Seven Easy Steps To Destroying Your Personal Injury Claim

1 – NOT GETTING ALL THE INFORMATION YOU CAN FROM THE DRIVER THAT HIT YOU. Name, address, driver’s license number, license plate number, photos of both cars, insurance information. DO NOT THINK YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY WILL HAVE IT ALL. Often your own insurance company will not have the information, or will refuse to divulge it to you or your attorney citing privacy issues.  Yes, your insurance company will damage your claim by protecting the bad driver that hit you.

2 – GIVING A STATEMENT, RECORDED OR OTHERWISE, TO THE OTHER INSURANCE COMPANY. Your only obligation to the at-fault driver’s insurance company is to let them know where you are choosing to take your car to be repaired so they can pay the bill. That’s it! They will say that they need the statement to evaluate your claim and pay your medical bills. Well, they are not paying your medical bills, your insurance company is via your No-Fault PIP coverage pursuant to Oregon Law. They will say they are going to “close your file” if they don’t get a statement. So what! They will re-open it as soon as your attorney tells them to.

3 – NOT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION THE DAY OF THE CRASH, OR AT LEAST THE FOLLOWING DAY. Many victims of car wrecks think that the pain and limitations they experience following a crash will just go away in a couple of days. This may be true for a small fraction of such victims. For the vast majority of victims, putting off treatment only puts off healing and recovery.

4 – ONLY DISCUSSING YOUR MOST SEVERE INJURY WITH YOUR DOCTOR.  Many people injure multiple parts of their body in a car accident, and usually, one of those areas will be more painful than the others. Unfortunately, too many car accident victims will only tell their Doctor about the area that hurts the most, then after a few weeks when that area calms a little, they decide to let the Doctor in on the other areas that are hurting. Not only does this prevent your Doctor from properly treating you, it allows the bad driver’s insurer to claim that those other areas are not related to the crash.

5 – POSTING ANYTHING ABOUT THE WRECK OR INJURIES ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Just don’t do it. Nothing good will ever come of it.

6 – LYING, EXAGGERATING, MINIMIZING, OR OTHERWISE BEING ANYTHING LESS THAN TRUTHFUL WITH YOUR DOCTORS, YOUR ATTORNEY,  and ANY INSURANCE COMPANY.

7 – NOT CONSULTING AN OREGON PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY ASAP.  DON’T GET ZERO, HIRE A HERO.  Insurance companies are multi-billion dollar Deathstars with buildings full of lawyers and experts, all bearing down on you with bad intentions. Do not be taken advantage of and intimidated by these insurance bullies. The sooner you get a warrior on your side the sooner you’ll get the insurance benefits you are owed, and the peace of mind that you deserve.

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Hit by a Mack Truck?

The phrase “I feel like I was hit by a Mack truck” is used lightly to describe feeling aches and pains throughout one’s body.  But actually getting hit by an 18 wheel truck is not something that can be taken lightly.

In 2012, there were over 2000 crashes involving trucks in the State of Oregon.  The most common contributing factor in the cause of the crash was excessive speed.  Other factors include mechanical defects, driving while intoxicated, and driving tired.

Trucking crashes can cause significant injury because of the size and weight of a truck compared to the other vehicles on the road.  For example, a loaded semi-truck can weigh up to 80,000 lbs, whereas an average passenger car weighs 4,000 lbs.  A truck and trailer rig may be 70 feet long compared to about 15 feet for a car.  People in the smaller, lighter vehicle tend to be more seriously hurt or even killed.

If you or a loved one has been hit by a big rig and has suffered truck injuries, there are certain steps that should be taken in order to properly document the truck injuries.   First, remember that insurance adjusters work for the insurance company, not the injured person.  The injured person can and should have an attorney communicating with the insurance company representative on the injured person’s behalf.  Care should be taken with regard to the type of doctors that treat the injuries.  Also, know that timing plays an important role in documenting both the injuries and the facts of the crash.  Delay can cost money.

Obtaining fair compensation in a trucking case requires consideration of and preparation regarding the rules and regulations for truck drivers and trucking companies, nuances of commercial insurance policies, business entities and who may be held responsible for the crash.   Seek out an attorney who knows how to handle the unique factors in litigating personal injury cases when a truck is involved.

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How Lawyers Help Me Get What I Deserve

Lawyers cannot magically make all of your problems go away with a phone call or a letter.  Personal injury cases are complex; and in spite of advertising lawyers bellowing their laudable goals, ask a lawyer how many cases that lawyer has actually taken to trial and most will say never or less than three.  Why?  Because auto injury cases need special expertise.  In order for fair and/or full recoveries to take place, the case needs to be handled correctly from the beginning.  Wage loss needs to be documented.  Evidence needs to be preserved.  Witnesses need to be contacted.  Doctors need to be paid and insurance companies need to know that you will not be pushed around by their heavy-handed tactics or promises to be fair when the company is, in fact, setting you up for failure.

Importantly, if you are represented by a skilled lawyer, the insurance company cannot take control of your case.  The control stays with you.  You document your injuries and you help yourself to a full recovery at a fair price.

Insurance companies are not your friend.  Insurance companies attempt to keep you from getting a lawyer because companies know if you are protected it will cost the company more.  Insurance companies have their adjusters call you immediately.  The adjusters record what you say, try to direct your medical treatment, they try to steer you in their body shops and all of this is for the purpose of devaluing your claim and to short change you.

Gatti & Gatti not only stops the insurance process from devaluing your claim, but, we actively work to help you document your injuries and increase your ability and likelihood of recovering what you deserve.  The insurance companies have people working for them, to protect them – shouldn’t you have someone working to protect you?

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Don’t Let Social Media Destroy Your Claim

Social media (Facebook, Myspace, Instagram, Blogs, Twitter, etc.) is a wonderful place to post interesting things that your children have done or your neighbors have done to annoy you.  It is not, however, the place to post anything about an accident or an injury or a claim you might have.

It doesn’t matter when a particular photograph or video was taken, once it is posted on Facebook or other social media, it is there for all to see, including the insurance company who will be evaluating an injured party’s claim.  You may have taken a photograph of you riding an ATV five years ago and then posted it three weeks after a car accident and you will be tagged with having engaged in that activity three weeks after the car accident.  Don’t post commentary about an accident or an injury or how something occurred.  Don’t post photographs of damaged vehicles or bruises.  Don’t provide commentary about how you’re feeling or the inconvenience of what you are going through.  Your friends may sympathize and write a number of very nice comments.  An insurance adjuster, Judge, jury, or arbitrator, will not be as sympathetic.

Moreover, with today’s social media, it is more important than ever to set your security settings as tight as possible.  Make sure that these social media posts, videos, photographs, etc. are only being seen and will be seen by those you want to see them.  In the meantime, do not friend anyone you do not recognize.  Anything you have in the past posted or in the future do post may very well end up being an exhibit at a subsequent trial of your case.

As the lawyers of this firm recognize and as those who have been through these types of claims before understand, there is, often times, a cyclical nature (waxing and waning) to the healing process.  If your back and neck are feeling better on a Tuesday, don’t post that on Facebook because, by Friday, you may be back to square one.  If you advise your doctors that certain activities of daily living are impaired, testify in a deposition as to certain recreational activities you can’t participate in, and/or are forced to take time off from work because of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision or on the job injury, and then post photos, videos, or comments that either directly or indirectly contradict those statements, it will be more than problematic for resolution of any claim.

Lawyers at this firm have handled countless numbers of claims for injured individuals.  If you have questions or concerns regarding your rights, give one of our lawyers a call and schedule a time to come in and see us for a free consultation.

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Beware the Nice Insurance Person

Insurance companies are in business to make money.  They take insurance premiums paid by all of us, invest them, and do their best to make sure that the amount of paid claims is minimum.  These are simple business strategies that many people overlook.

Your initial contact with insurance claims representatives may frequently be pleasant.  Their goal is to make you comfortable and gain your trust.  However, when dealing with your own insurance company or the insurance company of the individual that caused the accident, this friendly attitude will inevitably change.

There are many aspects to a personal injury claim that you probably don’t fully understand.  For example, your initial medical payments are made under your own policy pursuant to your PIP coverage.  When your treatment is completed your insurance company then makes a claim to the insurance company of the at-fault driver for reimbursement of the money they paid.  Logically you might conclude that your insurance company is going to pay all of your bills because they’re going to be reimbursed.  This is not so.  In fact, your insurance company will most probably scrutinize your bills carefully, make reductions and pay your doctor parts of the bill.  Frequently your insurance company will send you to an insurance doctor for an examination.  Most of these doctors work closely with the insurance companies and consistently render opinions that enable your insurance company to stop paying for the care you need.  Your perception will be that you have been “cut off” for medical treatment and that you have no further rights to treat.  That is not true.

Your insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company.  The policy allows your insurance company to schedule an exam with a doctor of their choice provided they give you reasonable notice.  You have a right to decline to attend that exam.  However, if you refuse the exam your insurance company is no longer required to pay for any of your medical treatment.  If you attend the exam and the insurance company denies payment you would have a right to challenge the insurance doctor’s opinion.  The Oregon laws allow injured persons to file suit against their insurance company following a denial of payment.  The attorneys at Gatti & Gatti have a long history of prevailing in those lawsuits and getting your medical bills paid by your insurance company.

Similarly, the insurance claim representative for the other driver may well seem friendly and accommodating at first.  That attitude will most definitely change at some point along the way.

Remember that insurance claims people are evaluated, receive pay increases, and receive promotions based upon the amounts that they do not pay.  It is in their interest to not pay you everything you are entitled to receive.

If you’re in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by the negligence of another person your best interests are served by contacting a competent plaintiff’s attorney shortly after the accident to discuss your legal rights.  The attorneys at Gatti & Gatti have been representing injured victims for over 30 years and we are eager to assist anyone who has a personal injury claim.  We will fight for all of your rights and be certain that the insurance company pays what they contractually obligated to pay and that you are compensated fairly for your injuries.

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Seeing the Right Doctor

Many people who are injured in a motor vehicle accident simply go to their primary care physician, get some Vicodin or Flexeril, see the doctor for a couple of visits, and then give up.  However, it is extremely important to see specialists for your injuries.  All of your injuries!  Primary care doctors are good doctors, but they may not be trained in traumatic injuries.  An injured person needs a specialist for each of his/her particular injuries.  Some examples: ongoing headaches may mean one needs to see a neurologist; imbalance or ringing in the ears may require the services of a otolaryngologist; TMJ and jaw pain requires a specialized or specially trained dentist; and a back or strain injury may require a chiropractor or orthopedist – and the list goes on and on.

There is a specialist for nearly every condition or body part.  There are also a number of specialized tests that should be completed to objectively verify that your symptoms are caused by your auto accident.  Remember, the injured party has the burden of proving the extent of their injuries, even if the other side admits fault.  Without the proper doctors and documentation, you cannot get full value for your damages; and if you simply go to your primary doctor who tells you you’ll be okay in 6 weeks and take an aspirin, then expecting more for permanent ongoing residuals will take more effort than a couple of visits and a pill or two.

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Nursing Home Negligence

All patients in nursing homes have the absolute right to be cared for in a manner that prevents injury and to receive care which ensures that a patient’s already infirm condition is not aggravated and made worse.  However, in spite of special duties mandated by law, contract and promulgated rules, too many patients are injured through no fault of their own.   People die in nursing homes.  Sometimes, a death is expected.  At other times, a death can be deemed “wrongful.”  A wrongful death is defined as a death that is caused by the negligence of someone having a duty to protect.  In other words, in all negligence cases—and in wrongful death cases– each of the following elements must exist in order for liability to attach:

  1. DUTY;
  2. VIOLATION of that Duty;
  3. CAUSE  – The violation must be the Cause of Harm/Damages; and
  4. HARM/DAMAGES Caused by the Violation of the Duty.

In a nursing home, the health care providers have statutory duties together with what’s called “common law” duties.  In short, when it comes down to the final thrust, health care providers owe all of their patients the duty to ensure patient safety and comfort.  If someone violates a duty, and if the violation causes a patient to be injured, then the injured patient can be compensated for the damages caused by the negligence of their caregiver.

In a nursing home situation, the caregivers must be free from negligence when caring for all of the patients regardless of a patient’s health.  Nursing home employees must follow the numerous laws which protect patients from harm, and the employees must all follow Administrative Rules and contractual duties provided for in the contract between the patient and the nursing home.  Nursing home policies and guidelines must also be followed by all employees who must be knowledgeable and trained so that these people can fulfill the duties imposed upon them by the law, the rules, and the nursing home contract.  Clearly, the guiding bible of skilled nursing homes can be found in the State Operation Manual for Skilled Nursing.   This manual clearly sets forth the rules, regulations, laws and common law duties that must be followed by those who take on the noble obligation of caring for citizens with serious impairments which must be monitored on a continuous basis.

When the lawyers at Gatti & Gatti take on injury or wrongful death cases resulting from care or the lack thereof in nursing homes, the lawyers are generally looking at the damage aspect of the four elements of negligence.  We know that nursing homes have special duties.  Duty is a given.  But when a violation of the duty occurs, the lawyer must also look to see the nature of the damages caused by the injury.   How old was the patient?  Was the injury or death really caused by the violation of the duty, or was the injury or death an inevitable end to a long and fruitful life?  Was someone injured or was the injury or death actually caused by a preexisting infirm condition?

There are many questions to be asked and there are many facts which must be objectively evaluated.  The lawyers at Gatti & Gatti don’t take every case that we evaluate, but clients can be assured that when they call for an appointment and the case is discussed and evaluated, there is no charge for the consultation and personal evaluation.  If the Gatti lawyers agree to take on a case, they expect to prevail and secure justice for the client.  However, lawyers cannot guarantee a positive outcome.  If we cannot take on a particular case, our attorneys will provide a reasoned explanation and will discuss the client’s best options under the circumstances.

Experience does tell us many things.  Patients sometimes receive the wrong medication, and the results can be catastrophic.  Medication may be mixed or forgotten, or incorrect dosages administered.  Infirm patients should not be falling in the hallways, bathrooms, or from their beds.  Exercise and movement are important to all patients who are capable, and every patient deserves respect and to be treated in a dignified manner.   “No treatment” is only appropriate in limited circumstances, and a facility’s failure to train and supervise employees to ensure patient safety will not be tolerated.

Most nursing homes provide skilled nursing for specific patient needs, and those patients in need of skilled nursing should not be treated by LVN’s or aides who are not licensed or legally authorized to provide the prescribed medical care and services.  It’s fair to say that a generation ago, older citizens were often not treated with the respect and care that the law now requires.  Not all injuries or deaths can be avoided.  The law does not always provide a remedy for every harm that befalls a citizen, and not every mistreatment case can be pursued.  Each case lives or dies on its own individual facts and circumstances.  Rest assured, the lawyers at Gatti & Gatti are willing and available to discuss and evaluate the facts and circumstances with each client or their family representatives.

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Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

Imagine a scenario where you are driving down the road and a driver coming from the right fails to stop at a stop sign and broadsides your car.  Under normal circumstances, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is going to fairly quickly determine that the other party was at fault and will probably contact the victim in an effort to settle all of the claims.  Normally, once they determine that their insured was at fault, they will fairly quickly work to fix your car or total it out.  During this time, the insurance adjuster will also likely make an offer to settle all claims, including your bodily injury claim.  An injured party may be tempted to take them up on that offer.  However, there are a number of pitfalls to doing so.  Before considering accepting an offer for bodily injury or wage loss from the other driver’s insurance company, consult with an attorney.  The following is just an example of some of the problems with settling too soon.

1.  PIP coverage

PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage is designed to pay for medical expenses and wage loss even if another party was at fault.  Some assume that they can simply take an offer from the other driver’s insurance company to settle their claim and then go get their medical care taken care of by their own insurance company.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.

If the motor vehicle collision was caused by the fault of another and your insurance company is asked to make payments for your medical expenses and/or wage loss under the PIP provisions of your policy, they have a right to be reimbursed by the other driver’s insurance company under what’s referred to as subrogation.  However, if you settle with the other driver’s insurance company, thereby releasing that insurance company and the at-fault driver from any further liability, you may be prejudicing the rights of your own insurance company to recover the payments that they have or will make.  That may be grounds for your own insurance company to discontinue payment of your medical expenses.

Another potential pitfall, should you settle too early, is that you don’t know how long your treatment may go on for.  Under Oregon law, your insurance company is only obligated to pay for your reasonable and necessary medical expenses during the first year following the motor vehicle collision, up to $15,000 in treatment expenses.  What happens if your treatment goes beyond the one year your insurance company will pay or if your treatment expenses exceed $15,000?  If you have already settled with the other driver and their insurance company, you will be responsible for those medical bills.

2.  Medically stationary?

In our opinion, settling too early can create problems in terms of uncertainty as to your injuries.  Generally, you should not attempt to settle your claim until you are fully recovered or your doctors have declared you medically stationary (such as a situation where you have plateaued in your recovery).  Until you are medically stationary, you do not know the full extent of your injuries.  If you attempt to settle too early and, then discover another ailment or injury, you will have no recourse.  Once you have settled your claim, even if you discover a more serious injury or discover that more extensive treatment will be required, you do not have the ability to go back and undo that settlement.

3.  Underinsured motorist coverage

Sometimes, if the accident is severe enough or your injuries appear to dictate it, the other driver’s insurance company will fairly quickly offer to pay you their policy limits.  Every policy has a cap on how much the insurance company is required to pay.  This cap is determined by how much insurance the insured pays for.  In Oregon, the minimum limits that one can carry on a motor vehicle are $25,000.  There are circumstances under which the other driver’s insurance company may offer you that $25,000 fairly quickly.  It would be a mistake to take that money without consulting a lawyer and determining what your rights are.

What if your injuries are greater than you initially think or will be longer lasting than you and your doctors initially believe?  You may have the ability to get additional money from your own insurance company under your underinsured motorist coverage.  However, if you take the policy limits from the other driver’s insurance company without consulting with your insurance company and receiving their consent, you will likely prejudice your right to get additional money from your insurance company.  Under Oregon law, if the other driver and his/her insurance company offers you their policy limits, you cannot take them without first consulting with your insurance company and receiving their written consent.  Doing so will negate any potential underinsured motorist claim you may have against your own insurance company.

4.  Same insurance company

In this age of corporate takeovers and consolidation, it is not uncommon to encounter a situation where both you and the other driver are insured by the same insurance company.  It is also true that insurance companies tend to saturate particular markets with advertising and, consequently, you may find that both you and the other driver have the same insurance company.  Do not be lulled into a false sense of security simply because you have the same insurance company as the other driver.  The other driver’s insurance is not your insurance and they are not working on your behalf.  Their fiduciary duty is to their own insured.  Their interest is in settling your claim as quickly and cheaply as possible.  Just because you happen to pay premiums to the same insurance company does not mean that they are looking out for you.

5.  Time is money.

Insurance companies are incentivized to settle claims quickly.  They want to settle with you before you know the full extent of your injuries.  They want to settle with you before you incur medical expenses they might be ultimately responsible to pay.  Other than the statute of limitations (the time limitation that you have to pursue your claim) you should not be in any hurry to settle with the insurance company.  Take time to determine the extent of your injuries, consult with your doctors, and get the treatment you need to get better.  The only side that benefits from a quick settlement is the insurance company.

6.  Leverage

Why should you hire an attorney?  The answer is not so simple.  However, negotiating on your own you have much less leverage than negotiating through an attorney.  The insurance companies know that, without an attorney, you don’t have any other options than to take their top and best offer.  When you have an attorney, the insurance company knows that you have other options.  If we are unable to negotiate a settlement that is acceptable to you, we have the ability to take the claim to the next step by filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

 

In summary, some people are able to negotiate a settlement on their own.  Some people are best served by negotiating a settlement on their own.  Some people, unfortunately, can only receive true and fair compensation with the assistance of a qualified attorney.  You will not know all of your rights until you have consulted with someone knowledgeable on these issues.  Our firm works on a contingency fee.  We are only paid for our time and services if we recover money for you.  There is no charge to you to consult with us.

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Waiting Too Long

Many people want to “tough it out” to see if their injuries get better.  Many times people who are injured in a car accident are in shock and don’t hurt immediately.  Later than night or when they wake up, an injured person is stiff and sore.  If that person waits days, weeks, or months to seek treatment, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to prove to an insurance company or a jury that the injury is related to the car crash.

The maxim, “if it isn’t in a doctor’s note it didn’t happen” is relied upon by the insurance company.  If there is a delay in treatment, that delay is often interpreted as a delay in the onset of the problem – and then there is an uphill battle to prove what caused the problem.

Don’t rush to a doctor if there is nothing wrong with you.  However, if an injured person is having a problem, that person should take the time to go to the right type of doctor.  Often times, injuries that go untreated can heal incorrectly or develop into long lasting and chronic conditions.  If you break a tooth and it hurts, wouldn’t you go to the dentist right away?  Why would it be any different for your neck or back?

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My Car Just Isn’t Right

You have the right to have your car back to “pre-loss” condition following a car crash.  You also have the right to take your car to a body shop of your choice.  Most insurance company body shops have computer generated repair models designed to cut corners and do repairs that may look good, but, underneath, the repair is obviously superficial.

Consumers have the right to take a damaged vehicle back as many times as needed in order to get the car repaired properly.  You do not have to live with air pockets, rattles, messed up transmissions, or any other objectively verifiable damage done during a collision.  You do not have to go to the shop the insurance company recommends, and you do not have to accept the low-ball estimate their appraiser gives you.

Often, if you go to a good reputable shop, that shop will negotiate with the insurance company so that the repairs will bring the car back to as close to the pre-loss condition as possible. It is the job of the lawyers at Gatti & Gatti to help you make sure the repair is done safely and correctly.

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