Car accident attorney Fred Pritzker built our personal injury law firm with a focus on treating clients like they are family. This means, as our lawyers pursue an accident settlement, we also work to make sure our clients are treated by the best medical professionals and are treated right by insurance companies, landlords and banks. We don’t want our clients to be homeless because they can no longer work.
After an accident, there is often only one small window of opportunity to get compensation. We work individually with each client to make sure the compensation we pursue will provide financial security for them as long as their lives are affected by their injuries. When an accident involves serious injuries, this can mean a lifetime of financial support. When we represent a client, we make sure that the compensation we pursue for them will fully satisfy their current and future needs.
Help From Day One
The first thing we do when helping new clients is meet with them in their homes, in the hospital, or somewhere else where they feel comfortable. We take the time to find out what happened in detail, answering any questions they may have and explaining to them their rights. We make sure our clients understand how the legal process works and explain to them the path forward.
If you or a family member has been badly injured in a crash, you need answers. Our attorneys have provided answers to some frequently asked questions below.
I’ve just been hurt in an auto accident. What do I do?
Try to stay calm. A cool head can make a difference. Locate witnesses and get their names, addresses and telephone numbers. Exchange information, including insurance data, with the other driver. Call the police. If there is debris from the crash, think about returning and taking photos. Don’t discuss the facts of the accident with anybody else, unless you’re asked by the police. Tell them the truth. If you have been hurt, make sure you get medical care as soon as you can. Call your insurance agent and promptly report the crash. Don’t discuss any aspect of the collision or your injuries with the other person’s insurance company representative. No matter what that person tells you, you are not obligated to be interviewed.
My loved one was killed in a car crash, how do I hold the other driver responsible?
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is usually the best way to hold someone responsible for the death of a loved one. Wrongful death lawsuit winnings can cover medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of care and companionship, and other family losses. This is a way to provide financial stability for the family and to hold a bad driver and, in some cases, a corporate wrongdoer, accountable.
I was a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident; what do I do now?
Just like the driver of the car, the passenger can receive compensation from the driver’s insurance company. Sadly this usually involves suing a friend or family member. However most law firms have dealt with cases where this happens. Our firm has handled cases where children are technically suing parents and spouses are suing each other. Though these situations may seem awkward, we always try to do it in a way that gives our client the compensation that is necessary while keeping important personal relationships intact.
Do I need a lawyer to obtain a fair car accident settlement?
Most of the time you will need a lawyer to get a settlement that will cover all current and future expenses related to the crash. As you can see, there are a great many factors and issues that need to be assessed in order to obtain a fair recovery. Also, you’re going up against a giant insurance company. Companies have scores of adjusters, lawyers and other personnel who spend all of their time dealing with cases just like yours. It’s unreasonable to think that you, who have probably never had to deal with something like this, can match experience and resources with a company that does nothing but work on these claims. There’s also the matter of time. Bringing a claim takes a lot of time and energy. Most injured people are short of both.
How much does it cost to hire an accident attorney?
Virtually all attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury charge a percentage of the recovery, usually one-third. You don’t have to pay any money up front. If there’s a recovery the attorney gets paid out of that. If there’s no recovery, the law firm won’t charge you any fees at all. You don’t have to pay any hourly charges or lump sums called “retainers.” There’s also the issue of costs. “Costs” are out of pocket expenses like the amount of money a hospital charges for duplicating your medical records, or the filing fee the courts charge for filing a claim. Most law firms (like ours) pay those costs. We’re reimbursed for those costs when the case is settled. Remember: To hire a good lawyer, it won’t cost anything “up front.”
Does it help if I contact a car accident lawyer right after the collision?
Contacting a lawyer is almost always a good idea if you were involved in a car accident that resulted in injuries, and the sooner you contact one, the better. We need to get to the scene as soon as possible with our accident reconstruction experts. We have had cases where we found evidence that was missed by the city police, county sheriff’s office and state patrol. We also need to interview witnesses before there can be a question of memories fading.
What are my rights If the accident wasn’t my fault?
You have the right to have your medical bills paid and your wage loss reimbursed. This comes from no-fault coverage on your vehicle. If your insurance company denies your claim, you may have a lawsuit against the company for treating you with “bad faith.” These lawsuits can result in large payouts.
Pain, suffering, disability and many other kinds of losses are not covered by no-fault insurance. If you want to recover for those losses, you have to make a claim for them against the other person’s insurance.
Bodily Injury Claim
You also have the right to make a bodily injury claim, often referred to as a personal injury claim, against the driver who caused the accident. In that claim, you may recover damages (money) for pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, emotional distress, loss of earning capacity and other losses that may have occurred. The money for these losses is paid by the other person’s insurance company.
Property Damage Claim
You also have the right to get your automobile fixed, or, if it’s totaled, get the value just before the wreck. This is called a property damage claim. It can be made against your company if you have what’s known as “comprehensive” coverage. You may also have the right to collect that damage from the other person’s insurance company.
Usually, fault is decided by the police officer who responds to the crash. It is often hard for the officer to get a complete picture of the accident in the short amount of time they have at the accident scene. That is why our law firm hires accident reconstruction specialists to help us prepare a case that shows the full picture of who is at fault.
What if the crash was my fault?
Even if you were at fault, you may be able to recover some damages if another driver was more at fault. This is called “comparative fault.” Below are 5 things you should know when you are partially at fault for the crash.
Determining the degree of fault can involve complex legal and factual issues.
If you and several other parties are at fault, the case becomes exponentially more complex.
How the case is presented to a jury will be critical.
To help a jury make a decision, the judge gives them instructions. In comparative liability cases, your attorney will have to request the judge to give special instructions to the jury regarding damages and liability.
Any damages awarded will be reduced proportionately by your degree of fault.
What happens if the collision is partially my fault?
You may still get a car accident settlement, but you have to be able to prove the other person’s fault was greater than your own. In many cases, that’s not a problem; for example, if the person who caused the crash rear-ended you. But sometimes proving the other person’s fault is not so easy, such as if you both claim the light was green or if the collision happened at an uncontrolled intersection. Here’s where the concept of fault comes in. In every collision, the law says the fault of the participants must add up to 100%. Using our example of the rear-end collision, your percentage of fault would be 0% and the other driver’s percentage would be 100%. In some other case, a jury may find your fault was, say, 20% and the other driver’s was 80%. If you’re found at fault, the money you would otherwise be entitled to collect from the other person’s insurance would be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to you. This means that even if your injuries were worth $50,000 you would get only $40,000, a 20% reduction based upon your percentage of the fault. There’s one more thing. If your percentage of fault exceeds 50%, you get nothing, no matter how badly you were hurt.
Will I have to go to trial to get an accident settlement payout?
Most cases settle out of court. In fact, some studies show that only about 5% of personal injury cases go all the way to trial. Of course, if you want to go to trial, you have the right to do so. You always have the right to reject the insurance company’s offer and let a jury decide the value of your case.
What are my rights if the insurance company wants me to be examined by their doctor?
This is called an adverse examination. It’s “adverse” because you have no say in selecting the doctor, the doctor is working for and paid by the insurance company, and the purpose of the exam is not to help you get better. Most importantly, the “adverse” doctor is most likely going to disagree with your treating doctor. The law and your policy require you to cooperate with your no-fault insurance company. This means if you refuse to go to the exam, the insurance company will be allowed to cut off your benefits. Unfortunately, even if you go to the exam, the doctor is likely to say what the insurance company wants to hear, and you’ll probably be cut off anyway. As you can see, this is a very important time in your case. Before you go any further, talk to one of our attorneys (1-888-377-8900). There are things that can be done. For example, the law requires the exam be conducted in the city where you reside. The law also requires the insurance company to pay all of your bills until you’re notified of the results of the exam. Even if the insurance company cuts off your benefits on the basis of the doctor’s report, you can appeal the decision and frequently get your benefits reinstated. If you’ve been notified that you are to attend an adverse exam, call us right away. We can explain your rights and help you before you lose your valuable benefits.
Who should I talk to after an accident?
Whether it’s five minutes or five weeks after a crash, don’t discuss it with the other person’s insurance company representative. These people are called adjusters. They’re not bad people, but their job is to get as much information about the collision or your injuries and then try to use it against you. You can talk about the crash with your insurance company. In fact, your policy says you must cooperate with your insurance company. But even so, your insurance company is going to look out for its own interests before it looks out for yours. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer before you talk to any insurance company. Our attorneys have handled cases involving the following insurance companies: GEICO, Allstate, American Family, State Farm, Nationwide, Travelers, Progressive, Farmers and Liberty Mutual.
How long will it take to get a settlement?
The average case takes about 14 to 22 months from the date of the collision to resolve. Of course, that’s only an average. There’s usually no way to predict how long a particular case like yours will take. Remember, most doctors won’t issue a final report until at least a year after the crash. Without that report, it’s unwise to begin settlement negotiations. After the final reports are obtained and all the other information needed to evaluate a claim is available, your lawyer will usually begin negotiations with the insurance company by preparing a “demand” letter or brochure. This document sets forth all the information the lawyer thinks the insurance company should consider in deciding whether to settle the claim and how much the settlement should be. In response to that demand letter, the insurance company may make a counter offer. Negotiations will then take place. Sometimes the case is settled at that time. Frequently, however, the parties are not able to settle the case and it’s “put in suit.” Cases put into suit still usually settle, but it takes more time and often means getting closer to trial. Trial dates are scheduled by the court with little or no input from the lawyers. The scheduling of a trial date depends on which county the case is filed in and how many cases have been filed before it. Good lawyers do their best to move their cases along as quickly as possible.
After my case gets settled, can I go back for more money?
Good question. It really takes two answers to respond to this question. Once you settle the case with the other person’s insurance company, you usually cannot go back for more if your injuries get worse and you need more treatment. That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced lawyer representing you, one who knows your injury and what you can expect in the future. We make sure you recover enough money now so you don’t have to worry about the future. When you’re hurt in a crash, there are really two claims: the claim against the other person’s insurance company and the claim against your no-fault insurance company for medical bills, wage loss, and other related losses. As we have seen, the bigger claim (for “pain and suffering”) is against the other person’s insurance company. A settlement of that claim is not a settlement of the no-fault claim, however. Even after settling the claim for pain and suffering against the other person’s insurance company, you still have a right to make claims against your no-fault company. That claim stays “open” until you use up the $20,000 limit, even if it’s years in the future.
What if the person who caused the accident doesn’t have enough insurance?
Insurance policies should have underinsurance and uninsured motorist coverage. Some states require it. Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) applies when the value of your case exceeds the amount of the other person’s insurance. For example, let’s say your claim has a value of $50,000, but the person who caused the collision has only $30,000 in coverage. You would collect their $30,000 and then proceed against your company for the remaining $20,000. This is not a gift from your insurance company; part of every premium dollar you pay goes for UIM coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage (UM), on the other hand, applies when the person who caused the crash had no insurance. In that case, your uninsured motorist coverage compensates you for the damage caused by the other driver. Again, this is coverage for which you have already paid.
I’m not a “sue-happy person.” Should I file a lawsuit?
That’s a question each injury survivor has to answer. There’s no right or wrong response. When you’re hurt in a auto accident, you have lost something: your health, your ability to do the things you enjoy, income, time with your family and friends, etc. The money you receive for your losses isn’t a prize or a gift. It’s compensation for something you lost. You’re not coming out “ahead” and you’re not taking advantage of the system. Our state and federal constitutions make it a fundamental right for citizens to recover their losses. What you’re going through is real. And, you’re entitled to file an accident injury lawsuit if you decide it’s in your best interest to do so.
You should also know that you may not have to file a lawsuit. In some cases there is a settlement before a lawsuit is filed. When you hire one of our lawyers, he or she will begin the negotiation process by filing a demand letter outlining your case and “demanding” that the other side pay a specified amount of money. We have won multi-million-dollar amounts before a suit was filed.
If I make a claim, what effect will it have on the person who caused the accident?
For better or worse, usually not a lot. Most cases are settled by the other person’s insurance company without any personal financial contribution from the person who caused the accident. A claim for personal injury damages usually involves money only. It does not involve criminal prosecution, license revocation or other criminal penalties. Some cases, particularly those involving drunk driving, may result in charges being brought, but that’s a decision for the police and the prosecuting attorney, not the lawyer helping you recover money for your injuries.
I’ve heard a lot about “no -fault” insurance. How does it apply to me?
In some states every vehicle garaged is required to have insurance, including no-fault coverage. If you own a vehicle and it’s insured, you’re covered. Even if you don’t own a vehicle but live with a relative who does, you’re covered too. No-fault pays for medical bills (usually up to $20,000) and wage loss (also usually up to $20,000). It also covers replacement services, retraining, funeral expenses, and a few other items. The term “no-fault” refers to the fact that you are covered even if the automobile accident was your fault. Your no-fault coverage “follows” you, no matter whose vehicle you were in when you were hurt. Let’s say you’re injured when you’re riding as a passenger in your cousin Frank’s vehicle. Even though the crash may have involved Frank’s vehicle, it’s your insurance that pays for your medical bills and wage loss.
What can I do if my no-fault insurance company refuses to pay something it should?
After an collision, many people find out the hard way that their insurance company isn’t the warm, fuzzy group portrayed in its commercials. Study after study has shown that in almost half of the claims submitted to insurance companies, legitimate requests for payment are denied. In many others, the injured person isn’t aware of his or her right to receive benefits, and the insurance company doesn’t go out of its way to set the record straight. If this happens to you, first dig out your policy and see what it says. Then call us toll-free at 1-888-377-8900. We can usually tell you just what your rights are–quickly and at no charge–and make sure the insurance company doesn’t take advantage of you.
Who can I sue?
At-Fault Drivers: If your accident was caused by a drunk driver, a distracted driver, or any other at-fault driver, they can be held accountable.
Insurance Companies: Insurance companies often have deeper pockets than private individuals. Because of this, most settlements and verdicts are paid out by insurance companies.
Car Manufactures: Manufactures can often be held accountable if they sell you a faulty vehicle or if their manufacturing process itself makes the vehicle faulty and that fault contributes to your accident.
Car Dealerships: Car dealerships often have garages attached. If you took your vehicle to a dealers garage and they didn’t properly repair your vehicle or did a poor job repairing it, they can be held accountable if that contributed to your crash.
Bus Companies: When either a touring bus or a school bus is involved in an accident, the passengers on the bus often sue the busing company. If you were in a passenger vehicle and were in a crash where the bus driver was at-fault, the driver’s employer can often also be held responsible.
Trucking Companies: When an accident occurs that involves a semi truck or other commercial vehicle, the company if often partially liable for the accident. It is not rare for trucking companies to push their employees to violate federal regulations or to ignore employees medical conditions that would make them ineligible to drive commercially.
Truck Owners: Like trucking companies, truck owners can also often be held responsible the operator of their truck causes an accident. Truck owners are also responsible for maintaining their vehicles. If a lapse in maintenance contributes to an accident, they can be held responsible as well.
Waste Management Companies: Some of the most serious accidents on the road involve dump trucks and garbage trucks. Debris from these vehicles can fly out and strike a vehicle or person. It can also become a road hazard if it falls on the roadway. Waste management companies are responsible for their vehicles and everything in them. If garbage flies out of one of their trucks and contributes to an accident, they can be held responsible for the damages.
Governments: A city, county, state, or even the U.S. government can sometimes be sued for causing a traffic accident. We look at whether there are dangerous design flaws involving the roadway, a bridge or any other aspect of the infrastructure. We also look to see who owned the at-fault vehicle and the employment status of the driver.
Maintenance Companies: In most cases this would involve a dealership or auto servicing company, for example, a mechanic shop or tire store. With large vehicles, like semi-trailer trucks and buses, servicing is generally done at a maintenance yard. If a vehicle was improperly maintained or repaired and that vehicle caused an accident, the business that was responsible for maintaining that vehicle can often be held responsible.
Can I get a rental vehicle while my car is in the shop?
Yes, if you have coverage for rental vehicles on your policy or if the other person’s company agrees to pay for it (which they usually do if the accident was their insured party’s fault).
Who pays for the damage to my automobile?
If you have “comprehensive” coverage on your policy (it’s not required like no-fault coverage), you can collect for the damage from your own policy. You will be entitled to collect the amount of the repairs or for the value of the automobile, whichever is less, minus the amount of your deductible. An example. Let’s say the repairs cost $1000 and the deductible is $500. You can collect $500 from your insurance company. But if that same automobile is worth only $750, you will receive only $250. If the collision was the fault of the other person, in some cases that person’s insurance will pay for the damage to your car. If that happens there won’t be any reduction for the deductible, you can get the full value of your loss.
What happens if I don’t agree with the insurance company’s estimate of value of my car?
You’re not stuck with whatever the insurance company offers you. It’s best to get a few written estimates from auto dealers or appraisers regarding what they think your car was worth before the collision. If the estimates are higher than what you’re being offered by the insurance company, let the company know. If they still won’t offer you what it is worth, call our Minnesota car accident lawyers.
Where can I learn more about car accidents?
You can read more about car accidents, crash settlements, and some of our past cases by following the links below.