Your Case & Settlement
Do I have a case?
In determining whether you have a case, the first thing that I must consider is liability. Liability means figuring out which party was responsible for causing the crash. I must make sure you have a strong case from a liability standpoint before I can move forward.
After I have evaluated liability, and determined that another party was more than likely at fault, then I have to consider your injuries. The severity of your injuries will play a large role in determining the approximate value of your case. In general, the more severe your injuries are, the higher the value of your case.
One important issue to consider, however, is that it takes time to determine the extent of most injuries. Every person’s body reacts differently to a crash. As such, your injuries may not be fully known until you are finished receiving treatment from your doctor.
In short, the experienced personal injury attorney George R. Fusner, Jr. can give you a good idea about whether you have a case relatively early, but I may not know the full value of your case until after you have received the appropriate medical treatment to get healthy again and the Doctor has released you from further treatment.
How long will it take for my case to be resolved?
Obviously, every case is unique and there is no magic number as to how long your case might last. It depends a great deal on the types of injuries you’ve sustained and how you respond to treatment. I will not resolve your case until what I call “maximum medical improvement” is achieved. This means that you’ve either completely done with treatment or it’s been determined that your injury is permanent and there’s nothing more that can be done medically to resolve it. This allows us to ensure that you’re properly compensated for your injuries and treatment. Under Tennessee law, however, you must file your complaint within one year of the date of the crash. This is called the statute of limitations.
What is settlement based on?
Settlement is based on many factors, some of which are: the types of injuries sustained; prior injuries; preexisting conditions, history of injuries; type of treatment; and cost of treatment. I will also have to determine whether there will be future treatments or surgeries. Has the injured person lost wages because of the crash? Will their future earning capacity be reduced? Was there permanent scarring? What limitations will the individual have in the future as a result of injuries and how much pain is involved? How has it affected your daily activities? Did you used to mow the lawn and now you must hire someone. At the Law Office of George R. Fusner, Jr., I ask all those questions and more to make sure that you receive fair compensation from the insurance company for the responsible party.
Can I settle a case on my own?
The insurance companies would love for you to settle your own case. They’re in the business of paying out as little as possible, regardless of the extent of your injuries. They know that you’re unaware of the true value of your case and all the factors that determine your compensation. Oftentimes, if you don’t have an attorney, they will offer people less and less as the process progresses and then give a take-it-or-leave-it, low-ball offer, which the person feels obligated to accept. It’s like putting a guy off the street up against a Randy Johnson fastball. You want a professional in the batter’s box. You want an attorney to take your case. Would you operate on yourself? Of course, not. I handle these cases EVERY day.
Why do I need an attorney?
First of all, an attorney will take away all the stress, hassles, and worries of dealing with the insurance company. I have extensive experience in dealing with insurance adjusters, evaluating claims, and ensuring that you receive a fair settlement. I would equate it with asking yourself whether you need a doctor when you have a broken leg. You could try to set it yourself and hope for the best, or you could head to the hospital and get the best care possible. That’s precisely what I am doing at Law Office of George R. Fusner, Jr. — giving you, and your case, the best care possible.
Insurance companies try to make individuals feel guilty for seeing a doctor, and try to get you to take the easiest — and least expensive way out. In hiring an attorney, you’re leaving the negotiation and worries to me, while you’re left to simply work toward getting better.
Is there a maximum amount I can collect from a crash?
Much of this depends on what the at-fault party is able to pay. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend time and money going to trial if there’s no ability to collect. So, generally I look at the coverage policy limits if available to see what is available to us. In state court, they are not disclosed. However, in Federal Court they must be disclosed. Further, do you have uninsured or underinsured coverage under your own policy? Additionally, if you’ve sustained severe injuries, I want to make sure there’s no umbrella policy. An umbrella policy is one that covers any negligence and damages that are beyond the person’s car insurance policy. Oftentimes, when you see, say, a million dollar umbrella policy, it’s because the person has assets that they want to protect and don’t want to expose to a jury verdict. The amount to which you’d be limited would be the policy limits, combined with your un- or underinsured motorist coverage, and in rare cases, the possibility that the person in questions has substantial assets to collect against.
Do I still have a claim if I’ve been in prior crashes?
If you’ve been in prior crashes, you still have a case, depending on your condition before and after the most recent crash. Of course, an insurance company will make an issue of past crashes, which is even more reason you need an attorney. I will evaluate your prior injuries, determine if they have been aggravated, and evaluate your new injuries, to make sure that you’re compensated appropriately. You shouldn’t be penalized because you had a crash sometime in your past. Obviously, if your prior injury is not worse after the most recent crash, then there is no new damage. However, if your injury is worse after the most recent crash, then you are most definitely entitled to compensation.
- Is a wreck involving a semi-tractor trailer is just like a car wreck?
- NO!! There are a completely different set of rules that apply to these cases. In addition to the normal rules of the road, a driver of a semi-tractor trailer is a professional driver. They must abide by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) which are very extensive. A lawyer handling these cases must be familiar with these regulations.
- Can any lawyer can handle a tractor trailer wreck case?
- Not successfully or get a good result. In addition to the FMCSR, trucks are different than cars. They stop slower, visibility is different, the equipment is larger, the drivers are more experienced and often drive longer hours. All areas that need an experienced tractor trailer wreck lawyer to explore. Years ago, I was CEO of a heavy haul trucking company. I personally know about these big trucks and trailers. The company had a tractor and trailer with 21 axles that could legally haul 200 tons. I know about truck drivers and trucking companies.
- The insurance is the same as on a car, right?
- Wrong. The policy of insurance actually has a special provision called an MCS 90 endorsement. In addition there are much higher limits than an ordinary auto policy depending on the type of cargo. The minimum is $750,000. Since the limits are so high the insurance companies employ the best lawyers to defend the case. Often the trucking company has a high deductible or even is self-insured. This causes them to fight harder. Thus, you need an experienced tractor trailer lawyer to protect you and get the money you are fairly entitled to.
- Tractor trailer drivers have the same driver’s license as I do, correct?
- No. They have a license called a CDL or commercial driver’s license. To get that license a person must go to school, learn the FMCSR, pass a physical, take a written test, read and speak English, and pass a driving test. Further, when a company hires a driver they are supposed to do a background check and check their driving record. All that information and training needs to be explored when the drivers’ deposition is taken. Further, the company must keep a record of the drivers log books. Only a lawyer who knows about that training can ask the right questions both of the driver AND the company.
- Since the truck is so big, are special safety inspections required?
- Yes. Every day before a driver starts their trip, he must perform what is called a pre-trip inspection. That involves checking everything from front to back and under the truck. A proper inspection will take approximately 30 minutes to perform. Yet most drivers do not perform the detailed inspection since it takes away from their driving time. The driver must document that inspection. An experienced trucking lawyer knows what is to be inspected and will ask those questions. Many wrecks are caused by the failure to inspect and then a wreck occurring due to a defect that would have been found with a proper pre-trip inspection. If the lawyer does not know what to ask he will often miss a very important point that can help your case.
Is time critical in these cases?
Absolutely. The insurance companies and trucking companies have “crash teams” on call 24/7/365. They go to the scene of the crash and start to gather information while you are being taken to the hospital. Almost all trucks have “black boxes” that contain information about the operation of the truck prior to the wreck. That information can make or break you case. It needs to be preserved and downloaded by an expert. The experienced attorney knows who to call, how to send a spoliation letter so the evidence is not destroyed, and preserve the evidence all for your benefit not the trucking company or insurance company.
About Law Office of George R. Fusner, Jr.
What happens after I retain a lawyer?
Your first priority after being injured in a crash and retaining a lawyer is simple: get better. It’s important that you seek immediate medical treatment for any injuries so that I can learn the extent of those injuries. Do exactly what your doctors ask of you, and let us handle the rest.
Is there a charge for coming to see you?
- Absolutely not. In car wreck and tractor trailer wreck cases, all fees AND expenses are done on a contingency fee basis. That is if there is no recovery, there is no fee. If there is a recovery, the expenses are taken out of your portion of any recovery. I will happily come to the hospital or your home to speak with you.
Who will be answering my questions?
Unlike many law firms, at the Law Office of George R. Fusner, Jr., you will be speaking with me an attorney. Your initial consultation will always be with me. Any questions needed to be answered by an attorney will be personally answered by me. I understand how difficult and confusing this process can be, which is why I and my staff are uncommonly dedicated to making you as comfortable as possible. If, at any time, you would like to have a conference with me, I would be delighted to schedule one. I believe it’s of utmost importance that every client keeps an open line of communication with the attorney so that I am up-to-date on all medical treatments and case progress. One of the rules of my office is that “there are no dumb questions.” Call. If I don’t have the answer, I will say so and get back with you.
What is the process of the typical personal injury case, from crash to settlement?
After your crash, a police officer will prepare a crash report and you may be transported to the hospital. You will then want to seek counsel and contact your insurance company. At that point, I will send a letter of representation to your insurance company and all communication will then be between me and the company. Never give a statement to the insurance company, and I mean NEVER.
Your only responsibility is to get better and continuously update my office on the progress of your treatment. Once your treatment is complete, I will order all your medical records for analysis and draft what is called a “settlement demand.” This will be used as our basis for negotiating out your claim.
When I negotiate out a claim, I take all factors into consideration and determine if I can settle your case. Once you — and this decision is yours alone — say that the settlement is okay, I will proceed with the settlement.
If you’re not satisfied with the settlement offer, I will proceed with a lawsuit. After written discovery, depositions, and other pretrial work the case is ready for trial. In Tennessee, almost all cases go to mediation before trial. I will explain below what is mediation. If the case does not settle at mediation
I would present that case before a twelve-person jury, in a trial that can last for days. Generally speaking, the waiting period for a short trial can be anywhere from six to 12 months, while the waiting period for a longer trial is 18 to 36 months.
If you do go to trial and an award is granted, either side can appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, which could take a year or more.
Timeframe, Statute of Limitations
In Tennessee, the statute of limitations allows you to only file within one years of the date of the car crash. This is the only mandatory time line. As far as injuries, everyone heals differently and treatment varies. A lawsuit can be filed even if you are still treating.
Out of State Clients
Nashville is becoming a travel destination in the United States. The city and surrounding areas are booming. My office is located just outside Nashville and I handle cases throughout the surrounding areas. I have many years of experience dealing with out of state clients. In fact, the personal injury claim process is still the same as if my client lives in Middle Tennessee or out of state. All records, reports etc. can be handled through email so there is instant communication. I will travel to see your treating Doctors and meet with them just like they are here in Tennessee. Likewise with you and your family together with any witnesses.
Why is George R. Fusner Jr. Different?
Before & After
How should I be prepared in case of a crash?
If you’re driving, you should always carry your license and your proof of insurance. Even if you’re not at fault in a crash, police can — and will — ticket you for not having these crucial items.
Additionally, you should always wear your seat belt. In California, the driver at fault is not held responsible for injuries that are caused by lack of seat belt use. While this is not yet the case in Tennessee, it goes without saying that your injuries could be much more severe if you’re not wearing one.
What should I do immediately after a car crash?
First, you obviously want to make sure everyone is okay. Second, you need to contact the police, and if possible, leave your car exactly where it is. This will allow the officers to make a better determination of cause and fault. Oftentimes, people make the mistake of moving their car in an effort to be courteous to other drivers. Also, you shouldn’t make any statements to anyone, until the police arrive. Remember, any statement you make at the scene can later be used against you.
What kind of Insurance should I have?
At a bare minimum, you are required by the state of Tennessee to carry liability insurance in the amount of 25,000 dollars per incident and 50,000 dollars per occurrence. This means that the maximum amount that a single person can receive from this policy for their injuries is 25,000 dollars and the maximum that all parties in the vehicle can receive is 50,000 dollars. For example, if there’re five people in a car, all with relatively equal injuries, each person would receive a maximum of $10,000 dollars.
Now, one of the major misconceptions about insurance is the meaning of “full coverage.” Full coverage means that not only do you have liability and collision coverage, but uninsured and underinsured coverage as well. This means that if someone hits you and has no insurance or their coverage limit is not high enough to cover your damage and injuries, your insurance will make up the difference, up to whatever your limit is.
Of course, Tennessee allows for lots of different coverages that you may want to add to your policy. Some of the more valuable ones are Med Pay, rental car coverage and gap insurance.
Ranging in values, Med Pay is relatively inexpensive and covers any medical treatments you may undergo in relation to your crash, no questions asked.
Rental car coverage will pick up the cost of a rental while your vehicle is being repaired.
Gap insurance covers the difference between what the insurance company is willing to pay for a car that is beyond repair and what you owe on the vehicle.
What should I do if an insurance adjuster contacts me?
If you’ve retained the services of Law Office of George R. Fusner, Jr. or any other law firm, you won’t be contacted by the insurance adjuster, as they will deal directly with the attorney. That’s one of the great benefits of hiring a lawyer, as their first priority is to settle with you for the least amount of money possible and keep you from getting costly treatment.
Our first concern, on the other hand, is whether or not the insurance company is being fair to our client. Sometimes, when the vehicle in question is a complete loss, the company will not want to pay fair market value. You have the right to obtain your own estimates as to the damage to your car and who you want to fix it. That said, I will not take any fee on property damage, because I want you to be able to fix your car first.
Incidentally, if an adjuster does contact you, you should take down their name, date, the time of the call, claim number and the nature of the phone call. Absolutely do not make any statements to the adjuster as to the details of the wreck or your injuries as the call will be recorded. When I say no statements, I mean NONE.
Should I use my medical insurance?
This is an individual decision that depends on what kind of health insurance you have and what types of doctors are on your provider list. I can discuss that with can as there are many pros and cons. The most important matter is to seek medical treatment and follow the Doctors recommendations. If you’ve sustained severe injuries that require special treatment, you may want to go outside your provider list and pursue the option of a doctor’s lien. Again, this is a discussion you need to have with your attorney.
What’s a HIPAA form?
A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form allows your attorney to request all your medical records for the treatment that you have received in relation to your crash.
Enacted on April 14, 2003, HIPAA requires, among other things, the safeguarding of patients’ individual information by restricting access to it and seeking patient permission to disclose it in certain circumstances. Never give the insurance company this form. Only your attorney.
What happens if the person who hit me has the same insurance that I do?
If the person who hit you has the same insurance as you, there’s no difference than if they didn’t. While the insurance company has an obligation to treat the crash as if there are two separate companies, they will often try to devalue the claim, as it is going to cost them money regardless. This is all the more reason why you need an attorney.
Can I talk to the insurance company and answer their questions or give them a statement?
You can, of course, talk to the insurance company, but as your attorney, I’d advise against it. I ask that you leave all communication with the company to me, so that I can best protect you and your interests. Insurance companies are looking to save themselves money and will seek out any and every angle to lessen their responsibility to you. As such, every time you try to be helpful to the insurance company, you will be hurting your own case.
How do I know if I need treatment for car crash injuries?
While every individual reacts differently to an automobile crash and each person has a different pain threshold, it’s very common for people to wake up the day after a crash in more pain than they were in immediately after. That’s why it’s a good idea to seek treatment if you’re in any kind of pain at all. Insurance companies only value claims based on treatment received. If you don’t see a doctor and the injury gets worse, you may not be able to claim that the injury — whether soft tissue, muscular, or skeletal — was sustained during the crash in question.
How do I pay for medical treatment?
If you have health insurance, you can obviously pay through your existing coverage. Unfortunately, often in these tough economic times, you may not have coverage. If that’s the case, you can still seek treatment, as many of the outstanding doctors in the Middle Tennessee area are willing to treat injuries on what’s called an “attorney’s lien basis.” There are also companies that will advance the funds for your treatment and then they get paid at the time money is received. This is basically a situation where the client and I agree to sign a contract, under which the doctor will give treatment in exchange for money to be collected later in the case. Under this agreement, the doctor or funding source will be paid before any compensation is paid out to you.
Should I go to the hospital?
As it happens, you may not have a choice of whether or not you go to the hospital, depending on the severity of your injuries. However, even if you’re not transported from the crash scene by ambulance, it’s usually a good idea. Even if you’re feeling fine immediately after the crash, you may later experience headaches, stiffening of the neck, or any of several other symptoms. In this case, you definitely want to head to the hospital, a walk-in clinic, or at the very least, to your primary care physician.
Do I still have a claim if I don’t seek injury treatment right away?
It’s not uncommon for someone to be in a crash and at first believe they can just “shake off” the pain. Oftentimes, however, people find themselves still in pain several weeks later and in need of medical care. The longer you delay treatment, though, the more difficult it becomes to claim compensation for your injuries, as it becomes an issue to tie the time of the injury to the crash. As a general rule, you should see a doctor sooner, rather than later.
Do gaps in treatment devalue a claim?
Gaps in treatment can greatly devalue a case, as insurance companies can point to these gaps as proof that you’re not really as injured as you claim to be. They will tell the jury this repeatedly. That’s why it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions and to keep a journal of your treatments and activities in relation to your case. Oftentimes, a gap in treatment can be something as simple as going out of town for a few days or skipping treatments as a result of illness. Keeping your attorney informed of everything in regard to your case and keeping a journal of treatments can help explain gaps later.
How do I pay for property damage or a rental car?
If you get into a crash, there’s generally two ways your car is going to be paid for, if you or the person at fault have sufficient insurance. First, obviously, the insurance belonging to the other driver would cover your car. That being said, insurance companies often will want to see a police report first, so you may be waiting as long as ten days. In that case, you can have your insurance company cover your car until fault is determined. If you are at fault, you will have to go through your own insurance company after paying a deductible. While deductibles can be as little as 250 dollars or as much as 5,000 dollars, the average is 500 dollars. This means you will have to pay the first 500 dollars of the bill, while your insurance would pick up the remainder.
What is the difference between a doctor’s lien and a subrogation lien?
A doctor’s lien is a situation where a doctor agrees to provide medical treatment with the understanding that you will pay for that treatment out of the proceeds from your injury case, after the case in resolved. A subrogation lien is where your health insurance pays for your treatment, but is reimbursed for that payment from the resolution of your injury case. This ensures that the injured person isn’t allowed to double collect. As part of my representation of you I handle all this matters as part of my fee.
What can I do about lost wages because of my injuries?
It’s crucial that you document all work you’ve missed as a result of your injuries. This includes not only time missed because you are physically unable to work, but also time you spent receiving minor treatments. While some companies will track this time for you, I recommend that you keep a journal of all treatments and time away from work. If the Doctor orders you off work get a statement and give a copy to your employer. It’s important to note that this time must be documented. For example, if you’re a realtor, it’s not enough to say you missed sales because of your injuries. I must be able to prove you had a sale pending that was lost because of those injuries.
What if I’ve suffered a disability because of my crash?
Disabilities can take many forms. Sometimes it’s the loss of an arm or leg. Sometimes it’s the inability to sit for long periods of time. The important thing to remember is that if you have a job that you’re no longer able to do because of your injuries, you have a disability.
That’s why it’s important to have an attorney who understands your disability. With an open line of communication with the right lawyer, you’ll have the option of vocation relocation, further rehabilitation, or compensation for lost wages.
What is a mediation?
Mediation is what is often called alternative dispute resolution, and often is done during the settlement phase of a case. It can also come into play once I have begun litigation, at any point until trial. Mediations are often very successful in bringing two sides to together, as very experienced attorneys or judges act as a neutral evaluator of the case and try to determine what the case is worth. One of the benefits of mediation is that it gives each side a chance to each side to get to agree upon a settlement without the risks and delays of trial. And if you do end up going to trial, mediation can provide a benchmark for your case. Mediation is also useful in cases where the defense appeals a case, delaying it for an extended time. In Tennessee over 90% of car or truck wreck cases are settled at mediation. To get the best result your attorney must be prepared to go to trial and the other side sees that. I always do this and thus am very successful at mediations. You need to be prepared to “walk out” if you are “low balled.”
What are some of the liability issues?
First and foremost, I must establish who was responsible for your crash — and this is not always a clear-cut issue. Every case has two parts that you have to establish to win. First, I must establish that the other driver was responsible for the crash. Second, I must establish that this crash was the cause of your injuries. Once those two factors are determined, I can then calculate damages.
In establishing liability, it’s important that you call the police, file a report, and gather as much information about the crash as possible. While a police report isn’t necessarily admissible at trial, for purposes of settlement it’s a very helpful tool for the insurance adjuster and your attorney in determining how the crash happened and who was responsible. It’s also helpful if you take photos of all involved vehicles, their positioning and the damage on each. Even then, however, not every case is a slam dunk. There are times when it’s ultimately decided that one driver was 80 percent responsible and the other driver 20 percent responsible. In that case, your award would be offset by the appropriate percentage. In Tennessee if you are more than 50percent at fault you can make no recovery.
Can my pregnancy affect my claim?
If you’re pregnant at the time of your crash, it can greatly affect your claim, depending on how far along your pregnancy is and whether your injuries affect your unborn child. As you would expect, there are a great many technical and complex issues regarding this sort of case, so you would absolutely want to consult an attorney and notify your doctor immediately about the crash