Q: I have a question about personal injuries I've suffered in multiple accidents.
I was recently rear-ended while stopped at a stop sign. The guy was going really fast and was driving a huge 4-wheel-drive truck. I was driving a small SUV, which was totaled. My car was pushed into the intersection and had a lot of damage – the police had to close the road for almost an hour. I was running late to pick up my six-year-old from daycare, and I could move everything, so I didn’t go to the hospital right away. A few days later, I went to my chiropractor because my neck hurt so much I couldn’t turn my head, and I was having trouble sleeping. He said I have whiplash and might have a bulging or ruptured disk. He referred me to a specialist, which sounds really expensive – I don’t think I can afford that, even with insurance.
I was injured in a workplace accident five weeks ago and have been home on total temporary disability. I’m a paramedic, and I tore my rotator cuff while lifting a patient. I’m worried about pursuing a claim for my injuries related to this car accident because I am receiving workers’ compensation payments that I need to feed my family. What should I do?
A: First, any time you’re involved in an accident, there are things you should do immediately to protect yourself.
Although it’s advisable to seek medical care immediately, it’s great that you sought care within a short period of time. Some serious injuries take a few days to become apparent, after the initial swelling and bruising has gone down. Document your symptoms in a journal, including what limitations you’re experiencing (e.g., you can’t raise your arms to brush your hair, you can’t lift your child, etc.). Also, document the medical care you’re receiving, including your doctor visits and any home exercises or therapy you’re doing for your injuries.
Second, immediately consult with an attorney who is very familiar with workers' compensation and personal injury laws and litigation.
It’s vital that you have a trained expert’s advice before you discuss your accident with insurance companies or the workers' compensation department. Once you do, you will likely have to undergo medical evaluations by insurance companies (for the other driver’s, and possibly for your own, if he was uninsured or underinsured) and for workers' compensation. New Jersey workers' compensation benefits are calculated based on a number of different factors and may be adjusted based on how much of your disability is properly attributed to your workplace accident. Having an advocate in the claim evaluation process can help you navigate the complicated workers' comp system and the difficult insurance claim recovery, and potentially file a personal injury lawsuit.
An attorney can also help you find medical professionals that can help you get the care you need without demanding payment at the time of service. Some providers are willing to give care to a represented patient in return for a “lien” on any settlement proceeds – i.e., waiting to get paid until you get compensation from a settlement or lawsuit. This can help you get essential treatment without worrying about mountains of medical bills and debt. It’s vital that you have appropriate medical care and treatment to distinguish which injuries are properly attributed to your automobile accident and which are workplace-related so you can be properly compensated for both.
Just because you were previously injured doesn't mean you can't recover for your injuries in another accidet. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you protect your rights to potentially recover damages for both your automobile accident and your workplace injury. Many personal injury cases are taken on a “contingency” basis, which means your lawyer will take a percentage of whatever you recover rather than charging you by the hour. This means that your lawyer won’t get paid until you do – so you don’t have to worry about costly legal bills, either.
If you are injured in an accident, the New Jersey auto accident attorneys at The Mark Law Firm can help. One of our experienced New Jersey personal injury and workers' compensation lawyers will be happy to evaluate your personal injury lawsuit at no charge to you! Contact us to schedule a FREE personal injury consultation with one of our experienced Oradell, Newark, or Basking Ridge personal injury lawyers.
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