Any injury suffered in an accident can be difficult to deal with. When the injury is serious or life-threatening, the victim will need to devote all of his or her resources to recuperating from the harm caused by the negligent person. If the injury is to the spinal cord, the victim may suffer paralysis and other debilitating symptoms. The victim will want to ensure that he or she has the best doctors working to restore the body to its pre-accident condition. In addition, the victim will want to hire a skilled attorney with experience dealing with accidents that involve spinal cord injuries and paralysis. After suffering a spinal cord injury, a victim will have many questions regarding the future. These questions may include:
- Who will pay for my medical treatment?
- What if I don’t fully recover from my injuries?
- How will my family and I survive while the case is being handled by my attorney?
- What if I can’t return to work?
- Will I be compensated for my pain and suffering?
- Will the negligent person have enough money to pay for the harm?
- Should I deal directly with the insurance company?
- How long will the process take?
- Why choose Brown & Gessell to represent you in the San Joaquin Valley?
The attorneys at Brown & Gessell have the answers to these questions and have the expertise to make sure you are treated fairly after suffering a spinal cord injury. The attorneys have handled hundreds of accident cases many of which involved spinal cord injuries. You can be almost certain that the person who caused the accident will have an attorney representing his interest. It is important that you have someone on your side who is looking out for you. Call us now at (209) 430-5480.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Who will pay for my medical treatment?
There are several possible ways for a victim of a spinal cord injury to pay for the medical treatment related to an accident. These include:
- Private Health Insurance: Under most circumstances, a person’s private health insurance is required to cover the cost of treating injuries sustained in an accident in accordance with the terms of the health insurance policy. Be aware, however, that a person who receives medical treatment paid by the health insurance company may be responsible for reimbursing that health insurance company for all or part of the cost of that treatment depending on the outcome of the personal injury lawsuit.
- Government Health Insurance: For those without private health insurance, the state or local government may have programs available to assist with the payment of medical bills resulting from injuries sustained in an accident. Generally, those programs are reserved for children and those that have limited financial resources. Keep in mind that if a person receives government assistance in paying for medical bills, the person may be required to reimburse the government for all or part of the cost of medical treatment depending on the outcome of the personal injury lawsuit.
- MedPay: Often times, a person’s own auto insurance policy or the auto insurance policy of the person who caused the accident may have “MedPay” coverage which allows for a pre-determined amount of money to be available for the treatment of injuries sustained in the accident. This coverage is usually available immediately after the accident and does not apply based on the fault of the respective drivers.
- Medical Lien: In some circumstances, a medical provider or financing company may be willing to provide or pay for medical treatment as needed by the patient and wait for the payment for those services until the conclusion of the personal injury lawsuit. This arrangement is particularly common with chiropractors and physical therapists. In these situations, the victim in an auto accident case promises to pay for the medical services out of the recovery obtained in the personal injury lawsuit.
- Out-Of-Pocket: The final option is the payment of medical treatment by the victim. It is not uncommon for the victim of an accident to pay for at least part of the cost of medical treatment. This often comes in the form of co-payments of medical services or prescription medication. It is very important that the victim of an accident keep all receipts and other proof of out-of-pocket expenses to ensure reimbursement.
What if I don’t fully recover from my injuries?
In almost all accidents, there is the possibility that a victim may not fully recover from the injuries sustained in the accident. Obviously, this risk is greater in more serious accidents. In such situations, there are several ways in which a victim may be compensated for residual health issues related to the accident. These include:
- Payment Of Future Medical Expenses: Any settlement or verdict may include an award for future medical expenses. This type of award is designed to cover the cost of medical treatment, procedures and medication that are related to the accident and likely to be needed. The possibility that future medical treatment may be needed is not enough to receive compensation for this type of harm. The victim must show that the treatment is reasonably certain to occur in the future.
- Payment For Lost Wages: If the ongoing injury will prevent the victim from working or will limit the ability to work in some way, the victim may be entitled to compensation for the loss of future wages. As with medical expenses, the victim must prove that it is more likely than not that such harm will be suffered. It is not enough to show that the injury may possibly impact employment in the future.
- Pain And Suffering: If the victim of an accident will continue to suffer the pain and limitations of injuries sustained in an accident into the future, the victim is entitled to compensation for his or her future pain and suffering. This amount will vary depending on the nature of the pain and suffering and the expected duration into the future.
How will my family and I survive while the case is being handled by my attorney?
Many individuals and families struggle to survive financially while a personal injury case is being prosecuted. Some of the financial challenges may include the victim’s inability to return to work, growing medical bills and family members missing work to care for their loved one. While there are no easy solutions to these challenges, here are some possible ways to overcome this difficult time:
- Private Disability Insurance: The first step is to see if the victim has disability insurance through work, a credit card plan or some other program. Disability insurance will often pay for lost wages and expenses while the injured person is unable to work.
- Worker’s Compensation: In some circumstances, an injury may be covered by worker’s compensation. In these situations, the victim of an accident can receive worker’s compensation benefits such as the payment of medical bills and a limited wage while the case against the negligent individual is being prosecuted. This is most often applicable when the victim is injured while on the job or commuting to and from work. The rules governing worker’s compensation coverage are complex and can be difficult to understand. It is very important to have a skilled attorney review the facts and circumstances of the case to determine if worker’s compensation coverage is available.
- State/Federal Disability: A person who has suffered a debilitating injury in an accident may be entitled to either state or federal disability payments. To obtain, benefits under these government programs, the victim of an accident needs to apply to the state or federal government with medical proof of the disability. The process can be complex and often involves at least two steps, the initial application and an appeal. The attorneys at Brown & Gessell are able to help with the process of obtaining disability payments while the case is pending.
- Advances: In certain cases, the victim of an accident may be able to get an advance on the anticipated recovery in the civil case to help pay for the necessities of life. There are many funding companies that are willing to advance a portion of the expected recovery in exchange for repayment of the advance plus a sizeable fee. The size of the fee will depend on several factors such as the amount of the advance, the type of civil case involved and the time it takes to repay the advance. This option should be used as a last resort as the victim of an accident will often have to pay a fee of 50-100% for the advance. Thus an advance of $10,000 that is repaid in six months will likely cost the victim between $15,000 and $20,000 and will be deducted from the recovery in the civil case.
What if I can’t return to work?
Occasionally, the injuries that a victim suffers in an accident are so serious and debilitating that returning to work is not an option. This scenario is very common in spinal cord injury cases. In this situation, a negligent defendant is required to pay the wages and benefits of the injured person to the end of his employment life. In pursuing this type of claim, it is often necessary to employ doctors that can testify regarding the cause and extent of the injuries. In addition, it may be necessary to hire a vocational rehabilitation specialist and an economist to offer opinions about employability and the actual amount of money the victim has lost because of the inability to return to work. Finally, if the victim of an accident can return to work but only with modifications to the work regimen, the negligent driver must compensate the victim for loss of earning potential.
Will I be compensated for my pain and suffering?
Yes. In almost all cases, a person injured by the negligence of another person is entitled to compensation for the pain, suffering and inconvenience caused by the negligent driver. There is no set formula for determining how much a victim should or will receive for pain and suffering. There are, however, many factors that may influence the amount that a victim will receive including: the extent of the injuries, the duration of the injuries, the amount of medical care required to treat the injuries, the impact the injuries have on the life of the victim, the frequency, duration and intensity of the pain and the condition of the victim prior to the subject accident. In the end, if the victim and negligent person are not able to reach a settlement, a jury will be required to weigh all of the evidence and determine how much money will fairly compensate the victim for the pain, suffering and inconvenience caused by the accident.
Will the negligent person have enough money to pay for the harm?
One of the most difficult aspects of a spinal cord injury case is finding a source that will be able to pay for the extensive harm caused to the victim. In spinal cord injury cases, the medical bills alone can often reach into the millions of dollars. In contrast, it is typical for a driver to have insurance coverage that will pay between $15,000 and $300,000 for injuries caused by his negligence. As part of your representation, the attorneys at Brown & Gessell will do an exhaustive investigation to locate any and all sources of recovery. This will include looking at whether the negligent person was in the course of his employment at the time of injury, whether medical professionals caused or contributed to the injury and whether a defective product was a factor in causing the harm. In addition, the investigation will include an asset search to determine whether the negligent person has any money or property that could be confiscated to help pay for the harm. In the end, the attorneys at Brown & Gessell will ensure that every possible avenue of recovery is investigated to maximize the possibility of obtaining a fair level of compensation.
Should I deal directly with the insurance company?
No. The insurance company has only one goal: to keep its money. It does this by limiting the amount of money it has to pay to people injured by the negligence of its clients. The insurance company has hired professional adjusters and defense attorneys to help it accomplish this goal. You should not talk directly to the negligent driver’s insurance company or sign anything from the insurance company until you have consulted with an attorney. To protect yourself and ensure that you are treated fairly, it is important that you have someone on your side that has experience both in the legal field and in dealing with insurance companies. By hiring an attorney to assist you with your case, you can focus on getting better and leave the complex process of personal injury litigation to an expert.
How long will the process take?
This is a very difficult question to answer because the duration of a particular case depends on many different variables. The average spinal cord injury case takes between one year and three years to resolve depending on several variables. Some of the variables that may affect the length of a case are: the extent of the injury and paralysis, how long a victim takes to recover from the injuries, the amount of insurance available and which insurance company is handling the claim. In addition, before the case is resolved, both the injured person and the negligent party will want to wait until the full extent of the injury has been determined.
Why choose Brown & Gessell to represent you in the San Joaquin Valley?
Brown & Gessell is located in Stockton, the County Seat of San Joaquin County, and central to the San Joaquin Valley. The partners at Brown & Gessell are uniquely qualified to handle your case here in Stockton because they are intimately familiar with the City of Stockton, its courts, its judges and staff, the local attorneys and with the people that will make up the jury who may hear and decide your case. Douglas A. Gessell was raised in San Joaquin County, and Steven L. Brown has raised his family for the last 20 years in the County. Mr. Gessell has attended school and church in Stockton and has worked for the Stockton Unified School District as well as several local businesses. He has been representing accident victims in Stockton for the past 12 years. Mr. Brown is the past President and a member of the Board of Directors of the San Joaquin County Bar Association and a past member of the American Inn of Courts. Prior to representing injured individuals, he represented hospitals and doctors throughout the Central Valley. Their familiarity with the streets, highways, waterways, courts, hospitals and neighborhoods allows them very personal insight into the area where your case arose. Start your case with an advantage.