Questions We Are Asked Each Week By Clients...
We are often asked questions like how much should the insurance company pay? How are my weekly benefits calculated?, etc. So we have put together some of the questions we here the most and the answers to them. We hope this helps you avoid making a mistake in your Iowa personal injury, car accident, dog bite, work injury or other injury matter.
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How does the outcome of a driver’s DUI criminal case affect my car accident claim?
Iowa is an at-fault car insurance state, and drivers are required to carry proof of financial responsibility. When a driver causes an accident, then he or she (or the driver's insurance company) is required under law to pay for damages.
When a driver is drunk at the time of the accident, intoxication is often enough to establish negligence and fault. While criminal and civil law is completely separate, the outcome of the other driver’s DUI criminal case can affect your car accident claim and your ability to file a lawsuit against the drunk driver.
The Outcome May Help to Substantiate Fault
The outcome of the other driver’s DUI criminal case can help either prove or disprove fault. If the case results in a verdict of guilty and a sentence, then this can be brought to the insurance company as an indication of the driver’s negligence.
Conversely, if the court issues a verdict of "not guilty," then proving that the driver was at fault due to intoxication may be more difficult. If a person is found not to be guilty, then that person may argue that his or her intoxication level was not significant enough to contribute to the accident; therefore, he or she was not at fault.
When a Criminal Case Doesn’t Change Your Car Accident Claim
In some cases, even a verdict of guilty in a DUI case may not change your car accident claim. If you did anything to contribute to the accident, then you may be held responsible under Iowa’s comparative fault laws. The law, found in Iowa Code 668.3, states that contributory fault does not bar recovery of damages but that damages shall be diminished in proportion to fault. Therefore, even if the drunk driver was 95 percent at fault for your accident, your damages amount may still decrease by five percent.
Do I need an attorney after a car accident with a drunk driver?
You should always hire an attorney when filing a car accident claim for damages.
Doing so can help you recover your full compensation amount. When a drunk driver is involved, though, an attorney may be even more valuable to have on your side. Your attorney can help establish the fault of the drunk driver, ensuring that you get 100 percent of your benefit amount.
At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, we can help you prove fault and get compensated. Contact us today at 888-435-9886 to learn more and get started.
Does my car accident claim cover mental health therapy?
Injuries sustained in a car accident aren’t always physical. Often, injuries from a car accident are not visible. When psychological therapy is required to treat injuries after a car accident, a policyholder may wonder whether or not a car insurance company will pay for the coverage. Here’s what you need to know:
It Depends on the Policy Amount
Your insurance company is only liable for paying damages up to your policy amount. In Iowa, your medical payments coverage -- if you have it -- will pay for all medical expenses. Medical payments coverage is not required, and the limit is $5,000. Often, physical injuries alone are enough to exhaust this amount.
If the accident was the fault of the other driver, then that driver’s bodily injury liability coverage, which is required in a minimum amount of $20,000 per person, can pay for mental health therapy.
The Extent of Your Injuries and the Severity of the Accident
Assuming that the policy amount is great enough to cover the expense of mental health injuries, an insurance company most likely will pay for those expenses, assuming that they are reasonable for both the severity of the accident and the seriousness of your physical injuries. If mental health injuries appear too extreme for either, then a car insurance company may deny this part of the claim.
What are my other options for getting mental health therapy paid for?
If an insurance company refuses to pay for mental health therapy or if injuries are so severe that filing a claim with the insurance company will not yield enough damages, you have another option: You can file a personal injury lawsuit for damages. A personal injury lawsuit can yield damages for all forms of medical expenses, as well as damages for mental pain and emotional (and physical) suffering. A claim must be filed within two years under Iowa Code 614.1.
How an Attorney Can Help Recover Damages for Mental Health Costs
If you’re filing a claim with an insurance company, you’ll have to prove that your mental health injuries are significant enough to require treatment and that the insurance company should be responsible for paying for this expense. During this negotiations process, an attorney can be a key asset.
If you want to file a personal injury lawsuit instead, an attorney can be critical in explaining the law and your options. At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, we can help you today. Call us at 888-435-9886 now or contact us online.
Can I recover damages for depression after car accident?
In order to collect damages related to mental suffering such as depression after car accident, you must have evidence that the mental issue occurred because of the car crash and hurt you sustained in the crash. When involved in a car accident, most people think of only their physical injuries. However, depression or anxiety after a car accident are some of the most common car accident injuries, mentally. Difficulty processing emotions is especially likely if you suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one in the crash.
Issues a Court Might Award Damages Monies to Address
Car accident claims made for severe injuries may include the mental trauma suffered by those close to the victims and the victims themselves. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common result of catastrophic car accidents and can cause long-term suffering even after physical wounds have healed.
Depression and anxiety can lead to the following circumstances.
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Poor sleep quality
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Impairment of a person's ability to work and earn a living
To this extent, depression and anxiety damages should be covered by a car accident claim, but in many cases it is not. Psychiatric evaluation can be helpful in diagnosing the conditions and causes, as well as a prognosis of how it is expected to impact your life.
Mental damages are often overlooked because they are not as easily quantified as physical damages. Without a doctor's diagnosis and prognosis, it may be difficult to convince the insurance adjuster that your settlement should include pain and suffering or "non-economic" damages.
It is unlikely that the insurance company will include compensation for depression and anxiety without you directly requesting it in your claim. Therefore, it is important to work with a Des Moines car accident attorney who will advocate for your full and fair compensation.
We Make Sure You Receive Full Compensation for Your Damages
The Walker, Billingsley and Bair personal injury law firm dedicates its time to leveling the playing field between injured Iowans and insurance companies. When the insurance company neglects to compensate for the difficulty of mentally recovering from a traumatic event, our attorneys step up to help make things right.
We have offices in Des Moines and Newton, and serve all of the surrounding areas. For immediate assistance, call (888) 435-9886 or fill out our online contact form and get the information you need.
Should I get a lawyer after a car accident in Des Moines?
You have no legal obligation to hire an attorney when filing a car accident claim, however, those who suffered serious injuries and have a lot of expenses will likely benefit from a lawyer’s expertise. Iowa is an at-fault car insurance state.
This means that when an accident occurs, the insurance of the motorist who caused the accident is primarily responsible for paying for damages. A motorist may file a lawsuit if unable to recover fair damages in a liability claim against the at-fault driver.
A lot of Des Moines motorists wonder, "Should you get a lawyer after a car accident?" Below we go over some common issues that can help you decide whether to file a claim.
Do I need a lawyer for a car accident?
Individuals are welcome to file a claim and possibly a lawsuit on their own. They can also seek legal counsel and representation during the claims or lawsuit process. However, hiring an attorney can be advantageous, especially in certain cases.
How can an attorney help me?
While you don’t need to have an attorney on your side to file a claim for damages, you should know that most insurance companies have one goal in mind: making a profit. As such, it’s not uncommon for insurance companies to skew details and twist facts in order to present you with a settlement amount that’s way below what you deserve.
Below are some of the benefits of hiring an attorney.
- An attorney knows insurance and personal injury law.
- An attorney can help gather evidence about the accident.
- An attorney can build a case to prove the other party's fault and liability.
- An attorney can negotiate a fair settlement amount.
- An attorney can handle all the legal paperwork.
- An attorney’s job is to advocate for you.
When dealing with large amounts of expenses following an accident and injury, leaving your compensation up to hope and chance probably isn’t a good idea. A lawyer can help you formulate a strategic approach centered on making sure you recover fair compensation.
Also, remember that you may file a lawsuit if you are unable to recover compensation in an insurance claim. Your attorney can be instrumental in helping you negotiate an out-of-court settlement and argue your case in court, if necessary.
What should I do after a Des Moines car accident?
If you suffered injuries in a car accident that you didn't cause, the first few things you should do are as follows.
- Report the accident to law enforcement
- Seek medical care
- Report the car accident to your insurance company and that of the at-fault driver (but don't give any statements)
- Call an attorney
At Walker, Billingsley & Bair, our attorneys will fight to help you recover damages. To get started, call our offices now at 888-435-9886 or use our online contact form. Also check out our guide to car accident claims.
How long does it take to settle a car accident claim in Des Moines?
There is no specific amount of time it takes to settle car accident claims in Des Moines. How long it takes to settle a car accident claim depends upon numerous factors, which adds a lot of variability to timeframes. A simple, straightforward case with no injuries might settle in under a month, whereas a serious or highly contentious case might take a year or more.
Factors that Affect Settling a Car Accident Claim
There is no one-size-fits-all claim completion schedule; each has its own unique circumstances and potential speed bumps. Below are a few of the factors that can affect how long a claim might take.
- Seriousness of injuries: When there is a serious or catastrophic injury involved, claims can take much longer. The case will not settle until there is a clear picture of the extent of the injuries. Doctors need time to assess the overall expected impact the injury will have on the victim’s life.
- Fault is argued: In situations where fault and negligence are being argued, it may take some time for the parties to reach a settlement.
- Extensive damages: Claims that have a high value will take longer to settle. Insurers may try to argue their way out of having to pay large settlements by either trying to refute your injuries, minimize their severity, or apportion blame to you.
- Complexity: If there are multiple parties involved, or if there is also a third-party claim such as for a car manufacturer, the case can take longer than average..
Speeding along Your Claim
Much of the claims process is out of your hands, but there are several things you may be able to do to speed along the settlement. First and foremost: be diligent and timely. When your attorney asks you for information, provide it as soon as possible.
You can also do a lot of the footwork involved in a claim to assist your attorney. For instance, you can collect the police report, your medical records and bills, and any other required documents on your own and share them with your lawyer.
Making Ends Meet in the Interim
If you are injured and not able to return to work, it’s quite understandable to want to rush to settlement. Rushing and signing the first settlement that comes your way isn’t advisable, though, because you’ll often get far less than what your claim is actually worth.
To make ends meet while awaiting your claim to settle, you might talk to family or friends for a personal loan. You can use what resources you may have available such as savings, disability insurance, or public assistance. As a last ditch effort, you might consider personal injury lawsuit funding. You can speak to your lawyer about what that type of funding entails.
Get a Free Legal Consult with a Car Accident Lawyer in Des Moines
If you don’t have an attorney, you should know that having legal representation may benefit you as you work toward a settlement. Car accident victims who have lawyers get much larger settlements, with the added benefit of having a professional legal confidante throughout each step of the legal process.
For a free consultation with a car accident attorney in Des Moines, call Walker, Billingsley & Bair today at 888-435-9886.
What happens if my damages exceed coverage in an insurance claim?
If your medical damages exceed coverage on a car insurance policy, the options available depend on two important factors. One is who caused the accident and the other is the terms of an auto insurance policy or other financial resources.
Options if Damages Exceed Coverage and You’re at Fault
The most important thing to determine after getting injured in an accident is who is at fault. If you caused the crash, it's your responsibility to take care of the medical bills. If you only carry liability coverage, it won't help cover your own damages. But if you have other types of car insurance coverage, it may cover your damages up to policy limits.
For instance, if you purchased medical payments coverage it will pay for those costs up to the limits of the policy. It's available no matter who was at fault for the accident. But any expenses that exceed policy limits will need to come out of your own pocket, or your health insurance may cover the costs. This may require you meet your deductible and make co-payments though.
Options if Damages Exceed Coverage and Another Party is at Fault
If the other driver was at fault for the crash, his or her liability insurance should cover the medical claims. Of course, that also depends on policy limits. The minimum amount required for bodily injury liability for one person is $20,000. So if that's what the other driver has for coverage and costs exceed that amount, you will need to consider other options.
For instance, if you purchased underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage, this helps pay for medical costs that exceed the liable driver's policy limits. Again, it's up to the amount of coverage you have available. Let's say the other driver's insurance covers $25,000 in medical claims but they total $30,000. Your UIM coverage will pay for the remaining $5,000. Your own health insurance coverage may also help.
Another option might be to file a lawsuit against the other driver to recover the full amount of your damages. This can be difficult in some cases if the at-fault driver does not have assets and resources to pay for the full extent of your damages. Talk to your attorney about the options that may be available.
Talk to Lawyer if Medical Damages Exceed Car Insurance Coverage Limits
It's important to talk with an attorney if you’re facing substantial medical costs and not sure how to pay them. When someone else is at fault for your Des Moines accident, you need to make sure there's adequate evidence to prove liability; an attorney can help with this aspect of your case as well.
Of course, it's not just medical bills that cause concern for injured drivers. When the injuries are serious it could also result in weeks, months or even longer of missed time from work. This will increase the financial burden when unable to make a living. Also, you may qualify to recover other types of damages that address the physical and/or emotional losses.
Speak with a lawyer at Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines to learn more about your legal options and for help pursuing them. Call us at 888-435-9886 or contact us online to set up a consultation about your case.
Have the texting and driving laws made Iowa a safer place?
According to some groups, texting and driving laws have not made Iowa’s roads safer. It's one of the few states where it's a secondary law meaning that while it is illegal to text while driving, police can't stop a motorist unless another traffic violation has occurred. Read on to learn more texting and driving facts and about the current laws.
Why Texting Laws in Iowa Aren't Enough to Prevent Crashes
According to the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT), there were 31 deaths that occurred between 2001 and 2013 as a result of distracted driving with a phone or other device. Three of those fatalities happened in 2013. Also, distracted driving has caused more than 8,500 accidents.
Of course, it's likely that other crashes (both fatal and non-fatal) have occurred because of distractions. Some aren't known and others aren't reported. In fact, law enforcement issued less than 50 tickets in 2013 for texting while driving, according to the Gazette via Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright. Yet officers see motorists texting behind the wheel all the time but cannot do anything about it because it’s a secondary law.
The DOT also reports texting and driving facts indicating that since passing of texting laws in July 2011, the number of crashes involving cell phones has gone up. Clearly, it hasn't been enough to stop drivers from engaging in these dangerous behaviors behind the wheel.
Efforts Sought to Crack Down on Distracted Drivers
In the first quarter of 2014, the Iowa Senate approved a bill that would crack down on distracted drivers. It would allow law enforcement to pull over and fine drivers using electronic communication. Original intentions were to target drivers caught texting. But it's widely recognized that engaging in any form of electronic communication (such as social media or email) is also dangerous when driving.
The bill further seeks to make this a primary law. This means drivers can receive a ticket without committing any other type of driving offense.
The only drivers Iowa has put restrictions on are teen drivers who some believe are more likely to text. They cannot text or use any type of electronic device while behind the wheel. But it's a problem that doesn't just affect young people.
What to Do When a Distracted Driver Causes a Crash
Understanding texting while driving facts and catching drivers texting or using a cell phone is one issue. What happens when these actions end up causing a crash? It's important to let the police know when responding to the scene of the accident that another motorist was texting. And if there were witnesses who saw the driver texting or talking on the phone, get their contact information. This will be helpful later on when filing a claim with the other driver's insurance company.
If the accident results in serious physical harm, it's important to seek medical attention. Be sure to gather your medical records and bills to help establish the extent and severity of your injuries, along with the costs. Keep track of missed time from work and other financial losses.
Finally, seek legal advice. An attorney can help prove fault by gathering the appropriate evidence. Legal counsel can also help determine the types of damages available. While you focus on healing and recovery, your attorney can deal with the insurance company.
Walker, Billingsley & Bair helps Des Moines accident victims pursue fair compensation for their injuries. Call us at 888-435-9886 or use our online contact form.
How does medical payments coverage help in the event of a serious injury?
Medical payments coverage is one type of coverage all Des Moines motorists should include on their policy. It can help cover expenses associated with a serious injury even if you caused the accident. But it can also help cover medical expenses prior to setting with an at-fault driver. Medical payments coverage could also pay for co-pays and deductibles on your health insurance.
What is medical payments coverage?
The only required auto insurance in the state of Iowa is liability insurance. This pays for property damage and injury-related expenses when the policyholder is at fault for an accident. But it doesn’t cover expenses when someone else is responsible for the accident.
The other driver should pay for an injured person’s medical bills when at fault. But you wouldn’t recover compensation for your medical expenses until reaching a settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurer. Meanwhile, the costs for a serious injury will start to accumulate.
Medical payments coverage isn’t based on fault. So it’s available regardless of responsibility for the crash. There usually isn’t a lengthy wait, so it can start to cover medical bills relatively quickly after the accident. Of course, payment depends on the amount of coverage you purchased.
Medical Payments Coverage in Serious Accidents
A serious collision can result in expensive treatment. For instance, let’s say someone sustains head and facial injuries. The individual receives treatment in an emergency room. But also needs extensive dental work and care for a traumatic brain injury.
The other driver’s insurance company is dragging its feet settling the claim for a fair amount. Medical payments coverage can help cover those costs up to policy limits.
Medical Payments Coverage & Health Insurance
Most health insurance plans cover the medical bills after a car accident injury. But health insurance plans usually require a deductible, which can be several thousand dollars in many cases, before insurance will start paying for bills. Medical payments coverage on your auto insurance can help you cover these deductibles.
Further, you may have to provide a co-payment when you use your health insurance. But medical payments coverage can help you cover these costs as well.
Will my insurance company seek reimbursement?
Through subrogation, insurance companies may recover their costs. So if your auto insurance or health insurance provides coverage for your medical bills, these companies may recover compensation from your settlement or judgment from the other insurance company. Speak with your attorney to learn more about subrogation and its effects on your final settlement.
Importance of Legal Advice after Serious Injury in a Car Accident
Medical costs are oftentimes significant for serious injuries. A serious injury may require not only immediate treatment but ongoing or long-term care. It’s important to consider the impact of both current and future expenses in such cases. An attorney can help you file a claim against the at-fault driver to recover fair compensation for your medical bills and other expenses or losses, such as reduced earning capacity or lost wages.
An attorney will account for all financial, physical and emotional losses in a settlement. Don’t wait to learn more about your rights if someone else’s negligence is the cause of injury. Call Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines at 888-435-9886 or contact us online to set up a consultation.
What is an expert witness for a car accident case?
Generally, an expert witness is a professional who has extensive experience and qualifications in a field directly relating to an issue in a case. Parties to a lawsuit bring in expert witnesses to answer questions and provide expert testimony about disputed facts. These questions can range from who was at fault in the accident to how much medical damages a person suffered in the accident.
How is expert testimony handled in court?
In order for an expert witness to testify, the person needs to meet the qualifications in the Iowa Rules of Evidence. The rule regarding expert testimony states:
"If scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise." (Iowa Rules of Evidence Rule 5.702)
It is up to the judge to determine whether a particular person meets these qualifications and whether that individual’s testimony can help settle a disputed fact at issue in the case. There may be a hearing before the expert testifies where the opposing sides argue about whether a person meets these qualifications.
After the expert testifies, the other side has the opportunity to cross-examine the expert and point out flaws or errors in the testimony and any potential bias.
How do expert witnesses help a car accident case?
Below are descriptions of how various experts can help settle two major aspects of a car accident lawsuit: fault and damages:
- Fault: Fault is obviously an important part of a car accident case given Iowa’s comparative negligence laws. An accident reconstructionist may be brought into a trial to testify regarding fault. These experts can determine how fast a driver was going, the driver's point of view, the forces during the impact and other aspects of the case. Plaintiffs may also call upon engineers or scientists to testify in product liability cases or about design errors in roadways.
- Damages: Economists might testify about the value of a plaintiff's lost wages and benefits or about the costs of the plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiffs may also ask their treating doctor to testify about their injuries and future treatments that might be required, and rehabilitation specialists sometimes offer testimony as well.
This list is not exhaustive, and plaintiffs can call upon other expert witnesses to give testimony if the expert's knowledge is relevant to the case. If a person injured in a car accident thinks he or she may need an expert opinion to prove a case, that person should consult a personal injury attorney in their area.
Local lawyers will be familiar with the law surrounding expert testimony and can ensure that a qualified professional testifies in court. If you’re in the Des Moines area and need to discuss your case and whether you require expert witnesses to establish your case, call Walker, Billingsley & Bair. Contact our office at 888-435-9886 or fill out our contact form to set up your appointment.
If I receive a traffic citation for the accident, can I still file for damages?
Yes, if you received traffic citations after an accident you can still file a claim. The traffic citation may affect the strength of the claim depending on the type of citation issued by the police officer. Car accident claims revolve around the concept of negligence, which is broadly defined as failing to use reasonable care to prevent harm to others.
If the traffic citation is evidence you were negligent in the accident, this will probably harm the claim. Insurance adjusters may use the citation to increase your proportion of fault in the accident and decrease its settlement offer. It will even bar you from collecting damages if you are more than half at fault for the accident.
No matter the citation, it's important for plaintiffs to let their attorneys know the police issued them traffic tickets after the accident. An attorney cannot prepare to address the citation when negotiating a settlement if the client doesn't inform him of it.
What traffic citations can be issued after the accident?
Police may issue traffic citations after an accident based on the evidence and testimony they find at the crash scene.
Some examples of traffic citations handed out at the scene of the accident:
- speeding tickets;
- red light tickets;
- right-of-way infractions; and
- failure to use a seat belt.
More minor citations, like not having working taillights, may be issued after the accident as well.
How does modified comparative fault affect the claim?
Iowa follows modified comparative fault. Comparative fault means that in a legal claim a party can collect damages minus her proportion of fault for the accident. As noted above, insurance adjusters may refer to a traffic citation to increase a claimant’s proportion of fault.
For example, a claimant was 25 percent at fault for accident because a taillight was out and the other driver is 75 percent at fault for following too closely and rear-ending when braking. If the claimant suffered $10,000 in damages, he or she can only collect $7,500 instead of the full $10,000.
The "modified" aspect of the theory refers to a limit Iowa law places on the claimant’s proportion of fault. Claimants must be 50 percent at fault or less in order to collect any damages in a personal injury case. If claimant is more than 50 percent at fault, he or she is barred from collecting any damages.
How do I prove my case in court?
In addition to traffic citations, the rest of the accident report can help establish fault for the accident. Accident reports include things like:
- weather conditions;
- vehicle position;
- eyewitness accounts of the accident; and
- driver sobriety reports.
Photographs, medical records and witness testimony may also help a plaintiff prove fault as well as document the extent of the damages. A car accident attorney can help accident victims gather this evidence and make a convincing case.
Walker, Billingsley & Bair helps Des Moines accident victims develop their claims and address any traffic citations or indications of comparative fault. Contact our office at 888-435-9886 to set up a consultation and get started.