If you get in an accident or become injured, the aftermath can be overwhelming — especially if you’re not familiar with the legal system. Who should you talk to? Who shouldn’t you talk to? What are all these new phrases everyone’s throwing at you?
If you become involved in a personal injury case, there are a number of legal terms you should familiarize yourself with, according to Pat Gallagher, a lawyer at Wall, McLean & Gallagher LLC, a law firm with offices in Helena and Anaconda. They’ve helped hundreds of people through personal injury cases and have tried cases in state and federal court and have argued cases before the Montana Supreme Court.
Here are five important legal terms you should know if you become injured.
This is the person who is hired by and represents the insurance company. “They are responsible for getting information about you and the accident,” Gallagher says. “They attempt to be your friend. They are not.”
Gallagher recommends seeking the advice of an attorney before discussing anything with this person — and especially before signing any documents or accepting any money.
You’ve likely heard this word plenty of times, but it’s important to make sure you understand the full meaning as it applies to you.
“Liability is the legal responsibility for a person’s acts or omissions,” Gallagher says. “It’s an obligation one is bound by law to perform, typically involving the payment of monetary damages.”
Most of the time, lawyers will discuss liability from the standpoint of the person responsible for the accident — and the injuries you subsequently suffered.
For many people who’ve been injured, one of the hardest things to deal with is paying medical bills or dealing with wage loss. Even if you’re awarded damages down the line, you might struggle to pay your bills right now. That’s where advance payment comes in.
“In Montana, when liability is reasonably clear, insurance companies are responsible to advance pay medical bills and wage loss amounts to injured claimants,” Gallagher says. “That means that once the insurance company is provided documentation about your medical bills or wage loss amounts, they must pay you for those losses within a reasonable amount of time.”
Medical Payment Coverage
“This coverage is an optional coverage offered by insurance companies,” Gallagher explains. “It is a ‘no fault’ coverage. This coverage pays your medical bills for not only the car you are injured in, but also, on most occasions, any vehicles that you insure with medical pay coverage.”
Because it is optional, it’s not something you’ll have automatically. If you pay a premium to the insurance company for this coverage, then you can utilize it to pay your medical bills after an accident.
In an accident case, comparative negligence aims to determine the responsibility and damages based on the level of negligence of every party involved.
“In Montana, if you are more than 50 percent responsible for an accident, you do not have the right to recover any damages for your injuries,” Gallagher says. “Often insurance companies attempt to use percentages when attempting to discuss and resolve vehicle damage claims and injury claims.”
If an insurance company attempts to do that to you, Gallagher says, you should call an attorney immediately.
With offices in Helena and Anaconda, the trial lawyers at Wall, McLean & Gallagher LLC have over 60 years of combined legal experience and are passionate about representing hometown Montanans. They specialize in personal injury, car accidents, employment cases, wage claims, real estate disputes, dissolution, estates, and estate planning. For more information, visit them online at MLFpllc.com or call (406) 442-1054.