Frequently Asked Questions | Automobile Accidents

Personal Injury FAQ’S About Your Automobile Accident

 (Please take a few minutes to read) 

NOTE: If you need legal consultation, due to our busy schedule please make an appointment to personally meet Mr. Gagné or one of his associate attorneys, otherwise a legal assistant will be happy to help you over the telephone with routine matters.

The very last thing I want to have happened is a lack of communication between you and my office.  This applies to any issue.  If you feel we are not adequately communicating with you please schedule an appointment to see me.  My door will always be open.  But do it sooner rather than later so we can address the problem before it becomes a larger one.  Make an appointment to see me.  Thank you.

1. Why retain a lawyer?
This is an important question, one that many lawyers fail to discuss with their potential clients. This is probably because it is so clear to the lawyers that it is the smart move that they assume everyone knows the following facts:

  • An attorney knows the law and how to discover and develop the facts, as well as which facts matter and which do not.
  • Your lawyer is there with the knowledge and experience to develop and gather the relevant and important evidence to make your case. He is also experienced at dismantling your opponent’s case.
  • An attorney is experienced at obtaining a full settlement from an insurance company or defendant and knows how much your claim is worth.
  • There exist many traps that adjusters and opposing counsel set for the unwary client. Competent legal counsel helps you avoid these traps.
  • Retaining a lawyer shows that you are serious about your claim and adds to your credibility in the eyes of the insurance adjuster or opposing attorney.
  • Lawyers are trained negotiators.
  • A lawyer can refer you to the proper doctors.
  • A lawyer can be objective about your claim.

Remember the old adage: “A person who represents himself has a fool for a client.” – Oliver Wendall Holmes, Supreme Court Justice

These are but a few of the reasons why experienced injury attorneys handle the vast majority of claims.

2. What are the lawyer’s responsibilities?
You hired me and my office to handle your personal injury claim. My job is to gather the facts and research the law that will persuade the insurance company to fairly and fully compensate you for your injuries. South Carolina statutes provide that in order for you to file a lawsuit, the lawsuit must be filed and served within three (3) years of the incident.

3. Should I listen to advice from outside sources?
Absolutely not! Do not let anyone else manage your case except Mr. Gagné and his staff. Outside sources do not have the training or expertise to adequately evaluate or advise you on your case.

4. Will you handle my property case?
Usually the client handles her own property claim, as the insurance company will often make you a fair offer on your damage and this is not often in dispute. However, as your attorney, I will help you settle your property claim if a disagreement does arise between you and the insurance company. I caution you to talk to the insurance representative about your property damage only. DO NOT DISCUSS YOUR INJURIES, as doing so may have an adverse effect on your case. If the insurance representative insists on discussing your injuries, please refer him to me.

5. With whom may I discuss my case?
Discuss your case only with me, your lawyer, or a member of my firm. I will not discuss your case with anyone except representatives of the opposing party, except with your consent.

6. What are my responsibilities?
Since you have been injured, it is crucial that you make and keep your doctor or chiropractor appointments. It is very important that you follow the instructions of your medical provider. This ensures that you will eventually heal, and gives me a basis for making your claim at the end of your treatments. Failure to keep your medical appointments will result in my withdrawal from your case.

Additionally, you are ultimately responsible for paying your medical bills. It is my job, however, to see that the insurance company compensates you enough so that it will not be a problem. Sometimes a medical care provider will send me a lien, which is nothing but notice that the provider wants to be compensated when the case settles.

When I receive a lien, I may, by law, have to pay the provider out of the insurance proceeds. Not all providers send a lien. When a provider fails to send a lien, I will, of course, forward the money to you at the settlement of the case. It then becomes your responsibility to pay the provider. Understand also that if you are receiving Medicare or Medicaid it may take several months to disburse your settlement because by law these liens must be satisfied before any money is disbursed to any party.

Finally, please call this office when you have finished going to the doctor. Do not depend on your medical provider to inform us.

7. Suppose I don’t have a doctor. Can you refer me to one?
Yes. I know medical professionals willing to take your case on a contingency basis; however, it is preferable that you see your own doctor if you have one and trust him. I will refer you to specialists. Our goal is to see that you receive the very best medical care available. If you do not like the doctor I refer you to, let me know as soon as possible and I will send you to another.

8. What happens after my doctor has finished treating me?
After your doctor has finished treating you and you have reached maximum medical improvement, I will make a claim to the appropriate insurance company. I know that you are anxious to see your claim settled, but I cannot make a claim until you have finished treating with your doctor. After you have finished treatments, call my staff, and I will order your medical reports and medical bills.

It’s a myth that more medical bills or getting hit by someone with deep pockets would give you more compensation.

9. What do you do with the reports and bills?
After I receive the medical reports and bills, I will write what is called a “demand letter” outlining your medical costs, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, and other damage resulting from your injury, and I will submit it to the insurance adjuster handling your case.

10. How do I claim lost wages?
I have given you a “Wage Loss Verification Form.” After you have returned to work, get with your supervisor and have him/her sign the form with your total lost hours. Understand that you can only claim those lost hours of work for which a medical doctor or chiropractor has given you an excuse. Please obtain these excuses from your doctor.

11. After the adjuster receives the demand letter, when can I expect my money?
You must understand that these adjusters are busy. It will take ten days to two weeks for the adjuster to get to and evaluate your file. After the adjuster has evaluated your case, he will make an “offer” to me based on the law and the facts of your case. I will call you can tell you what the offer is.

This negotiating process may take a little while; remember: A QUICK CLAIM IS A CHEAP CLAIM. There may very well be some “discovery” I must engage in order to build your case – talk to witnesses, examine the scene, take recorded statements or affidavits which take time. So I ask your patience during this period.

When the case settles, I will “accept” the offer on your behalf, after conferring with you, at which point the adjuster will order the check. This may take from 1-10 days depending on a number of factors. When I receive the check in the mail, I will create a “disbursement letter” which will explain to you where the money is going and who will get what share, including the payment of any outstanding liens.

Remember, for bodily injury you will receive one check out of which your medical and legal bills must be paid. There will not be multiple checks issued. You may have received a check for property damage if you were involved in a car wreck but this is the only exception.

As you have seen in our contract, my fee is “off the top” of the insurance proceeds, before your medical providers are paid. If I cannot settle your case, you owe me nothing, and then we must consider whether the case should be taken to trial. There are usually costs involved also, records fees, paralegal fees, and other various overhead charges, usually not exceeding $295.00. If your case goes to trial, fees and costs usually increase.

If you are satisfied with the disbursement of the money, you will sign the disbursement letter, and I will write you a check out of an escrow account, where I will deposit the check I received from the insurance company for safekeeping based on my power of attorney.

12. What if the insurance company makes an offer that I will not accept?
In that case we will discuss taking your case to trial. Many lawsuits settle before trial, but if it does go to trial, I will represent you. However, please understand that lawsuits are costly. You need not worry about my attorney time up front, but medical providers will charge up front for their valuable time in preparing for the case. We will go into greater detail about costs and other litigation-related matters when and if the need arises.

13. Will the insurance company conduct surveillance on me?
In some cases, yes. My advice to you is to simply do what your physician tells you to do, engage in your normal activities, and do not worry about being videotaped since our assumption is that you have a legitimate injury.

14.  If I need money before my case settles, may I borrow from you?
Unfortunately not. This would create a conflict of interest in that I would no longer simply be your lawyer but also your creditor. This is also prohibited by state ethics rules.

15. Should I borrow money elsewhere before my insurance check arrives?
No, this is a bad idea.  You are never 100% certain that a case will settle for an exact amount.  Better to sit tight and wait for the process to run its course before spending money before you have it.  Remember; don’t count your chickens before they hatch. We understand that you have been drained financially by your accident but let me know your creditors, and I will let them know you are expecting an insurance check. You might want to turn to family members to help you over the hump. In some cases, loans are available however. We understand that you have been drained financially by your accident but let me know your creditors, and I will let them know you are expecting an insurance check.  You might want to turn to family member to help you over the hump.

16. Are you available to talk with me if I have questions about my case?
Always. Because of my heavy caseload, I usually will not contact you until your case is ready to settle, but please do not think that I have forgotten you if you have not heard from me. My staff and I are working hard on your case.

The early stages of a case are routinely handled by paralegals, and they will have an up-to-date status for you. Attorneys get involved at the end of a case – when you have been released from the doctor, all medical records, bills, and other damages have been collected, and all relevant evidence has been examined. Attorneys are primarily engaged in negotiations and client meetings.

If I am not immediately available, leave a detailed message with one of my assistants or on my voicemail. We usually get back to clients the same day or within 24 hours. If your messages are not getting through, email me at tgagne@prodigy.net, please schedule an appointment to see me.

Also, if you move or change your phone number, it is crucial that you tell me. Many issues are time-sensitive, and I may need to get in touch with you at a moment’s notice. It is also very helpful if you have an answering machine and/or email.

17. Rental Vehicles.
The other driver’s insurance company will usually allow you limited use of a rental car while your vehicle is being appraised or repaired. It is essential that you turn the vehicle back in after the allotted time or you will be responsible for any overcharge.

18. Do you handle any other legal problems?
Generally, no. Part of the quality of this firm is that it is geared exclusively to personal injury cases. However, feel free to discuss another type of case with me. If I do not handle it, I know many qualified attorneys who will.

***Important Notes:

If you need legal consultation, due to our busy schedule please make an appointment to personally meet Mr. Gagné or one of his associate attorneys, otherwise a legal assistant will be happy to help you over the telephone with routine matters.

If you move or change your phone number, it is crucial that you tell me.  Many issues are time sensitive, and I may need to get in touch with you at a moment’s notice.  It is also very helpful if you have an answering machine and/or email.

Lastly, the very last thing I want to have happen is lack of communication between you and my office.  This applies to any issue.  If you feel we are not adequately communicating with you please schedule an appointment to see me.  My door will always be open.  But do it sooner rather than later so we can address the problem before it becomes a larger one.  Make an appointment to see me. Thank you.