If you’re making a car accident injury claim as a passenger, take a look at these real-world examples to get a sense of what to expect. (Learn the basics of Car Accident Claims by Injured Passengers.)
April has posted about her car accident, which occurred in Maryland. She was a right front seat passenger in a car that was rear-ended while waiting at a red light. The insurance company for the pick-up truck that hit her car, Erie Insurance, admitted responsibility.
April claimed a neck injury and then, later, low back pain. She was treated for over 2 years after her accident, however there were large gaps in her treatment, with one gap in her treatment being about a year.
April's medical bills totaled $6,000. She did not claim any loss of income. The vehicle damage claim was only a few hundred dollars.
April hired a lawyer. Her case was settled for $9,400.
Comments: There were several factors that reduced the settlement value of April's claim. One problem is that she did not get regular treatment. If there are "gaps" in your treatment, expect the insurance company to offer you less, arguing either that your injuries were not significant (because, if they were, you would have gotten regular treatment) or that something must have happened during the gap that was the cause of the later treatment (not the car accident).
It also sounds like April had difficulty showing that her low back injuries were related to her car accident because there was no record of the low back injuries for several months after her accident. If your medical records don't show complaints of a particular injury within a reasonable time after your car accident, expect the insurance company to claim that the accident didn't cause those injuries. Try to review your medical records to make sure that they are accurate and complete, that they show all of the complaints that you made. In addition, ask your doctor to state a written opinion on the cause of injuries that weren't obvious right away. If your doctor believes the injuries were caused by your car accident, this opinion will help you prove your claim. (Learn more about Steps to Take After a Car Accident.)
Ranae reports from Texas that she was a rear-seat passenger in a vehicle that struck a utility pole to avoid hitting another car. The driver of the car was not injured, and the front seat passenger only had minor injuries. However, one back seat passenger died in the collision. Ranae, the other back seat passenger, received rib fractures and injuries to her head, face, neck, back and leg. Her mouth and teeth were also damaged.
So far, Ranae has been in treatment for a year. Her medical bills have been about $50,000.00. She missed work for 4 months, which cost her approximately $25,000.00.
Geico is the insurance carrier for the at-fault driver (presumably the driver of the car that Ranae’s driver was trying to avoid). Ranae says that Geico "only has $20K left."
Ranae has hired a lawyer, however she is not satisfied with her lawyer's services. She wants to fire him.
Comments: Obviously, Ranae has a large claim for damages, and she should be represented by a lawyer. But, what can you do if you are not satisfied by your lawyer's performance, as Ranae is?
First, talk with the lawyer and "clear the air." Explain why you are dissatisfied and ask for clear and specific answers to your questions. It may be that the lawyer knows things that you don't about the case and that her explanation will give you more confidence. If your lawyer is avoiding you, send a letter to the lawyer -- by certified mail to get the lawyer's attention -- asking specific questions and asking for a written response.
If you are still not satisfied, you may want to get a second opinion. Many lawyers will give you a free second opinion about your case.
You can always fire your lawyer, however you may owe him something if you don't have what your state considers to be "good cause" to fire the lawyer. Yes, even though you have a "contingent fee agreement" that pays your lawyer only if there is a recovery, you may owe a fee if you fire the lawyer without good cause.
Before firing a lawyer, make sure that you know the law of your state and know whether you will owe the lawyer anything. In most cases, it is not a good idea to fire a lawyer without good cause and end up paying a fee to that lawyer, plus another fee to the new lawyer you hire. (Learn more about Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer.)
These examples provide some insight, but keep in mind that every car accident claim is unique. The best way to assess the strength of your car accident passenger injury claim is to sit down and discuss your case with an experienced car accident lawyer.