Introduction to Personal Injury Attorney Michael Bliven
I have been representing injured folks for over twenty-two years, and that has been most of my focus with my practice; that is what our firm does as our mission. We do not represent insurance companies, banks, or corporations. We represent people; honest and hardworking people who have bad things happen to them that are not their fault, and who find themselves in a medical legal system that is not designed or built to be user- friendly. Having hardworking, educated, skilled, experienced, compassionate assistance in representation is critical; not just to the success of their claim, but to their overall outcome. My personal background is very helpful in this regard, because I come from a medical and legal family.
My father was a judge for forty years and my mom was a nurse who worked in a number of different settings, including corrections. I have a sister who is a psychiatric nurse at a state hospital, my brother is a physician, and my other sister is a counselor. We were raised in an environment of professionals helping people, and that is what we were raised to do. The practice of law, as I see it, is an honorable profession that unfortunately oftentimes gets a bad rap. Being conscientious and dedicated is critical to your client’s outcomes, and putting your client first is essential. Frankly, a lot of people practice law and represent folks in injury claims, and take injury claims, but then they also work for insurance companies on Tuesdays and corporations on Thursdays. On the other hand, we are dedicated to representing only injured folks and not insurance companies.
Bad outcomes can be folks who have not had the training, experience and education that are necessary to obtain appropriate outcomes on personal injury cases. It requires skilled knowledge to pursue these cases, otherwise outcomes can be poor. It is like anything else when people get seriously ill, they must see a physician and when they have a serious injury, and then likewise there are complicated legal factors.
Frankly, the medical system (in terms of trying to deal with the claim) is not particularly well suited or designed for folks who are injured to navigate the system. There are a lot of issues dealing with how things get paid for and issues to address. At our firm, we are dedicated to representing those folks, so that is a huge part of why they come to us, and we do not divide our loyalties between our clients and other sources of work or other concerns. That is part of why we do not do medical malpractice claims. I have not, and I will not sue doctors, because my clients need good care; they need the support of their physicians and we work with physicians; we seek to work with them as our allies and friends.
We are trying to help our clients get better, receive good care, and get back to their lives. We are on the same side, and that is another thing that is unique about my firm. We work very hard to make it as easy as possible for the medical professionals to help their patients, and for them to get their bills appropriately paid, so our clients get the treatment they need when they need it. We try to work with our clients and help them get appropriate care that they need, and navigate the medical legal system for them including working with the insurance companies to get where they need to go, get back where they need to be for their families and themselves.
We are trying to make an honest living helping people, and that has always been my goal. When I was in law school, I wrote what is called a high paper and I received the ethics award for my class, and it all comes down to putting the client’s interest first, and always doing what is best for your client. It should never be forgotten that you are here to serve the needs of your client and represent them. When it comes to injury claims, whether it be auto cases, other injuries, defective products, or workers’ compensation claims, it is critical that they have a skilled and experienced advocate. We believe that it is very important to have somebody that actually believes in helping the client, believes in what they are saying, and that they have a real injury, and that they really need treatment and our support. I have been through this myself, on the other side as the injured party with an insurance company not taking responsibility or being fair.
I was injured in a car wreck that was somebody else’s fault many years ago, actually more than one, but I had one that was significant and still affects me to this day. I know what it is like, and I know what the insurance companies can do to deny your claim and tell you that it is your fault, even though their insured driver is the one that was one hundred percent at fault. But that does not stop them from denying liability, nor from saying that your bills are not related. It does not stop them from many things that insurance companies do, and the lawyers that work for them, to try to deprive people of just compensation and frankly, even getting the care they need or deserve. This even involves people in their own insurance companies, or uninsured and underinsured motorist claims.
In an auto injury case, most folks do not really think or understand about how their own insurance policy is critical whenever they have an injury, even when it is somebody else’s fault. Whether it be Montana law or even Oregon law, the primary payer or the primary responsibility to pay for medical expenses in an auto crash is what is called the medical payments coverage (or PIP) on the insured’s policy. The uninsured motorist coverage is the primary coverage when people get in a wreck with a driver that does not have insurance, which is unfortunately way too common in this state. It is a very high percentage of drivers that are not insured, and so a person’s own uninsured motorist coverage with their own insurance company is who is going to handle the claim.
If that insurance company does not take their insured’s interests seriously and rather their own, that is a real problem. We actually have to deal with that on a daily basis. Frankly, a lot of companies that advertise on television a great deal, that people have “grown up” with, are not good companies at present. People, unfortunately, think that they do not need a lawyer when dealing with personal injury claims and their insurance companies. They deal with the company on their own, and then a friendly claims adjuster that their agent sent them to after they filed their claim calls them up, and tells them they are going to be fair and help them. Often, this is not the case in terms of how the company handles the claim. In Montana, we have a vibrant bad faith law. This is an insurance law regarding insurance bad faith. We have an unfair claims practice act that means something, MCA 33-18-201, MCA 37-18-232, MCA 33-18-272 and has been interpreted by our Supreme Court o have teeth unlike many other states.
There are a lot of things that an attorney can do to help someone against their own insurance company in an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, just as an at-fault driver’s insurance. This requires someone who has the proper experience, skills, and training, and who will hold the insurance companies accountable to the terms of the contract and get people the benefit of the insurance they paid for. Unfortunately, right now, that has become a trend that we have seen. Certainly, in this state the insurance companies pump the airways full of advertising about your insurance company and different catchy ads, but when someone suffers a loss and has a claim, and needs their insurance company to step up and be their neighbor, or be there when they need them, or get them back where they belong, the insurance companies do not want to pay.
They make every excuse, and they ask for every conceivable piece of documentation or whatever they can come up with to delay or deny the claim. They defend and, unfortunately, when people do not get an attorney until a couple of years have gone by, after their loss, and their insurance company now is telling them that they do not need any more treatment, the insurance states they have had enough and they are just not going to pay anymore. It is a challenge for the attorney at that point. It is always better if an injured individual contacts us the first time the claim is addressed, or they are told something that they do not think is true, or not consistent with what they thought they were getting from their policy. Hiring an attorney early in the process can make matters easier in the way of a fair settlement from your insurance company.
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