My name is Jim Desmond, and I have been practicing law in Kentucky since 1993 and Indiana since 1994. I started my own law firm in 2005 and I focus my personal injury practice exclusively on car wrecks and motorcycle accidents. I am an experienced personal injury attorney that has done everything from defend insurance companies and recover money for health plans to handling only car wreck cases.
I have espoused one simple concept which is: you can reach me on my cell phone so you can get immediate legal advice from an experienced professional. I don’t believe in second hand information so I don’t use paralegals, case managers and secretaries. If you have a legal problem, you need to hear what your lawyer advises you to do personally!
I deal with car wrecks every day of my legal career. Unfortunately, I think the law regarding personal injury claims is pretty much stacked against the injured victims. So even if you choose another injury attorney to talk to, remember to speak with a lawyer that concentrates his or her practice on the area of car wrecks. It can be a lucrative area so a lot of attorneys will dabble in it and handle the occasional case. However, you want a legal professional that is handling these kinds of claims on a daily basis.
THE FIRST STEP AFTER A CAR WRECK: GO TO A HOSPITAL OR YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR!
The first and most important thing is to get checked out by a hospital or a family doctor. No one is saying you have to make a personal injury claim. However, the most important thing when dealing with an injury claim stemming from a car wreck is to know the extent of your injuries. A personal injury claim from a car accident lives and dies on the information contained in your medical records. If you don’t go to a doctor for 30 days after a car wreck, it looks like you were not hurting for the past 30 days. Further,, the forces involved in a car accident are quite strong, and your body can be lurched forward and backward, or from side to side. This is especially true if a tractor trailer or commercial truck was involved, or if you were on a motorcycle. You may think its only bumps and bruises, but a few weeks from now you’ll be hurting in back, neck and torso in ways you can’t imagine today.
Second, chances are sooner or later the insurance company for the at-fault driver will approach you about settling your personal injury claim. When you settle a personal injury claim, you sign a personal injury release. The essence of an injury release is that no matter how severe your injuries are or when they are discovered, your personal injury claim is over and done with. You effectively have made a legal contract, by signing the release of your personal injury claim with the insurance company. You entered into a contract wherein you let the insurance company off the hook and whatever may develop tomorrow in regard to your injuries, you alone will be responsible for. The at-fault driver, through the personal injury release you signed, has been relieved of all future liability for all the injuries you sustained in the car wreck. This is why we never rush a personal injury claim.
A personal injury release fully resolves your pain and suffering! Your personal claim consists of multiple items including your past and future medical expenses, your lost wages and any permanent impairment you may have suffered as a result of the car wreck. Consequently, unless it is a case wherein the insurance coverage is inadequate to satisfy all of these damages, a good personal injury lawyer makes sure that evidence of all these damages is presented to the insurance carrier so they can maximize the value of your personal injury claim. When you sign a release a few days after a car wreck, you walk away from all these damages and the possibility that they may increase over time.
Keep in mind that an insurance company only makes one payment to settle a personal injury claim. You can’t go back afterward and say “I didn’t know what I was doing or that cost expense was come up.” Releases are “FULL and FINAL” legal contracts eliminating the risk, for the insurance carrier, that the value of your personal injury claim will increase. Therefore, make sure you are completely healed from the car wreck before you sign any such document and that you understand everything you can about your injuries, including the length of treatment. I did a previous blog that talked about some of the risks of signing a personal injury release, http://www.attorneydesmond.com/settle-personal-injury-claim-immediately-car-wreck/.
SO DON’T SIGN A PERSONAL INJURY RELEASE TOO SOON BUT WHAT ABOUT THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS?
The first question, before considering the Statute of Limitations, is which state law controls the personal injury claim from a car wreck?
Kentucky or Indiana Car Wrecks: Which law applies?
If you have been injured in a car wreck, motorcycle crash or a truck accident, you have legal rights. Those legal rights depend upon where the car wreck happened and in which state your car was insured and/or registered. This area of the law is called Choice of Law or Conflict of Laws. In law school, we have a whole course devoted to this subject alone so I will try to keep it brief.
In its simplest form, the state law where the car wreck occurs controls the personal injury law that applies to the car wreck. In contrast, for legal issues related to insurance benefits and insurance coverage, the site of where the insurance contract was originated controls the law governing the interpretation of the insurance contract. So if your car is licensed in Kentucky but you are rear-ended by a drunk driver while visiting Indiana, Indiana law would control the personal injury law that applies to the car wreck. However, the insurance benefits you are entitled to because of this car wreck, would be controlled by Kentucky law since that is where the insurance contract originated.
So to use the Statute of Limitations for example, the Indiana Statute of Limitations for a personal injury claim stemming from a car wreck is two years from the date of the wreck. Indiana law will not allow you to extend the Statute of Limitations so it is absolute and must be complied with. This means that the injury claim must be filed with the proper Court before the two years anniversary of the car accident or the claim is barred like it never existed.
The Indiana Statute of Limitations would apply even though you were a Kentucky resident because that is where the car occurred. However, since your car was registered in Kentucky, Kentucky is a no-fault state that means you immediately have $10,000 of medical expense coverage for any car wreck you are in. Your insurance company would still be obligated to provide you with no-fault benefits even though Indiana is a med-pay state.
In Kentucky, the Statute of Limitations for a personal injury claim stemming from a car wreck is two years from the date of the accident as well. However, Kentucky law has a provision wherein the Statute of Limitations can be extended up to two years from the date of the last PIP or no-fault payment.
This is a great example of how a single car wreck can raise multiple, complicated legal issues; all of which affect your personal injury claim differently. Like I said in the beginning, law school teaches a whole course on Choice of Laws and because most of this law is determined by case law issued by Courts of Law, it is ever changing. So this is one area of the law that I suggest you never try to handle on your own. Let an experienced personal injury lawyer review the facts of your motorcycle or car wreck so they can determine the law of which State applies.
The Statute of Limitations for a car wreck in Indiana or Kentucky.
Lastly, every personal injury case has what is known as a Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations means that your personal injury claim must be filed with the proper Court of Law before it expires or the injury claim is barred. It is absolute and it does not matter how severe your injuries are. In Kentucky and Indiana, for a motor vehicle accident, it is two years from the date of the car wreck. The Kentucky statute is KRS 304.39-230. And yes, in Kentucky, the Statute of Limitations for a car wreck can be extended under the right circumstances. However, I don’t discuss this with my clients as this needs to be our last resort, instead of a primary, plan. Why? Because if we blow the Statute of Limitations, the personal injury claim is barred like it never existed no matter how serious of a claim it might be. If a lawyer blows a Statute of Limitations, it is legal malpractice and typically one year from the date of the legal malpractice that claim must be filed with the proper court. In Indiana, the Statute of Limitations is two years from the date of the car wreck and it can not be extended. The Indiana Statute of Limitations is found at Ind. Code Ann. Sec. 34-11-2-4 and this link contains the Statute of Limitations for most other states, http://injury.findlaw.com/accident-injury-law/time-limits-to-bring-a-case-the-statute-of-limitations.html.
My point being you have time to evaluate the injuries you suffered in this car wreck. Do not let an insurance company rush you to hasty decision that you may regret later on.
So if I should not settle my personal injury claim quickly, how do I maximize my personal injury settlement?
The worst you are injured, the higher value your personal injury claim has. However, this is only true if you can prove the other driver was clearly at fault in causing the car wreck AND there is enough automobile insurance to satisfy the value of your claim. http://www.attorneydesmond.com/resource-library/uninsured-motorist-underinsured-motorist-insurance-umuim/
A claim for pain and suffering is all about documentation, primarily through medical records. Personal injury claims are made and broken by the content of the medical records supporting them. Your medical records are going to be scrutinized by insurance adjusters, defense lawyers, jurors and doctors hired by the insurance company.
Nevertheless, there are several steps you can take to maximize any personal injury claim and especially those dealing with automobile accidents. First, take photographs of the accident scene, the damage to your vehicle and your cuts and bruises. A picture is worth a thousand words. Second, seek medical treatment within the first three or four days, or sooner, after the accident. I am not suggesting you got a doctor if you are not in fact hurt. I am, however, telling you not to minimize your injuries or think that the pain will go without medical treatment. Get it checked out by a licensed, medical professional. Choose a family doctor or chiropractor that you trust. Make sure that doctor is familiar to you and is interested in your health rather than the car wreck. If a doctor or facility promises you incentives to come to their office, do not use them! Insurance companies know which doctors and chiropractors partake in these kind of practices; as a result, they tend to give less credibility to your complaints of pain and the diagnosis of the doctor. Medical treatment documents your injury complaints.
Everything involving a personal injury claim from a car wreck is your choice. A personal injury attorney can advise you but, ultimately it is your decision if you want to make a claim against your friend, seek medical treatment or use your own car insurance. However, the decisions you make in regard to these issues, increase or decrease the likelihood we can successfully prosecute your personal injury claim.
Very simply, when people really hurt, they seek medical advice from a hospital, their family doctor or a chiropractor. Therefore, if there are not medical records documenting your injuries, it looks like you were not hurting. Please do not misunderstand me. I am NOT one of those lawyers who will tell you that you have to treat with certain doctors or that you should seek treatment if you don’t need it. However, I do want you to get checked out, by a licensed medical professional, and this medical visit alone, will buy us some time to evaluate the length and nature of your injuries. In other words, when my clients are hurting, I want them to be seen by a medical professional at least every two to three weeks. Why? Because if they go longer than that, it looks like that were not hurting and this is why they did not seek medical treatment.
This is also why it is so important to contact the Desmond Law Office to understand your rights and protect your interests. Every injury claim is different. This is why I offer a free phone call to my cell phone,(502) 609-7657 or toll-free at (855-REACHMYCELL), so you can make smart, informed legal decisions immediately following a car wreck.
Recently, I enlisted the help of a nurse to write some blogs on the injuries you may sustain in a car accident. I would encourage to click on this link,http://www.attorneydesmond.com/head-injury-from-a-car-wreck/ or visit the blog section of my website. Also, most of my blogs can be found on my Facebook page as well, https://www.facebook.com/DesmondLawOfiice/posts/1695019447199096?notif_t=like¬if_id=1505008759787689.
The power of an impact transfers into your body. In most accidents, the injuries that result can be everything from damage to tendons and ligaments in your back and neck to injured, damaged or herniated discs. Your head moved a lot more during the accident than you may remember, and many people suffer a concussion or more severe head trauma. Injuries to the head and brain may take months to be evident to you and those around you. Changes in your personality show up over time, and tasks that used to be easy for you may later become unmanageable. In some cases a simple trip to the grocery store or multi-tasking at work results in confusion or anger.
Broken bones, fractures and more serious wounds will require extensive medical care, and ultimately physical and occupational therapy. Significant head trauma can result in Traumatic Brain Injury often called TBI or closed-head injuries. Who will pay the medical bills? Who will reimburse you for all the work you’ll have to miss? The insurance company of the person(s) responsible for your car accident will try to offer you a quick settlement. In many cases they may try to hand you a check. It is in your best interest not to accept it or sign anything. Call me on my cell phone for a free consultation at 502-609-7657.
Heavy impacts in a car crash can cause severe injuries resulting in permanent injuries. This can include a loss in the range of motion of the hands, arms or legs, and in some cases amputation of digits or part of an arm or leg. Damage to the spinal cord can result in paralysis. The result of the car accident will require changes in daily life, as well as to the house and vehicles. Some injury victims may require ramps into their homes, modifications to doors and equipment to help them through the day. You may require changes to your car to help you drive, or a complex system to help load and unload a wheelchair.
It may not be possible for a person to go back to the work they were doing before. These cases will require a “Life Care Plan.” The Life Care Plan takes into account all of the medical needs of the patient for the foreseeable future as well as any other costs, expense or economic impact relating to the injuries received in the accident. The plan takes many factors into account such as detailed documentation of the medical care, equipment, therapy and services need for the rest of the patient’s life. The plan will include an analysis of the impact of the car accident on the patient’s ability to work and earn an income, and account for wages they would have received into the future if the accident had not occurred. After all of the factors are analyzed and costs are established we must take other issues such as future interest rates and the cost of living increases in the future and factor that into one number. This is the amount the insurance company will need to pay today to cover these things for the rest of the patient’s life.
You have friends telling you to contact their attorney, insurance companies telling you don’t need a lawyer and twenty injury attorneys on television promising you checks.