LawyersandSettlements: What personal injury cases do you typically cover?
Kip Scott: We handle many different types of cases. Our cases have involved auto accidents, dog attacks, wrongful death, fall injuries, bicycle/motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, head trauma and spinal cord injuries, and more.
LAS: Are you looking for any specific cases?
Kip Scott: We are looking for people who will benefit from our services. Typically these cases involve serious injuries, because the more serious the injury, the more legalities are involved and the more you may need an attorney to help you. You will need more medical attention, which means more bills. And you may have to reimburse your own health insurance company for treatment provided from your settlement. You may be left with a permanent disability which could require lifelong treatment. When you resolve your case, make sure you are getting fully compensated for everything you have gone through, both now and for the future. We believe the best way to do this is to have an attorney who will look out for you.
LAS: Why would I get a bill from my insurance company?
Kip Scott: It depends on the negotiation process during your settlement—you may be unaware of any liens. If you don't have a personal injury attorney, and don't know how to handle it, you may get a huge bill from your insurance company asking to get reimbursed for any amounts they have paid for your injury, after your case is settled. However, we know how to handle the lien holders and make sure you are protected in the future.
LAS: What should I do first if I am injured as a result of negligence?
If you are injured, the first thing you should do is get treated right away. In many cases the success of your recovery depends on getting treatment for your injuries immediately after the accident. In addition, insurance companies can make it difficult and use it against you if you delay treatment. You should also report the accident to your liability insurance company.
LAS: What am I entitled to in a personal injury action?
Kip Scott: In most cases you are entitled to past, present and future medical treatment; compensation for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and property damages.
LAS: I had a back injury before my accident and now it is worse, but my insurance company says they won't cover my medical bills.
Kip Scott: If this accident is aggravated or made worse your pre-existing condition, causing you to undergo treatment or surgery, we can get you compensation. The law states that if someone is more susceptible to an injury and an accident makes it worse, your insurance company cannot use it against you as a defense—but they will try.
LAS: What qualifies as a pre-existing condition?
Kip Scott: Most of us have some kind of pre-existing condition. For instance, our spines degenerate as we get older. A fall or automobile accident can make your condition worse causing you to undergo treatment and surgery.
LAS: Do I have any recourse beyond the statute of limitations?
Generally, the answer is no. However, under certain circumstances the statute of limitations may be tolled. For example, for a minor the statue is tolled until he or she reaches age 18; if someone is mentally incompetent; if the plaintiff is in prison at the time of the incident; if the plaintiff is in military service.
But the best thing to do is to consult an attorney for legal advice.
LAS: I don't have health insurance. Can an attorney help with my medical bills before a settlement is reached?
Kip Scott: If a medical provider knows you don't have insurance and you have medical treatment you will get a bill in the mail. If you don't have insurance or can't afford to cover your treatment and pay your bills, we can help. We will contact the health insurance provider and in many cases they will allow us to defer payment or make payment arrangements. Or we can provide you with a doctor who will treat you at no out- of-pocket cost to you. The doctor will be paid when the case settles.
LAS: What happens if my case doesn't settle?
Kip Scott: We are able to settle most of our cases prior to litigation. However, if the case goes to court, in most cases we will cover all the costs associated with litigation.
LAS: I was in a car accident. How should I handle the insurance claim?
Kip Scott: If you have been involved in any kind of traffic accident, whether a car accident, truck accident, or motorcycle accident, you will inevitably have to deal with your insurance company as well as the insurance agents of others involved in the accident. Filing an insurance claim and handling insurance adjusters can be quite a task. Here are some essential do's and don't's to remember regarding insurance claims:
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident or injury. Unless you have some very serious injuries to take care off, your insurance agent is the first person to call in case of an accident or injury.
- Take time to read your insurance policy and understand it. This will help you determine what coverage your policy allows so as to make the necessary claims.
- Do your best to get as many details of the accident as possible. This will include taking pictures of the damaged vehicles and any injuries sustained. Also do try to take down the names and numbers of any witnesses to the accident.
- Make a note of the insurance details of any other person or vehicle involved in the accident.
- Save receipts and bills for any and all expenses relating to your insurance claim, bills for any repair work on the damaged vehicle, and also any medical costs.
- Be frank and honest with the insurance investigators so that your claim is not denied for fraudulent reasons.
- Don't admit to any kind of liability on your part but just stick to the facts without expressing any opinion. The ascertaining of liability is affected by different circumstances. It is not your job to admit fault but is the job of the insurance investigators to gather all the necessary facts and evidence and then determine liability.
- Don't give anything in writing to any insurance officers, whether to your own or the other party's, if you do not understand any part of your policy or claim.
- Don't let any time limits to file your insurance claim run out. All insurance companies require you to file an insurance claim within specified periods of time after the accident or injury.
- Don't take everything that your insurance agent tells you as the last word, especially regarding the value of your claim or a settlement.
- Don't just accept their estimates without doing some estimation of your own.
- Don't sign any document that is a release or a waiver of any kind. If you are not sure about what you are being asked to sign, consult an attorney for help.
- Don't take any check as a full and final payment unless you are certain that it is a fair compensation for your losses.
Kip Scott: We have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our injured clients and work hard to settle most of our cases before going to court. We have handled cases involving cervical and lumbar fractures, people who have undergone spinal cord surgeries, brain injuries, loss of a limb, wrongful death, dog attacks requiring lifelong care and more.
Some people who have been mauled by a dog or survived a car accident also need emotional support. Often they cannot get back into the driver's seat or become afraid of dogs. We make sure they are compensated financially for any future prognosis, which includes any compensation for permanent disabilities. Sometimes a victim needs accommodation, special home care and support for life-long disabilities.
Kip Scott is senior partner at the Personal Injury Law Center, which serves Orange County and Los Angeles County communities. Kip has been recognized for his volunteer work with homeless children, New York 9/11 ground zero recovery team, and Hurricane Katrina disaster relief. He has also been awarded by Orange County Magazine (cover story) and the United States Senate. The firm "believes in giving back to our community."