Category: Auto Accidents

The 7 Stages of a Car Accident Claim

If you or a loved one is involved in a motor vehicle or car accident, it is unlikely you will be prepared for what is to come.  Here is a simple step by step guide showing what you can expect:

  1. Car Accident: Of course, the first step is the car accident.  If you are in a car accident, it is imperative that you get immediate medical treatment.  It is not unusual for people injured in a car accident to think they are fine immediately after the accident, because their adrenaline is high or they are worried about something else besides themselves.  They refuse medical treatment, either an ambulance or a trip to the emergency room, but then later on or even the next day, they are in severe pain, because they have been injured.
  2. Hire an Attorney: Ideally, if you have been injured in a car accident, you should hire a personal injury attorney right away.  Once you have hired an attorney, the attorney can help you with every aspect of the case.  The attorney will help you get your vehicle fixed, get a rental car, find appropriate medical providers, settle your claim, and file a lawsuit, if necessary.
  3. Get Medical Treatment: There are many doctors that do not handle injured victims of car accidents.  Your attorney can help you find doctors that will help you get back to being yourself and that will not charge you anything up front.  It is very important to get medical treatment as soon as possible.  The longer you wait to get medical treatment, the more likely the insurance company will be to claim you were not actually injured in the car accident.
  4. Make a Demand: Once your treatment is complete, your attorney will collect ALL of your medical records and medical bills, as well as any documentation for your lost wages or any future medical bills.  This will be prepared into a demand package and sent to the insurance company.
  5. Negotiations: After the demand package is sent to the insurance company, your attorney will attempt to negotiate a favorable settlement for you with the insurance company.  This can be a time consuming process with many offers, demands, counter offers, and counter demands.  An experienced personal injury attorney, can help you set reasonable and realistic goals for the negotiations and give you an idea of what similar cases are worth in your area.
  6. Settlement: Congratulations!  But, the case isn’t finished just yet.  At this point, you still have to pay your medical bills, your attorney, and any of the costs or expenses associated with the claim.  Your attorney should negotiate with your medical providers to make sure all of your medical bills are paid and get you the money you deserve.
  7. File Lawsuit: If the case does not settle, your attorney will then file a lawsuit.  Keep in mind, even though a lawsuit has been filed, this does not mean your case will necessarily go all the way to a jury trial.  It is common for settlement negotiations to continue between your attorney and the attorney for the insurance company during the lawsuit.

Once you hire an attorney after a car accident, it is the attorney’s job to assist you with all aspects of your case and car accident claim.  Having an attorney assist you with the case, allows you to focus on the most important task, getting better and getting back to normal, while your attorney deals with the time consuming demands of the insurance company.  If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, call us today so we can take the pressure of having to deal with the insurance company off your shoulders and let you focus on getting better.

Top 3 Things To Do If You Have Been Sued

  1. IMMEDIATELY CONTACT YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY: If you have been sued for a car accident, something that happened inside your home, or for any other situation where you might have insurance to cover the claim, immediately contact your insurance company and notify them of the lawsuit.  In situations like these, the insurance company has a duty to hire an attorney to defend you, but only if you promptly notify them.  In Oklahoma, you or your attorney only have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit or a default judgment could be entered against you, so it is imperative that you contact your insurance company immediately.  This gives your insurance company enough time to retain an attorney on your behalf and for the attorney to properly respond to the lawsuit.
  2. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY: If you have been sued (and you do not have insurance or your insurance is not going to defend you), immediately contact an attorney.  As we mentioned above, you only have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit once you have received it.  If a default judgment is entered against you for failing to respond, it can be very hard, if not impossible, to get a default judgment overturned.  It is much easier to simply respond on time and never have the default judgment entered against you, than to try and get a default judgment overturned.
  3. DO NOT POST ANYTHING ON SOCIAL MEDIA: This one may seem completely obvious or at least it should seem completely obvious, but defendants (and even some plaintiffs) post things on Facebook or Twitter or some other social media site that is damaging to their case.  In one case, I was representing a jailer that had been accused of strip searching a woman.  This was the central issue in the case, whether or not what happened was in a strip search.  Well, unfortunately, the attorney for the plaintiff found that my client had posted on myspace “a strip search with every accommodation” as her quote.  This was very damaging and we ultimately lost the case.  Likewise, 50 Cent is currently involved in a bankruptcy case.  Recently, he has posted photographs of himself with large piles of cash.  Because he has been posting these pictures, he was summoned to court to explain to the judge whether he was hiding assets, a very serious charge.  Turns out, he was posing with fake money, which is probably even more embarrassing for his public image and persona than the bankruptcy case.  The lesson here  is quite simply, do not post anything on Facebook that the other side could use against you in court.  Just don’t do it!

Should You Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

In Oklahoma, motorists are only required to have $25,000.00 in automobile insurance to cover potential injuries they may cause while driving.  Unfortunately, with the rapidly rising costs of healthcare, $25,000.00 does not go very far.  In many situations, an innocent individual, who just happens to have the misfortune of being hit by someone with these minimum limits, will be stuck with medical bills that far exceed $25,000.00.  If the individual is lucky, the doctors and hospitals may be willing to take a pro-rata share of the available $25,000.00 and call it even, but they do not always do so, leaving the innocent individual with thousands upon thousands of medical bills to pay for, even though they did nothing wrong.

What can you do to try and make sure this doesn’t happen to you?  Well the most important thing you can do is make sure you plan ahead and get the appropriate insurance coverage on your automobile policy.  In Oklahoma, drivers are given the option of purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or UM/UIM coverage for short.  Many Oklahoma drivers decline to purchase this insurance, because it is optional and it makes their auto insurance premium increase.  This is a huge mistake.  In a situation where your medical bills exceed the amount of available insurance from the other driver or even where the other driver has no insurance at all, you would be able to collect from your UM/UIM coverage – assuming you decided to purchase it.  And having UM/UIM coverage can be a huge boost in a case like this, because if you have more than just the state minimum coverages you could have $50,000.00, $100,000.00, or more in UM/UIM coverage to help pay for your medical bills and other damages associated with being injured.

Some people will argue that UM/UIM insurance is too expensive for such a remote possibility of being used.  But, I would disagree.  I have seen too many clients come to my office and tell me about an auto accident they were involved in where there was no insurance or not nearly enough insurance available to cover their medical bills to agree that this coverage would be rarely used.  In fact, on the occasions where my clients had UM/UIM coverage available and we did use it, they were all extremely grateful they had it.  Without question, I believe every driver that has automobile insurance, even if they have health insurance or other insurance available, should have UM/UIM coverage to help protect them and their loved ones.

9 Things to do After Being in an Auto Accident

Odds are, you will be involved in a car accident at some point during your life.  On average, there are more than 6 million car accidents each year in the United States and more than 3 million people are injured.  If you have been in a car accident, there are things that you should do immediately to protect yourself and your rights:

  1. STOP – Immediately stop your vehicle after an accident and never leave the scene of the accident, even if it is just a minor accident.
  2. CALL THE POLICE – It does not matter if you believe you are at fault for the accident, or if you believe the other driver is at fault for the accident; whether the other driver admits it was their fault; whether there are injuries, or if it is just a minor accident—it is very important to call the police and have them create an accident report. Accident reports provide excellent evidence in case there is a dispute as to who was responsible for causing the accident.
  3. NEVER ADMIT FAULT – Accidents can be complex and confusing situations. Even when you believe you are at fault, do not admit that to the other driver, to any witnesses, or to the police.  Leave this to your insurance company, or to your attorney to sort out.  If you do admit fault at the scene (even if you just apologize to the other driver), this can be used against you later.
  4. EXCHANGE INFORMATION – Typically, the responding police officer will obtain this information; however, while waiting for the police to arrive, it is worth the time to go ahead and exchange information with the other driver. Specifically, this should include the name, address, and phone number of everyone involved in the accident (including passengers) and the other driver’s insurance information.  If there are any witnesses, get their names, addresses, and phone numbers.
  5. TAKE PICTURES – While waiting for the police, take pictures of all of the vehicles involved in the accident, of the scene of the accident, and of any visible injuries. If you cannot take pictures at the scene of the accident, take them as soon after as you can.
  6. GET MEDICAL TREATMENT – It is very common for injuries caused by minor accidents to not become apparent for several days. Many of our clients tell us that they felt fine immediately after the accident, because of the adrenaline of being involved in an accident, but that they were in pain a day or two later.  Because it is so common for these injuries to become apparent after the accident, it is very important to go to your family doctor or to your local emergency room and get checked out.  Always remember, serious injuries can result from minor accidents.
  7. REPORT THE CLAIM – Make sure you notify your insurance company of the accident as soon as possible. Even if the accident is not your fault, your insurance company may provide uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or medical payments coverage to you, if you have been injured.  As long as the accident was not your fault, your insurance premiums should not increase as a result of submitting a claim for med pay coverage.  Keep in mind, if you hire an attorney, your attorney will gladly do this for you.
  8. KEEP RECORDS – Keep track of everything related to the accident—this includes the accident report, any communications with the other insurance company or your insurance company, medical records, and medical bills. Also, keep track of any out of pocket expenses related to the accident, such as a rental car, prescriptions, or other expenses, and any time that you have had to miss from work or school.
  9. TALK TO AN ATTORNEY – The most important thing you can do after an accident is talk to an attorney. The other driver’s insurance company is not here to help you, no matter what they say.  They have one job, and only one job:  to settle your claim for as little money as possible.  Often times, they will offer a quick settlement for any personal injury claims—do not accept it.  The worst thing you can do is settle an injury claim before you know how injured you are, or before you have completed your treatment.  Your attorney can handle all aspects of your claim:  from making sure you are properly compensated for the damage to your vehicle and injuries, to making sure you are getting the best medical treatment available.  And, don’t worry, at The Cotton Law Firm, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay us anything up front, and won’t pay us anything at all, unless we recover money for you.

If you have been in an accident and are in need of an auto accident attorney, give us a call and we will do everything we can to help you through this process.