From injury to verdict, what happens in my personal injury case?
You have been injured by someone else’s negligence. What is likely
to happen from this point on?
Provided the at-fault person has insurance, it is quite possible that before
you have the chance to contact an attorney, you will be contacted by a
representative of the at-fault person’s insurance company. Insurance
companies make money by collecting as many premiums as possible, and paying
out as little as possible on claims. In that respect, your case is no
different to the insurance company that anyone else’s case. Consequently,
the insurance company may try to take advantage of your situation –
you are injured, you have mounting medical bills, you have been unable
to work, and you need money. The insurance company may make you a low
offer, hoping you will jump at the offer of money in the short term to
relieve the short term pain of some medical bills.
If you hire an attorney, your attorney will negotiate with the insurance
company on your behalf so you do not have to deal with that pressure yourself.
Before being in a position to make a settlement demand, your attorney
is going to need to know the extent of the damages you have which were
caused by the accident. Your attorney will likely want to gather your
medical records going back several years prior to the accident, in order
to be able to document to the insurance company that you did not have
any pre-existing conditions for which the insurance company will not be
obligated to pay for. Your attorney will need to speak with your care
providers to get an idea of what types of medical care you may need in
the future because of the accident. And of course, your attorney will
need to consult with you to determine the impact of the accident upon
your lifestyle in order to explain this to the insurance company.
Settlement with the insurance company may not produce an acceptable result,
and litigation may be necessary. In the event the choice is made to sue,
the at fault person, your lawyer and the lawyer hired by the insurance
company to represent the at-fault person will exchange various written
documents with the other lawyer, such as your medical bills, and any records
the at-fault person may have which are relevant to your case.
Before a trial, your case may go to mediation. That is where an independent 3rd party tries to help you and the at-fault person reach an agreement to
settle your case. If mediation fails to resolve the case, then the case
may proceed to trial.
At trial, witnesses will testify about your case in front of a jury. At
trial, you will get the chance to explain to the jury what happened to
cause the accident, and how it has impacted your life. You can talk about
everything from the medical bills you incurred to how it hurts you both
physically, and emotionally, that you have difficulty doing things which
you used to enjoy doing, and doing with no physical pain.
The entire process can actually take up to a couple of years to complete.
The insurance companies know that the process can be emotionally taxing
upon an injured person and they will leverage that pressure in an attempt
to get you to accept an unfairly low settlement. Therefore, having an
experienced trial attorney on your side to deal with the insurance company
and their lawyer so you do not have to do it yourself can really take
an emotional load off your back.