Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tip #11--What you need to know about pre-settlement loans or cash advances

After an accident, the injured person may not be able to work and may even lose his or her job. Paying for rent or mortgage, monthly bills, car repairs, or holiday gifts becomes very difficult and the bill collectors start to call, adding great frustration and anxiety to the pain from the accident injuries.

If you were injured in an accident and have financial stress, you may be considering taking out a pre-settlement loan or cash advance through a company that advertises on TV or the Internet. 

In the ads, these loans sound great:  quick turn around, so you get your money fast; non-recourse, which means that if you don't get a settlement or win your case, you don't have to pay the money back.  It almost seems like free money, right?

The pre-settlement loan or cash advance is not "free money."  The money is only given to injured people who have lawyers.  Your lawyer must give a lot of information to the loan company about your accident, the insurance, the liability and your injuries. After the loan company has all this information, and determines that there is a high chance that you will get a settlement, then the company will offer a cash advance, commonly in the amount of $500, $1000 or $2500 depending on the case.

How does the company make money on this advance?  First, they charge an origination fee, and that fee is added onto your loan balance.  Second, they charge interest which is compounded over time.  There is a schedule of how much needs to be paid back if payment is made within three months, six months, one year, etc. which becomes part of your loan paperwork.

In my practice I had one client who received $5000 and didn't get the case settled for a couple years and had to pay back $14,500!  

If you are looking into these loans, be sure to find out how much the company charges for fees and how much will need to be paid back over time.  Because these loans are so expensive, they should be considered only as a last resort, when there is absolutely no other way.  And remember, once you get such a loan, your lawyer will be required to pay the loan back out of your settlement funds.

If you have been in an accident in Wisconsin, please call Hestad Law  608-273-1600 to discuss your case. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tip #10--Documenting time lost from work after your accident

If you are injured in a car accident, you may miss time from work because you are in pain.  You may also miss work time for doctor, chiropractor or physical therapy appointments.  Documentation of your missed time from work should be submitted to the liability insurance carrier as an important part of your accident claim. 

If you have pain that prevents you from working, you need to obtain an excuse from work from your doctor.  The written excuse should be given to your boss or HR Department.  Keep a copy to submit to the liability insurance carrier.  If you need to stay off work longer, be sure to return to the doctor to get another excuse. 

Once you are able to return to work and can work all of your normal hours, you are ready to document your lost work time for the liability carrier.

The best way to document your lost time from work is to obtain a letter from your employer stating the days and hours you missed due to the accident.  The letter should also state how much you make per hour so the liability insurance carrier can easily calculate the value of your lost time.  If you missed overtime hours, then the letter should also state the missed overtime hours and the amount you earn for overtime hours.  If you missed work on the night shift or on a weekend, the letter should state the missed time and the shift differential.

If you are self-employed, documenting your business loss after an accident can be complicated.  It may be necessary to produce a copy of your Schedule C for several years and/or statements from your accountant about your business.

Lawyers at Hestad Law have experience in documenting our clients' lost time from work as well as their self-employed business losses after an injury accident.  Call us today for a free consult about making your claim!  608-273-1600.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tip #9--Your own Uninsured Motorist Coverage will pay your claim if the at-fault driver has no insurance

Uninsured motorists coverage is insurance that you purchase to protect yourself if you are injured in an accident and the at-fault driver does not have insurance.  You can choose (and will pay for) the amount of this coverage.  Verify with your insurance agent the amount of the policy limit of your current uninsured motorist coverage.  Then imagine how much money you may need if you are injured in a serious accident with an uninsured motorist.  You might have a fracture or need surgery.   Would $50,000 be enough?  $100,000?  $250,000?  More?  Of course the amount depends on injuries and medical bills, but considering the high cost of medical services and the fact that you could be off work for some time,  it is worth looking into purchasing the higher amounts of UM coverage. 

Some people also purchase an umbrella policy which could cover up to a million dollars.  If you have an umbrella policy or are thinking of buying one, it is extremely important to ask your insurance agent how the umbrella policy works in an accident involving an uninsured motorist.  Sometimes it is necessary to pay extra to connect the uninsured motorist policy to the umbrella policy.  If everything is connected and paid for, you would then have up to a million dollars of coverage to compensate you if you were seriously hurt by an uninsured motorist who was at fault for the accident. 

How insurance works in uninsured motorist cases can be complicated and confusing.  An uninsured motorist claim is made against your own auto insurance carrier.  Your own carrier then stands in the shoes of the at-fault uninsured driver and basically replaces the missing insurance.  This sets up a situation where your interests conflict with those of your own insurance company!  You can hire the personal injury attorneys at Hestad Law to assist you in this stressful situation.  Hestad Law has experience making uninsured motorist claims for medical bills, lost time from work, pain, suffering and restrictions on activity due to a accident.  If you or a loved one was hurt by an uninsured motorist, contact the attorneys at Hestad Law for a free consult about your claim at 608-273-1600.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Tip #8--Paying for Accident Treatment though med pay, health insurance, liens, advances or settlement loans

If you are injured an accident that was not your fault, you expect the insurance carrier for the at-fault driver (the liability carrier) to pay your medical bills as they are incurred.  The usual bills are for the Emergency Room, the ambulance, X-rays, visits with your primary doctor, your medications, physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy and/or acupuncture.  You might have bills for a specialist, a surgeon or injections.  The bills keep coming, but the liability carrier generally does not pay as these bills are incurred.  Even if the liability adjuster says they will "take care of it," they actually pay only when you are ready to settle your case. This could be months or years after the accident!  You need to find a way to finance your care until you are ready to settle.  Assuming you do not have money in savings to pay for your care, the resources which can be used are:

  • Medical pay coverage under your own auto insurance;
  • Your own health insurance;
  • Treatment secured with a lien;
  • Advance on liability settlement;
  • Settlement loan.
If you use your auto med pay or your health insurance, these carriers generally have a lien and must be reimbursed out of the settlement money.  If you sign a lien agreement with your chiropractor, he or she will treat you and wait to be paid until you get your settlement.

Rarely, a liability carrier will make a partial payment in advance of settling the whole case.  This is usually done in cases of extreme hardship and is usually limited in amount.  

Settlement loan companies are easy to find on the Internet.  These companies are in the business of making loans to people who have been injured in accidents.  If you take out one of these loans, you will also be financing hefty fees and interest.  The loan balance, fees and interest must be paid by your lawyer out of the settlement funds.  Depending on how long it takes to settle your case, you may have to pay back double or triple the amount you borrowed.  It is important to carefully read the settlement loan agreement and completely understand the fees and interest before signing any documents.

Please call Hestad Law for a free consult if you would like to discuss how to pay for your treatment after a Wisconsin accident.  608-273-1600.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tip #7--Bi-lingual attorneys and certified court interpreters in WI personal injury cases

Many people injured in car accidents do not speak English as their first language.  These accident victims may speak limited English or no English at all.   If the lawyer speaks only English, the injured parties can be left with many unanswered questions or misunderstandings about the claims process.

It is somewhat helpful if the injured party brings a relative or a friend to interpret, but the relative may not have the language skill, experience and maturity needed in a legal matter, leading to problems in communication between the injured party and the lawyer.

The injured party can avoid all this by choosing to hire a good law firm with a bi-lingual attorney on staff.  In this way, communication will be greatly enhanced.  Make sure that the bi-lingual attorney has experience in personal injury cases before hiring him or her.

A certified court interpreter must be used to interpret at a deposition or in court.  "Certified" means that the interpreter has passed tests of language skills and has sworn to abide by the Wisconsin Code of Ethics for Court Interpreters.  A certified court interpreter is qualified to properly assist in legal proceedings and does not take sides.

Please contact Attorney Sally A. Hestad and bi-lingual Associate Attorney Nadia Noboa-Chehade with any questions regarding representation of Spanish speaking car accident victims.  Hestad Law also offers bi-lingual representation in French, and we have a Hmong assistant as well. We offer a free consultation on Wisconsin accidents.  Please call us at 608-273-1600.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tip #6--Severe car accidents can cause both physical and emotional injuries

After a high speed accident, the occupants of the cars may suffer well-known injuries such as whiplash of the neck; shoulder injuries sometimes necessitating surgery;  upper, middle and low back injuries; hip, arm or leg injuries;  broken bones, abrasions and contusions.

Lesser known symptoms caused by accidents include chest and hip trauma caused by seatbelts, broken ribs, swelling and stiffness of the neck affecting swallowing and turning the head, headaches including traumatically induced migraines.   Accident victims often have difficulty sleeping due to discomfort.

Head trauma, concussion and mild traumatic brain damage can also be caused by a car accident.  These injuries can cause severe headaches or migraines, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering facts and conversations, emotional and personality changes.  A brain injury may even erase an entire area of brain functioning like ability to use numbers or ability to read.

Psychological symptoms include anxiety, anger, frustration, depression.  Many accident victims have
driving anxiety because driving in traffic brings back the memories of their accident.  In some cases,
driving can cause a panic attack.  Some victims have bad dreams about accidents or relive the accident during the day causing anxiety.

Be sure to tell your doctor about all of the symptoms that appear after an accident.  It is the doctor's job to decide which symptoms are connected to the accident and to prescribe treatments to help you. It is important to see your doctor or go to the Emergency Room as soon as possible after the accident, and to follow through with treatments.  In this way, your medical records will document your injuries and symptoms and this will help your insurance claim and your attorney.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tip #5--Reimbursing Your Health Insurance from the Auto Settlement (Subrogation)

After your Wisconsin auto accident, your medical bills may be paid through your health insurance. The medical pay coverage of your own auto policy (a no-fault coverage) is another source of insurance to pay your bills right away.

If the accident was not your fault, you can make a liability claim against the insurance of the other driver. In this claim you can ask for compensation for your medical bills, your lost wages, pain and suffering and permanent disability. It is best to wait until you finish your treatment and the doctor can assess whether you have permanent injuries before settling with the liability carrier. For a serious accident, the doctor will wait for at least a year to make this assessment. This means the liability settlement based on the doctor's report comes 1-2 years after the accident. During that time, the liability carrier will generally not pay any medical bills. If medical bills remain unpaid for that period, the injured person can be sent to collection, even though the accident was not his or her fault! This is why most people use the medical pay coverage from their own car or their own health insurance to pay the bills as they are incurred.

In the liability settlement, the liability insurance carrier pays an amount that covers all the related bills, the lost wages and the pain and suffering. If the injured party's bills have already been paid by the health insurance company and the auto medical pay carrier, those companies usually must be reimbursed from the settlement funds. This reimbursement is called subrogation.

If you hire an attorney, he or she will negotiate to bring down the amount of subrogation that is paid out of the settlement. This means you'll get to keep more of the settlement.