What is GAP Insurance?

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GAP INSURANCE – DESIGNED TO BRIDGE THE GAP

Bridge the GAP

“The more expensive your vehicle and the less equity you have in it, the more you can benefit from Guaranteed Asset Protection insurance,” writes Jackie Lohrey in finance.zacks.com.

Indiana state law dictates that all drivers carry a minimum amount of insurance, designed to cover the expenses of medical services and treatment for those injured in an accident,  including:

  • $25,000 liability insurance per person
  • $50,000 liability insurance per incident
  • $10,000 property damage

Reality is, despite those laws, many drivers do not have any insurance at all. But, in order to protect yourself, you should know about other types of benefits available to cover bills in the event of an accident:

  • Comprehensive – This helps pay for damage to your vehicle caused in incidents other than car accidents, such as vandalism, theft, and fire damage
  • Collision – This covers the cost of damage from a collision with another car or an object
  • Rental reimbursement – This helps pay for alternative transportation while your car is being repaired
  • Medical payments – This covers accident-related medical or funeral costs of covered drivers and of passengers (fault is not taken into consideration)
  • Emergency roadside service – This helps provide for towing and labor service (assistance with changing a tire, jumpstarts, towing, locksmith, delivery of gas or oil)
  • Customized parts and equipment – This is an endorsement to the policy that pays for equipment, devices, and accessories other than those installed by the original manufacturer

One especially important type of insurance is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage. UM/UIM protects you in the event that the driver who was responsible for your accident has no coverage, or not enough of it.

Yet another type of coverage to consider – GAP.

What is GAP insurance? GAP is an optional insurance coverage that can be added to a collision insurance policyIf your car is covered by insurance, but is considered a total loss after an accident, GAP insurance is designed to pay the difference between the balance on your lease or loan and what your insurance company pays. If your car is stolen and you owe more than the vehicle is worth, GAP insurance would provide the difference between what’s owed on the car and its estimated value.

“Car GAP insurance is one of those expenses that seem like a waste of money until you need it,” observes bankrate.com. Russ Heaps of bankrate shares an open secret:  the moment you drive a vehicle off the dealer’s lot, your auto insurance is probably inadequate to protect you financially in the case of a total loss.

Think that’s an exaggeration? According to Edmunds.com data, in 2015, 30% of car sales that had a trade-in were ones in which the owner still owned money on the vehicle.  The average amount of negative equity was $4500!

Who should buy a GAP policy?  Bankrate.com quotes Bill Pearse of Travelers Insurance, who says you’re a likely candidate for GAP if:Mind the GAP

  • You’re leasing a vehicle
  • You’re financing a car for 60 months or more
  • You’re putting less than 20% down
  • You’re rolling “negative equity” from your previous vehicle into your new vehicle loan
  • You drive more than 15,000 miles a year
  • You’re purchasing a vehicle with a history of high depreciation rates

GAP insurance steps in when there is negative equity, meaning you owe more on an asset (in this case, a car) than it’s worth.  You’re “upside down.”  You’re “under water.” Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor for edmunds.com offers one simple example of negative equity:

  • You have $15,000 worth of car payments left, but the value of the car has depreciated to $10,000

Where do you buy GAP insurance?

  1. From the dealer (at the time of purchase or lease)
  2. From an insurance company (at any time)

GAP insurance can become very important when you have complications with your Indiana personal injury claim after an accident:

  1. The at-fault driver does not have insurance. Your damages would be paid by your insurance provider under the uninsured motorist coverage portion of your coverage.
  1. The at-fault driver had insurance, but only the minimum $25,000 liability coverage required in Indiana. That driver’s coverage would pay the first $25,000, and your underinsured motorist coverage would pay the remainder up to the limits of your coverage (which may not be enough to cover the loan or lease on your car).

After an automobile accident, a lot of money can be involved, not only in terms of personal injury, but also in terms of car repair and replacement. For this reason, drivers need to be prepared for possible disputes with their insurance company. Some steps to take include:

  • Saving all paperwork related to the accident
  • Getting an estimate from a trusted repair shop (in the event the insurance company undervalues the repairs the car needs)

There are several important considerations when it comes to Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance: 

  1. Because the intent of GAP is to work with traditional liability coverage, it will not pay if your primary insurance company denies your claim.
  1. Unlike other forms of auto insurance, with GAP there is a one-time only premium (you may choose to pay it upfront or incorporate it into a loan if you purchase it at a dealership).
  1. Once you make a claim, the GAP policy expires.
  1. GAP insurance requires a “triggering event” before it kicks in. But, because GAP focuses on your loan instead of on the car, the triggering event is not the accident or theft or damage, but the declaration by your insurer that the car is a total loss.

While consumers may at first have a problem understanding the unique limitations of GAP coverage, those limitations really make sense.  GAP is a form of credit insurance and it covers your loan, NOT the vehicle itself.

In fact, GAP insurance is designed to do just what its name implies – bridge the gap between what your insurance company will pay and what you owe.

Bride the Gap

Hensley Legal Group Named 2016 Top Workplace

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We are excited to announce that Hensley Legal Group, PC was named as a 2016 Top Workplace by Star Media, WorkplaceDynamics’ local publishing partner.
Top Work Places 2016

If you want to know everything worth knowing about a company, ask the people who work there.

That’s precisely the mantra of WorkplaceDynamics, LLP, a leading research firm that focuses on organizational health and employee engagement. More than 5,000 organizations have turned to WorkplaceDynamics’ Employee Engagement Survey to help them better understand how they are perceived by their own employees.

This year there were 90 Central Indiana companies identified by the survey as Top Workplaces, an increase of five companies over 2015. In the category of Top Small Companies, HLG was listed as #33.

WorkplaceDynamics uses a questionnaire with statements on which employees offer responses on a seven-point scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”  The survey measures four general categories:

  • Company basics
  • Organizational health
  • Leadership
  • Engagement

“This is a great honor for all of us and for HLG!” Melissa Hartsock enthused with her colleagues upon learning of the repeated honor accorded to HLG. “We do truly work very hard to make this a workplace that you all enjoy coming to every day.”

What employees say

HLG Staff 2015“I am surrounded by people who care about their jobs, their clients, themselves, and me. I am constantly inspired.”

“I love my co-workers. We all get along and enjoy working with and helping each other.”

“I work in an environment that promotes positivity, teamwork, individuality, volunteering and, most of all, family. ”

“The care you feel here is a big reason. Our boss cares for us, we care for one another and we all care for our clients, and subsequently the client(s) really feel that we care about them. ”

“Opportunity and environment. ”

“An attitude survey can best be described as an instrument that attempts to determine employee perceptions of their working environment,” writes John Faure of the Society for Human Resource Management. “Most HR professionals will agree that employee productivity is strongly linked to their perception of their environment and, as the saying goes, perception is reality,” he adds.

Surveys can reveal:

  • Quality of management
  • Effectiveness of compensation and benefits programs
  • Organizational communications issues
  • Safety and health concerns

It’s a special, special honor when employees of any organization express their commitment to their jobs and share their workplace satisfaction.  That honor is even more special when it comes from the employees of a personal injury law firm, where, by definition, clients’ personal tragedies are woven into the work; heartaches, pain and suffering are the stuff of every hour of every workday. We are a helping profession.

In personal injury cases, weeks and months may pass while negotiations take place. During those weeks of waiting, will the clients need ongoing medical care or therapy? Will they be able to return to the full earning power they had before the accident? Our clients are often in a bad situation and must be treated with care.

Employees of our law firm must have the interpersonal skills to hold conversations with every personality type and must be able to inspire trust.  Good listeners? Our employees have to be that and much more. After all, Hensley Legal Group represents individuals and families whose lives have been changed for the worse through no fault of their own.  Perhaps more than at any other time in their lives, those clients need someone to listen and really hear what they are feeling.

Yes, of course we are excited to announce that Hensley Legal Group, PC was named as one of the 2016 Top Workplaces by Star Media as a result of the latest WorkplaceDynamics’ Employee Engagement Survey.  But it’s a special, special honor when it comes from our employees.

SHOULDER DYSTOCIA CAN SPELL DISASTER FOR BABIES

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Shoulder dystocia is a disaster that can occur while a baby is being delivered.  Even though the pregnancy might have been normal, and even though the mother’s uterus is contracting normally during labor, the baby is physically blocked from coming out. Why? The baby’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone.

The word “dystocia” comes from the Greek “dys” meaning “difficult, painful, or abnormal” and “tokos” meaning “birth.”

Why would the labor process be obstructed? Causes include:Shoulder dystocia birth

  • The baby might be abnormally large
  • The mother’s pelvis might be particularly small
  • There might be problems in the shape of the birth canal (tumor or injury)
  • The fetus might have been abnormally positioned in the womb

 

The baby’s head is out of the mother’s vagina, but the rest of the baby’s body is blocked from exiting because the shoulder is stuck…What the obstetrician or other medical professionals do next – and how quickly – can determine whether the infant and the mother sustain serious injuries. 

http://shoulderdystociainfo.com/whatis.htm

“Although there are risk factors for shoulder dystocia, health care providers cannot usually predict or prevent it,” explains the March of Dimes. Risk factors include:

  • Mother’s obesity
  • Mother’s diabetes
  • Birth after the due date
  • Induced labor
  • Tools used by the medical provider (forceps or a vacuum)

Obstructed birth complications for the mother include heavy bleeding after the birth and tearing of the uterus, vagina, cervix, or rectum. Obstructed birth complications for the newborn can be much more serious and long-lasting:

  • Injury to the nerves of the shoulder, arms, and hand, causing shaking or even paralysis
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain, causing brain damage or even death

 “Considered an obstetric emergency, shoulder dystocia can result in significant fetal and material harm if not resolved in a competent and expedient manner,” explains medical author Robert Allen in Medscape. If the delivery is not successfully completed within as short a time as six minutes, “there is increased risk of neonatal depression, acidosis, asphyxia, central nervous system damage, and death.”

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1602970-overview

In the delivery room, crucial moments are ticking by as medical professionals deal with:

Oxygen Levels:

It’s crucial that newborns receive sufficient oxygen circulation to the body and organs, before, during, and after birth. Medical professionals must monitor the oxygen levels, recognizing signs that a fetus is in distress. With the baby’s head out of the birth canal and the shoulder obstructed, the oxygen in the umbilical cord is affected. Timely and appropriate action is needed to prevent birth injury due to lack of oxygen.

newborn brachial plexus

Brachial Plexus Injuries:

The brachial plexus is a group of nerves in the shoulder which control movement of the shoulder, arm, wrist, hand, and fingers. If a doctor or nurse applies too much force in trying to dislodge the baby, they can stretch the child’s brachial plexus and cause:

  • Fractures of the arm bone
  • Loss of sensation
  • Loss of movement
  • Paralysis
  • Disfigurement
  • Erb’s Palsy, a form of nerve damage that can severely and permanently limit arm use

How common is shoulder dystocia?  According to the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, shoulder dystocia occurs in approximately 1 out of every 150 vaginal births.

“Shoulder dystocia is an emergency and therefore, when it does occur, speed is of the essence.  The baby’s shoulder needs to be released quickly so that the baby’s body can be born and he or she can start breathing air into the lungs…a baby can suffer brain damage if he or she did not get enough oxygen because the delivery was delayed by shoulder dystocia,” the Royal College cautions.

Personal injury law relates to those who have been injured, physically or psychologically, as a result of the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, a company, or government agency. In the cases where injury is thought to be the result of improper handling of an infant’s shoulder dystocia, parents may become the claimants in a malpractice claim against a doctor or other medical practitioner or medical facility.

 

Typical allegations in shoulder dystocia lawsuits include:

  1. The physician or midwife should have been able to predict that a shoulder dystocia problem was likely to occur, and should have avoided that risk by recommending an elective cesarean section
  2. The doctor or midwife pulled too hard when encountering the blockage and did not use other procedures according to proper standards of care
  3. The practitioners were not alert enough and therefore did not act quickly enough to prevent the damage from occurring

Deciding to contact an Indiana medical malpractice injury lawyer can make the difference in whether your family is fairly compensated for a birth-related injury. A personal injury attorney will begin by thoroughly investigating the facts and circumstances of each case of possible medical malpractice. Time is of the essence, because important evidence can be lost or destroyed. Do you need a lawyer?  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my child showing developmental delays or does my child have cerebral palsy, related to a lack of oxygen during birth?
  • Does my child have problems using one of his or her arms or hands?
  • Did doctors or nurses tell me my child’s shoulder had been wedged inside me during delivery?
  • Did I need special care for excess bleeding following the birth of my child?
  • Have my child’s doctors been using corrective measures to limit the effects of a birth injury?
  • Has my child been diagnosed with: Erb’s palsy, anoxia, hypoxia, bone fractures, facial paralysis, fetal lacerations, or infant brain damage?

 

ultrasoundIf you believe your baby was injured due to medical negligence, the first step is to speak with a personal injury lawyer who will first determine if you have a valid case. The attorney will go through a pre-litigation process which includes the following:

  • Studying the medical documents you provide
  • Collecting additional evidence, including a witness and expert list
  • Proposing a settlement amount to the medical practitioner’s or the hospital’s insurance company
  • Negotiating a settlement
  • In rare cases a settlement cannot be reached and you may have to go to trial

Shoulder dystocia is a disaster that can occur while a baby is being delivered, a disaster that can affect that child for the rest of his or her life.  Monetary rewards cannot undo the physical damage, but the legal system offers the best chance for the family to get help with the enormous monetary costs of the ongoing care that the child will need.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GET MY CAR ACCIDENT SETTLEMENT MONEY?

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The big question for anyone who has been injured in a car wreck is – just how long will it take to settle my case?  The bills sure aren’t waiting, you quickly realize.

And the answer is….. there is no set answer. The amount of time it takes to settle a personal injury case really depends on the circumstances of each accident and the injuries sustained by the people involved in that accident.

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Insurance companies, of course, know this.  They also know that you, the injured party, require costly medical care and that you may not be able to work. They know a quick settlement (even if it’s for far less than you need and deserve), will sound awfully good to you at first. Yes, you need to pay bills, but what you most need to buy is time.

Time will allow your Indiana personal injury lawyer to build a strong case and increase the chances for a fair settlement. In great part, the answer to the how-long-will-it-take question depends on whether you want to take the low-ball quick settlement from the insurance company or buy the time and the professional expertise to get more of what you deserve.

The general principle is that when you’re involved in a serious car accident for which you’re determined not to be at fault, you’re entitled to compensation for any expenses incurred as a result of the event. Such costs might include:

  • Repairs to your vehicle
  • Repairs to other items of property that were involved in the accidenthelp
  • Medical bills
  • Compensation for lost earnings
  • Reimbursement for pain and suffering

Over the next weeks, or even months, your lawyer will be busy gathering information by:

  • Communicating with the other driver’s insurance company
  • Organizing your medical records and bills for treatments you are receiving
  • Getting estimates for any future treatments you are predicted to need
  • Negotiating with health providers, disability service providers, and worker’s compensation personnel to reduce liens against you
  • Negotiating with insurance adjusters
  • Interviewing witnesses to the accident
  • Possibly preparing for a lawsuit (regardless of whether that lawsuit ever actually happens or not)

Weeks and months may well pass while all this negotiating and information-gathering is going on, and while the situation becomes more clear:

  • Will you be needing ongoing medical care or therapy?
  • Will you be able to return to the full earning power you had before the accident?

You and your attorney will need time to analyze the offer. You will need to determine whether the offer is fair and if it will be enough to cover the costs you’ve incurred. Once you and your attorney are ready to accept an offer, you’ll need to sign a release form stating you will not ask for any further money from the other party.

Once the settlement has been finalized, the insurance company is obligated to pay it in full within a pre-determined period of time. If the insurer fails to pay before the payout window expires, the settlement balance begins to accrue interest at a high rate.  Still, the unpleasant truth is that insurance companies use all sorts of delaying tactics, including making new demands that you must meet in order to “take physical delivery” of the settlement.  In exchange for your demand for an “expeditious release,” you may need to sacrifice a portion of the money.  It is still a waiting game.

As the next-to-last step of the process, the settlement check is deposited into your lawyer’s trust account.

The check must first clear the bank. The money is finally here, but you must continue to wait. Before your lawyer can disburse your share of the settlement proceeds to you, he or she must deal with any liens against your lawsuit.

A lien is a legal right to someone else’s assets. The two kinds of liens that usually exist in personal injury lawsuits are medical liens and governmental liens. Medical liens come from health care providers and health insurers, while governmental liens are usually from Medicare, Medicaid, or a child support agency.

After the liens have been renegotiated and finally settled, the attorney keeps his or her agreed-upon portion of the money, issuing the remainder to you via check. But wait…that check may take another two weeks to clear.

There’s no need to be concerned with your lawyer keeping the money in the account longer than necessary.  In fact, no lawyer may deposit your settlement money with his or her own money. Indiana has an Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) program. (In fact all 50 states plus Washington D.C. participate in such programs). As the Indiana Bar Foundation explains, any interest earned on the money while it’s in the IOLTA account is used for charitable purposes, usually those related to pro bono work.

By now you’ve no doubt become very tired of waiting. Remember, though, that time can be on your side in terms of holding out for a fair settlement.  A settlement is final, so make sure all your injuries have resolved before accepting one.  

“YOUR OWN” INSURANCE? THEY HAVE “THEIR OWN” INTERESTS AT HEART!

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Should you talk to your own insurance company after a car accident? No, at least not yet.

 

One widespread misconception is that you have to call your insurance company immediately after an accident.  You do not. If you’ve been injured to any degree, it is far better to wait until your injuries have been assessed and treated – and, until you’ve discussed the matter with an Indiana personal injury attorney.

Why wait? For one thing, at the scene of an accident, you’re hardly in a state to do any accurate reporting.  Mental trauma and emotional disorientation are natural outcomes of an accident experience. You may think you’re capable of thinking clearly, but the truth is, you’re probably not—not yet.

Besides, as Dr. Alex Bingham, D.C. explains, vehicle accidents can cause physical damage that’s hard to notice amidst all the distractions immediately following the incident. Some issues might not present any signs until days or even weeks later.

 

recorded insurance callRemember this: There is no law in any state that requires an injured person to give a recorded statement to an insurance company, either your own insurer or that of the other driver.

 

You may find this fact a hard pill to swallow, but it’s a fact nonetheless: no insurance company – not your own and not the other driver’s – is focused on your best interests after you’ve had an accident.  (Remember, too, that if the other party has too little insurance or no insurance coverage at all, your own insurer is the one that will be paying for your injury claim.)

 

Insurance companies are businesses and their interests naturally lie in protecting their profits. To an insurance company, increasing profit and reducing losses means paying out as little as possible for a car crash personal injury claim.

A second important aspect of insurance payouts in Indiana is that we are a “fault state” (a state in which the Comparative Fault Act applies). That means that if you were injured in a vehicle accident, you have a choice of using your own insurance or first using the other party’s insurance.

In either case, as an injured party, you have become the adversary of the insurance company.  Think about it – to whatever extent your claim is against your own insurance company, you have gone from being their client to being on the other side of the table from them.

It’s very important to understand the concept of “comparative fault.”  When you have been in an accident, each side’s insurance company tries to show that their insured person was less responsible for the accident and that the other driver was more responsible. As the Law Journal Library explains:

                  The cornerstone principle of a comparative fault system is that each

                   person who contributes to cause an injury must bear the burden of

                   reparation for that injury in exact proportion to his share of the total

                   fault which contributed to cause the injury.

The more the other driver’s insurer can prove that you were responsible for the accident, the less they will be forced to pay.  An insurance company Car repairinvestigation usually entails trying to find where you are to blame. The likelihood that you may say something to an insurance adjuster that they can later use against you (showing you were at fault) is greatest just after the accident (remember that mental trauma and emotional disorientation we talked about?).

 

A not-so-secret secret is that the profit motive plays an extremely important role in any auto accident claim. Did you know that insurance company representatives are sometimes given bonuses for getting injured claimants to accept smaller amounts of money for their injuries? When you have been injured in an automobile accident in Indiana, you need to have a very healthy respect for the insurance companies’ profit motives and interests.

 

Personal injury law involves cases that involve injury to the body or the mind.  The underlying principle is that you have the legal right to recover compensation when you are injured as the result of someone else’s careless action. The amount of any settlement you receive to cover your losses will be influenced by the extent and the nature of the damage you’ve suffered.

 

Time can be on your side and yet work against you.

  • Once you give a recorded statement to an insurance company, that statement can be used to deny a personal injury claim you may later file.
  • An insurance settlement is final – you receive one, and only one, award. Once you’ve accepted a settlement, even if you later come to realize you need money for further medical treatment, you will have waived your right to any future compensation.

 

It probably costs to give a statement. A lot. It always pays to wait.

Cell Phone

Don’t talk to an insurance adjuster or insurance company representative. At least not yet.  Not until you’ve been seen by a doctor or received medical treatment. Not until you’ve documented all treatment expenses and gotten an estimate of what further treatments might be necessary.  Not until you’ve consulted an Indiana personal injury lawyer.

 

Wait before you talk to an insurance company. Any insurance company.  “Your own” insurance company still has “their own,” not your own, best interests at heart!

DOES HIRING AN ATTORNEY AFTER AN ACCIDENT MEAN GOING TO COURT?

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courtYou’ve been injured in an automobile accident that was not your fault. If you hire a personal injury lawyer, does that mean you’re going to be involved in a court trial?

 

Probably not. Chances are, at some point the other driver’s insurance company is going to propose a settlement offer before you ever get to the point of going to a trial.


Still, if settlement negotiations become deadlocked, there is a chance your case might result in a lawsuit. The next step might be preparing for a trial if:

  • The claims adjuster can’t get approval for a large enough payout to reasonably cover your damages, or
  • A settlement has been offered, but you and your attorney believe the offer is not fair and reasonable

Truth is, when it comes to a personal injury accident, going to a trial with a jury is not something either side really wants. In fact, the vast majority of car accident cases never go to trial. And, even when a car accident lawsuit is filed, most of the time the case is resolved before the trial actually takes place. One of the reasons is that trials can be expensive, especially when expert witness and court reporter fees are involved. By reaching a settlement, both sides tend to have more control over costs.

What actually happens in court should things get to that point? In Indiana, as in most states, a jury (rather than a judge) makes the decision in a car accident lawsuit.

  • After the jury is selected, the attorneys for each party make opening statements. As the plaintiff, your attorney would present your case first, by calling witnesses, including you if you are able to testify. The individuals called to testify lawyer in courtmight have witnessed the accident. Your doctors might be asked to testify about the treatments you’ve received, about future treatment that will be necessary, and about your chances for a full recovery from your injuries.

 

  • The defendant (usually the insurance company for the at-fault driver) might call witnesses who saw the accident, perhaps in order to contradict your side’s version of what happened. The defendant might also present other doctors or healthcare professionals who treated you and who have an opinion different from the doctor your attorney called as a witness.


In general, personal injury claims tend to be divided into two categories:

  1. “Soft Tissue” Injuries

The majority of personal injury claims in the United States are of the soft tissue type and typically result from:

  1. “Hard” Injuries

These are more serious, and often more complex cases, resulting from:

While the majority of motor vehicle accidents result in soft tissue injuries, hard injuries may also be the result of car accidents.

If I do not want to go through the expense and the tension of a court trial, do I need an attorney?


You have the legal right to recover compensation when you are injured as a result of someone else’s carelessness or negligence. You may receive compensation by accepting a settlement offered by an insurance adjuster, either before court paperworkor after filing a lawsuit. If the insurance company does not make a reasonable offer for settlement, you may decide to take your case to trial.

Whichever of these paths you ultimately choose, the expertise of an experienced personal injury lawyer has the potential to make a positive difference in the outcome. The main goal of tort law (the area of the legal system that deals in private and civil wrongs and injuries) is to make you, as the injured party, whole and to discourage others from committing the same offense.  The main goal of the personal injury attorney who accepts your case is to protect your interests.

Whether you have a “soft tissue” injury or a “hard” injury may not be immediately apparent at the time of the accident. Without expert help in evaluating a settlement offer, you might be giving up rights to future claims.  You might miss out on receiving payment, not only for damage to your car and your medical bills, but also for pain and suffering. In order for you to claim full compensation, there will be witnesses to interview and evidence to gather. After an accident, you’re hardly in a condition to navigate the complex insurance and legal systems.

 

An attorney can be of help by:

  • Communicating with the other driver’s insurance company
  • Obtaining evidence of liability
  • Organizing medical records and bills

And, whether or not your case actually ends up in court, legal expertise is needed in order to:

  • Gather and evaluate evidence (including witness statements, policy reports, and medical reports)
  • Research case law
  • Draft pleadings and motions
  • Interview witnesses
  • Prepare for trial

(Even if a trial never happens, the very fact that your attorney is preparing to take your case to court often serves as an incentive for the other side to improve their offer of a settlement.)

Does hiring an attorney to represent you mean you’re on your way to court?  Probably not. But a trial may be what it takes to get fair compensation for:

  • The cost of medical treatments – and transportation to and from those appointments
  • Pain and suffering from your injuries
  • Loss of work time
  • Loss of business
  • Cost of a rental car and of repairing your car
  • Cost for psychological counseling caused by stress or physical injury

 

It’s important to have counsel who isn’t afraid to keep fighting – all the way to court if need be!

 

 

HOW MUCH IS THE AVERAGE CAR ACCIDENT SETTLEMENT? IT DEPENDS!

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When you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, all your energies are focused on trying to put your life back together. Naturally, one of the biggest concerns on your mind is how to get the financial help you need. Just how much monetary help can you expect to receive in the form of a settlement, you wonder? This may not be what you want to hear, but the only right answer anyone can give you at this stage of the game is, “It depends!”

Many factors impact the amount of any settlement, including:settlement check

  • The type and duration of the injury you suffered
  • The extent of financial costs you incurred because of the accident
  • The type of mental and/or medical treatment you received and still need to receive
  • How much insurance coverage you have (and how much the driver who caused the accident has)
  • Comparative fault (was the accident in any measure due to you exceeding the speed limit, for example?)

 

Not only must each one of these factors be considered, the facts must be investigated, documented, and evaluated. After all of those steps have been completed, where will the money come from if you are awarded a settlement? Almost always, the money will be paid by an insurance company.

 

Let’s talk about auto insurance in Indiana…

Indiana is what is called a “fault” insurance state.  That means that if you were hurt in an auto accident in which another car owner was at fault and you’re seeking compensation for damages, you have the choice of:

 

  1. Filing a claim under your own insurance policy
  2. Pursuing a claim against the other driver’s insurance policy
  3. Filing a lawsuit against the other driver (you might combine #2 and #3)

 

In Indiana, owners of registered vehicles are required to demonstrate “financial responsibility” in case there is an accident. Indiana drivers are not required to carry liability car insurance, but if they don’t, they must demonstrate that they have the means to take responsibility in the event of an accident.

 

The minimum amounts of financial responsibility for a car accident in Indiana according to the Indiana Department of Insurance are as follows:pen on paper

“Each newly written Indiana auto liability policy must include uninsured and underinsured motorist’s coverage unless you reject this in writing. Minimum liability limits are:

  • Uninsured Motorists: Bodily Injury: $25,000/$50,000
  • Property Damage: $10,000
  • Underinsured Motorists: Bodily Injury: $50,000

The uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage allows you to collect these damages from your own insurance company.”

However (and this is important for you to understand), even though the nature of the damage and the injury you’ve suffered will influence the amount of your settlement, a major controlling factor is the insurance policy limits. 

By the way, if you escaped injury in the car wreck and your claim involved only damage to the car, your settlement amount will generally be the cost of repairs and/or the cost of replacing parts. If those replacement and repair costs exceed the value of the car, the insurance company may call it a “total loss” and pay you for the depreciated value of the car (which may or may not be enough for you to purchase a replacement car). If your automobile sustained damage and you were injured as well, the personal injury case will be negotiated separately from the property damage case.

A second very important thing to understand about insurance settlements is that they’re final. In other words, you receive one, and only one, award. Once you’ve accepted a settlement, even if you later come to realize you need money for further medical treatment, you will have waived your right to any future compensation.

paramedicWhen bodily harm results from an auto accident, health insurance companies may also get involved. Your employer’s health insurance plan might allow the health insurance company to place a lien and share in your settlement. If your bills for medical treatment are paid by Medicare or Medicaid, a lien may apply to your settlement as well.

While the type and duration of the injury you suffered and the extent of your financial loss are key in determining the amount of your settlement, you can’t forget that Indiana has a “comparative fault” rule. If it’s determined (based, for example, on the police report of the accident) that you shared 20% of the fault for the accident, your total damages would be reduced by 20%. And, if you are found to be 50% or more at fault, you will not be able to collect from any other at-fault party.

Yes, when you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, all your energies are focused on trying to put your life back together. You’re going to need financial help, that’s for sure. Just how much monetary help can you expect to receive in the form of a settlement?

Besides recognizing the financial losses you’ve suffered as a result of the accident, including the present and future medical bills and lost earnings, the law recognizes two types of pain and suffering: physical and mental.

  • Physical pain and suffering refers to the discomfort you felt and perhaps continue to feel as the result of your injuries, and also the negative effects your injury is likely to cause you in the future.
  • Mental pain and suffering includes emotional injuries, including fear, shock, social or sexual dysfunction, or anxiety resulting from the accident.

When you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, it’s natural to want to get a handle on just how much monetary help you can expect to receive in the form of a settlement. Call, chat, or e-mail today to speak with an attorney for a FREE evaluation of your claim.  Because there are so many variations and so many different factors involved, the only right answer anyone can give you at this stage of the game is, “It depends!”

WHY HIRE A LAWYER AFTER A CAR WRECK?

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What, exactly, is a personal injury lawyer? And do you really need to hire a lawyer at all if you’ve suffered an injury in an auto accident?

hand shake

Here’s the way Wikipedia defines the profession of personal injury law:

A personal injury lawyer is a lawyer who provides legal representation to those who claim to have been injured, physically or psychologically, as a result of the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, company, government agency, or other entity.

 

Personal injury, of course, doesn’t happen only because of car wrecks. Other types of personal injury can include:

 

Basically any case or claim that involves an injury to the body or mind falls under the umbrella of personal injury law, with the underlying principle being that you generally have the legal right to recover compensation when you are injured as a result of someone else’s careless action.gavel

And how does that recovery of compensation generally happen? The compensation may result from:

  • Settling a claim outside of court
  • Through a formal court-based lawsuit

 

Whichever of these two paths you take after your auto accident, one of the most important decisions you will need to make is whether to hire a lawyer.

No one likes paying legal fees, but there are a number of compelling reasons to consult a personal injury lawyer following an automobile accident:

Reason #1:

Even though the nature of the damage and the injury you’ve suffered will influence the amount of your settlement, no insurance company will ever pay out more than the policy limits (of course their business interest lies in paying out less!). Not only are lawyers experienced in negotiating with insurers, the insurers and defendants may take your claim more seriously if you’re represented by an attorney.

Reason #2:

Injuries that may seem minor at first may turn into major ones. If the damage you’ve suffered turns out to be worse than first thought, and you’ve already accepted a settlement offer, you will have given up all rights to make future claims.  Your legal advisor can help you determine when the time is right to accept an offer.

Reason #3:

If you’ve suffered personal injury as a result of another driver’s negligence, the amount of financial help you stand to receive will depend not only on the actual damage to your car and the cost of your own medical bills, but might also include compensation for “pain and suffering.” With an attorney representing you, it’s more likely you could receive all the damages to which you’re entitled. This is no small consideration, because like the effects of physical injuries, the effects of emotional injuries can be prolonged and even lifelong.

 

Here’s the way Legalcareers.com describes the work personal injury lawyers do:

“Personal injury lawyers specialize in an area of law known as tort law which includes private or civil wrongs or injuries, including defamation and actions for bad faith breach of contract. The main goal of tort law is to make the injured party whole and to discourage others from committing the same offense.

 

“Personal injury lawyers help plaintiffs receive compensation for their losses, including loss of earnings capacity (due to an inability to work), pain and suffering, reasonable medical expenses (both present and expected), emotional distress, loss of consortium or companionship, legal costs and attorney fees. Personal injury attorneys also work to safeguard clients from being victimized by insurance companies and the legal system.

http://legalcareers.about.com/od/corelegalcareers/p/What-Is-A-Personal-Injury-Lawyer.htm

 

“Personal injury lawyers handle a case from inception through appeal,” Legalcareers continues. Typical tasks include:

  • Investigating claimsfiles
  • Screening potential clients and evaluating the merits of their case
  • Gathering evidence
  • Formulating legal theories
  • Researching case law
  • Drafting pleadings and motions
  • Interviewing and deposing witnesses
  • Preparing for trial
  • Advocating at trial
  • Counseling clients

In the specific area of automobile accidents, a personal injury attorney can be of help to you by:

  • Communicating with the other driver’s insurer
  • Obtaining necessary evidence of liability
  • Organizing medical records and bills
  • Communicating with healthcare providers
  • Organizing and presenting evidence to prove liability
  • Negotiating with health, disability, or workers’ compensation insurers to reduce liens
  • Negotiating with insurance adjusters

 

You may need a lawyer because of complex legal rules involved in your particular claim, or because the severity of your injuries might cause your compensation to vary greatly from the norm — or simply because an insurance company refuses to settle a matter in good faith.

You will likely find that not only the skills of an experienced personal injury lawyer, but also the threat to an insurance company that having a lawyer on your side presents, are worth the money you must pay that lawyer to represent you.

Of all the ways in which personal injury may be caused, automobile accidents are actually the area in which most personal injury actions arise. New findings from the Insurance Research Council’s (IRC) Auto Injury Insurance Claims Study shows that auto injury claim costs per insured vehicle have continued to increase across the United States and “claim severity (the average cost per paid claim) increased in most states.” Meanwhile, propertycasualty360.com adds, “Medical expenses reported by auto injury claimants continue to increase faster than the rate of inflation.”

http://www.insurance-research.org/sites/default/files/downloads/Trends2015NRFINAL.pdf

http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2014/03/10/auto-bi-claims-costs-outpace-inflation-even-as-inj

Do you really need to hire a lawyer if you’ve suffered injury in an auto accident? Perhaps not, IF:

 

  • IF you’re satisfied with the other driver’s insurance company repairing your car and paying a portion of your medical bills
  • IF you don’t mind gathering all the information needed to determine the value of your claim
  • IF you don’t mind gong to the time and trouble of interviewing witnesses
  • IF you’re confident the insurance company is not trying to take advantage of you

With or without legal counsel, you have the right to recover compensation when you are injured as a result of someone else’s careless action. Could a personal injury attorney make the path easier? You be the judge….

SHOULD I GO TO THE DOCTOR AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT?

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After a car accident, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed, and your first instinct may be to minimize the situation. Even if you believe you and your passengers are okay, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible for two major reasonsstethoscope

  1. The longer you wait to seek medical care after the accident, the harder it will be to prove that any injuries you have were actually caused by the accident.
  1. Symptoms of a serious injury may not become apparent immediately, and you‘re putting your own health at higher risk the longer you go without seeing a doctor.

If children were passengers in your car, it’s especially important to have them examined immediately, as young ones cannot always communicate their feelings or evaluate any physical damage. And if you or one of your passengers was pregnant, medical attention is vital since accidents can cause miscarriage or bring on pre-term labor.

 

Once you are seen by a doctor or given medical treatment of any kind, be sure to begin documenting all treatment expenses. Detecting the true extent of injuries from the accident may require x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or other advanced diagnostic technology.

 

Who pays for my treatment?

Under Indiana law, if another driver caused the accident, that driver is financially responsible for your medical and repair bills. The problem is, investigating an accident and determining who was at fault takes time – a lot of time.  Meanwhile, you need medical care now.

The first line of defense when it comes to covering your medical bills is the Med Pay, or Medical Payments Coverage, on your own auto insurance policy. The Med Pay covers your medical bills, and the medical bills of your passengers (up to the policy limits) no matter who caused the accident. Depending on the terms of your policy, the following things may be covered:

  • Health insurance co-payments and deductibles
  • Treatments excluded by health insurance
  • If you don’t have health insurance, Med Pay can pay for your medical bills

money

Med Pay is specifically meant to cover medical bills due to car accidents, while most health insurance policies cover medical expenses related to illness, not accidents. Even if a health insurance company pays your accident-related medical bills initially, they can demand the money back from the medical provider.

It’s important for you to know exactly what health insurance resources you have at hand, because if there is a long delay until you can collect from the at-fault driver’s insurance, or even from your own Med Pay, your health insurance might be a resource to turn to for now. That resource might be in the form of employer-sponsored group health insurance, an individual policy you purchased, Medicare, or Medicaid.

Worried that your auto insurance premium will go up because of a claim on Med Pay? If your insurer pays when the accident  wasn’t your fault, your premiums should not be affected. (As you might imagine, your insurance company will undoubtedly seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurer.)

 

Ultimately, though, if you’re the victim in this accident, it’s the other driver’s insurance that should be covering all these costs for you. How can you go about making that happen?

 

Indiana auto accident cases are handled a bit differently from other states, in that Indiana is a “fault state” and the Comparative Fault Act applies. States that have “no-fault” automobile laws force an injured driver to use his or her own auto insurance policy before the at-fault driver’s insurance company can be asked to pay for any property damage or medical bills. “Comparative fault” is a legal term that compares the fault of each person involved in the accident, and any monetary damages are assigned accordingly.  In Indiana, you have a choice of using your own insurance or first using the at-fault driver’s insurance.

 

An example of comparative fault:broken-car

In a personal injury lawsuit involving a motor vehicle accident, the jury awards $100,000 in damages.  It is determined that the plaintiff was 20% at fault, and so the plaintiff would recover $80,000.

 

There’s a very important feature of the Indiana Comparative Fault Act that must be understood: if it is determined that you, the plaintiff, were more than 50% at fault for the collision, you are not entitled to recover anything!

 

Aside from any lawsuit you may file, and regardless of how the medical providers end up getting paid, it’s crucial for you to see a doctor for the sake of your own well-being. Failing to see a physician as soon as possible amounts to needlessly putting your health at risk. One osteopathic physician, Dr. Maud, remarks: “What you do and don’t do in the first 72 hours after a car accident can radically affect the course of your recovery.” Following an accident, she explains, your body is very vulnerable.

Simple things that can help you heal, says Dr. Maud, include:

  • Rest
  • Good nutrition
  • Drinking plenty of water

Simple things that can make things much worse, she cautions, include:

  • Lifting
  • Twisting
  • Sitting for long periods of time

Should you go to the doctor after a car accident? It never hurts to seek medical attention. Injuries need documentation, and injured bodies need professional help.

TAKING TWO “HAND-OFFS” FROM THE BRONCOS BUS ACCIDENT

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Super Bowl 50 is now in the rear view mirror, and, hopefully, so will be the effects of the car accident involving the Broncos a week prior to the big game.  But, who knows? “The Broncos’ Monday bus crash might have resulted in more fallout than first thought,” Bart Hubbuch and Paul Schwartz observe in the February 3 New York Post, referring to the fact that several Broncos players were reporting lingering soreness and headaches resulting from the collision of three buses used to carry the team back from practice.

The accident happened when a motorist refused to yield to the Broncos’ police escort’s directions.  The first bus slammed on the brakes to footballavoid hitting the motorist, causing the second and third buses to collide. While the team released a statement to the effect that no players were injured, Denver’s KUSA-TV reported that several had sought treatment for soreness and headaches.

ABC7News reported that one motorcycle officer suffered minor injuries and was taken to the hospital to be checked out, while the players were taken away on different buses and returned to their hotel.

Whatever the long term outcome for their team members, this Broncos story carries two important lessons for every driver and every passenger who is involved in a motor vehicle crash:

LESSON ONE: Injuries may appear much later than expected after the accident.

In addition to the mental trauma and emotional disorientation that follows any auto accident experience, Dr. Alex Bigham, D.C. points out, “sometimes vehicle accidents cause physical damage that’s hard to notice amidst immediate distractions.” Even serious physical issues might not present any signs for several days, he cautions.

The doctor lists seven common delayed injury symptoms that can result from a car crash:

  1. Headaches
    Headaches can develop days after a vehicle accident. Sometimes those can be signals of a potentially serious problem, such as a blood clot on the brain, injury to the neck or head, or concussion.
  2. Neck and shoulder pain or stiffness
    Whiplash, one of the most common injuries associated with accidents, often occurs as the result of rear-end collisions. Whiplash injuries can be serious and may require x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs to be properly diagnosed.
  1. Back pain
    Back pain that appears after an accident could be caused by injury to the muscles, ligaments or nerves in the back or even damage to the vertebrae. This symptom is found in more than half of all rear-end collisions and almost three-quarters of side-impact crashes, according to the Back & Neck Pain Center.
  1. Internal bleeding
    Abdominal pain and swelling, areas of deep purple bruising, dizziness, and fainting are signs which could indicate internal bleeding. Internal bleeding, which can remain undiscovered for hours or days, can be life-threatening and needs to be treated by trained emergency medical personnel.
  2. Numbness
    Loss of feeling in the arms and hands (also called whiplash associated disorder) results from damage to the neck or spinal column.
  1. Changes in personality or physical function
    Traumatic brain injury resulting from a concussion might be signaled by impaired thinking or memory, vision and hearing problems, or personality changes and depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the third leading cause of traumatic brain injury.
  1. PTSD
    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is common after a vehicle accident. Victims, particularly children, may have vivid and disturbing memories of the event and suffer from nightmares and flashbacks.

 

LESSON TWO: Do not consent to giving anyone a recorded statement after an accident.

 

There is no law in any state that requires an injured person to give a recorded statement, without a court order, to the insurance company of the driver who is potentially at fault. Recorded statements can be used to deny a personal injury claim you may later file, and, in any event, the full nature of your injuries may not be apparent at the time you’re being asked for the statement.

When you have been in an accident and receive a call from an insurance adjuster or claim representative requesting a statement, understand that the caller’s purpose is to get you to make concessions that may result in the denial of your claim, or minimize the amount they will have to pay to settle your claim.

In fact, of 17 “secrets” we share with our Hensley Legal Group clients for getting a fair settlement for their injuries, #1 is “Do not talk to anyone except your doctor and your attorney!”

 

There are two important takeaways from the accident involving the Bronco bus collision – one “do” and one “do not”:

 

DoHospital Room

Visit a doctor or emergency room immediately after leaving the scene of the accident. Over the following few days, report to the doctor everything you’re feeling – don’t minimize or disregard any symptoms you’re experiencing. Take detailed notes on your injuries and on any treatment you receive.

 

Hint: At this point, it has yet to be determined which insurance will help cover medical costs (auto insurance, health insurance, etc.), but be sure you know who your own health insurance providers are, including policy numbers and contact information.

 

Do not:

Knowing what not to do after an accident is just as important as knowing what to do. Remember not to do any of these things:

 

  • Don’t accept blame or fault.
  • Don’t give a recorded statement to anybody, especially not to an insurance adjuster, yours or theirs.
  • Don’t settle with an insurance company before completing your medical treatment.
  • Don’t post anything about the accident on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

 

When it comes to personal injury resulting from a motor vehicle collision, it’s well worth keeping those two “hand-offs” from the Bronco players’ experience in mind!

 

Every case is different; the “hand-offs” in this article are for general use only.  You should speak with an experienced attorney to answer your specific questions.  Call, chat or e-mail today for a free consultation.