If you’ve been in a car accident, there could be a long road ahead to settling the claim and getting what you are owed. It’s a complicated process, which is why one of the first things you should always do is contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
What happens when you meet with a personal injury attorney?
- The attorney will initially ask you questions related to how the accident occurred, to determine who was at fault for causing the accident. That is important because if the other driver was 100% at fault, then you’re entitled to be fully compensated for all of the damages you suffered as a result of the accident. However, if you were at fault, you may not be entitled to any compensation, depending on facts.
- Once fault is assessed, the attorney will likely begin asking you questions about the pain you are suffering with. He will be interested in what areas of your body you are experiencing pain in and symptoms of injuries, such as numbness in your fingers or toes, pain radiating down your arm, tingling, numbness, & etc. An experienced personal injury attorney usually has a good idea as to whether you have soft tissue injuries or more severe injuries, based upon your symptoms. That is important because your attorney will usually be the person assisting you in setting up treatment.
- The attorney will also ask you about information related to the other driver’s insurance. Most importantly he will want to know what that person’s liability coverage limits are, to determine the chances of you getting fully compensated for your damages. For instance, if the other driver’s liability coverage limits are $100,000 and the value of your case is likely $50,000, then the attorney knows that you’ll be made whole from that person’s insurance and there is no need to look elsewhere for compensation.
- If the other driver has no insurance or not enough insurance, the attorney will be interested about whether your have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. If the other driver had no insurance and you have uninsured motorist coverage on your automobile insurance policy, then you can still be compensated for your damages from your policy. If the other driver had insurance but not enough to fully compensate your for your damages, and you have underinsured motorists coverage, then you can file a claim against your policy to compensate your for damages that the other driver’s policy could not compensate you for.
- Your lawyer will also want to know what, if anything, you have said to insurance adjusters, and if you have given any recorded interviews or written statements.
What happens after you hire a lawyer?
Once you hire a lawyer, he or she will usually notify the other driver’s insurance company that your are being represented by that attorney and that any and all communications related to your case need to be sent directly to that attorney. The lawyer will also assist in scheduling treatment for you and obtaining police reports, medical records, and medical bills that have been issued to date. Once you have completed treatment and have been discharged by your medical providers, the attorney will then send a letter, usually to the other driver’s insurance company, demanding that they pay you for the full value of your claims, according to your injuries, medical bills, treatment, and any work missed due to the accident/injuries. If that party agrees, the your case is settled. If an agreement can’t be reached, then the attorney will usually advise that a lawsuit be filed. Here are a few things to note about litigation:
- It starts with you filing a lawsuit.
- Once the lawsuit is filed, you must serve the defendant with the lawsuit.
- The defendant usually has 15 days to file an Answer to the lawsuit, admitting or denying the allegations you made in it.
- Once the Answer is filed, you move into the “discovery phase” where each side has an opportunity to discover important evidence in support or in defense of any of your claims. This can be done by sending the other side questions or requests for documents that they have to respond to under oath within a limited amount of time or your attorney can set depositions to cross examine other parties.
- Once you’ve gotten through the discovery phase, the attorney will usually file various pleadings to set the case for trial if it isn’t settled yet. However, the chances of it going all the way to trial are slight. Roughly 90% or more cases settle without ever going to trial.
What should I ask my attorney when discussing any possible settlement?
Here are some things to talk to your attorney about when discussing any possible settlement:
- How have settlement amounts and jury verdicts been for other cases that were similar to yours?
- What are your chances of winning if you do go to trial?
- Are there any special circumstances that make it harder to try your case in court?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of your case? How does the evidence hold up to your claims?
- What are the strength and weaknesses of your opponent’s case?
- What does your attorney think your claim is worth – talk specifics, including exact dollar amounts and how that amount compares to the amount you could receive if you went to trial.
- What is the minimum amount of money you are willing to accept in an effort to avoid going to court?
- What are the specifics of your opponent’s insurance policy? Are you seeking more than the insurance policy is able to pay out?
- What about your opponent’s own personal financial resources? Is he or she able to compensate you out of pocket?
If there’s anything you learned from reading this, it’s that personal injury cases are very complex legal matters, and they should always be handled by an experienced injury lawyer. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, contact the Russell Law Firm today.