Many personal injury victims do not know what to expect from the legal process. That is why there are a lot of misconceptions about personal injury claims. It can be helpful to review the steps in the legal process.
Even though every personal injury case is unique, the process is essentially the same. Some cases take longer so there are more steps involved, while others are resolved more quickly. Even if your case starts out as an insurance claim, it may become a lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to offer fair compensation.
As there are many steps involved, and the insurance company will be working against you, you need experienced legal assistance throughout the process. The Cleveland personal injury lawyers at our law firm have been taking on insurance companies for many years and have obtained numerous verdicts and settlements worth more than a million dollars. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.
Below, we discuss the steps involved in the legal process of a personal injury case.
1. Investigation of the Accident
The legal process begins in the aftermath of the accident when the situation is investigated. If the accident is a motor vehicle crash, the parties involved usually call the police to investigate and file a report. Usually, the injury victim may kick off some of the investigation by gathering evidence at the scene, like photos and contact information from the other driver(s) involved.
After a slip and fall accident or other type of accident on someone else’s property, the business owner/property owner/manager may write up a report on the situation. They may also take some pictures and take statements from those involved.
The initial investigation of the accident helps to document what happened. While the insurance company and attorney for the victim will do much more investigating, they may start with information collected right after the accident.
It is always a good idea to call the police when appropriate and/or file some type of accident report.
2. Medical Treatment
The most important thing to do after an accident is get to a doctor so he or she can diagnose your injuries and provide appropriate treatment. This is important for your claim, but your health is more important than that. After your injuries have been stabilized, you can start thinking about legal options and talking to an attorney about what to do next.
Give the doctor you see a detailed description of your symptoms and what happened in the accident. Try your best not to leave anything out. Sometimes injuries get worse over time, and it is helpful to the success of your claim to have those injuries mentioned early in your treatment.
While seeking treatment soon after the accident is important, so is sticking with it. You should continue your treatment as directed by your doctor and follow his or her recommendations about limiting physical activity and returning to work.
3. Discussing the Case with an Attorney
The insurance company for the liable party may call to offer a settlement or to get a statement from you about what happened. Do not make any statements without first speaking with an attorney. The insurance company may try to make a settlement offer right away, which will be worth far less than the full value of your case.
Advise the insurance company that they will be hearing from your attorney. Make sure you get the name of the adjuster, the claim number, and telephone number.
Many injury victims do not understand the dangers of saying too much to the insurance company. You could say something that sounds like an admission of fault or something that suggests your injuries are not that serious.
4. Attorney Investigates the Accident
When you contact our firm, we will review what happened to determine if we may be able to help you. If you may have a case, we can schedule a free legal consultation to learn more about what happened. You can also find out how we may be able to assist you and ask us any questions you have about the legal process or steps you should take to protect your case.
If we validate your case, and you decide to hire our firm, there will be no upfront costs. We can manage the investigation of the crash, settlement negotiations, legal filings and the other steps in the process on your behalf.
Our firm has the resources and legal knowledge to comprehensively investigate what happened and determine the value of your damages. Our focus is on securing the compensation you need during this difficult time and the compensation you may need after the legal process has concluded.
5. Attorney Sends a Demand Letter to the Insurance Company
After investigating what happened and gathering evidence, we can get a better idea of the value of your claim. We must also wait until your injuries have either healed or you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI) – MMI is the point at which your injuries have healed as much as they are likely to heal.
The insurance company wants to settle before you reach MMI because they are looking to underpay your claim. Settlements offered before this point are not going to account for all your damages because your doctors may not know your ongoing treatment needs.
The demand letter explains what happened, who should be held liable, the damages suffered, the value of your damages, and the amount of compensation we are seeking. Typically, demand letters state that if insurance companies refuse to meet the demands, a lawsuit will be filed.
6. Settlement Negotiations
Usually, the insurance company does not meet the initial demand for compensation. They may deny the claim, but they often make a counteroffer for far less than your lawyer was seeking. This begins the negotiation process.
Insurance companies often tell victims they need to accept the first offer because the insurance company will not offer more compensation. However, that is not true, as the first offer from the insurer is often just a place to start negotiating. This is also why you should avoid talking to the insurance company.
7. Filing a Lawsuit if Negotiations Break Down
Unfortunately, insurance companies sometimes refuse to make a fair offer of compensation. When this happens, your lawyer may need to file a lawsuit to seek full compensation.
If it is possible to negotiate a favorable settlement, the claim can be resolved, and the victim can obtain compensation.
8. Preparing for a Trial
If we file a lawsuit, we will begin preparing for trial, which means building a case. One of the first steps is the discovery process, when both sides share information. This helps your attorney learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of the insurance company’s arguments. This helps us to strengthen your case and gather more evidence.
There may be depositions, when lawyers talk to people involved, such as witnesses, the police, doctors and others. We may also send out written lists of questions for others to answer, called interrogatories.
Sometimes, both parties are ordered by the court to go through mediation as a last-ditch effort to avoid a trial. Mediation is when a mediator discusses the case with both sides and tries to facilitate agreement on a settlement.
9. Going to Trial
At any point while preparing for a trial, the insurance company may reach out to settle. They may not want to go through with a trial because they think the jury will rule in favor of the victim. However, sometimes victims have strong cases and insurers still go through with a trial.
Our attorneys have significant experience with settlement negotiations and taking cases to court. We are prepared for either scenario. We can keep you informed throughout the process and answer your questions, so you understand the status of your case.
10. Jury Reaching a Verdict
Unless the insurance company reaches out to try to settle before both sides finish presenting their cases, the case will be in the hands of the jury. The jury will determine if the other party is at fault and how much compensation should be awarded, if any.
Learn More About How We Could Help You
If you suffered a personal injury because of another’s carelessness, you may be able to obtain compensation for your damages. The process can be complex, which is why so many victims decide to contact an attorney.
However, your choice of an attorney is important. You need an experienced attorney who has a track record of success. Friedman, Domiano and Smith has recovered millions on behalf of our clients and there are no upfront costs for our services.
Free consultation. Call us at: 216-621-0070.
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