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How do I know when to file a personal injury claim?

By Ken Gibson on March 15, 2021

After an accident, you may want to get the insurance claim process over and done with as soon as possible. Few people have the spare cash to deal with the costs of a car or motorcycle wreck, boat collision, truck crash, or other serious accident. By filing an insurance claim, you hope to recover the costs of your injuries quickly and get on with your normal life.

But any skilled attorney will tell you that it’s a mistake to settle a claim too fast, or to make binding statements to an insurance company immediately after a crash. Insurance companies can take advantage of accident victims when they are still in pain and desperate to pay medical bills. They may offer you a quick settlement, but their offer will likely be too low to cover any long-term care.

That’s why we at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys advise our clients to wait until they have reached “maximum medical improvement” before talking to an insurance company about settling the claim.

What is “maximum medical improvement”?

Maximum medical improvement (MMI) means that you have fully healed after an accident, or you are as healthy as you can get. MMI helps us calculate the overall costs of your injuries, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Once you are healed, we can add up the total value of your medical bills and include those in your claim, as well as all your other costs.

For example, if you broke your wrist in a boating accident on the Chesapeake Bay, you would be fully healed after your cast has been removed, you have completed prescribed physical therapy, and you can fully use your arm again. This may take as little as six to eight weeks, or it can take much longer. Some patients have long-term pain or flexibility issues. For these cases, you may need to wait to determine how your injury will affect your future life in order to determine the amount of money you should ask for.

Serious injuries like spinal cord damage and head wounds obviously take significantly longer to heal, and you may not know the full effects of these types of accidents for months. For example, 70% of patients who suffer from brain injuries report ongoing sleep issues to their doctors, which can impact their ability to work, their overall health, and even their relationships. If your accident caused a permanent injury, you can include long-term costs in your claim.

How do I know when I’m fully healed?

Everyone heals at a different rate. We have all seen young children tumble down a hill and get up without a bruise. Yet, a “simple fall” can fracture an older person’s hip and make it difficult for her to walk without pain for the rest of their life.

Determining your MMI will come down to your medical treatment and a discussion with your doctor. If you get regular treatment and good care, you may recover at a normal rate. But you could also take longer than most and need care for the rest of your life. The path to recovery varies for every person, and you can’t rush healing. Your doctor can help you decide when you are at MMI.

Should I negotiate with an insurance company before I have healed?

From our standpoint as personal injury attorneys, we never want our clients to feel pressured to rush into negotiations with an insurance company. That’s why we often advise clients to wait until they have reached MMI or are as close to healthy as possible. While you are healing, we can add up the costs of your treatment and talk to your doctor about any future care you may need. When it comes time to deal with the insurance company, we include all of these costs in your claim, so that you get the maximum value for your injuries.

Is there a deadline for filing a claim?

The Commonwealth of Virginia does have a deadline, or statute of limitations, for filing a personal injury claim. In general, the deadline is two years from the date of an accident, but this law has several exceptions. Rather than stressing about the deadline, we suggest you contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident to discuss your options. Let us prepare your claim and deal with the deadlines, while you focus on healing.

Who should I call after a crash?

Both my partner, John Singleton, and I have gone through the insurance claim process ourselves after being in serious crashes. We know firsthand how painful, stressful, and difficult it is to know what to do. And from our experiences, both personal and legal, we have learned several important lessons we want to share. So we invite you to read about them in our free book. One of the lessons is to accept that you need to recover before you start filing a claim, and another is to let an experienced attorney handle your case for you.

We understand you’re worried about paying your medical bills, getting back to work, and taking care of your family. It may seem easier to accept a quick settlement from an insurance company, but we are here to tell you: do not settle for less than your case is worth. Instead, let us go to work to get you and your family full compensation for your injuries.

We at GibsonSingleton bring you big-city experience and small-town care. We’ve worked big cases, in big cities, as trial lawyers. Now we are proud to serve our neighbors here in Virginia.

We have fought for numerous accident victims throughout Virginia’s Middle Peninsula and beyond, and we are ready to take your case and serve you. We understand that money is tight, which is why we offer you a free consultation. And, we will not charge you until and unless we recover money for you. Call us at (804) 413-6777 or toll-free at (855) 781-6777 to speak with our dedicated team of Virginia injury attorneys.

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Community service

Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
  • Hands-on Service
    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
  • Supporting Local Schools
    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.