How to handle a Personal Injury Case.
It is not easy to suffer a personal injury let alone to try and navigate the minefield that is the personal injury process. That is because most do not learn about the personal injury process unless and until it happens to them. Then you’re thrown into this process against the powerful insurance company and their fancy lawyers. Even more, every step of the process is critical. The insurance company that pulls all the strings will use every misstep to reduce the value of your case. The following is a short chronology with some tips and tricks of the personal injury process.
Get a report.
Make a report whenever you’re injured in an accident. For car accidents, that means getting a police report. For other types of cases (like trip/slip and fall or medical malpractice), that means getting an incident report made. The report is important because it helps establish the event occurred, and hopefully identifies witnesses and contains accurate statements of what happened.
You should seek medical treatment after you’ve been injured in an accident. If you do not have the option of going in an ambulance, take yourself to a doctor as soon as possible after the accident. This serves two purposes. First, medical treatment will help you return to pre-incident status, or as close as possible. Second, the records from your medical visits/treatment will be used to support the amount of compensation the responsible party should pay for your personal injury. The insurance company of the responsible party will attempt to use any delay or gaps in treatment against you. In other words, they will argue you are not as injured as you say to reduce the amount you should receive.
Find a personal injury attorney.
Keep in mind, you’re up against an insurance company that has people working around the clock handling claims like yours. They use arguments to persuade you to drop your claim or accept less than you deserve, and they sound reasonable when they do! Even if a tiny percentage of people fall for this trap, insurance companies save billions a year that they would otherwise have to pay to good people who suffer injuries. For this reason, you should hire a personal injury attorney to fight insurance companies with you. For those who want to do it alone without an attorney, at least call a local lawyer for a free consultation to get information about your case.
Open a claim with the insurance company.
Your attorney (or you if you did not hire an attorney) must contact the responsible party’s insurance company and open a claim. You can open a claim by calling the responsible insurance company and going through the automated prompts. It is important not to discuss the incident or your injuries in considerable detail. Keep it brief. The insurance company will use anything you against you. The only purpose of this initial call is to obtain a claim number and the name / contact details of the person responsible for your claim, known as the adjuster.
Likewise, keep it brief with your own insurance company. Sometimes you will need to go to your own insurance company for compensation. Therefore, do not volunteer extra information in statements you make to them.
Gather medical records/bills.
Once you are ready to make a demand for settlement, you need to gather all your medical records and bills. These items will be attached to the demand for compensation sent to the insurance company to support the injury claim.
Prepare & send a demand package.
Now it is time to send a demand letter to the responsible party’s insurance company. Send separate demand letters to every insurance company involved. A demand letter should outline the basic facts of the case, the legal reasons why the responsible party is liable. This includes a summary of the treatment history, an overview of the harms and losses, and an amount you are willing to settle the case for. Moreover, attach all your supporting evidence to the demand letter (i.e. medical records, police/incident reports, photos, out-of-pocket costs, witness statements, etc.). Finally, give the insurance company 30 days to respond to the first demand letter. If the insurance company does not respond, immediately consult with an attorney.
Negotiate settlement or file a lawsuit.
The insurance company will do one of four things in response to the demand letter. First, they will accept the terms of the initial demand letter (this is uncommon). Second, they will make a low-ball offer. Third, they will say they cannot accept or deny the demand and request additional information. Fourth, they will reject the demand for one or more reasons.
If the insurance company’s first offer is reasonable, accept it and the case settles. However, remember that the first offer is usually not the best. Furthermore, low ball offers or outright denials are most common for claims made without an attorney. This is because insurance companies know that too many people will accept low offers or denials. The insurance company places profits over people’s interests because it operates a business.
If the offer is not reasonable, consider filing a lawsuit. However, an attorney can help ensure maximum compensation without filing a lawsuit.
Keep in mind the statute of limitations, which is the time limit a person must settle a claim or file a lawsuit. If you have not settled the claim and are coming up on the statute of limitation, you will need to file a lawsuit to preserve the ability to make a claim.
Litigate your case in court.
If you are unable to settle the case, you can file a lawsuit. It is not encouraged to file a lawsuit yourself. A lawsuit involves many rules and procedures. An attorney can help you through the process.
In summary, the first step in the litigation process is to file a complaint. The second step includes serving each defendant with the summons and complaint. The discovery phase follows after. This is where the parties exchange information and evaluate the claim for settlement or trial. Although most cases settle before trial through negotiations between parties/attorneys, or mediation. If the case is one of the few that goes to trial, the case proceeds and a jury or judge makes the final decision.
JSM Injury Firm APC has the experience and resources you need to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Reach out to us to discuss your legal rights and options.
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