How do I get the proper medical treatment?
Getting proper medical treatment is very important to your physical recovery. This means you need to get enough treatment to properly heal, while avoiding over-treating. In our experience a few chiropractors, a few physical therapists, and a few “pain specialists” give a bad name others of their professions by over-treating injuries for the main purpose of getting insurance company medical payments.
If you find that a medical professional is asking you to come back multiple times a week for month after month and you are not getting better, consult with your primary care physician and ask for other recommendations. Insurance companies properly balk at paying for excessive treatments that do nothing for the patient’s condition. If you over-treat you may be left alone to pay such bills. If you suspect you are being over-treated by an unscrupulous medical provider, stop and consider your options. You see the chiropractor, physical therapist, or pain specialist to get better, not to build his practice by incurring billings.
One of the ways to show the at-fault party’s insurance company that your claim’s stated injuries are valid is by quoting from your doctor’s medical records. Medical charts are written by doctors to document what your complaints are at each visit and what treatment was given. These records help prove your injuries and document how these injuries have impacted your life. Doctors are trained to recognize and diagnose problems associated with injuries. Their observations will carry far more weight with the insurance company and jury than your word alone. Getting medical treatment from competent providers is essential for your recovery and will also establish your injury claim.
There are several risks you should be aware of when seeking medical care after an injury. First, beware of any medical provider who claims to specialize in accidents. Insurance companies are skeptical of such a doctor’s conclusions. If your primary care physician takes the time to really know you, she will be able, better than anyone else, to see the difference in your condition before and after your injury. A competent and caring primary care physician can help guide your care by referring you to trusted specialists. Also, make sure your doctor listens to you and treats your injuries. Some doctors hate all lawsuits and will treat you poorly because you are making a claim. Such a doctor will probably not come to court to testify and a doctor with such an attitude probably will not provide the treatment you need.
How much time do I have to make a claim (statute of limitations and deadlines)?
Each state puts specific time limits on how long you have to file any type of claim. These laws are called “statutes of limitations.” The length of time differs depending on what happened and who did it.
In Oregon, some of the statutes of limitations are found in chapter 12 of the Oregon Revised Statutes. But not all time limits are found there, and there are countless exceptions to general rules, so we must sometimes look elsewhere to determine how long you have to file suit.
Some cases have a much shorter time frame (such as when you are suing a state or local government, or when you are suing someone for serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who later drives a car and hurts or kills someone). Because these limits can be as short as 180 days, getting legal advice quickly is essential to preserving your claim.
The time limit for most personal injury claims in Oregon is two years. (But there are many exceptions to this general rule.) If you have not settled your case you must file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations, or your claim will become time-barred and worthless. If this happens the other side does not have to pay for anything, no matter how wrongful their conduct. You must either have settled your case or filed a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.
Cases sometimes (but not always) have longer time frames, such as when the injured person is a minor, or the cause of harm is hidden. The rules for these exceptions are complex and you should not assume that any exception would apply to your case. (For example, not all cases involving minors have extended deadlines and not all hidden injury cases have extended deadlines.) As you can see, understanding deadlines is a complicated process and can get confusing quickly. If you even think you may be a coming up on a legal deadline, check with an attorney.
Filing a lawsuit does not mean your relationship with the insurance company has to become hostile. Insurance companies understand that you need to protect your rights by filing the lawsuit to meet the statute of limitations. Do not rely on an oral agreement with the insurance company that it will pay your claim after the statute of limitations expires. (You may think you have an agreement and the insurance company may not.) An oral agreement to extend the statute of limitations would probably not be enforced by a court. If you are approaching a statute of limitations, contact an attorney right away to help protect your interests.
Because correctly determining legal deadlines can be very complex, even for an attorney (it is the number one cause of legal malpractice in personal injury law), you should find out early on the specific deadlines in your case. Because deadlines are strictly enforced, missing a deadline by even one day will bar your claim. In some instances, when there is only one defendant, you can ask the guilty person’s insurance company to tell you in writing what the legal deadline is for your case. If you have that deadline in writing from the other side’s insurance company, you can rely on that date as being correct, but only as to that defendant. (A different deadline may apply to other defendants.)
How do I get my bills paid?
In motor vehicle accident cases (and in some other cases) we can help get your bills paid, even before you are ready to settle the rest of your claims. Oregon law requires your own automobile insurance policy pay your medical bills and lost wages up to a certain limit. See Car Crashes.
If all else fails, we will help persuade your medical providers to keep providing necessary treatment by giving them a “lien” against your case, meaning that if they continue to treat you, they will be paid out of settlement funds when your case is finally resolved. Another option is a company like Well States Healthcare (http://www.wshcgroup.com/). It pays your doctors and holds the lien, so your doctors get paid and you can get the treatment you need.
Let Us Help You
If you have been injured and you are not sure what steps to take next, call us. We can help.