Settling A Personal Injury Case

Speaker 1:

Please welcome to the law talk show today, please say hello to your new audience and your current clients. This is Mike and Taylor.

Mike Agruss:

Sure. Thanks for having us on. I'm Mike Agruss. I'm the managing partner of Agruss Law Firm.

Taylor Kosla:

And I'm Taylor Kosla, I'm Mike's partner and I've been working there for, I can finally say four years. This is my first time on the show, that it will have been four years that I've been an attorney working with Mike.

Speaker 1:

Yes, I'm very happy to have you two here today because as you know, we have a lot of questions after we have a couple of talk show before and people, they send a few questions related to the accident. [foreign language 00:00:48].

The first question I would like to ask you, based on your experience and your law firm trying to help the victim, the people they get involved into different kind of accident. First question is what type of personal injury cases in the Agruss Law Firm handle?

Taylor Kosla:

So we handle consumer rights and personal injury cases. And the personal injury practice is most commonly auto accidents, pedestrian versus auto, bike versus auto, slip and falls that could be at a grocery store or on ice. We also handle nursing home abuse and neglect. Those cases are typically fall cases or pressure source. We handle medical malpractice cases and injuries at work. Those are the main focus of our personal injury cases. We occasionally get some one-off cases where there's an accident at a farm, or a horse is involved, but the bulk of our practice is personal injury cases stemming from car accidents.

Speaker 1:

Yes. Thank you. [foreign language 00:02:18].

Yes. I believe those area you cover like nursing and malpractice that's happen all the time, every single day across the country. So what is the process when you handle a case? What is the process before the car accidents cases?

Mike Agruss:

Sure. So we've been on the show a bunch and we've talked a lot about personal injury cases. And one thing I don't think we've touched on, which I think is important for today is, what's the settlement process like? Because it's a big question with clients is they say, "When is my case going to settle?"

So there are several steps in the settlement process and I thought we would just sort of go through each one and explain it.

So the first thing is you we always make sure that our clients are done with treatment so we can accurately calculate their damages. And their damages would be their medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. So that's the first thing that we always make sure before we settle a case, is the client done with treatment? And then we go on and calculate damages.

Speaker 1:

Okay. [foreign language 00:04:39].

There is two process A and B complete treatment and calculate damage. And beside, [inaudible 00:06:02] do you focus on?

Mike Agruss:

Yes. So the next thing once treatment's done, we figured out damages, then we want to figure out all the different insurance policies. So we want to figure out how much insurance the at fault driver has. We want, see if there's any other types of coverage, whether it's through an employer or an umbrella policy. And once we know what the insurance coverage is, we then send out a settlement demand to the insurance company.

Speaker 1:

Yes.

Taylor Kosla:

A settlement demand just outlines the case, the facts, the injuries, the clients, medical bills, and just really paints a picture of the case for the adjuster to easily understand what happened, what our client went through and what our client's entitled to.

Speaker 1:

Okay. That's very detailed. [foreign language 00:07:20].

Yes. Beside the policy and also the determination of the coverage. Beside that's the settlement demand, can you explain a little bit? What is the process of demanding and what need to be demanding accurately if that's based on the policy, or how does it work? I'm not quite sure.

Mike Agruss:

Sure. So once we know the damages, once we know the insurance policy and as Taylor mentioned, we've put together a settlement demand letter which basically outlines our version of the facts, we provide all the medical records and bills, all the evidence that we have, lost wage verification, we give it to the adjuster. They typically take about 30 days to review it, analyze it and respond. And if a case is going to settle without filing a lawsuit, usually once you hear back from the adjuster after 30 days, it takes about a week or two to finalize a settlement, if you're going to settle without filing a law.

So the adjuster has about 30 days and then it takes a couple weeks once we hear back from the adjuster to finalize the settlement, and then once we have a settlement, we then make sure that all the medical bills and liens are all taken care of as well. And I'm sort of giving you an overview of this process, and I may make it sound like it's a simple process. But in reality it takes a ton of work. We have a ton of experience doing it and studies show that people who hire lawyers to do this type of work end up getting three and a half times greater of a settlement than if they do it on their own.

Speaker 1:

Okay. All right. [foreign language 00:11:08].

Yes, this is a very important when you mention about medical review and then just a lot of people they confused and they have a knowledge about, why we need [inaudible 00:12:00] and then the medical bill for somebody if you need to go to hospital. That's a big bill. And also some people after the treatment, they have to go through rehabilitation for evaluation their physical damage or the car got a damage. What is the number? Because in the policy they got a lot of number in there where ABC is covered, liability or a certain [inaudible 00:12:26]. That's very, very interesting. And also that's very important for some people to get [inaudible 00:12:32] the accident.

Besides that, I know a lot of people, they question. They concern about how much, first of all if they have only liability cover. So they don't know, if that money, that's enough to cover for them on that. And what type of a percentage the lawyer or the law firm will charge them?

Mike Agruss:

As far as our contingency fee goes?

Speaker 1:

Yes.

Mike Agruss:

Yeah, so our contingency fee is... it's a really good question because we've talked a lot on the show about this. Our contingency fee is one third. It never changes. So if we litigate your case for years, go to trial, our fee never changes. A lot of personal injury attorneys and firms have a sliding scale where if they settle a case pre -suit it's one third, if they file suit, it's 40% and if they go to trial it can be all the way up to 50%. And so we charge one third, we don't get paid unless our client gets a settlement or gets money in their pocket. So there's really no risk for people when they hire us.

Speaker 1:

Wow. Okay. That's very interesting to know. One third, I think that's very reasonable. Because that's a lot of work for you guys.

Mike Agruss:

It can be years of work. It can also be the tens of thousands of dollars of cost that we front because we pay for all the costs along the way as well. So it's really zero risk for our clients.

Speaker 1:

Okay. [foreign language 00:14:21].

Yes. That's very, very interesting, the timeframe for the law firm to make it work. This could be a year, six months up to one year, sometimes longer than that.

Go back to Mrs. Taylor. I have a question about how long does this take to get paid after the settlement.

Taylor Kosla:

So generally for personal injury cases we get paid pretty quickly. And that means our clients get paid pretty quickly. After we get the check, which we usually receive within a few days to a week, we resolve all those outstanding medical bills that are paid out of the settlement. And we send our clients a check as quickly as possible. But as soon as the client and the other side, they sign on the dotted line, we're working as quickly as possible to get money in our client's pocket.

Speaker 1:

What happen they don't sign the agreement?

Taylor Kosla:

Well you verbally agree to the terms before a settlement agreement is drafted. So sometimes there are a little bit of delays, clients if they want a mailed copy rather than electronic. Things like that. But they always sign.

Speaker 1:

Yes, of course. I just thought ask you the simple question, make sure they pay you. Anyway, [foreign language 00:17:07].

[foreign language 00:20:53].

I just want you to explain more what kind of [inaudible 00:20:55] and what kind of job Agruss Law Firm handles. We try to educate people, don't hesitate, them afraid to call the law firm, because we are here trying to help them to understand [inaudible 00:22:06] and the U.S Law, especially the Illinois state law. There's a lot of questioning people, they need to understand and make sure they feel comfortable to call the law firm. Before, they thinking, "Oh, well, I need help, but nobody can help me. And I don't trust anyone." So that's very good.

And most of the question we explain to them, they're very happy. Because I received a few comments on Facebook and also on my email. It's very good. That's a very good grading about you...

Let's go on. I got a question. A lot of people, they concern about the tax. When people, they receive it, the money, they keep thinking, "Okay, that's our money." They just put everything in their bank account. But do we have to pay a tax on the settlement?

Mike Agruss:

Yeah. So this is a really good question. And I'm going to give an answer with a caveat and say that we're not tax attorneys, we can't give tax advice, and I'm not just giving a lawyer answer there. People should really talk to a tax consultant when it comes to their finances.

...personal injury cases in general is the settlement is not taxed. And I think that's important for people to know because when they get the check, there's a difference when you tell someone, "Hey, your case is settled. You're going to get all your medical bills are paid. Your property damage is taken care of, all of that. And you're going to put $10,000 in your pocket." There's a difference in someone saying, "You're going to get $10,000 and then it's going to get taxed at 40%." Whereas when you settle a personal injury case, these settlements are not taxed, in general, so the check goes directly to the client and the client doesn't have to pay taxes on it. And that's the general rule. So it's significant whether it's 10,000, 50,000, a hundred thousand dollars. This is non-taxable money. And it's a lot of money, even when you're just talking five or ten grand.

Speaker 1:

So when you mentioned non-taxed, that's mean they don't pay tax?

Mike Agruss:

Correct. So you don't have to claim it as income. Once again, there's exceptions to this rule. In general, in a personal injury case, the settlement is not taxed.

Speaker 1:

Okay. All right, thanks.

Mike Agruss:

So when we send our clients a settlement check, they deposit the check and that's it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, okay. All right. That's a very good point. [foreign language 00:24:38].

Yes, that's a very important question because a lot of people, they very curious. They don't want to pay any tax. They say, "Well, I paid the insurance for it. And right now I get involved into the accident and I get injury, so why would I pay tax for that?"

Mike Agruss:

Right. And I talk to clients about this all the time. It's cash, this is real money. And so sometimes people at the end are like, "Well, I've got to pay back medical bills, I've got to pay the attorneys fees." But in what other situation where someone actually gives you money, you get money, five grand, 10 grand, a hundred grand, and there's not a tax liability? It's a very unusual situation. And I think it's important for people to know, because it makes a big difference that you are not taxed on a personal injury settlement.

Speaker 1:

Can I have another question about a tax? The tax, that's a mandate right by the state law, right?

Mike Agruss:

Yeah, state and federal tax.

Speaker 1:

State and federal tax, that's not mandate. Okay. But why when you pay the insurance, for example a car insurance, do they pay the tax? We pay the tax on the car insurance?

Mike Agruss:

On a car insurance premium?

Speaker 1:

Yes.

Mike Agruss:

I don't believe there's tax on a car insurance premium.

Taylor Kosla:

I don't think so.

Mike Agruss:

Yeah. So if you're paying State Farm insurance for your auto insurance and it's a hundred dollars a month. It's just a hundred dollars a month. You're not paying tax on that.

Speaker 1:

Okay. All right.

[foreign language 00:27:13].

Yes, it's a very important, very interesting when we know about the tax, because a lot of people, they concerned about the insurance as well. They thought, "Well, when I buy the insurance I pay tax on the top of..." Just to buy a car, you have to pay tax. That's a very good point.

The next question I have for lawyer Tyler. Who pays for the medical bill when a personal injury case ends in settlement if I did not have a health insurance?

Taylor Kosla:

So if you're treating [inaudible 00:27:48] a personal injury, whether you have health insurance or you're working with a doctor directly, they are entitled to a portion of compensation from the settlement agreement. They provide us lawyers notification of how much they are actually entitled to. And we resolve that with the settlement funds.

What is important is to get treatment even if you don't have insurance. Our firm works with a network of doctors, physical therapists, pain management providers, any kind of doctor or treatment that you need in the Chicagoland area, well be able to find you someone who will treat you, even if you don't have health insurance. And the reason that they do that is because they essentially agree that, "Okay, you don't have to pay us up front, but when this case does settle, we want a portion of that." So that's just another thing that we do when the case settles, we resolve all those outstanding liens, so when our client gets their settlement check, they don't have to worry about the treatment and the bills that they got or have from the treatment that they received.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Based on your question, you answer, you work with the insurance and you try to make the insurance and pay for the medical bill. What happen, for example, if I get into the car [inaudible 00:29:18] but my insurance don't cover. So you have to lien into whoever hit me. They insured, but what happen? They don't have the medical coverage. So what we do?

Taylor Kosla:

So if you have health insurance, we always advise clients to submit your bills through your health insurance. And then at the end of the case, we'll work with your health insurance to resolve what they paid. I think you're confusing auto insurance with health insurance. So if the person who hits you has a liability auto insurance, which in Illinois, you have to have at least $25,000 in coverage, that is what we will go after with the lawsuit to cover your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and everything. If however, you have an underinsured policy that's greater than the at fault driver's policy, then we can actually recover from your insurance company as well. We've talked a bunch on the show about how important insurance coverages, not only good insurance, but high limits, high coverage, and this is exactly why.

Speaker 1:

Okay, thanks. That's very good answer. I'm happy. I'm learned something today.

[foreign language 00:30:43].

When I try to explain to the people, I just come up with the other question. What happen the liability, for example, if I buy 25,000, but the medical bill is a million dollar. So what can we do in that [inaudible 00:31:58]. Even I got my health insurance, but it doesn't cover half a million dollar. So what can we do?

Taylor Kosla:

So unfortunately, if there's not enough coverage between the at fault driver and your under insurance coverage, you're out of luck. And that's why it's really important to maximize your coverage.

Speaker 1:

Okay. [foreign language 00:33:04].

That's a very good point because a lot of people, they buy insurance, they buy car insurance, but they very confusing. Why would I pay for liability? 25,000 or 50 or more right. So the more you pay, the more you get you [inaudible 00:33:25] benefit. Am I right?

Taylor Kosla:

Absolutely. Insurance is to protect you, whether you're at fault for an accent or if the person who hit you doesn't have good coverage. You want to make sure that you have your own coverage to compensate you in that situation.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Well, when you mentioned about it, you have to buy enough to cover for yourself. Usually it [inaudible 00:33:48] it because the car insurance you have a multiple number right there. First of all, number one is a liability one, and then collision, and then for [inaudible 00:34:03]. So it doesn't [inaudible 00:34:06] when you buy the insurance? Or you have a choice because if you want to pay more?

Taylor Kosla:

You have a choice. We recommend our clients, the viewers especially, call your insurance agent and see what it is the best coverage that you can get. Usually the greatest coverage available is a difference of like a hundred dollars a year. So it's a really nominal, but you might get hundreds of thousands of dollars more in coverage. And it's not only the number, you certainly want to maximize that, but go with good reputable, insurance company. You don't want to go with those TV commercial insurance companies where [crosstalk 00:34:50]. Yeah, a couple seconds. Do your research, use a good company, get good coverage.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so the reason I'm asking you that is because for example someone, if they have a full coverage, it doesn't matter for lawyer or for your firm, right? Because then you can work with them and you can file claim [inaudible 00:35:10] max benefit for them, right?

Taylor Kosla:

Absolutely.

Mike Agruss:

Yeah. And this is so important. People think that they're getting insurance because they're required to, and it's meant to protect the other driver. And in reality, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. So uninsured is when the at fault driver doesn't have insurance. Underinsured is when the at fault driver doesn't have enough. Those are policies you carry on your own insurance to protect yourself. So I like to look at auto insurance, yeah it's nice because you're protecting the other person, but people should look at auto insurance like it's protecting themselves.

So for example, I have a million dollar policy on my car and when I got it, I was in law school, I had a ton of debt, I had no assets, and the insurance adjuster said, she literally, said, "Are you trying to protect any assets? Do you own a home?" And I said, no, I'm trying to protect myself. Because if I get hit by someone who doesn't have insurance or has a $25,000 policy, I can then go after my own insurance for that million dollars.

I can't tell you how often this happens. So Taylor and I are working on a case. A 16 year old boy is on a bike, downtown Chicago in the Loop. On Michigan Avenue he's hit by a car. It is a million dollar case every day of the week. The at fault driver has a $25,000 policy. And the kid's parents have 25,000 in coverage. So rather than getting a million dollars, which is what the case is worth, he's going to get 25 thousand.

Speaker 1:

All right. [foreign language 00:37:32]. Thank you.

We are listening

We will respond to you at lightning speed.
All of your information will be kept confidential.

Submitted Comments

No comments submitted yet. Sharing your story will help others!