Top Five Car Accident Questions Answered
Here are the answers to the Top 5 questions that our clients in El Paso and Las Cruces most often ask of us following a car accident.
1. How Will My Car Get Fixed?
If another person causes the auto accident and that person has automobile insurance, the owner of the damaged vehicle is entitled to have the vehicle repaired by the wrongdoer’s insurance company. If you choose to have your vehicle repaired by the wrongdoer’s insurance company, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you have the right to choose any shop for the repairs of that vehicle. The insurance company is not allowed to dictate to you where you take your vehicle to be repaired. Second, you have a right to choose the type of parts to be used in the repair. You are also entitled to a rental vehicle from the insurance company while the vehicle is being repaired. We can help you get your vehicle repaired when you become our personal injury client. Plus, Harmonson Law Firm does not charge any fee to assist our personal injury clients with their property damage claim.
If your vehicle is beyond repair, then the insurance company will declare your vehicle a “total loss”. If the vehicle is declared a total loss, then the insurance company must pay you the fair market value of the vehicle before the accident. Most people choose to let the insurance company keep the vehicle; however, you can choose to keep the totaled vehicle. If you choose this option, the insurance company will pay you the fair market value of the vehicle minus the money that the insurance company could have made if the vehicle was sold for scrap.
2. How Am I Going to Pay for My Medical Bills?
If you are in a car accident, the person that caused the accident is legally required to pay for your reasonable medical expenses resulting from the accident. The problem that you and our clients often face is how to get immediate medical care during the process of working on your claim. Most insurance companies will not pay for your bills up front; rather, they will pay a lump sum at the end of the case to reimburse you for your medical bills you have gathered because of the car accident plus your pain and suffering. If an insurance company offers to pay medical bills up front and give you, for instance, $500.00 for pain and suffering, you should be very skeptical. This is a trick by the insurance company to give you as little money for medical bills and pain and suffering as possible in the hopes that you won’t go and get an attorney. The insurance company is not looking out for your well-being in this instance; rather, they will try and limit the medical care that you receive, regardless of your injuries. The insurance companies know that once your attorney is involved, they are going to have to pay a fair amount of compensation for all of your injuries and damages.
So, how does Harmonson Law Firm get you the best medical care available to address your injuries? The answer is that we have developed relationships with many providers in all types of medical specialties in El Paso and Las Cruces who will work with us to get you the best medical care available. Many of these healthcare providers will work on what is called a “letter of protection.” A letter of protection is simply an agreement to a healthcare provider to pay for the medical care out of the proceeds of a settlement. These arrangements are legal in both Texas and New Mexico.
Harmonson Law Firm also has relationships with several healthcare funding groups in Texas and New Mexico. We often use funding companies when a client needs an expensive surgery as a result of an injury caused by an auto accident. Funding companies work by paying the provider directly and then collecting for payment out of the settlement or judgment funds. For instance, we recently represented a man that needed a shoulder, neck and back surgery because of being violently rear-ended in a car accident on IH-10 here in El Paso. Fortunately, through our relationships, we were able to have a funding company pay for these needed surgeries.
We will also work with your health insurance company and with Medicaid and Medicare to assist with funding necessary medical care caused by the accident.
Our #1 goal always is to restore your health completely or as close to completely as possible after the accident. We will work with the right medical providers to achieve this goal for you and to help insure that the negligent driver and their insurance company pays for those bills.
3. How Much Is My Case Worth?
This is another question in our Top 5. It is a very good question, because we all want to know what the bottom line is. The truthful answer is that when we initially meet with a client, there is no simple answer to this question. Be wary of an attorney that tells you otherwise or makes promises about how much money he or she can get you. What we can guarantee at Harmonson Law Firm is that we will work our hardest to get you the absolute maximum amount of money for your case. We think of the “Three S’s” when determining the amount of money a case is worth.
- Severity of the Injuries: Simply put, the worse you are hurt, the more money your
case will be worth.
- Severity of Wrongdoing: The worse the wrongdoer’s conduct, the more money your
case is worth. We are always on the lookout for bad conduct
like DWI, or talking and texting while driving.
- Severity of the Crash: Generally speaking, the worse the collision, the more the
case will be worth.
Another important and sometimes overlooked factor in determining the worth of your case is the amount of automobile insurance available. We have the experience to discover all sources of potential recovery including from the negligent driver’s insurance and from your own insurance. We will work to insure that all sources of insurance are available to compensate you for your injuries. In this way we maximize the amount of money that you receive out of a settlement.
These are the elements of damages that the negligent driver is required to pay if he or she causes an accident:
- All Reasonable Medical Bills (past and future)
- Lost Wages and Lost Ability to Earn Wages in the Future
- Loss of household services
- Pain and Suffering
- Mental Anguish
- Permanent Impairment
A reasonable settlement offer should include all of your medical bills, lost wages and a significant sum for pain and suffering and your other harms and losses. At Harmonson Law Firm, we will not accept a case unless we feel that we can get all of your bills covered and put a significant amount of money in your pocket after paying for attorney’s fees and case expenses. If an insurance company is not willing to fairly pay you for your loss, we are ready, willing and able to take your case to trial.
4. How Much Is Your Fee?
At Harmonson Law Firm, we do not charge clients up-front fees. We only charge a fee if and when there is a settlement of your case or if we collect on a judgment after a lawsuit has been filed. If we are unable to get you money for your car accident, then there is no fee for our services. This type of arrangement is known as a contingent fee. A contingent fee shifts the risk of loss onto the attorney so that you do not have to worry about paying the lawyer on an hourly basis. Most, if not all, personal injury attorneys charge a contingent fee. An hourly fee would prove too costly for most injury victims. The firm also advances all case expenses. Those case expenses are then reimbursed to the firm if and when there is a successful settlement or collected judgment. At Harmonson Law Firm, we charge the following contingent fees:
- 35% if the car accident claim is settled before a lawsuit has to be filed
- 40% if there is a lawsuit filed but it is settled before trial
- 45% if there is a trial or an appeal of the case.
The increased fee is based on the fact that as the longer the case goes on, the more time and money the firm has to spend on the case.
The fees that we charge are in keeping with the standard fees charged in the industry. The most important question you should be asking is not how much the fee is, but whether I have chosen the right attorney to represent me for my case. Choosing a law firm is probably the single most important decision you will make. Picking an inexperienced attorney or an attorney that does not have the financial ability to go the distance with the insurance company and their lawyers could mean the difference in a maximum money recovery and a mediocre recovery or worse. At Harmonson Law Firm, we pride ourselves on our experience and on our ability to go head to head with the insurance company to get you the maximum amount of money possible on your car accident case. Take a look at our website and our credentials. Compare us with the competition. Make an informed decision about your choice of lawyer. We feel confident you will make the right choice.
5. How Long Will My Case Take?
This is a question that we get asked a lot. The only true answer, unfortunately, is that it depends. It depends on the complexity of the case, the nature and severity of your injuries, and the willingness of the wrongdoer and their insurance company to accept responsibility and to fairly pay for the damages, harms and losses they have caused to you or your loved ones. A quick settlement is almost always a bad settlement for the injured victim.
With that said, we understand the financial difficulties that a car accident can cause you and your family. That is why we are aggressive and why we work diligently to get as prompt a settlement for you as possible. At Harmonson Law Firm, we work diligently on each and every case. The first step we take together is to insure that you or your loved one has the right medical treatment to address all of the injuries caused by the accident. Once you or your loved one has reached maximum medical improvement, then we communicate with our client and the insurance company to attempt a pre-lawsuit settlement of your claim. If that fails, then a lawsuit is promptly filed and a court date is set to allow a jury to determine the fault of the parties and the proper amount of compensation for your injuries, harms and losses.
While no case is typical, an average car accident case might reasonably take this long to complete:
- 5-8 months: minor injuries and the case is settled before a lawsuit has to be filed.
- 6-12 months: more serious injuries and the case is settled before a lawsuit is filed.
- 1-2 years: if a lawsuit is filed on your case because the insurance company contests liability or doesn’t want to adequately pay for the damages. Also, if there is a catastrophic injury or loss of life involved and a lawsuit and/or trial is necessary.