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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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.
Options for Damage Recovery When a Passenger is Injured
Motorists in the state of Iowa are mandated to carry a minimum of bodily injury liability (20,000/40,000) and property damage liability (15,000). However, liability only covers drivers and passengers who are injured in another vehicle.
If the driver of the car you’re in has medical payments coverage, it generally protects injured passengers. You also could be covered if the driver has uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
When another driver is at fault, then you have the option to file a claim under his or her insurance. If the limits in the policy aren’t enough to cover all of your damages, then you may want to seek legal action against the driver.
As a passenger, if you have sustained serious, disabling or life-threatening car accident injuries, it’s important you fully understand your rights. Seek legal counsel immediately.
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.
How do I pay my medical bills while I'm waiting on a settlement for my car accident claim?
Most victims have to use their own insurance policies to pay for their medical bills while they are awaiting a car accident settlement. Some turn to pre-settlement funding to help pay bills. The defendant (or his or her insurance provider) is not required to pay for your damages until after the case is settled.
Ways to Pay for Medical Bills after a Car Accident
Medicals bills are usually so high that everyone relies on some type of insurance to pay for their injuries.
There are several types of insurance you may be able to use until your settlement arrives, including:
- your health insurance with your employer;
- your own personal health insurer;
- your Medicare or Medicaid plan;
- the policy of the driver of the vehicle you were in (if you were a passenger); or
- your medical payments plan under your own car insurance policy (if applicable).
You Might Need to Pay the Insurer Back
Keep in mind that many insurance companies will expect you to pay them back after you get your settlement award. This is called subrogation, and how it affects you depends upon the provider and the terms of your contract. If you’re unsure, consult with the insurance carrier or your attorney.
Paying Other Bills While Incapacitated
Health insurance may pay for your medical bills while you’re awaiting settlement, but what do you do about all the other bills that have been mounting, not to mention the deductible on your health insurance policy?
If you had to take time off work for your injury, it’ll be hard to make ends meet with no income. If your injuries are severe and you have to hire others to do the work around the house that you normally would do, e.g., cleaning and maintenance work, you can quickly become overburdened with expenses.
If you have no, or limited, savings to help tide you over until you reach a settlement and if there are no close family members you can borrow from, you might want to look into pre-settlement funding.
Pre-settlement loan providers offer funding for those who they believe will have a successful resolution to their case. These loans can help you stay afloat until your case is settled.
There are downsides to lawsuit advances of which you’ll want to be aware. One of the major pitfalls is that they have exceptionally high fees. To find out which option might be suitable for you, consult your attorney or financial advisor.
Directing Your Questions to an Attorney
For any questions about a car accident settlement claim, feel free to contact the office of Walker, Billingsley & Bair, serving Des Moines and surrounding areas. Our attorneys can provide you with caring, trustworthy counsel and explain your legal options. Contact us today at (888) 435-9886 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
Who pays for my damages if the other driver fled the scene of the accident?
If the other driver fled the scene of the accident and cannot be identified, unfortunately, you’ll be responsible for the damages. If you carry uninsured motorist insurance on your auto policy, it should cover the damages for you. If you don’t have that type of coverage, you may turn to your health insurance.
Hit and Runs and Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Drivers who flee the scene may do so because they are driving without valid licenses or are afraid of being arrested for a crime, like driving while intoxicated.
In response to the ongoing problem of drivers with no insurance, insurance companies offer what’s known as uninsured motorist coverage (UM). This insurance helps pay for your damages when you can’t identify the other party or when the other driver doesn’t have insurance.
Unlike some states, Iowa does not require that you keep UM coverage on your policy. But to opt out of the coverage, motorists must do so in writing. If you’re unsure of what your auto insurance policy includes, take a close look at your policy or call your agent.
What happens if you don’t have UM coverage?
If you have UM coverage, when you file your accident claim with your insurance company, it should pay for your bodily injury damages, provided you have enough coverage. This is your primary form of protection in hit and run accidents.
You may also utilize your health insurance to pay for your medical bills after an accident with a hit and run driver.
If you include other optional insurance coverage on your auto policy you may utilize these as well, like:
- comprehensive; and
- medical payment.
There is the off-chance that if you provide the police with enough evidence (make and model of the car, tag number), they may be able to track down the other driver. You can then hold him or her accountable for your damages via a claim or a through the court system.
Penalties for Hit and Run Drivers
Fleeing the scene of an accident is not only completely unethical, but illegal. The state of Iowa has harsh penalties for the crime, categorized by the type of damages sustained:
- Physical property – If the accident only caused damage to your vehicle (and not your person), the crime is considered a misdemeanor, which carries a potential 30-day jail sentence and up to $625 in fines.
- Bodily injury – If you were injured in the accident, the other party is guilty of a steeper misdemeanor, and could face up to year in jail, plus up to $1,825 in fines. Failing to stop in the event of a serious injury can result in an aggravated misdemeanor charge punishable by two years in jail or up to a year in jail and a fine up to $6,250.
- Fatality – If a driver kills another person in an accident and then flees the scene, it’s considered a Class D felony, which means up to five years in prison and $7,500 in fines.
Get in Touch with an Accident Attorney
If you or your loved is the victim of a hit and run accident, discuss your legal options with Walker, Billingsley & Bair, serving Des Moines and surrounding areas. Our attorneys can explain your rights and how to go about resolving your case. Contact us at (888) 435-9886 today for a free consultation.
What do I do if I was the victim of a car accident hit and run?
The first thing to do after a car accident hit and run will be to tend to your medical needs, and to alert the proper authorities.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that approximately 11 percent of car accidents involve a hit and run driver. If you were struck by someone who fled the scene of the accident, there are several things you’ll need to do, each discussed below.
Avoid the Temptation to Chase the Driver
Anger and adrenaline may cause you to want to chase down the other driver, but authorities highly warn against this. There are numerous reasons the driver could be fleeing the scene; they could be a dangerous criminal and may react unpredictably.
Many drivers who hit and run do so because they are not carrying insurance, or they are intoxicated. At any rate, it’s advisable to stay calm, collect what information you can, and rely on the authorities to track down the other driver.
Collect as Much Information as Possible
Provided your immediate medical needs are tended to, try collecting and writing down as much information that you can.
If you’re able, try to write down:
- the make and model of the car;
- the license plate number;
- a description of the driver; and
- witness names and contact numbers.
You’ll want to keep this information in a safe location to not only help the police locate and identify the suspect, but to facilitate your case when you try to pursue compensation with the insurance company.
Contact the Police
The next thing you’ll need to do after a hit and run is contact the police. You can provide them will all the pertinent information you have, and they will fill out a police report.
They might not be able to track down the other driver, but you’ll still need to have the police report to support your car accident claim. After the police have arrived on the scene, assessed the situation, and collected all necessary information, they will complete their report. Ask how you can obtain a copy.
While the police are surveying the scene, it’s a good time to take photos of videos of the accident location and the damages. These may help with the investigation, as well as support your insurance claim.
Consulting a Car Accident Attorney
Hit and run accidents can cause enormous losses, and because the other driver is unknown, obtaining compensation can be extremely difficult. This is why you’ll want to seek the counsel of an accident attorney in Des Moines as soon as you’re able.
Your attorney can explain your legal options to you. Most often, this will require filing an uninsured motorist claim. This coverage is not required in Iowa, but if you have it, it can help cover your expenses and losses. If the other driver is located, you can file a claim against his or her insurance.
The office of Walker, Billingsley & Bair can help accident victims handle these types of cases, and can determine what options you may have for financial compensation after a car accident hit and run in Des Moines. Contact us at (888) 435-9886.