FAQs - The Law Offices of David E. Gordon
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to repay my health insurance company when I settle my injury claim?

Yes. Even though you paid a premium for your health insurance company to pay your bills from the accident, all health insurers require their policy holders to reimburse them from the injury settlement with the responsible party. As a practical matter, some companies do not request the repayment, but all are entitled to it if they so choose.

How much time do I have to file a lawsuit if I’m injured in an automobile accident?

Adults injured in automobile accidents have one year from the date of the accident to resolve their case by settlement. If a settlement is not reached, they must file suit on or before the anniversary of the accident to preserve their rights! Minors have until their 19th birthday to settle a claim. It is important to note here that the claim of the minor’s parents for medical expenses must be resolved on or before the anniversary of the accident; otherwise, suit must be filed to protect their claim.

Who is going to pay my medical bills if I’m injured in an auto accident?

There are three possibilities here. First, your health insurance company should pay the bills, even though they are the result of an automobile accident. In addition, your driver’s automobile insurance policy (or your policy if you were the driver) may have coverage for medical bills, usually up to $5,000. This is called medical payments coverage and is part of most full coverage policies. These payments can be made as soon as the medical expenses are incurred. Finally, the other driver’s auto policy is responsible for your bills if the accident was his fault. You will not see the money from the responsible party’s insurance company until the final settlement is made, but compensation for the full price of the medical bills is part of the settlement.

Must the negligent driver’s insurance company pay for my medical treatment?

Yes, but not until the conclusion of your claim. There may be limited payments made for medical expenses if you were a passenger in the responsible driver’s car. But otherwise, the payments for medical bills will be part of the total settlement to be made when you have reached what is called maximum medical improvement.

Does the negligent driver’s insurance company have to provide me a rental car?

Yes, but only for as long as it takes to repair your vehicle or settle the total loss. Once they make payment to you for the total loss of your vehicle, you must return the rental or make arrangements to pay for it yourself.

Is the owner of a dog responsible for the dog’s bite?

The answer depends upon where the injury occurred and the nature of the particular dog that attacked you. There is a state law and a Memphis city ordinance against permitting a dog to run at large. Therefore, if a dog running at large attacks you, the owner has violated this law and should be responsible for your injuries. In fact, most homeowner’s insurance applies to injuries caused by the owner’s dog.If the attack occurs while you are on the property of the owner, then whether you recover will depend upon whether the owner knew you were coming onto the property and should have restrained the dog. Naturally, if the dog had vicious propensities, the owner will probably be responsible for the injury, regardless of where it occurred.

Is a homeowner responsible if I get hurt on their property?

Like the store owner and the landlord, the homeowner is only liable for injuries resulting from a dangerous condition that he knows about or should know about. An unmarked hole in the yard or a broken step are things that could result liability. Homeowner’s insurance usually provides for payment of medical bills incurred as a result of injury on the premises, but nothing more unless there is negligence as described.

Is the landlord responsible if I’m injured at the apartment?

Like the store owner, the landlord is only responsible for a dangerous condition that he knows or should know about. What makes this case especially difficult is the fact that a tenant who has lived in an apartment for any length of time should also know about a dangerous condition and is thereby equally responsible for the injury.

Is a store owner responsible if I get hurt in their store?

Yes, if your injury is the result of a dangerous condition about which the store owner knew or should have known. For example, if you fall in the restroom that has just been mopped by the cleaning staff, there is liability if there were no warning signs. On the other hand, if you slip in the aisle of a department store, it will be difficult to prove that the store knew or should have known about the small puddle of water or other beverage on the floor.

Can The Lawyer Loan Money To Me While The Case Is Pending?

No. Similar to the medical bill prohibition, a lawyer is not allowed to loan money to his client. It is thought that this creates an adversarial relationship between attorney and client that is not in the best interest of the client.

How Do I Know If A Settlement Amount Is Fair?

We will make recommendations to you and try to clearly explain the reasons for the recommendations. Because we have extensive experience in settling cases and are familiar with what juries and judges generally award in similar cases, our recommendations can be trusted.

How Long Will It Take To Settle My Case?

Each case is different. Generally, however, settlement negotiations will begin after you reach what doctors call “maximum medical improvement.” It is at this time that doctors ordinarily release their patients. We will gather your medical records and bills to present them to the insurance company with a settlement demand. The length of the negotiation process varies among insurance companies and according to the severity of your injuries. Cases involving relatively minor injuries are usually resolved within 30 days of making a settlement demand. Larger cases can take months to settle.If it is necessary to file a lawsuit to protect your rights, it takes much longer to reach agreement. Delay is caused by a variety of factors:

  • The litigation process itself requires a lengthy discovery period during which the sides exchange information
  • Crowded court dockets
  • Difficulty in obtaining medical documentation
  • Difficulty in obtaining testimony from witnesses

These and other factors play a part in how quickly a case can be resolved. Taking a case to trial, in general, takes a long time. Settlement, mediation or arbitration may significantly speed up the resolution of a case.

Do I need a lawyer if I’m injured in an accident?

Yes, if you have a significant injury. Insurance companies do not want you to hire a lawyer. That’s because they know they will have to pay a larger settlement if you are represented by a lawyer. The Insurance Research Council found that the settlement figure was 3 and 1/2 times higher for individuals with lawyers. Statistics prove you benefit.Immediately after being seriously injured in an accident, you are “thrown” into an adversarial legal system. In other words, the insurance company representing the party at fault for the accident has in place a team of adjustors, investigators and attorneys who are working against you seeking to pay as little as possible to settle your claim.Many accident victims, already in distressed physical and financial circumstances, understandably choose to delay the “hassles” involved in selecting and hiring a personal injury attorney. Others having had a “bad experience” with an attorney (i.e. divorce) or simply do not like or trust attorneys on “general principles,” attempt to represent their own legal interests.The bottom line is that considering the legalities and complexities of the established system for compensating accident victims, the retaining of a qualified Personal Injury attorney is a “necessary evil” to “level the playing field” and to ensure that you receive maximum compensation for your injuries.It is possible that your injuries are not serious enough to justify the services of a lawyer. Claims for minor injuries that include little more than an emergency room visit or a couple of visits to a physician are not likely to result in much more than compensation for the medical bills. If you pay the attorney one-third of the settlement, you may actually receive less than if you had handled the claim yourself. But consult an attorney about this. Remember, the consultation is free! So you have nothing to lose by inquiring.

What can I do to increase the value of my claim?

WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED

Shortly after the accident, everything is fresh in your mind. But with each passing day, your memory of the events fades. For example, it is common for a driver to be apologetic at the scene of an accident, to explain that he was “in a hurry” or that he “was late.” These are important admissions if the other driver’s insurance company decides to deny coverage and blame you for the accident. So write down everything that happened at the scene, including exactly what was said by all drivers.

If you were hurt on the job, write down how the accident occurred, as well as the names of the witnesses and the name of every supervisor you informed. If you were injured as a result of faulty equipment, record all of the details about the product, including the manufacturer and serial number, if possible. If a safety engineer or supervisor made a comment about the failed product, write it down! You cannot record too much information.

KEEP A DIARY OF YOUR PAIN AND DISCOMFORT

In addition to your medical bills and lost earnings, the driver at fault is responsible for your physical pain and suffering, and for your loss of enjoyment of life. Because it could be several months, or possibly years, before you are asked to describe the impact of the injury on your life, a written record is essential.

Keep a daily record of headaches, insomnia, medications taken, pain suffered, etc. And don’t forget to keep up with activity you previously enjoyed, but in which you cannot now participate (i.e. exercise, golf, dancing, automobile trips, etc.).

Mental suffering is also something you should be compensated for, so record your discouragement, sadness, and frustration that is related to your rehabilitation process.

TELL YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT HURTS

The doctor’s office is no place to be a hero. Your doctor (or nurse assistant) is trained to record everything you complain of and everything else you say related to your condition. For example, he records your comment that you “feel pretty good today” or that you are “much better.” Likewise, he makes a note when you tell him that you “can’t sleep” or that “it hurts whenever you roll over in bed.” When the doctor’s records are provided to the insurance company of the other driver, these notes are important. If the doctor is asked to testify on your behalf, these notes are critical because the doctor will rely heavily upon them. If you contend that your shoulder was keeping you awake at night for two months after the accident, but you never told your doctor about it, the claim is questioned. On the other hand, the doctor can powerfully corroborate every complaint you are making if you properly inform him during the course of your treatment.

FOLLOW THE DOCTOR’S ORDERS

Your doctor’s records will reflect exactly what limitations and instructions he gave you. And the other driver’s insurance company will almost always see these records eventually. If they can find evidence that you did not obey your physician, then they limit the liability of their driver. For example, if the doctor told you to stay off work for a week and you returned in three days, then you can be held responsible for your slow recovery. Similarly, if he prescribed an exercise regimen that you ignored, then you will be blamed for the lingering problems.

BUILD A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR DOCTOR

After you, your doctor will be the single most important witness on your behalf. If he likes you, it is only natural that he will want to help you with his testimony. On the other hand, if he found you abrasive or argumentative, his testimony will be nothing more than the reading of his office notes.

GET WORK EXCUSES FROM YOUR DOCTOR

Lost earnings are an important element of the compensation due to an injured person. But the injured individual must connect the work absences to his injury. Even if your employer does not require written excuses, a note from the physician will be valuable when you are later trying to prove that your absences were the result of the injury.

KEEP DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENTS

Missed appointments are kept in the doctor’s records. They are blemishes on your character and the authenticity of your need for medical treatment. Do everything you can to keep your appointments or call to reschedule.

DON’T EXAGGERATE

Nothing can sink an injury case faster than false testimony. Many times the injured party is not lying, but is only exaggerating slightly the extent of the injury. For example, the injured individual tells the insurance company or the other attorney that because of his pain he can no longer take automobile trips and has not taken one since the accident. Yet the doctor’s notes reflect that he drove to Florida over spring break with his family. Another example is a person who claims he can no longer play sports with his son, yet a private investigator has a video of the man in squatting position catching a child’s 70 m.p.h. fastball. These cases are doomed, despite the fact that a significant injury was suffered.

TAKE PICTURES

You know that a picture is worth a thousand words. So it should come as no surprise that photographs of the damaged vehicles and of your physical injuries are powerful witnesses. Take lots of pictures throughout your rehabilitation and date them for later use.

BE PATIENT

The responsible party’s insurance representative is trained to show you courtesy and concern in an effort to minimize your claim. His effort to win your confidence is aimed at one goal – to keep you from retaining legal counsel and thereby be required to pay you all that you are owed. Any payment for your pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life is tempting, but you must be patient. You only get one payment for the injuries that you may suffer for the rest of your life. A lawyer with personal injury expertise will guard your right to be fully compensated.

How much is my claim worth?

When an injured person first consults a personal injury lawyer, one of the first things this client would like to know is how much the case is worth. An experienced personal injury lawyer can usually give a broad range of value at the first meeting. The lawyer knows that the individual is entitled to be compensated for the following:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental or emotional pain and suffering
  • Loss of the normal pleasures of life
  • Disfigurement (scarring)
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of earnings

He also knows that research and experience have revealed that lawyers negotiate settlements 3 ½ times higher than unrepresented individuals.*

But a good lawyer would never try to answer this question with certainty, however, until he has completed a full investigation into the accident, all the damages and expenses have been totaled, and the client’s doctors have reported how the injury will affect the client in the future. Often it is several months after the accident before all the necessary factors are known which will enable the lawyer to evaluate the claim and begin settlement negotiations with the insurance company. If the client insists on a quick settlement, this can be accomplished, but almost always the client will get less than the full value of the claim. Another danger of settling too soon is that a latent or unknown injury may appear weeks or months later. If the claim has been settled and the responsible party released, it cannot be reopened.

In our firm we endeavor to settle every claim for “top dollar”. We are not a personal injury “mill” which sacrifices full value in favor of quick and easy settlements. That is, we deal in quality, not in quantity.

We make every effort to achieve a full and fair settlement before we resort to filing a lawsuit in court. Because David Gordon is board certified, insurance companies know that he has the experience and skill to file a lawsuit if the settlement is too low. This usually results in a fair settlement for our client without a lawsuit. Our goal is always the same: To achieve the maximum recovery for our client.

*Insurance Research Council – 1999 study

Is my employer liable if I’m injured at work by defective equipment?

Yes, but only under workers’ compensation law. Whenever a worker is injured as a result of defective equipment, or a dangerous situation he was placed in by his supervisor, or the fault of another employee, he wonders whether his employer is responsible for the injuries and wage loss suffered. The answer is yes, but only to the extent of his obligations under the state’s workers’ compensation law. This means that the employer is responsible for medical care, two-thirds of the lost wages, and a payment for any permanent injury. But the employer is not responsible for the other third of the lost income, nor is he responsible for the pain and loss of enjoyment of life that will certainly be suffered.

If I have been injured at work, am I eligible for social security disability benefits?

Yes, if upon your recovery, you are still unable to work, you may be eligible for social security disability. In order to qualify, you must convince the social security administration that because of your medical condition, you are incapable of any form of employment for which you are qualified. Your doctor’s opinion, and the opinion of a social security doctor, is critical to this analysis.

What if my employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance?

Contact the Department of Labor at (901) 543-6077 and tell them your employer is not providing you with benefits for your injury at work. Not only are there monetary penalties for failure to comply with the law, but the Department of Labor has the authority to order the employer to provide benefits.

What if I’m injured while driving a company vehicle?

Suppose a local route driver is injured in an accident while on his way to make a delivery. First, it is important to know that worker’s compensation benefits apply even if the accident is the employee’s fault. If the accident is not the employee’s fault, then the injured worker should also be compensated by the other driver. Of course, if the responsible driver is also an employee of the injured worker’s company, then there is no additional claim against him. But if he is merely another motorist, or an employee on the business of another employer, then there is a valid claim against him. Worker’s compensation applies, but the driver at fault is also obligated to compensate the injured worker like any other injured motorist; namely, for medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. (Remember, however, that if you get paid by the negligent driver, the workers’ compensation insurance company is entitled to reimbursement for everything it previously paid) .

Is the company to which I was assigned by a temporary employment agency responsible for my on-the-job injuries?

Maybe. If you can show that the assigned company had the right to control your work and that the work being done was essentially the work of the assigned company, the employment agency and the company should be liable for your injuries.