Interviewer: What would you say are the benefits of getting an attorney to represent your interests in a personal injury case? What are some of the things that the individual would be entitled to if they were to win the case?
Fair Compensation: An Experienced Attorney Knows What the Value of Your Case Is
Kevin Roach: If you retain an experienced personal injury lawyer, you will more than likely get a much larger settlement. You'll receive compensation for all of your injuries and damages. Most people that are involved in an auto accident have never been through the process before. They have no idea what their case is worth. An experienced personal injury lawyer handles these cases all the time. We know what the value of a case is.
For example, you may have someone that has $20,000 in medical bills a broken arm and a herniated disc in their neck; what’s that case worth? The insurance company might offer to pay your medical bills plus $10,000 in pain and suffering. Is that fair? Most people would have no idea but an experienced personal injury lawyer does. I recently settled a similar case for $100,000 policy limit. The insurance company’s original offer was $12,000.
You May Be Entitled for Compensation from Lost Wages
Whenever you are involved in an auto accident, lost wages are one of your recoverable damages. Many times lost wages are the most significant portion of the damages. People don’t always realize that they can be reimburses especially if they use sick days, disability or vacation days when out of work.
For example, I represented a teacher after she was involved in a serious auto accident. She was off work for several months but was able to use disability pay and sick leave until she went back to work. Her sick pay and disability pay was slightly less than her regular wages but, under Missouri law she was still able to claim the total amount of time off as her lost wages.
You Want to Avoid Having the Hospital Asserting a Lien on Your Settlement
I see this in almost every auto accident case. If you’re taken to the emergency room and it is by ambulance, both the hospital and ambulance will almost always assert liens on your settlement, regardless if you have personal health insurance. For example, if you are awarded $10,000 for your settlement, but the ambulance has a $1,500 lien and the hospital has a $6,000 lien. What this means for you is that even though you agreed to $10,000 the ambulance and hospital can come in and rightfully take $7,500 of your settlement leaving you with only $2,500.
The reason they do this is because the health care providers know that they can rightfully receive much more, if not all, of your billed amount from a settlement then from your health insurance. The insurance company also uses this as a negotiation scheme to resolve this matter for, what you think, $10,000, but later inform you of the liens and your final $2,500.
What we do is correspond with the providers to either submit your bill to your health insurance, per your request, or negotiate a lower lien amount, helping them receive a satisfactory amount and still giving you an entitled settlement. Liens are always a topic thoroughly discussed between myself and the insurance adjuster prior to any agreement of settlement.
It Is Possible That the Hospital Lien Could Exceed of the Amount of the Settlement
Many times, the liens may be in excess of what the settlement is. If the injured party did not have an attorney, the hospital and all the medical providers would take the full settlement. Missouri has a lien statute, which protects people who are in situations like this.
We use the lien statute to get the medical bills reduced, that way our clients receive at least fifty percent of their net recovery. If there is not an attorney to do this for them, the injured party would not receive a settlement. They would probably end up owing bills after their case was over.