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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Who is at Fault in a Sideswipe Car Accident?
People have different names for what is commonly called a sideswipe car accident. Generally, a sideswipe means that two or more motor vehicles are traveling in the same direction and one vehicle strikes another one. Often the accidents occur when one vehicle enters the other vehicle's lane or both drivers attempt to merge into the same lane.
Often these collisions occur at highway speed on interstates with 2 or more lanes of travel. Sideswipe car accidents can be minor with property damage only or devastating if the impact is severe enough and/or one of the drivers loses control of their vehicle. Losing control of a vehicle at highway speed is a very scary situation. The vehicle can go into the ditch and may even roll. Roll-over car crashes cause more deaths and serious injuries than almost any other type of wreck. Wearing your seat-belt is very important if you are involved in a roll-over because without it your head may strike the roof causing a devastating spinal cord injury or you may be ejected from the vehicle.
How can sideswipe car accidents be prevented?
1. We have probably all started to merge into the next lane and suddenly realized that there was another vehicle in the lane. One of the best ways to prevent a sideswipe is to check your mirrors and also look over your shoulder to check your blind spot.
2. If you are driving faster than other vehicles it is always a good idea to pass them in the left-hand fast lane. In many states, it is actually illegal to pass on the right because of the safety concerns it creates. Therefore, if you pull up behind a slower moving vehicle give them a little time to hopefully see you behind them and pull over into the right hand slower lane. Passing a vehicle on the right can be unexpected and result in a serious collision. Here in Iowa, our rules of the road in Iowa Code Section 321.299 and the uniform jury instruction states:
600.14 Overtaking A Vehicle. The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle going in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance, and shall not drive to the right side of the road until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. A violation of this law is negligence.
That is right, you could be found at fault for passing another vehicle on the right even if they sideswipe you. There is an exception to the above law for multi-lane highways such as Interstate 80, but it is still a good idea to always try to pass on the left first.
3. Many newer cars and trucks have lane change warning systems. They use radar systems to detect vehicles that are in your path on either side of you. Most systems give you a warning light on your mirror so you know there is a vehicle next to you. Some vehicles provide you with an audible warning sounds if you turn on your turn signal and move towards the vehicle. This technology has prevented hundreds if not thousands of serious car accident from happening and has probably also saved many lives.
Who is at fault in a sideswipe car accident? This is a tricky question that usually will involve eye witness testimony from drivers behind the collision to describe what they saw and heard. Further, under Iowa law, we have what is called comparative fault which basically means the judge or jury will determine the percentage of fault for each driver involved. In order to recover any damages, you have to prove the other driver was at least 50% at fault. Failing to prove this will result in you receiving no compensation. Likewise, if you are found to be 20% at fault then the amount of damages you are able to recover are reduced by your percentage of fault which in this example would be 20%. So if your damages were found to be $10,000, then it would only be ordered that you are owed $8,000.
Iowa Code Section 321.306 and the uniform jury instruction state the following:
600.23 Roads Laned For Traffic. Whenever any road has been divided into three or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, the following rules in addition to all other consistent rules shall apply:
1. A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as possible entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until the driver has seen that the movement can be made with safety.
2. On a road which is divided into three lanes, a vehicle shall be driven in the center lane only when overtaking and passing another vehicle where the road is clearly visible and the center lane is clear of traffic within a safe distance, or in preparation for a left turn, or where the center lane is assigned exclusively to traffic moving in the direction the vehicle is going and is signed accordingly.
3. Official signs may be posted directing slow-moving traffic to use a designated lane, or assigning specific lanes to traffic moving in the same direction. Drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of the sign.
A violation of this law is negligence.
So basically a driver shall not drive his/her vehicle into another lane until it is safe to do so. The determination of who was at fault, and what percentage of fault they are, will come back to the testimony of the car drivers and the witnesses who saw the crash. If you or a loved one have been in a sideswipe car accident causing injuries then it is important that you have someone on your side looking out for your best interests. Some people think that their own insurance company will help prove that the other driver is at fault. While your insurance company may make their own determination of fault, they will only pursue the money that they have paid on your own automobile insurance policy. They will not pursue your medical bills, lost wages, loss of quality of life, pain and suffering or other damages you have sustained.
We offer Iowans injured in a car accident a no-cost Car Accident Evaluation at 641-792-3595. We will even give you our opinion if you even need an attorney or not and if the case is worth pursuing or not. If you prefer not to talk to a car accident attorney now, but want to learn about your rights first then request our book at www.IowaCarCrash.com. Our book gives you tips about how to find the best Iowa car accident and personal injury attorney for your case, exposes 7 Secretes to Not Wreck Your Iowa Car Accident case and much more.
How Are My Lost Wages Paid After a Car Accident?
Under Iowa law, if you or a loved one are involved in a car accident causing injuries that require you to be off work, then you will need to use your sick pay, short-term disability, accident and sickness, vacation time, AFLAC or some other form of disability pay. The insurance company for the other driver will not pay your lost wages as you incur them. They will only pay your lost wages as part of a total settlement of your case including medical bills, lost wages, loss of quality of life, pain, and suffering, etc. If you are still off work because of a car accident, it is way too early to be talking settlement with the insurance company. You need to wait and see how your medical treatment goes and if you make a full recovery or not before even considering a settlement offer.
It is important that you if you do not know if your employer has any such coverage that you contact the HR (human resources) department. If you do have short-term disability or another coverage that will provide you with benefits while you are not able to work, then you will be required to complete paperwork and your doctor will also have to fill out paperwork showing your disability. It is important that you complete this paperwork in a timely fashion because the longer you wait, the longer it will take before you start receiving checks for your time off work.
Also, you may have disability coverage on your mortgage, car or other loans. This can make your payments while you are disabled and not able to work. You should check with your bank or lender to find out if you purchased this type of coverage.
What if the above doesn't work?
If you, unfortunately, do not have any of the above available to you, then you may have to look for help from your family, friends, church, etc. If you were injured in a state that has PIP (personal injury protection) such as Minnesota then you may be able to recover your lost wages immediately under your own car insurance policy for no-fault insurance. For more information about Iowa car accidents, you should request of book that reveals 7 Secrets to Not Wreck Your Claim.
Who Should Pay my Medical Bills after a Car Accident in Iowa?
This is one of the most common questions we get and there is a lot of misinformation out there so listen up. First of all, the insurance adjuster for the other driver may tell you "send me all your medical bills". Yet, that does not mean they will actually pay your medical bills as you send them. You can try asking the insurance adjuster for something in writing that they will pay your medical bills. Although, chances are that the only way they will pay anything is if you agree to sign a release and close your claim forever. The insurance company would rather have your medical bills pile-up, have you sent to collection, have you start receiving nasty collection calls making threats against you such as garnishing your wages, etc.
Why would the insurance company want to do this? Because it puts pressure on you to settle your case for less than fair value. They want you to be so stressed out that you will take whatever they want to pay you so the medical bills will be paid and the collections calls will end. Well, there is some good news, you should not play by the rules set by the insurance company and instead should know the truth.
The truth is that rarely will the other driver's insurance company pay for your medical bills as they are incurred. So, the best source to pay your car accident related medical bills are:
1. Your health insurance that you have through your employer or that you obtained on your own.
You should make sure that the hospital and other medical providers have the information they need to submit the bills to your health insurance. They may say "we cannot do this because there is a third party responsible". This is hogwash. If you have health insurance then they are required to pay your medical bills regardless if it is a car accident or not;
2. Your medical payments under your own automobile insurance policy.
If there is insurance on the vehicle you were in at the time of the crash and/or if you have car insurance on your own, then chances are good that there is some medical payments coverage available. The amount can vary from $1,000 up to $100,000 in medical payments coverage. It is usually best to use your medical payments coverage to cover your co-pays and deductibles. But why should my insurance pay for this and won't this increase my insurance premiums? Well, this is coverage that you bought to protect yourself and if you are not at fault for the accident then it should not affect your insurance premiums. As stated above, the other driver's insurance is highly unlikely to pay for any of your medical bills, unless you sign a release letting them off the hook forever;
3. If You Don't Have Health Insurance
If you don't have health insurance and don't have any or enough medical payments coverage then you could contact the medical provider to see if they are willing to write-off all or part of the balance given your financial situation. Many hospitals are not-for-profit which requires them to write-off a portion of their medical bills each year to maintain the benefits they receive for being non-profit; and
4. None of the Above Work
Then you could seek assistance from a local church, charity, family or friends. Chances are if you are in this situation then your medical bills may be one of your last concerns as you are probably having problems paying for your other bills.
There are other potential ways of paying your medical bills that a qualified Iowa personal injury attorney may be able to help you with. If you would like more information about medical bills in car accident cases here in Iowa then request a copy of our book that we offer at no cost or risk to you. Our book also reveals 7 Secrets to Not Wreck Your Claim.
If you need immediate assistance or have more questions feel free to call our office at 641-792-3595 and ask to speak with one of our car accident attorneys.
What If the At Fault Driver is Lying About My Car Accident in Iowa?
We live in a world where some people would rather avoid responsibility for their actions by lying. If you are on the scene of a car accident in Iowa and someone is lying, you should be sure to get names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses who can tell the truth about what happened. Also, make sure good pictures are taken of the scene, location of the vehicles, skid marks, etc. If you are not able to do either of these because of your injuries, then call a family member or friend who can do this for you.
If you find out later on that the other at fault driver is lying about what happened you can:
1. Preferably before the accident or police report is finished and filed, talk to the police officer investigating the crash to make sure the truth is known;
2. If you have witness names and information provide it to the police officer so they can contact the independent parties to find out what really happened; and
3. Consider hiring a private investigator and/or a qualified injury attorney to try to obtain a recorded statement from the other driver. If they are lying, then chances are they will not be able to keep their lies straight and credibility is a big factor in Iowa personal injury cases.
If none of the above works and the police officer ends up finding you at fault and gives you a traffic ticket then consider the following:
1. Do not just mail the ticket in and pay the fine because this could be considered an admission of fault by pleading guilty;
2. If you are required to appear in court for your ticket, then appear and either pled not guilty and then a trial date will be set for your ticket. However, if you do not want to fight the ticket in court you could ask to be found guilty instead of pleading guilty which may not be considered an admission of fault; and
3. Hiring a criminal defense attorney to fight the traffic ticket in court. However, keep in mind that criminal defense attorneys will sometimes say they will do your personal injury car crash case also. No one can do everything well so be careful about hiring a criminal defense attorney for your car accident claim.
This is a condensed short list of some things to consider when the other driver is lying about what happened. For more information about Iowa Car Accidents Cases request a copy of our book that we offer at no cost or risk to you. If you would like to discuss your injury matter right away with one of our injury attorneys then call now 641-792-3595 for a no cost car accident evaluation.
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.