A Step-by-Step Guide to Personal Injury Claims
By Sean Lally, Staff Writer
There’s no one single timeline for all personal injury claims. Some claims take weeks to settle while others take years due to the complexities of the claim or the amount of money necessary to compensate for extensive injuries and losses. There are however certain continuities between cases. The following outlines those continuities:
Hiring an Attorney
To begin with, if you’re seeking remuneration in a personal injury case, you should seek the assistance of an attorney with experience in personal injury claims. Without a an experienced and trustworthy lawyer, the process of obtaining compensation for damages can be turbulent, at best. Having an attorney by your side will increase your chances for getting the total amount of compensation you deserve. The personal injury attorneys in this directory are always a good place to start.
Once an attorney has been retained, he or she will begin the process of collecting evidence, information and data pertaining to your particular case. Each case will have its own set of requirements in this regard. In a medical malpractice case, for instance, the lawyer will most likely want to track down relevant medical records. Medical records are important in most personal injury cases, but in a car accident case, the attorney will probably want to review the accident report, if there is one.
During a personal injury case, it is important to follow your doctor’s orders. If you fail to do this, it could reflect poorly on you and potentially impact the total compensation you receive. The goal throughout the case is to do everything you can to maximize the total amount of your settlement or award.
Notifying the Insurance Company
After thoroughly examining the evidence, your attorney will have a sense of who is at-fault for the injury. Once the lawyer has made this determination, he or she will issue an initial demand for compensation to the defendant’s insurance company. Around this time, there will be a review of policy limits.
Following the initial demand, you, your attorney and the insurance company will commence pre-suit negotiations. This is a chance to end the suit before it begins. Once the insurance company’s adjuster has an understanding of the specifics of your claim, he or she will most likely calculate a settlement using a formula. If the proposal is fair, the attorney may ask you to accept it. However, more often than not, the insurance company’s initial offer will be low, in which case your attorney might ask you to refuse it. Often, there is a back and forth between the parties, but sometimes it is obvious that the parties are so far apart that settlement won’t happen at this stage.
Filing a Suit
If you are not able to reach a settlement that both parties can agree on, you will have to file a lawsuit. Your attorney will handle all of this for you. Once you finish filing, the insurance company should get the hint that you’re serious about obtaining remuneration, in some cases, this may encourage them to raise their settlement offer. If the offer is satisfactory, then everything could end here. If not, the process continues.
After filing, the discovery process will begin. This is when parties disclose what they know (depositions, interrogatories, production of documentary evidence, etc.) with respect to the case. The discovery process allows you and your attorney to review all relevant facts. This will help ensure that he or she will be prepared to argue the case without any surprises.
Prior to going to trial the court may require the parties to go to a mediator to attempt to resolve the case without a trial. By putting all of the evidence in front of an unbiased third party, it is more likely that both sides will see the full strengths and weaknesses in their case and elect to settle.
If the process doesn’t end after the mediation, your personal injury case will be taken to trial where a judge and jury will most likely hear your claims. Before that happens, your attorney will prepare an argument to convince the judge and jury of your position. The attorney could build an argument that highlights the strengths of your position or pinpoints the weaknesses of the opposition.
Finally, after the proper preparation, you will go to trial with your attorney. Insurance companies generally hate taking personal injury claims to court because defending a case can be costly and a trial can often lead to bad publicity. At any point during the trial, the defendant could offer a settlement to make the case disappear without too much noise.
Verdict and Award
The trial could take anywhere from weeks to months to complete. Once the trial concludes, the jury will announce their verdict. If you’re attorney has effectively presented and argued your case, than the jury may award you a fair compensation. Most jury awards account for costs associated with the trial.
As you can see, the process can be long and arduous, which is why it’s imperative to retain an experienced personal injury lawyer. He or she can help you obtain maximum compensation.