Over a year ago I authored “The Top Seven Myths of Personal Injury Law” outlining the misperceptions about our work. Here are a few more:
“I have full coverage under my auto insurance policy.” No, you don’t. There is no such thing as “full coverage,” as there are numerous types of automobile insurance coverages that can be purchased, and in varying amounts. For example, there’s liability insurance, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, collision, comprehensive, medical payments, rental car and roadside assistance coverage. These can be purchased in a variety of insurance dollar limits, or in the case of comprehensive and collision coverages, with deductibles of different amounts. “Full coverage” suggests that a person has all the coverages that they can purchase at the greatest amount of coverage offered by the insurance company. We have yet to see a client “fully covered.”
The other driver who caused the collision will have a minimum of $15,000 of liability insurance. This is a myth. Nearly twelve percent of Arizona motorists don’t have insurance. Many more are “underinsured” — they have insufficient liability insurance to compensate you if they cause your injuries. This is why it is crucial that you have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages under your own auto insurance policy. The Arizona legislature increased the minimum liability coverages to $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and $15,000 for all property damage, effective for all new and renewed policies after July 1, 2020.
“A good personal injury attorney will send me to the right medical providers to treat my injuries.” False. Attorneys should never send their clients to medical providers for the purpose of diagnosing and treating their injuries. Why not? Because the attorney is not a licensed medical care provider and should not be directing a client’s medical care. We often retain physicians, known as “independent medical examiners,” to examine our clients, review records and provide opinions regarding permanent injuries, recommended future medical care and the cost of future medical care. However, these are doctors who evaluate our clients’ injuries, but do not actively engage in diagnosing and treating the client. A doctor should not be giving you legal advice, and your lawyer should not be giving you medical advice.
There is a two-year statute of limitation on all personal injury claims in Arizona. Sometimes the limitation period is longer, for example with uninsured and underinsured motorist claims. More fatally, however, are statutes of limitation that are shorter than two years. For example, when a person is injured on the job and receives worker’s compensation benefits, but a third party is at fault, the injured person can bring a claim or file suit against the third party, but the statute of limitation is shortened to one year (absent reassignment from the worker’s compensation insurance company). Also, claims against governmental employees and entities are governed by a one-year statute of limitation, with a 180-day notice of claim period. As lawyers like to joke, there’s a reason that the statute of limitation is nicknamed “S. O. L.”!
I will submit my medical bills to the other driver’s insurance company, who will pay them. No, it will not. The other driver’s automobile insurance company is a liability insurer, not a health insurer. Assuming that its insured motorist is at fault for causing the collision and your damages, it will at some point pay a lump sum to you pursuant to a settlement or court judgment. If a settlement, the liability insurance company will insist that you sign a release of liability in exchange for payment of the lump sum.
My personal injury claim is worth three times the medical expenses. There are still some folks who actually believe this myth. In some cases, the insurance company may rightly contest liability, or a jury/arbitrator may place only a small percentage of fault on the other driver. This will reduce the amount of the liability payout. Sometimes, the injuries are very minor, or the medical expenses are too great in comparison to the injuries, so the insurance company will pay far less than three times medical expenses. Other times, the injuries are severe, life-long and permanently disabling, for example in cases involving loss of limb, severe burns, brain injuries and loss of vision, in which case a settlement or judgment will oftentimes be many times greater than the amount of medical expenses incurred by the injured person.
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