I was rear ended in a car accident over a year ago and suffered an injury to my eyes called a vitreous tear, commonly known as eye floaters, a permanent condition I'll have to live with. I had no idea this issue was related to the accident but when I had my eyes checked out, the eye doctor immediately thought it was caused by a rear ending. In the only other serious accident I've been in I had a terrible experience with a lawyer who made promises he couldn't keep and ended up costing me money without providing any benefit. So I've been trying to work this case on my own until now. I now want to pursue my legal options because the insurance company is refusing to acknowledge that the accident caused my injury. Do I have a case with pursuing or should I just cut my losses settle for nothing?
First of all - be aware that all personal injury cases in Oregon have to be filed within one year. I am assuming that this accident took place in Oregon. If it took place in another state another time limit might apply. (Washington is 3 years.) It is not the norm to have a bad experience with a personal injury lawyer - some may be more willing to try the case then others who may lean toward settling but most will take your case on a contingency so your financial risk is minimal.
It is hard to say why you had such a bad experience but I suspect that poor communication by the lawyer was a major part of it. If that case had problems such is with proving liability then the attorney should have warned you ahead of time of these risks so you made an informed decision to proceed. So sorry about that.
As for your current case - if you were rear ended as you say then the driver that hit you from behind will most likely be 100% at fault. So there should not be a major liability issue, ie proving they are at fault. But there is still the other part of the case as you are finding out, which can be tricky, which is proving damages.
Insurance companies today dispute damages aggressively. They even take a positions that are sometimes just not logical as they fight you to reduce what they have to pay for a case. (They will argue junk science like they can predict injuries from the fact that an accident is low impact or high impact - when it is really much more complex than that.)
Unfortunately by handling your case on your own you have been talking to them and I suspect giving them updates on your condition and they will often use whatever you have said to their advantage. An attorney should still be able to help you but be aware that you won't be able to prove that the accident caused your eye problem without a medical expert's report, and possibly testimony at trial and this will involve some expense. Even if the attorney advances the cost of the expert for you, ethical rules in Oregon require you to pay that cost ultimately. The good news is that if liability is clear, there is an insurance policy that will pay your damages, and you have other damages besides your eye problem, there should be some money coming your way before it is over that should cover the medical experts costs at least so you don't end up losing money like you did in your last case.
Like I said in the beginning, it is really important to have good communication with your attorney. If you have that then you and your attorney should discuss the case as more information becomes available and assess the risks of proceeding to trial versus accepting a settlement offer. (The offers to tend to increase the closer you get to trying the case.) Every case has risks, calculated risks. Do pick a couple of attorneys to talk to, compare what they say and how you feel with each one. Most attorney offer free initial consultations for PI cases. Then decide if you want to proceed and which attorney you feel comfortable working with.
Sorry about the lawyer in the past who made promises he couldn't keep. Probably should not have happened. Worst, it cost you money - most attorneys in this field work on a contingency basis, so I am curious as how that happened.
In any event, it's hard to say if you have a case regarding being compensated for your eye condition without thoroughly examining your medical records and other records, and then getting a complete understanding of your case. Beyond that you may or may not need an attorney, but only by consultation can that be determined. In most cases you will need an a good attorney in order make up for the hurt and be made whole.
If your doctor told you that your eye condition is related, It's worth having a good attorney look at your case - with what you have told me, you won't stand a chance at true value otherwise.
Go get a consultation. Don't let one bad apple spoil it for you!
You should certainly consult with a lawyer - obviously not the same one who gave you such a bad experience before. They can help you determine what claims you may have and whether you can recover any cost for your injuries. It's unlikely that the matter will go to court - the overwhelming majority of cases settle before that - but you have to be ready to go to court if you want a fair settlement.
I echo the comments above and recommend that you contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation. You should seek someone who has experience with car accident cases.
Having said that, the statute of limitations for filing a complaint in your case is actually two years in Oregon so if the accident was over a year ago, but less than two years ago, you still have time.
The sooner you consult with an attorney the better. Normally, the more time an attorney has before the statute of limitations runs, the more options you have for attempting settlement or proper pre-filing case investigation.
I am not surprised that the insurance company is denying the causal relationship between your eye condition and the accident. Not only do insurance companies routinely deny the causation element of an injury but it is somewhat rare to have an eye condition result from a rear-end accident. However, if your doctor believes it is related than you certainly may have a viable claim.
I strongly recommend that you retain an attorney. Perform a thorough due dilligence in order to ensure that you endup with a competentt and experienced attorney. Sorry about your previous experience but there are plenty of highly competent and dedicated attorneys out there. Since the doctor has indicated that your eye injury might be related to the accident, and since you state that the insurance company is refusing to acknowledge that the accident caused the eye injury, you stand to benefit significantly by retaining a qualified attorney. Devote your time and energy to finding that attorney rather then dealing with the insurance adjuster.
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