In the past, I’ve shared some things you can do when representing yourself to get the most you can out of your injury claim. In today’s blog, I want to share three situations where I think you’re better off hiring a lawyer than going alone.
So let’s get started.
Number one, you were hurt on the job. Now, I’ve done videos in the past about the interaction between personal injury claims and workers’ compensation claims, one of which you can see right here.
One takeaway from that video is that in most situations, you can have both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim, but it gets complicated, and your lawyer must handle it correctly, or you could wind up leaving a lot of money on the table and running into some real difficulties, and that’s because of two really important rules when it comes to workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.
Workers’ Compensation Liens
First, your workers’ compensation insurance company has a lien on your personal injury settlement. See my video for more information on what a lien is and what it means for your claim.
But the gist of it is that your workers’ comp insurance company has the right to have its benefits repaid out of your injury settlement. Still, like nearly everything, though, these amounts are negotiable under the right circumstances. Knowing how and when to negotiate these liens or rights of recovery is best left to an experienced lawyer.
Worker’s Compensation Holiday
The other important rule you need to know about is the workers’ comp holiday. A holiday in this context means a period after you settle your injury claim where your workers’ comp insurance company doesn’t have to pay for your benefits.
Now, the truth is there is simply no way I could explain the ins and outs of the holiday to you here in this short blog entry, but the good news is I don’t have to. The important thing is simply that you know that such a thing as the holiday exists, and if it’s not handled correctly, you could be on the hook for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in costs of medical care.
The workers’ compensation lien and holiday must be considered and addressed before settling your personal injury claim. If you’ve already settled your lawsuit and realize afterward that you’ve made a mistake, there’s not much you can do about it.
So if you’re hurt on the job, I recommend talking to a lawyer sooner rather than later.
Injuries while on Medicare or Medicaid
The second situation is if Medicare or Medicaid has paid for your injury-related healthcare. Once again, I’ve done some videos recently on Medicare, and Medicaid and how they relate to your personal injury claim, which you can see by clicking the links.
Like workers’ compensation, you can still bring a personal injury claim or lawsuit, even if Medicare or Medicaid has paid for some or all of your healthcare. But again, like with workers’ comp, many pitfalls can result in lost compensation for you if these situations aren’t handled correctly.
Whether you’re in New York or Vermont, Medicare and Medicaid have rules which require you to notify them if you have a personal injury claim, and they are both entitled to be repaid some amount out of your settlement or jury verdict.
One thing to know is that some technical reporting requirements, if not handled correctly, can result in penalties and interest being added to your account. Like workers’ comp, you must plan for your future medical care needs when considering Medicare and Medicaid.
Suppose you receive a personal injury settlement or jury verdict, which includes money specifically designed to compensate you for the cost of future medical care. In that case, you may run into difficulties if you lose eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid benefits, which can be a real problem.
Medicare Set Aside
In many cases, when it comes to Medicare, people will create something called a Medicare set aside or simply set some money away to prepare for the eventuality of future care needs. With Medicaid, you have to be concerned about having too much income or too many assets to remain eligible for Medicaid.
These are incredibly complicated areas of law that most lawyers hire other professionals to work with us to ensure we get it just right. So don’t risk losing your Medicare or Medicaid benefits if you have a personal injury claim. If you need future care and receive either of these benefits, make sure you talk to a lawyer.
Finally, the third case where I think you should talk to a lawyer is where your injuries aren’t visible. Now, admittedly, this kind of case isn’t as apparent as the others I’ve discussed already in this video.
Importance of Expert Witnesses
What makes this kind of case different is that it will likely require at least one expert witness to prove your case. Now, I’ve done videos on witnesses before, and you can watch one on expert witnesses right here.
Here’s what’s important to know: you may need to hire an expert witness to help you prove one or more of those elements.
For instance, you may need a doctor to prove that an injury exists or has gotten worse, or you might need a different expert to prove the causal connection between the accident and your injuries. And insurance adjusters and defense lawyers know this.
When you don’t need an expert witness
Now, there are certainly cases where you can get away without expert witnesses, for instance, in a slip and fall. If you didn’t have a broken wrist the moment before you fell, and afterward you did, you probably don’t need a medical expert to prove the causal connection between the fall and the broken wrist. But you may need an expert for some other aspect of the case.
Or, if you have a broken leg after being rear-ended in a car crash, then probable causation isn’t going to be an issue in your particular case.
When you do need an expert witness
But if you have any injury that allows you to walk away from the scene of the crash or the fall without immediate healthcare, that will raise a red flag for insurance companies. And I can promise you that if you try to handle that kind of claim alone, you most likely don’t get a fair offer.
You shouldn’t feel bad, though, because even injury lawyers get lousy offers until and unless we work up those cases properly using the right kind of expert witnesses. Knowing how to choose these experts, working with them, and being willing to pay for them is one of the essential things an injury lawyer can do for you.
So if you were lucky enough to walk away from the crash scene and have nagging injuries that have gotten worse over the months or years, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as you can.
Summary: When not to represent yourself in a personal injury claims
I think you’re better off finding a lawyer to represent you rather than going it alone when handling a personal injury claim in some cases. I hope you found this information helpful. If you want to talk to me about your injury claim, send me a message or call my office. Thanks for reading.