Katherine: Hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining us on This Needs To Be Said. Today we’re going to be joined by a personal injury attorney, and he’s going to be able to answer some of the questions that you may have been wondering, as far as personal injury. We’re going to spend some time today with attorney Seth Smiley. Welcome to This Needs To Be Said. How are you?
Seth Smiley: Great, I’m good. Thank you for having me on.
Katherine: Thank you for being here. I just want to jump right into it. A lot of people do think they can do things on their own, and I want to know your thought about that, especially being a personal injury attorney.
Seth Smiley: Sure, that’s not a problem. Yeah, we get that call all the time. I actually got off the phone with a potential client a few minutes ago who was trying to go at it on their own, dealing with the insurance company, and dealing with their insurance company, and the at-fault driver’s insurance company. They were debating on whether or not to accept the potential offer. Once she explained all the facts to me, and all of the issues and everything, we could definitely tell that the insurance company was trying to low-ball her as much as they could. Yeah, potentially people can do it on their own, but we can also build houses and do other things that we probably shouldn’t be doing on our own. It’s always good to let folks who handle those types of things all the time really maximize the output they get for you.
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Katherine: Now let me make sure I’m understanding what you’re saying, because me, I’m not an attorney at all, no kind of attorney at all. But if I’m in an accident of any kind, and I’m talking with the other person’s insurance company, and something is expected, something’s due to me, and I’m negotiating on my own, are you saying there are some things I would probably miss or not know to ask?
Seth Smiley: Absolutely, yes. There’s two different types of claims in every accident. You have the first, which is the property damage claim, and that’s about getting your car fixed. We tend to help people with those and assist, and that can be processed usually pretty quickly. With the other side of it, there’s the injury claim. A lot of injuries don’t even manifest until sometimes days, maybe even weeks, after an accident, things like whiplash and spinal injuries, and things like that. You won’t start feeling pain for days and weeks afterward.

It’s good to go to the doctor, get the help from the doctors first, but at the same time, you want an attorney waiting in the wings for when your treatment is over. They can start working on the insurance company to really get the most for your pain, because you’re entitled to pain and suffering. You’re entitled to all of your doctor bills paid for. A lot of times, the attorneys can also work with the doctor to lower the bills, as well. Not only can they maximize your output, the money that you’re getting from the insurance company, but then they can also work with the doctors to try to lower those bills, so it’s a win in both directions.

Katherine: Absolutely. I wouldn’t have known to do any of that, and I’ve been in an accident in my life, an auto accident. There’s probably some things I missed, handling it myself, for sure. I’m not going to say probably, definitely. Why do insurance companies deny claims when fault is in dispute?
Seth Smiley: It happens a lot, and the general rule for insurance companies when they can, they will deny coverage. That’s been a trend since the ’90s. It was a long time ago whenever folks, when insurance companies were halfway honest, and they tried to pay out claims, and everything was great. But now it’s a numbers game for them, and they play the percentages. They know that there are some people if they deny the claim, if there’s enough there to where it’s not bad faith, and they deny the claim, then there’s a good chance those people will not fight back. They know that those numbers are out there.

It’s always smart to at least have your claim reviewed by an attorney. You may not end up having to hire him, or whatnot, but at least have it looked over to know that you’re not leaving any kind of money on the table.

Katherine: You talked about this just a second ago, as far as getting medical treatment, and I always wondered that. If I’m in an accident, and I go to the doctor today, but then something shows up weeks later, how can I, I don’t know if I’m saying it right, get credit for it or be compensated for it? What is the best time? Let’s talk a little bit more about that. When is the best time to go to get medical treatment?
Seth Smiley: Sure, no problem.
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Katherine: Hold on. Let me back up a little bit. I’m sorry. What’s the best time to settle the injury claim, because I think sometimes we want to rush that. I’m putting two things together there. I’m sorry.
Seth Smiley: No, no, absolutely, and those are very good points, because people want to get their money as fast as they can. The problem if you settle, and you take a payment, and you sign off saying this is final payment from the insurance company, then if something manifests later on, you will never, ever, ever be able to get a single dollar more from that insurance company. That’s why it’s important early on to go and seek medical care, and you want to have qualified doctors. If people will call me first sometimes, and I say, “Okay, great, I’m glad you called. Let’s get you signed up,” but my job doesn’t start until after your doctor essentially releases you.

You want to go to the doctor, and you want to work with him or her, and come up with a game plan that’s going to get you back to as close as possible to your pre-accident state. You want to try to get it back to 100%, as much as possible. Sometimes that can be weeks of treatment, or other times, it can be a lot worse. If you get the doctor to sign off on everything that it’s fine and good, then we can go after the insurance company and get you credit for your pain and suffering, and those types of things. If you try to settle out too early and then realize that you have some injuries that are hidden or looming, then you have to have something big like a surgery, then none of that will be covered by the at-fault insurance.

Katherine: I want to jump down to a question. As we talk about medical injuries, thinking about people who don’t go to the doctor on a regular basis, because they don’t feel like they can afford just the copays, what do you say to that person, because you said something that made me want to click to this question when you said, “My work doesn’t start until you’re released from your doctor.” My mind instantly was thinking, “Gosh, how long could that be? How much out-of-pocket will I have to spend before I get to do business with you?” You know what I mean? Help me with that.
Seth Smiley: Sure. Absolutely. It all depends. We get people like that all the time, depending on what type of medical insurance they have, or if they’re involved with Medicare or Medicaid. Those policies can come in and help relieve some of that burden.

We actually work with a number of doctors here locally in New Orleans. They will take patients with no money down, and they won’t require payment on any of the medical treatment until the claim settles. They do that as a service. It’s just one of those things where they know if they’re getting clients in on these types of cases, and it ends up being paid from the proceeds from the settlement, it’s going to be higher than any insurance company would have ever paid them. They’re will to float that along. Not all doctors will do that, but some will. Finding you those types of doctors are very beneficial, because that means no out-of-pocket expenses for your medical care, and no out-of-pocket expenses for your attorney’s fees.

Then there are those doctors who do require payment, especially if things get to be more serious. We have the ability to loan clients money, depending on how much value they have in their case for that. We have lines of credit set up with banks, and we can actually pay for all that, and then just be repaid out of the settlement proceeds.

Katherine: We are about to get to the end of our time together, and I have so many questions left to ask. But I’m going to throw this one last question in, and then I want you to tell people how to get in touch with you. This is a question I’ve always wondered, because the insurance adjuster will call you. I had this happen to me some years ago. The accident clearly wasn’t my fault. I was sitting there. The person just hit me, and then they drove off. The adjuster asked me, “What could you have done to avoid the accident?” I was like, “Not be there.” I don’t know.

Should we give a recorded response or any information to the adjuster? When is it safe for us to speak, because I thought I was being as honest as possible, but what should I have said, or what should I have not said? You know what I mean?

Seth Smiley: Absolutely. That’s kind of a misnomer. The insurance companies want to take that recorded statement from you as soon as they can, because they want to try to get some impressions that might be able to be twisted up later on, saying where you were, and what you were thinking, and what was going on at the time of the accident, or whether or not you’re hurt or not. Sometimes you’re not feeling the pain until a couple days later. If you said, “I feel fine,” during that recorded statement, that could potentially hurt you later on.
Katherine: Exactly.
Seth Smiley: You want to be careful with that. That’s one thing it is good to get an attorney involved very early on, because you can say, “No, I have an attorney. Please speak to my attorney.” We can delay that recorded statement for much, much later on, many times not even having it, or having it days and weeks later after you’ve had chance to really sit back, and reflect, and understand everything that happened during that accident.
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Katherine: We’ve been talking with attorney, personal injury attorney, Seth Smiley. Tell them how to get in touch with you outside of This Needs To Be Said, please.
Seth Smiley: Sure, absolutely, and I appreciate you taking the time to have me on today. My name is Seth Smiley of the Smiley Law Firm. We handle personal injury cases in Louisiana. You can get in touch with us at 504-894-9653, or you can go to our website. It’s smileyfirm.com. That’s S-M-I-L-E-Y-F-I-R-M.com. You can fill out a form or give us a call right from the website. I appreciate you having us on again. We’d love to do this again in the future.
Katherine: Thank you so much, and until next time, have a wonderful day.
Seth Smiley: You too, thank you. Bye-bye.

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Seth Smiley
Seth is an attorney licensed to practice in Louisiana and California. He is the owner and lead attorney at Smiley Law Firm. To speak with Seth fill out the form on this page.
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