Accidents that lead to personal injury are associated with high levels of stress and trauma. If you are involved in such an accident, you may immediately start thinking of filing a lawsuit against the party at fault. However, acting emotionally without taking the time to fully consider your path forward may cause you to make the wrong move and eventually lose your case. For anything more than a fender bender, it’s vital to employ an attorney before you talk to the insurance company. But as with anything, some lawyers are better than others. Here’s a rundown on the typical process when you have a personal injury claim.
Go To The Hospital
Your first destination after an accident is not your lawyer’s office but a good hospital nearby. Seek medical attention whether you were involved in a car accident or slipped and fell. If you do not go to the hospital first, the insurance company will dismiss your claim. Insurance companies argue that there was no injury if the defendant did not seek medical attention.
Choose A Good Lawyer
If you do not have a personal lawyer, you need to identify a qualified lawyer who can help you with the claim. The CEO of KRW Personal Injury Lawyers advises people to ask for help from family and friends when choosing a good lawyer. You may not make a sound decision when lying on a hospital bed. However, a family member or close friend can help you identify a competent lawyer, especially those that specialize in personal injuries.
Your attorney will start investigating the case immediately. He or she will ask a ton of questions about the accident. Ensure that you answer all the questions accurately and give as much information as you can remember from the accident or incident. Your lawyer will also ask for your medical records, bills, medical history, and other medical information that relates to the case. Your attorney will review all this information and let you know whether they believe you have a case or not.
Filing An Insurance Claim
Small injuries are in most cases settled out of court, especially ‘slip and fall’ incidents. The lawyer at this stage makes a demand to the other party’s insurance company or lawyer. If the claim is for less than $10,000, most insurance companies will settle it without too much trouble. If the case goes to small claims court, they’re unlikely to appeal a ruling in your favor. If the accident led to a permanent or serious injury, a good lawyer will file a lawsuit instead. Lawyers make a demand when the plaintiff reaches the maximum medical improvement (MMI) level. This means that the plaintiff has completed his or her treatment and is in the best medical condition he or she can attain.
It may take a longer period to reach this level but the court may undervalue the case if your lawyer files a case before then. Sometimes lawyers file a case before the plaintiff reaches the MMI point if he or she needs money to complete treatment.
Filing A Lawsuit
Your attorney will use the information and evidence gathered about your injury to file a lawsuit. The process of filing a lawsuit is different in every state. In most cases, it takes one to two years after filing a lawsuit for the case to go to trial. The lawyer must observe the time limits that apply to your state. Hence, you need to choose a lawyer who understands the legal procedures and restrictions of personal injuries in your state.
The Discovery Process
After filing a lawsuit, the attorneys on both sides will start investigating the legal claims and the corresponding defenses. Attorneys exchange document requests and interrogatories. The attorneys are simply asking for all the information that the other side will present in court, including witnesses. The main witnesses, in this case, are the defendant and plaintiff as well as anyone who was there at the time of the incident. The discovery process can take six months to a year depending on the case and the deadlines that the court gives.
The Mediation Stage
This stage is also referred to as the ‘alternative dispute resolution’ stage. After reviewing the claims and defenses, attorneys will pursue a settlement before going to trial. Usually, both parties are able to come to an agreement without any outside intervention. However, sometimes one or both parties will seek the help of a mediator.
If the negotiations at the mediation stage do not lead to a settlement, the case goes to trial. This is a rare occurrence; most parties would rather settle before the case gets this far. However, if an insurance company’s offers are not acceptable to you as the plaintiff, a trial is the end game. It may last an afternoon, a day, a week or longer depending on the complexity of the case. Personal injury cases that involve large amounts of money may drag for months or years but those for small amounts are settled quickly.
As you can see, this process is long and involved. That’s why the most important decision after an injury is to get a good attorney as you seek medical attention. Consult or ask for referrals where necessary to ensure that a competent attorney is handling your case. They don’t typically ask for money up front, so if an attorney decides to take your case, that means they believe you have a good chance at receiving significant compensation. Your lawyer will guide you through the process and do their utmost to ensure that you obtain a satisfactory settlement in or out of court.
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