I’ve been hurt, and it was someone else’s fault. What should I do first?
Get medical care immediately. If you wait, the insurance company will use that against you.
Follow your doctors’ orders. If you don’t, the insurance company will use that against you. Go to all appointments. If you must miss, call. “No shows” will be used against you by the insurance company.
Take names, and collect contact information (names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses) from the person/business at fault. Take the contact information of all witnesses. If you can’t do this right away due to your injuries, have a friend or family member help you with this.
Report the injury if it happened at a business. If you wait, the insurance company will use that against you. If you can’t do this right away due to your injuries, have a friend or family member help you with this.
Save letters and emails from insurance companies.
Take photographs and video of the people, cars, or scene.
Save all paperwork (like bills, police report, receipts).
Keep track of lost time from work. Tell your employer about the injury. Don’t do anything at work that will worsen your injury. The insurance company will try to use any new accident or injury against you.
Start a list (“diary”). Keep track of things you can’t do, or are harder to do. This can help your lawyer explain how the injury has affected your lifestyle, which should justify a higher settlement offer.
Call Manges Law Firm if you aren’t sure what to do.
How do I pay my medical bills?
If this isn’t handled right, you could end up with thousands less in your pocket at the end of the case. Many people wrongly assume that the insurance company for the person at fault will pay the bills right away. Not true. The at-fault company won’t pay anything until the end of the case. That could be years in the future. If you have health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, insist that all doctors and hospitals turn charges into these first. If you don’t do this, you won’t get the benefit of your health plan discounts, the doctors and hospitals will get more money than they deserve, and you will have less money in your pocket at the end of the case. If you have medical payments (“med pay”) coverage on your own policy (most auto policies have this), it should be used to pay what’s left after your health plan discounts and pays its share. The insurance companies or hospitals may try to tell you otherwise, but if you don’t do this right you could end up with thousands less in your pocket at the end of the case. Manges Law Firm can help sort this out.
I received a “Notice of Hospital Lien” in the mail. What is this?
Indiana has a special law (statute) that gives a hospital the right to file a “lien” against your case if your treatment was someone else’s fault. This law was created during the Great Depression to make sure hospitals got reasonable payment. However, this statute gives many rights to patients to make sure the hospital doesn’t get more than it deserves. In the last 20 years, hospitals have been very aggressive about filing liens. If a lien is on file in your case, the at-fault carrier won’t finalize any settlement until this is handled. Tom Manges has written and spoken about protecting patients against hospital liens for many years, including before the Indiana Supreme Court.
Do I give a recorded statement to the insurance company?
It’s normal for insurance adjusters to ask for a recorded statement, but what you say in those statements can, and will, be used against you by them. If you give a statement without the help of your own lawyer, you may accidentally say something that could harm your case.
How do I handle the property damage to my car?
Your car should be fixed or replaced without delay, and has nothing to do with your personal injury case. Many people can handle this without a lawyer, but our Firm will help if needed.
The at-fault carrier should pay to fix the car, or pay the fair market value if it is totaled. You also should get a rental car (or the per day cash value if you don’t need a rental car) until you get your car back (or the money to replace it). If your car is fixed, but now has a lower resale value, you should get some money for the “diminution in value” of the car. If personal property was lost or destroyed in the crash, you are entitled to compensation for that as well.
Why are lawyers sending me letters? How did they even get my name?
You may hire a lawyer as soon as you like. But Indiana rules require lawyers who advertise to wait 30 days before sending letters asking for your business. No lawyer (or anyone working for a lawyer) should ever call you to get your case. They likely got your name from the police report. All Indiana police agencies upload their reports to a web site called “Buycrash.com”. For a fee, anyone (lawyers, doctors, insurance companies) can get a copy of your report. Beware of anyone who contacts you in this manner.
Do I need a lawyer right away?
If you are hurt, get medical treatment. If there is a death, go through a normal grieving period. But if you wait too long to hire a lawyer you may regret it. It usually takes a lot of time to build a case, and a lawyer can do that while you are getting medical treatment or grieving. Without a prompt investigation, important evidence could be lost forever. If your medical bills aren’t processed and paid correctly, you could end up with thousands of dollars less at the end of the case. There are other advantages to hiring a qualified lawyer early in the case.
How long do I have to make a claim or file a lawsuit?
Indiana law gives most people two years to settle or sue. But you shouldn’t wait that long to learn about your options. Some types of cases require action much sooner. Some cases require action within 180 days of the injury. Do not wait too long to call a lawyer, or you may lose your rights forever.
If I hire a lawyer, what will it cost?
THE LAWYER’S FEE: Personal injury is our only business, so Manges Law Firm takes all cases on a contingent fee (percentage) basis. That means that we won’t make you pay any fee up front. There is no fee if no money is recovered in your case. Most of the time, the fee will be one-third (33 1/3%) of the amount recovered. The percentage might be higher or lower depending on the complexity and type of case. Some lawyers do not take complex personal injury cases. The percentage is justified because a lawyer can usually get more money from the insurance company than you could on your own. Also, your lawyer should work to reduce or eliminate what must be paid out of your recovery to others (like liens and medical bills). So even after paying the lawyer’s fee, your net recovery in your pocket should be more with a lawyer than without one. Manges Law Firm will never finalize any settlement until the client agrees to it. Indiana law requires all contingency fee agreements to be in writing, so there will be no surprises.
CASE EXPENSES: Indiana ethics rules forbid lawyers from giving loans to clients. But lawyers are allowed to advance the money needed to build a case. This is known as “case expenses.” Any lawyer you consider should explain that the “fee” is separate from “case expenses.” Such expenses include the fees charged by doctors and hospitals for copies of medical records, filing fees charged by the court, and money paid to experts to prove the case. If the lawyer advances the case expenses, this money has to be repaid at the end of the case, usually out of the settlement. Manges Law Firm will usually advance case expenses. This arrangement will be in writing, so there will be no surprises.
Why can’t I trust the insurance company to settle directly with me?
Insurance companies are businesses. They want to make money. They make money by taking in premiums, and paying out as little as possible on claims. Yes, their commercials may be funny, and they may claim they are “good neighbors.” But beware: they train their claims adjusters to look for any excuse to reduce the amount of money they must pay on a claim. If you don’t have a lawyer, they will want a recorded statement and a blanket release allowing them to collect all of your medical records (even records that have nothing to do with your claim). They will ask you to waive your privacy rights. They may second guess your own doctors, or ask you to be examined by an insurance-friendly doctor of their choosing. Manges Law Firm would deal with these insurance people, protect your rights, and let you focus on healing.
What is my case worth?
Only a jury knows for sure. Most cases don’t go all the way to a jury trial, and with the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer many can be settled without filing any lawsuit at all.
There is no formula. Every case is different. But settlement amounts are usually affected by the specific injuries, medical bills, wage loss, and whether there is any permanent injury. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you to know what your case should be worth, whether the insurance company has truly made a reasonable offer, and whether you should consider trying your case to a jury.
Can my general practice lawyer handle my personal injury case?
Any lawyer admitted to practice law in Indiana can attempt to handle a personal injury case. But many “general practice” lawyers realize that they don’t have the knowledge, experience, time, and financial resources to handle a significant personal injury or death case. For that reason, many general attorneys refer cases to Manges Law Firm, which has a large database of past verdicts and settlements, as well as the ability to network with hundreds of other personal injury attorneys around Indiana to determine the “reasonable value” of your case.
When will my case settle?
We like to say that “your body is the clock of the case.” No responsible attorney (or insurance company) should tell you what your case is worth at the beginning. Manges Law Firm will build and document your case while you are recovering. When you are released, a case evaluation and demand can usually be sent to the insurance company soon afterward. If the insurance company denies fault, or makes a low offer, that can cause delay also. Most cases settle before any trial. The final decision to settle or go to trial rests with the client.
What if the other Driver has no insurance?
If the driver at fault for your injuries has no insurance, Manges Law Firm can still usually help you. Indiana law requires most auto policies to have uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. These claims can be complicated by the language of your own auto policy, and the Indiana laws controlling these claims. Costly mistakes can easily be made in this area without the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.
What if my injury happened in a different state?
If you live in Indiana, but are hurt outside the State, Manges Law Firm can still help. A case can often be settled without a lawsuit. If a lawsuit is necessary, it must usually be filed in the State where the injury occurred. If that happens, our Firm can find a qualified personal injury lawyer in that location to work with, typically at no extra cost to you. Our involvement with the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ) lets us find strong, lawyer-recommended lawyers to work with.
What if I was hurt in Indiana, but I live somewhere else?
If an injury or death occurs in Indiana, you usually need an Indiana lawyer. This is especially true if a lawsuit is required. Each State has different personal injury laws. If you live far away from Indiana, some insurance companies may make low offers, assuming that you won’t want to travel back for a lawsuit. We can help. Contact Manges Law Firm about potential representation soon. Indiana time limits to file a claim must be met, along with other quirks of our State’s legal system.