What is a Personal Injury Case and What Should You Look-Out For?

When an Iowan is hurt at work, in a car accident or other personal injury accident often they do not understand damages they should receive, whether they should hire an attorney and generally about what do to. This article reveals misconceptions and myths about Iowa’s workers’ compensation, car accident and personal injury laws.

For more than 100 years Iowa Courts have recognized a person’s right to bring a claim against another for injuries caused by fault also known as negligence. Whenever you are hurt by anyone’s negligence, including that of another car driver, corporation, manufacturer, store merchant, or someone else you have a “personal injury” claim. Car and motorcycle accidents (injuries caused by a negligent driver), dog bites (injuries caused by a dog or other animal), falls (injury because someone did not take care of the walkway for example), nursing home (injuries sustained by a resident of a nursing home) and product liability (injury by harmful product) are all subtypes of personal injury cases.

However, if your injury happened while you were working (what is known as a workers’ compensation case) special laws apply. For example, in a workers’ compensation case the employee does not have to prove fault or negligence like they would in a car accident or personal injury case. However, the trade-off is that the employee’s damages are limited. In an Iowa workers’ compensation case, an employee is generally not allowed to recover pain and suffering or loss of quality of life damages against the employer. The exception to this rule is if you can prove that a co-employee committed “gross negligence”. Also, if you were injured by someone who does not work for your employer or a defective product caused your injuries then you may be entitled to additional damages. You should consult an attorney to find-out if your case meets one of these criteria.

Regardless of the type of case that you have, one misconception is that the insurance adjustor is there to help you with your injury case. The insurance adjuster works for the other side and has no duty to protect your rights or even tell you what the law is. Just because you are reasonable with the insurance adjuster does not mean that the insurance adjuster will be reasonable with you. Remember, insurance attorney or companies would rather collect premiums than pay claims so they train their adjuster to pay you as little as possible. Sometimes this means intentionally frustrating you in hopes that you will give-up and go-away. If you decide to try to handle your case on your own, it is important that you do not lose your temper or make threats to the insurance adjustor. If the adjuster makes a ridiculously low offer, it may be difficult not to show emotion. However, getting angry will not convince the carrier to offer more money. In the eyes of the adjustor it means that you have a short temper which will certainly not help your case.

Often when you have been injured the insurance adjuster will ask you to provide a recorded statement. Sometimes, they will even tell you that you must give them a recorded statement before they will consider your claim. While this can be true if you are making a claim against your own insurance company, for example in a property damage claim, uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, you are generally not required to give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster for the other party. The reason that they want the recorded statement is so that they can ask you questions before you are prepared to answer them. For example, the adjustor may ask you “Have you ever had neck pain before?” Your immediate response may be “No”. Well, if you previously saw your family doctor or a chiropractor at sometime in your life and mentioned neck pain this can create a real problem because your credibility is very important. When answering a question like this most people are thinking “No, I have never had neck pain like this before”, but that is not the question asked.

So a single wrong answer to a question that you are not prepared for or do not understand can cost you thousands of dollars in your case. It is rare that giving a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance adjustor in a personal injury or car accident case will help your claim.

Sometimes clients will come to see me after they have fired an attorney they found in the phone book who advertised as a personal injury or workers’ compensation attorney. Any Iowa attorney can advertise that they handle personal injury or workers’ compensation cases even though they may have never handled a single case. What you need to look for is an attorney who advertises “practicing primarily in” personal injury or workers’ compensation depending on which type of case you have. This means that the attorney has certified with the Iowa State Bar Association that at least 40% of their law practice involves personal injury and that they have spent at least 15 hours per year taking continuing education classes about the changing personal injury or workers’ compensation laws.

Iowa’s personal injury and workers’ compensation laws are far too complex for someone without knowledge and experience to represent someone seriously injured. Only a qualified Iowa injury attorney can make sure that your rights are protected and that you are treated fairly in your case.

Another thing to look for when searching for an attorney is what results they have obtained for their clients and what their past clients have to say. Don’t take “all my cases are confidential” as an answer. Ask yourself, do you want someone representing you with a proven track record or do you want to take a gamble on the attorney you chose.