents occur without fault, and are truly “accidents.” Oftentimes, the insurer will dispute liability if it is unclear how the accident happened. It is important to retain an attorney sooner rather than later, as it may be necessary to hire an investigator to preserve evidence.
Don't Settle for Less than You Deserve
It is important to know the extent of your injuries and their future consequences before you settle your personal injury claim. Many injuries, particularly spine injuries, can leave lasting, if not permanent, problems. Many times the other driver’s insurance company will contact you shortly after the accident, and tell you that you don’t need a lawyer. They may also offer you a minimal settlement, without even seeing your medical records. They are interested only in settling the case for as little as they can, and are not truly concerned about the extent of your injuries or their future consequences.
I will promptly establish contact with the insurance company and will provide them with your accident-related records. I will also give them periodic status updates on your injuries and your treatment so they can fairly evaluate the claim, and have an understanding early on about the seriousness of your injuries. I have no interest in obtaining personal medical records that have nothing to do with your accident injuries. It is important to get medical opinions from your treating doctors that your injuries and their treatment were caused by the accident. I have been working with doctors and other medical experts in the Reno area for over 20 years and understand the medical testimony I need to effectively present your case to the insurance company.
If you have minor injuries and are sure you have fully recovered, you may be able to resolve the case yourself. It is important to remember, though, that the insurance company will always try to pay as little on the claim as it can. If you sign a release of claims, you can never go back against the insurer or the other driver, if it turns out you have additional injuries. Never sign a release without consulting a lawyer first. If you are seriously or even significantly injured it would be foolhardy to try to resolve your case without an attorney.
In my 20-plus years of handling automobile injury cases, I have found that most auto claims can be resolved without having to file a lawsuit. I have also found that most people want to resolve their case without litigation. I maintain a good working and professional relationship with insurance adjusters and have a good record of settling cases fairly. If the case cannot be settled, I always explore the possibility of resolving your case through arbitration or mediation, and I have extensive experience in these areas. I have found that if the insurer agrees to a voluntary process of mediation, the case can almost always be resolved. Another option may be to resolve the case through arbitration, which can either be binding or non-binding. Both mediation and arbitration are alternate forms of dispute resolution that entail less risk and cost that going to court. I have found that most insurers would rather resolve a case either through settlement or one of these alternate methods in order to avoid unnecessary costs and defense attorney fees.
If the insurer is not willing to settle the case, or have the case resolved through other ways, I have extensive experience in traditional litigation. You have a constitutional right to seek redress through the court system if need be. Unfortunately, it is often necessary to file a lawsuit in order for the insurance company to treat your case seriously. I will not hesitate to do this it becomes clear the insurance company is unwilling, after settlement efforts, to fairly compensate you.
Even after a lawsuit is filed, the options of resolving the case through mediation or private arbitration are always left open. Many times mediation or arbitration is most effective when there is a lawsuit on file, and the insurance company wants to settle without incurring more costs and defense attorney fees. If the case ultimately proceeds to court before a judge or jury, I will vigorously present your case at trial.
If I can resolve your case without having to go to trial, as the vast majority of personal injury cases are, I will charge a lower fee than the one-third contingency fee most personal injury attorneys charge, regardless of how much work they do on your case.
Driving a large commercial vehicle requires special skill and training. And, the injuries they cause can be much more severe than seen in ordinary car crashes. Causes of truck accidents are similar to those in car crashes, but these types of cases are more complex, and you will need the assistance of a skilled attorney. Truck accidents can be caused by negligent hiring and training, or improper maintenance of the vehicle, among other things. While the trucking company is almost always liable for the negligent acts of its driver, there may be a dispute as to who owned or leased the truck, and who is responsible for the maintenance of the truck and the training and supervision of the driver. Like car accidents, truck accidents can be caused by fatigue, speeding, use of drugs or alcohol, unsafe road conditions, poor attention, and many other reasons. Because a large truck needs more time and room to stop, many truck accidents involved are rear-end and side collisions. There are many state and federal laws that govern and regulate truck commerce. The truck driver, for example, may have been driving that day more than the time allowed under state federal trucking laws. In additional, the truck may not be properly equipped as the federal law mandates. Violations of these laws may make it easier to establish liability on the part of the trucking company.
What to do if you are involved in a car accident.
It is important to know ahead of time what you should do if you are injured in a car accident.
1. In the event you are injured, be sure that the police respond to the accident, so that there is an accident report. If the police do not respond to the accident, a report can be filed at the police station after the accident. Be sure to get information concerning the identity and address of the at-fault driver, including his insurance information. It is important to get witness statements and witness information and addresses, which will make it far easier to establish liability. Do not admit liability on your part. If the other driver is cited by the police, this will also help to establish liability. It is a good idea to get pictures of the vehicles involved in the accident if you can, as the police may not take pictures in connection with the accident report.
2. If you are injured, seek medical attention immediately. If there is a delay in seeking treatment after an accident, the insurance company will always use this against you. Be sure to follow up with your doctors and keep your appointments. It is a good idea to keep track of your medical and other expenses that you incur, and to keep a journal detailing the personal problems the incident has caused. Do not post information about the accident or your injuries on social networking sites, as the insurance company may have access to your posts. It is important to get photographs of your injuries before they heal.
3. Do not give any statements, recorded or otherwise, to the insurance company. Any statements you make concerning your accident or your injuries can and will be used against you by the insurance company. If I am hired as your attorney, the insurance company will deal directly with me, so you can focus more on healing than on your legal case. If the insurance company requires a statement from you, it will be done in my presence and at my office.
4. If you have private health insurance or health insurance through your employer, be sure to give the hospital and your treating doctors this insurance information. Do not list the other driver’s auto insurance as the “responsible party” or “primary payer.” Even though your medical bills may have been paid by other insurance or another source, the auto insurer for the at fault driver is still responsible for paying your medical bills if they were cause by the accident. If you have medical payments coverage under your auto policy, you can submit bills for payment under this coverage. It may be best to have the med pay coverage cover your co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses not covered by your health insurance, depending on the amount of med pay coverage you have.
Insurance Bad Faith
Your auto and health insurers have a legal and contractual obligation to treat you fairly and in good faith. Because insurers are profit-oriented businesses, they will often place their interests ahead of the people they insure. If you feel you have been treated unfairly by your insurance company, you may have a claim of bad faith against your insurance company. Pursuing a bad faith claim against your insurer can be quite difficult, expensive and time-consuming, and you will need the assistance of a lawyer with experience handling these claims.
Examples of insurance bad faith can be:
- Denying or delaying payments to policy holder
- Not providing a valid reason for denial of a claim
- Not doing a fair and thorough investigation before denying the claim.
The types of insurance bad faith claims can arise in the context of a personal injury claim with an auto insurer or a claim for benefits under your own health insurance.
Health Insurance Disputes
Health insurance companies are no different from auto insurers in the sense that they are profit-oriented businesses. Health insurance can be either private individual health insurance purchased by the policyholder, or a group health insurance provided by the employer as part of an employee benefits package. Group health insurance is governed under the Employee Retirement Income and Securities Act (ERISA). ERISA laws make it more difficult to pursue a traditional bad faith claim, and because of this, many group health insurers routinely deny legitimate claims. If your group health insurance claim has been wrongfully denied, you should contact a lawyer to help you with the appeals process.
If you have an individual health policy, a bad faith claim is not governed by federal ERISA law, and the health insurer has a traditional legal obligation to treat the policy holder in good faith, just as an auto insurer does. If you have an individual health care policy and feel you have been treated unfairly, please contact me right away, so that you can understand the benefits you are entitled to.
I have represented individuals in bad faith disputes in the Reno area for over 20 years, and have won significant settlements in cases involving insurance bad faith.
If you are injured at work, regardless of fault on your part, you can make a claim for worker’s compensation through your employer’s industrial insurance. It is important to notify your employer right away if you are injured on the job and to make sure they initiate the worker’s compensation claim. You are entitled to have worker’s compensation cover your medical bills for past treatment and for any future medical expenses that are necessary. You are also entitled to be compensated for your bodily impairment caused by the injury.
In most cases, you will receive a permanent-partial disability rating (PPD) that sets forth the amount of your bodily impairment. It is important that this process be done fairly, and that you have an attorney assist you in this process, to make sure the disability rating is done fairly and properly. Ultimately you will receive an award under the workers' compensation claim that should fairly account for your impairment and your lost wages. The workers' compensation attorney should assist you throughout this process to see that you are treated fairly by the industrial insurer.
The workplace injury is often caused by the negligence of someone other than your immediate employer. An example of this may be that you are driving for work and are injured through the fault of another driver. Another example may be where you are injured as a result of a defective product used at work. In these third-party liability situations, you can still make a worker’s compensation claim, and also seek compensation though these “third parties". I can assist you with both the handling of your workers' compensation claim and with your third party claim. If you receive a recovery from the third party, you may have to reimburse the workers' compensation carrier for amounts they paid, and I have a good track record of successfully negotiating repayment of these worker’s compensation liens in order to maximize the third party recovery for the client.
Business owners have an obligation to make their premises safe for guests, patrons, and others on their property. If the owner is aware of a hazardous condition, they must take step to correct this condition in order to prevent injury. The business owner is not an insurer of the customer’s safety, so simply being injured at someone’s business does not mean you are automatically entitled to recover damages. You must prove that the business owner had knowledge of the dangerous condition that cause your injury and failed to take step to correct the condition. These types of claims are usually defended vigorously, and you will need a lawyer with experience in this area to assist you.