Getting injuries on the job can create confusion. Clarissa from our Des Moines office joins us on today’s episode to help demystify work comp.
There are many myths out there about personal injury cases that have arisen from TV shows and lobbying efforts. It’s time to dispel these myths so you know the truth.
In This Episode
- Are personal injury claims really frivolous?
- Is the system bogged down with cases?
- Do I need to file a case if I have health insurance?
- Do I really need a lawyer for my accident?
- Won’t lawyer fees take most of my compensation?
- Will I have to pay my lawyer up front?
- Can’t I file my case from years ago?
- Aren’t I guaranteed compensation for my accident?
- Won’t I damage the responsible party’s finances?
- Doesn’t my case have to go to court?
- Won’t my case take many years to resolve?
Full Episode Transcript
Hi, everyone, I’m Dennis VanDerGinst and welcome to Legal Squeaks.
Before we get started, I would like to remind you all, if you haven’t already done so, please, please, please register, subscribe or follow Legal Squeaks on your favorite podcast platform. It’s absolutely free. And by doing so, you’ll get reminders each week when our next episode drops. It also helps with our sponsorship efforts. So we’d be grateful forever if you do that.
Also, if you’d like to watch the video version of this or any of our other episodes, simply go to Legal Squeaks Dotcom and follow the prompts.
Now today, we’re going to try to dispel some of the myths surrounding personal injury lawsuits. If you’ve been injured due to someone’s wrongdoing, it’s important to know what to expect and what’s simply a myth. So we’re going to unveil some important truths about personal injury claims.
The first myth I want to talk about, that’s the myth that most personal injury claims are frivolous and that you’re greedy if you file a claim. Perhaps the biggest myth out there is this belief that society is sue-happy and that those who pursue injury claims are just trying to make a quick buck at someone else’s expense.
The term jackpot justice, for instance, has been used by proponents of this myth. And the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit, which came up in the 90s, was held up as a prime example of the civil justice system run amuck. The problem, however, was that that case was spun in such a way that it was misleading and true. By the way, check out our Legal Squeaks podcast on Claim Shame for more on on that topic.
The effect of the spin on that case was that some people developed this claim shame, a feeling of guilt, which inhibited many people from pursuing legitimate claims out of fear that they’d be perceived as greedy. But to the contrary, most personal injury claims are brought by individuals who have been genuinely hurt and are genuinely suffering from the injuries that were caused by the wrongdoing of someone else. It isn’t greedy to require a negligent wrongdoer to pay for the damages you incur from that wrongdoing.
Why should you bear that burden? Not only should you not have to pay for those damages yourself, but by holding those responsible for causing your hardships, you might mitigate similar actions in the future from those people or others who might be otherwise inclined not to exercise proper care and caution. So keep that in mind, if you, if you have a legitimate personal injury claim, you need to to pursue it and and, you know, everyone else be damned.
You know, you have that right, and the moment you stop using your rights is the moment you start losing your rights.
Now, the second myth, which is similar to the first myth, is that some people believe that injury cases are skyrocketing and that the courts are bogged down with personal injury cases. And they also believe that legal reform is necessary because insurance rates are going up and doctors can’t afford to practice out of concern for malpractice insurance rates being so high, et cetera, et cetera.
Again, this is a bunch of bunk. It’s not true at all. According to the National Center for State Courts, personal injury cases only account for between 4.4% and 7% of all civil case filings. Most civil case filings are contract and property disputes or family law cases like divorces.
In fact, personal injury lawsuits have declined by over 25% in state courts and 79% percent in federal courts over the past several years. And as far as these these cost, these concerns about health costs and doctors health care costs rising, medical malpractice litigation, for instance, has nothing to do with that.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, medical malpractice amounted to less than 2% of overall health care spending. On the other hand, according to the American Medical Association, the overall number of physicians is up by more than 40% since 1990, while over that same period of time, the U.S. population increased by only 18%. So the competition is real, but it’s, the driving force here is the fact that there are so many physicians as opposed to the population rate.
So as to doctors being unable to afford to practice, in some cases that’s legitimate, but it has nothing to do with personal injury or medical malpractice litigation. Likewise, if you experience insurance rates going up, it has nothing to do with personal injury lawsuit, lawsuits either.
In 2019, for instance, the U.S. insurance industry net premiums written totaled 1.32 trillion, with a T, dollars. So the insurance industry is not hurting. Your rates go up because the insurance industry wants more money, not has nothing to do with personal injury claims.
The third myth is that people who have health insurance don’t need to file personal injury claims because they’ll be covered.
Well, health insurance and other forms of medical payment coverage, sometimes, first of all, they’re intended only to cover medical payments, they don’t cover, you know, the rest of the damages you might be entitled to. In addition, often they don’t cover all the medical bills that arise to treat injuries from an accident.
For instance, your health insurance likely has a deductible and or a co-payment requirement that you’ll have to pay before it even kicks in. It’s also very common for some treatments to be either disallowed or discounted with these types of coverages.
But as I said, more importantly, medical payments coverages only cover medical bills or a portion thereof. That doesn’t account for lost income, if you can’t work for a time. It doesn’t address out-of-pocket expenses. It doesn’t compensate you for pain and suffering, scarring, disability, emotional distress, nor a host of other damages for which you may be entitled to compensation. And the only way to get the full compensation to which you may be entitled is by pursuing a claim through the appropriate entities and procedures.
So the next myth, I don’t need a lawyer. Well, the truth is you may not be required to have legal representation, but you should understand that insurance companies have teams of lawyers on their side and you should have one so that you have a shot to obtain, you know, the reasonable compensation for your injuries. Mostly, people don’t know the types of compensation nor the amounts of compensation to which they’re entitled based on the nature of the accident and the injuries sustained.
More importantly, unless you’re an attorney, you won’t have the legal knowledge necessary, nor the ability to leverage the threat of litigation which enhances your financial recovery. In addition to the inconvenience, the inconvenience and stress that comes with handling injury claims is alone often enough to warrant hiring an experienced injury attorney for your injury claim.
The next myth, similar once again to the last myth, some people think that they’ll put more money into their pocket from their injury claim by not hiring an attorney there because they’re saving, you know what they’d otherwise have to be paying for attorney fees.
Well, while it’s possible in limited circumstances, generally speaking an injured person is going to net more compensation with an attorney than when they’re going it alone. And that’s by, that’s according to insurance industry statistics, which have indicated on average that a an injured person is going to put in their pocket 2.5x more with an attorney than they would without an attorney.
Now, the rare exception to this rule is if the claim is very small or if there’s limited insurance proceeds available and that it be offered without an attorney’s help.
So, for instance, if you have just a very minor injury, maybe just $100 or a couple hundred dollars out of pocket, and you’re not able to get that resolved, you know, you could certainly file small claims action by yourself. And you may be able to do that and may put more in your pocket doing so than if you hired an attorney. And that’s, again, assuming that you could get an attorney to handle a case of that, of that size.
But then the other example that I mentioned is if the proceeds, the insurance proceeds, the policy limits, in other words, are limited. So if you know, for instance, you have suffered a significant injury and that the other party who’s responsible for causing the accident, maybe they only have $25,000 worth of coverage for this accident, and that’s going to be tendered by the insurance company no matter what, well, in that instance, you probably don’t need an attorney. Sometimes you do, because sometimes, you know, the attorney can still get reductions on leins for your medical bills. That will end up netting you more money.
But on occasion, that might be a situation where you don’t necessarily need an attorney. But for the most part, you do. You do need an attorney.
So along similar lines, the next myth is, well, I have to pay my personal injury lawyer so much money up front. Well, the truth is that most personal injury law firms operate on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing up front and that the firm or the attorney collects nothing, no fee, unless they win your case.
In additions, in addition, some firms like mine VanDerGinst Law, we advance the costs necessary to pursue your claim. And that, too, is only reimbursed if there’s a financial recovery on your case. That means in those situations you’re never out of pocket a dime. So there’s really no reason not to hire an attorney in those situations.
The next myth is that any attorney is fine to handle a personal injury claim. Now, it’s true that many attorneys are perfectly capable of handling a simple personal injury claim, but the practice of law is a lot like the practice of medicine.
There are generalists, there are specialists, and your chances of securing a better injury claim result will likely increase if you use an attorney whose practice is focused on personal injury law. The same way, if you, if you had a brain injury and you were seeking someone to, to treat you, you probably don’t want to go to your family doctor. You’d probably need to see a neurologist, a brain surgeon, a neurosurgeon. You know, that’s you’re going to get a better result.
So the same is true when it comes to selecting an attorney to handle the type of case that you are faced with, and in this instance we’re talking about personal injury.
The next myth that some people are, are unaware of is they think that they can file a personal injury claim at any time. Well, the truth is that there, there are limitations, and different states and different situations have different deadlines for filing a lawsuit. And if you fail to file your lawsuit within whatever that time frame is, you are barred forever from doing so.
These deadlines are known as statutes of limitations. In addition to those deadlines there are sometimes other requirements like providing notice, for instance, which an injured person must comply with, or again, they’re forever barred from pursuing their claim. So you have to be aware of that. Now for instance, the general statute of limitations to file personal injury cases in most states is between either one and five years from the date of the accident.
For instance, in Illinois and in Iowa, that, that timeframe is generally two years from the date of the accident.
But there are several exceptions to those general rules which may shorten, or in some instances actually extend the amount of time in which you must file your lawsuit. Again, another good reason to make sure that you have an experienced injury attorney helping you with your case.
The next myth, if someone else caused my injury, I’m guaranteed to get proper compensation to cover my losses.
Well, unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, personal injury cases do not result in easy money or windfalls. There’s no guarantee that you will get any, let alone proper compensation. It often depends on who you are or who you are dealing with and who you are hiring to represent you because if they don’t know what they’re doing, you’re not going to get the kind of compensation you’re entitled to. If you are dealing with a an obstructionist type of insurance carrier, you’re going to have a harder time getting the type of compensation to which you’re entitled.
So don’t think that just because someone else, you know, caused the accident, which which caused your injuries, that you’re going to get proper compensation without a fight. You’re generally going to be in for a fight.
The next myth. The person who’s responsible for the accident causing my injuries will be paying out of their own pocket to compensate me. Well, you know, unfortunately that can occur. And some people are certainly worried about the financial impact on someone who simply made a mistake.
You don’t want to take advantage of a situation by any means. But typically, even though the person causing the accident is legally responsible for paying the necessary compensation for damages, usually that person has liability insurance. Auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance or commercial policies, which provide not only their defense of the case, but also indemnify them for any loss. So if it turns out that they are responsible for your damages and that they’re going to end up owing you money for compensation, generally speaking, there is an insurance company in the background who is footing the bill.
They’re the ones who are actually going to pay those damages. And typically they’re the ones that are negotiating with you or providing a defense, meaning that they’re hiring the attorneys who are negotiating and or defending the case. So it’s their insurance companies who compensate for an injured party, or compensate an injured party for the damages that are incurred as a result of the actions of their insured. So don’t feel bad when you pursue someone. Generally, again, there’s an insurance company that is going to be footing the bill and certainly don’t feel bad for insurance companies. As I mentioned, one point whatever, trillion dollars in 2019.
The next myth. To receive compensation on my personal injury claim, I’m going to have to go to court. Well, most personal injury cases are settled out of court without even filing a lawsuit. And even with the cases that do get filed, most of those are resolved before a trial becomes necessary. Statistics vary depending on the source, but likely fewer than one injury claim in 100 actually goes to trial before a judge or jury.
So don’t be too concerned that you’re going to have to go to court. Most most cases don’t even get filed. But, you know, you need to have the leverage of going to court. You need have the leverage of having an attorney that will take your case to trial in order to get the case resolved without going to trial.
The next myth is that personal injury claims take years to resolve. Now this is a half truth. There are personal injury claims that certainly can take years if the case is complicated and or if there are disagreements as to either liability, you know, who’s responsible, or to the damages. How much should a person be compensated?
It can also depend on the docket where the cases get filed. So, for instance, a congested court docket like Cook County in Illinois, those cases can get pushed back much longer than a case in a more rural county, for instance. But most cases don’t require a lawsuit for a resolution, and in those instances, claims are often resolved soon after the treatment for the injuries has ended and the records are accumulated. Usually under those circumstances, a demand is submitted. And at that point, settlement negotiations begin in earnest and often the injury claims resolved during that process.
There are probably many other myths that need to be debunked, but those are the primary ones that I think make the most sense for us to address at this time. Certainly, if you have questions, feel free to reach out to me at VanDerGinst Law. We’d be happy to answer any questions that we can about your personal injury case or about questions that you may have regarding a personal injury case.
But in the meantime, I want to thank you all for joining us. Again, I’d like to remind you, if you haven’t already done so, please register, subscribe or follow Legal Squeaks on your favorite podcast platform. Absolutely free to do so.
Also, if you’d like to watch the video version of this or any of our other episodes, simply go to legalsqueaks.com and follow the prompts.
Also, please check out our other podcast, Uncommon Convos. Be sure to join us next week on Legal Squeaks.
And in the meantime, have a great day, stay safe, and I love you all.
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