You’ve been injured through no fault of your own. The insurance adjustor has seemed friendly enough so far, and now has made an offer to resolve your claim. The adjustor may or may not have explained that if the offer is accepted you will be releasing, forever, your right to any further compensation for your injuries.
Is the settlement offer fair? Should you accept it? We’ve seen over and over again people who should have never accepted the insurance company’s settlement offer, and are now left with no means to pay medical bills for ongoing injuries.
Here are the 7 biggest reasons you should talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer before accepting the insurance company’s settlement offer:
Reason #1: The Insurance Adjustor is Not Your Friend.
Insurance adjustors are trained to develop “trust” with injury victims. One major insurance company was recently exposed for internally developing a program called “good hands to boxing gloves,” in which adjustors were coached to be friendly to accident victims with the goal of getting the victims to believe the adjustor was “on their side” so they would accept low settlement offers. These insurance industry tactics are no different from the “good cop” tactics used by interrogators. The insurance adjustor is not your friend and is not on your side. He or she works for an insurance company whose goal is to pay you as little as possible for your claim so that it can make as large as possible profit for itself. The insurance adjustor may even receive a bonus tied to how little the company can pay claims like yours. The insurance adjustor is trained to negotiate the cheapest possible resolution of your claim. Unless you adjust and negotiate injury cases for a living, you may be at a serious disadvantage. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your claim and advise you whether the settlement offer is reasonable or not.
Reason #2: Insurance Companies Pay More for Claims Handled by Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers. We’ve seen instances where the insurance adjustor has advised the injury victim not to talk to a personal injury lawyer, offering explanations such as “if you talk to a lawyer, they will take a portion of the settlement- I want it all to go to you” or “I can’t make this offer once a lawyer becomes involved.” (Unfortunately, many injury victims probably accept this “advice” and never do get an independent evaluation of the settlement offer.)
An insurance adjustor who tells you not to discuss the settlement offer with a lawyer is a huge red flag- the equivalent of a used car dealer trying to talk you out of getting the car inspected before purchase. The truth is people who are represented by personal injury lawyers get much more money for their claims than those who are not represented. A study commissioned by the insurance industry revealed that injury victims with a lawyer get, on average, 3 ½ times more money than those who settled their claim on their own. The reason for this is that insurance companies know that an unrepresented injury victim is at their mercy and must largely “take it or leave it,” whereas a person represented by an injury lawyer can take the case to court and seek to get the injured person what they truly deserve.
Reason #3: lt’s Free.
Almost all reputable personal injury attorneys provide an initial, free consultation. (I review injury settlements for free all the time, both in person and even online.) Oftentimes, we tell people that the offer fairly represents the value of the claim, and that there is no reason to hire us to become involved. That is, I don’t believe I can add any value to the settlement. Other times, however, it is clear the insurance company’s offer is unreasonably low. This may be because of an oversight in the insurance adjustor’s calculation of the claim, or something more calculated. In these instances, we explain to people why we think the insurance company’s offer is unreasonably low, and outline a plan together for how we can get them the compensation they are entitled to receive.
Reason #4: A Release is Forever- There May Be Reasons Not to Settle.
Any insurance settlement offer will carry with it a requirement that the injured person “release” their claim; that is, they sign away their right to ever pursue additional compensation. Unfortunately, we’ve seen where people signed a release then had a setback in their healing or needed additional costly medical treatment for their injury. Once the claim has been settled, however, the injured person can’t go back to the insurance company to get these additional treatments paid. A settlement is forever. For this reason, even if the insurance company’s offer is significant, we often advise injury victims to hold off on settling their claim until the extent and nature of their injuries is clarified. Sometimes, people are in hurry to settle because medical bills are piling up. Fortunately, in Montana, insurance companies can be required to advance the costs of medical treatment prior to settlement, and cannot condition payment of medical bills on an injury victim providing a release. Sometimes, just helping people get their medical bills taken care of allows them to reject an unreasonably low settlement offer. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you decide whether now is the right time to settle and give up your right to pursue further recovery.
Reason #5: A Lawyer Can Help You Evaluate Whether the Insurance Company has Treated You Fairly. Montana law requires insurance companies to treat people fairly and adjust claims promptly and in “good faith”. If the insurance company acts in “bad faith,” it may be liable to the injury victim for other types of damages such as punitive damages (punitive damages punish a party for behaving badly). Sometimes, the insurance company’s treatment of an injury victim may be so outrageous that the value of their bad faith claim is higher than their personal injury claim. The way insurance companies attempt to limit their exposure to bad faith claims is by including in settlement agreements a requirement that the injured person give up not just their claim against the person who injured them, but also any claim against the insurance company for bad faith claim handling. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to review whether you are entitled to additional compensation for any bad faith by the insurance company.
Reason #6: The Insurance Company’s Settlement Offer May Have Failed to Consider Important Components of the Claim.
There is no magic formula to state what an injury claim is “worth.” The evaluation of an injury claim takes into consideration what are called “economic” and “non-economic” damages. Economic damages include past and future lost wages as well as past and future medical expenses. Non-economic damages cover intangible harms such as pain, agony, disability, and loss of established course of life. An insurance adjustor’s settlement offer may have failed to include a key component of your injury claim. For example, it may be likely that a surgery will be necessary in the future which has not been taken into consideration by the insurance company’s settlement offer. This type of failure would result in an unreasonably low settlement offer. An experienced injury attorney will be able to independently analyze the value of your injury claim so that you can decide whether the insurance company’s offer properly takes into consideration both the economic and non-economic damages you are entitled to receive.
Reason #7: There May be Additional Insurance Policies or Sources of Recovery Which You Don’t Know About. Oftentimes, insurance companies will represent that there is only a limited amount of money available under the responsible party’s insurance policy. This may be true, or it may not. The person who caused your injury may have more than one insurance policy, enabling you to make claims and recover compensation from multiple policies.
The injured party may also have their own insurance policy or polices which they can make claims against such as an “underinsured motorist” policy. The insurance company’s settlement offer may cut off the injured party’s ability to make claims against other applicable insurance policies. For instance, by accepting a settlement from the responsible party’s insurance company, you may unwittingly be waiving your right to pursue a claim against your own underinsured motorist coverage. There may also be other sources of recovery which no one has even considered. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to analyze whether there are other sources of compensation, and whether it is wise to accept a settlement offer in light of those other sources.
HOW DO I CONTACT YOU?
We try to be as accessible as possible. Give us a call at 406.839.9091, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or request an evaluation online at www.BishopandHeenan.com.
Consumer law is one of my practice areas as a Billings attorney, so I always want to make you aware of any recalls or product issues that might effect your health and safety.
There has been another vehicle recall notice. This notice affects 2011-2012 Ford F150, Expedition, Mustang and Lincoln Navigators. There is some question concerning the vehicles transmission systems. Specifically, the auto may not go into reverse when you move the gear shift to that selection. There have been reports the interior sensor occasionally will fail to indicate when you are in reverse.
Here is the recall notice from the NTHSA.
Ford will begin notification of affected owners immediately and expects to begin repair by June 26.
There have been no reports of personal injuries associated with this condition.
If you have any questions about whether your auto is part of the recall, contacting your local Ford or Lincoln dealer may be your best course of action. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a hotline number you can call, 1-888-327-4236.
Products with defects that compromise your safety is unacceptable. Montana has laws that differ in product liability situations. Check my website for more information on these duties.
There’s also a free book you can get from the website focused on Montana law as it relates to personal injury cases. Pick up a copy of “Your Rights” today by clicking on the title link.
In my book ”Your Rights, a Guide to Personal Injury Law in Montana,” I spent a good amount of time on the reasons for hiring a personal injury attorney for your case. Much of my Billings attorney practice is focused on personal injury cases and helping people fight back against insurance companies. Here’s a great example of why having a quality Billings injury lawyer on your side is crucial to a case outcome.
This was a medical malpractice case where a defendant’s medical malpractice lawyer (think hospital, doctor, or insurance company) tried to bully the plaintiff’s expert (the guy on our side) by writing the expert’s hospital to warn them about his testimony.
That’s a bit of lawyer speak, so here’s a more plain language version.
The person who was injured found a medical expert who was willing to say there were avoidable medical errors in their treatment. The opposing party attempted to bully the expert’s employer (writing a letter) by suggesting the experts’ testimony could cause the hospital to be sued.
No one likes being sued, so you can imagine the hospital would respond by pressuring their employee to not testify–even though the employee was in the right.
Expert Witnesses Hard to Find
It’s no secret that patients and their lawyers have a lot of difficulty finding physicians to serve as expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases. Many doctors refuse to testify in a patient’s favor, regardless of how negligent, reckless, or reprehensible the care provided. Among the doctors who do testify for patients, most only testify against doctors in other jurisdictions. This adds difficulties in communication, scheduling, and travel costs. It also makes it harder for plaintiff’s lawyers to find experts, simply because we don’t know out of town doctors by reputation the same way we know local doctors.
The reverse is true for lawyers defending malpractice cases. They call the local hospital and get a willing local expert almost instantly. Don’t think the code of silence in the medical profession is dead at all.
Insurance Company Tricks
This is just one of the tricks I’ve seen used by insurance companies and their lawyers. Without having an experienced Billings lawyer willing to fight for you and dig out the truth, the outcome of the case could be bad. There’s a long list of reasons why you might want to hire a Billings injury attorney when it comes to any case involving injury.
Get Represented by a Billings Attorney
Our initial consultation to discuss your case is always free. If you want more information to prepare yourself or you just wonder about legal actions, get a free copy of my book, “Your Rights” anytime by clicking on the link.
A 90-year-old woman residing in an assisted-living facility in Billings has won a $34.2 million judgment against her Omaha, Neb.-based insurance company for suspending payments for her dementia care.
Arlene Hull and her daughter sued Ability Insurance Co. in 2010 after the company ended her assisted-living benefits. Ability said Hull no longer qualified after a review found she didn’t need “continual supervision due to a severe cognitive impairment” and that her doctor said she was moderately, not severely, impaired.
Hull’s attorney, Mike Abourezk, said the company misinterpreted the policy and misapplied the rules.
The Billings Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/Hwwrwr ) the benefits were restored last year, but the company refused to pay for the nearly two years during which coverage was denied.
After a trial last week, the jury on Friday awarded Hull $250,000 for breach of contract; $2 million for violation of Montana’s Unfair Trade Practices law; and $32 million in punitive damages.
Hull, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, did not testify, but the jury saw video of her.
If your insurance company has improperly denied your or a loved one’s disability or assisted-living benefits, contact Bishop & Heenan to learn your rights.
There has been a lot of talk about distracted driving – I’ve written and spoken about it several times. most of us think of distracted driving when it comes to actually driving the car. In reality, “distracted driving” is anything that takes your mind away from the task of operating your vehicle safely. As a Billings lawyer, I have handled a number of car accident cases where distracted driving caused injury to my clients.
This doesn’t happen often in Montana. We are probably much more aware of the dangers of hypothermia, but this form of distracted driving does happen every year, usually starting in the spring. With our exceptionally warm weather of late, it is probably a good time to call attention to leaving children in cars. Each year, 38 children die in hot cars from hyperthermia. Most are left accidentally by parents or caregivers.
When you hear of people leaving babies behind in the car, it seems unthinkable. What were those people thinking anyway? Unfortunately, its not as much a careless act as something else. The majority of these tragic deaths are the result of something very common: distraction.
Most of these very high body temperature deaths seem to occur from a busy parent multitasking. You may have even done these things before. Take kids to school, run an errand, drop off the baby, and get to work on time are just a few of parental missions. One of the most common errors, the child falls asleep in the rear facing car seat, the parent forgets to drop off the baby and leaves them in the car all day. These deaths are more the result of our multi-tasking lifestyle putting safety and health at risk.
As the parent of four children of my own in Billings, I can not imagine the grief the parents must have after a preventable accident like this.
Here are a few tips to reduce the risk of hyperthermia:
One great way is to put something you need, maybe your cell phone in the back seat floor. This serves a couple of great purposes. You won’t text while its there, and you’ll see your baby when you get out of the car.
Another great idea I’ve heard is to place a teddy bear in the car seat. Whenever the baby is in the seat, the bear goes up front with you. If you have the bear riding shotgun, you’ll remember to check the car seat at your destination.
Child death from accidental hyperthermia is more common in hot weather states like California and Texas, but we have a somewhat recent story of a Montana death. However, the actual number of incidents in which kids are left in cars is likely much larger.
Preventing accidents is another function of my job as a Billings injury lawyer. I’ve written a book, “Your Rights,” on the steps you should take to protect yourself after you have been involved in an accident. You can get the book for free. Our job at Bishop and Heenan is helping people.
With spring and summer blooming in Montana, there’s another yearly season we have–road construction season. Road construction workers are very vulnerable to personal injuries from cars and trucks traveling through the work zones. Recently a construction worker was killed in California when a DUI suspect allegedly struck him. The worker was focused on his work with a concrete saw when he was struck by the motorist. The worker was pronounced dead at the scene.
Everyone should be able to do their job without fear of personal injury or death. Montana has traffic laws designed to protect these workers from being injured while doing their job. Still, the burden is on the driver of a car or truck to obey those laws and drive safely in work zones.
The California accident is still under investigation, but it seems driving while under the influence was a major contributor to the accident. DUI enforcement in Montana has been growing. Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lead to a serious accident. DUI arrests in Billings reportedly tripled over the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. Earlier in March, alcohol is considered a major factor in a single vehicle crash in Missoula that killed two men.
The penalties for DUI are getting more significant as well.
First Offense Montana DUI; 1 day to 6 months jail time; $300 to $1,000 in fines; Drivers license suspension for 6 months
Second Offense Montana DUI; 7 days to 6 months in jail; Up to $1,000 in fines; Drivers license suspension for 1 year
Third Offense Montana DUI; 1 month to 1 year in jail; Up to $1,000 in fines; Drivers license suspension for 1 year
Fourth Offense Montana DUI; 13 months in program or facility; Up to $10,000 in fines; Drivers license suspension for 5 years
With the number of Billings and Montana car accidents related to alcohol abuse, you may have suffered a personal injury in connection with a car accident. At Bishop and Heenan, I want you to know your rights in case of a personal injury accident. Free consultation is only part of what I do as a Billings injury lawyer. My free book, “Your Rights”, can give you a head start on understanding what you might expect in case of an injury. Get the book in an instant download today.
Agriculture is the leading business in Montana. With that in mind, its even more important to note 2008 through 2011 Merritt Commodity Trailer Grain Hoppers are being recalled. Personal injuries in agriculture happen without having vehicles on the roads making it more possible for people outside the farm or ranch to be injured. Reports suggest these vehicles may have a conveyor belt that could extend past the rear of the trailer. If so, that’s a violation of federal law for rear impact protection.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a release, a crash with one of these conveyors could cause a serious injury or death. According to recall information, the manufacturer of the trailer Davis Equipment Corporation, will correct the problem with the bumper during its recall.
To date there have not been any incidents or personal injuries involving these conveyors. The western region for Merritt is their corporate headquarters in Henderson, Colorado so there is reason to be on the lookout for these trailers.
If you know someone involved in agriculture, you might let them know of this issue. It could help them and maybe even save a life.
Helping people is what we do at Bishop and Heenan. Our goal as Billings injury lawyers is to provide you with excellent representation and even the odds in a disagreement with an insurance company or other party. The free book, “Your Rights,” gives you specific information on what you can expect if you have been injured. Its yours for immediate download, or a call to 406-839-9091.
The National Highway traffic Safety Administration reviewed crash data on distracted driving. The data suggests distracted driving accidents causing personal injury are up substantially from 2005. The latest research is based on data from 2009.
Almost 1000 people were killed in auto accidents that were related to distracted driving. Before you jump to the conclusion it is primarily young people involved in these accidents, more than 80% involved people who were NOT teens.
Distracted driving hurts people. The number of incidents is on the rise. Billings and many cities across Montana have already restricted cell phone use to hands free devices only. Just because it is legal to use hands free devices does not mean drivers are no longer distracted.
More Personal Injuries from Distracted Driving
Accidents caused by distracted driving in Billings and elsewhere run the gamut from significant personal injury to fatality. If you are injured in a Billings auto accident you believe was caused by a distracted driver, protect yourself and your rights. The quicker you contact counsel, you improve your opportunity to receive just compensation for any personal injuries.
Get free advice from a Billings personal injury lawyer before you do anything else. My free book, “Your Rights,” describes what steps you should take after a personal injury auto accident. Insurance companies are not on your side. They are out to take care of their bottom line first. Prepare for what’s next by getting my book, or call the office at 406-839-9091.
Billings Personal Injury Lawyers Offer Free Help
Most people know that talking or texting on your phone while driving is dangerous. They do it anyway. If you are involved in an auto accident you think might have been caused by distractions, the Bishop and Heenan Law Firm stands ready to help.
The dangers of icy roads and buses added another chapter with another Montana bus crash Friday night. A bus carrying a high school basketball team ran off Interstate 94 east of Billings Friday night. The Montana Highway Patrol indicated injuries in this incidence were minor with the people hurt in this latest Montana bus accident released from the hospital.
Bus Crash Prescription–Icy Roads + Buses
Icy winter roads and buses or any kind of large vehicle is a prescription for trouble. The recent Montana bus crash near Missoula with a Rimrock Stages bus killed two people and injured many more. Montana law requires operators to have their vehicles under control at all times.
As a Teamster and a truck driver before I became a lawyer, I know how dangerous driving in these conditions can be. I also know how important it is for a driver to slow down and pay maximum attention to prevent bus accident tragedies. It’s very fortunate no one was hurt seriously in Friday night’s Montana school bus crash.
Riding buses should not require you to put your life in someone else’s hands. Dangers, accidents, and even death occur in a split second with these big vehicles.
Liability in Bus Crashes Are Complicated
I practice law because we help people. That’s the specialty of Bishop & Heenan. Bus accidents often cause serious injury. Fortunately it did not in the most recent case. There is a lot of complexity and complication in bus accident cases. Bus crashes are certainly not the fault of the people riding on the bus. Bishop & Heenan Law Firm offers free consultation to any injured person. Montana law provides for you to be put back in the condition you were before this deadly bus accident near Missoula or anyplace else in Montana.
Get a Free Book on Your Rights
I wrote a free book generally outlining Montana injury law and how a personal injury lawyer can help you in these cases. This free book will help you get an overview of what you need to know before you deal with any insurance adjuster. The Bishop & Heenan Law Firm is committed to helping people get back on their feet and our free book will help you get started.
Black ice and a speeding bus combined to spell disaster in a Montana bus crash Sunday morning near Missoula. Two people were killed in the bus accident. The bus crash also led to an estimated thirty three injuries with a number of the injured in serious or critical condition.
Excessive Speed Leads to Bus Accident
Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Scott Huffman told Reuters the bus was traveling too fast for the conditions. Although the bus may have been under the maximum limit for the roadway, it was apparently traveling too fast for the dangerous conditions. Billings personal injury lawyer John Heenan is a former big rig driver. Heenan said,”one thing we learn is the rig we drive must be under our control at all times no matter the road conditions.” Montana law requires all motorists to drive at a safe speed for the conditions.
Accidents like this tragic bus accident in western Montana, point out the hidden hazards these big vehicles pose. There are a number of different reasons for bus accidents. Weather is certainly a big factor, but bus driver negligence or unsafe bus equipment are among the most devastating and preventable.
Liability in Bus Crashes Can be Complicated
Bishop & Heenan Law Firm specializes in helping people. Bus accidents often cause serious injury. Liability in these cases can be very complicated and complex. Bus accidents are certainly not the fault of the people riding on the bus. Bishop & Heenan Law Firm offers free consultation to any injured person. Montana law provides for you to be put back in the condition you were before this deadly bus accident near Missoula or anyplace else in Montana.
Free Book on Your Rights After Any Injury Available
We have a free book that outlines what you can expect from Montana injury law and how a personal injury lawyer is on your side in these cases. The Bishop & Heenan Law Firm is committed to helping people get back on their feet and our free book will help you get started.
« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »