What an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Will Do For You
Personal injury lawyers have many duties in assisting their clients. The most important professional mandate is to help their clients obtain the compensation and justice they deserve after undergoing losses and suffering.
Whether the accident caused soft tissue injuries or those of a much more serious nature, the last thing an injured person needs to deal with is the headache of insurance companies and their mandate to protect their client—the insured driver who caused the accident and the stock owners who invest their money in the company.
Insurance companies will pay the minimum amount possible to settle your claim while your personal injury attorney specializes in understanding the value of your claim.
A personal injury attorney:
- Will ensure you are paid fairly for your injuries
- Can hold the insurance company accountable for payment of all of your damages, not just the ones for which they want to pay.
These links will take you to each of the paragraphs below.
1. Gathering Information From Clients and Other Resources
After deciding to enter into an attorney/client relationship, your attorney will begin to compile the facts of your case. This process involves reviewing the below documents:
- Police Report
- Statements given to witnesses or insurance companies
- Your insurance policy
- Current statutory law
- Current case law
- Your medical bills and records
- Information about the responsible party, including their insurance and their assets
The attorney might also visit the scene of the incident and/or hire a third party to investigate the details of the incident. They’ll also contact the insurance company for the person, persons, or company who caused the injuries.
2. Signing Multiple Authorization Forms
It’s necessary for an attorney to assemble information about their client. They’ll need information with regards to background, education, employment history, medical history, and information relating to the injury and losses as a result of the accident. Doctors, hospitals, employers, and other establishments will not release personal information without signed written authorizations. As a result, a client will be asked to sign a number of authorizations forms which will allow an attorney to obtain this important information. These authorizations are only valid for a finite period of time, so you may have to re-sign over the course of your case.
3. Your Responsibilities: Document and Recover
While you’re recovering from your accident, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure an easier settlement process when you have reached maximum medical improvement. These steps include:
- Attend all of your doctor’s appointments. If you cannot keep the appointment, call and cancel—do not “no-show.”
- Keep a business card for each of your medical providers (doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, imagining, etc.) to provide to your attorney. If they do not have a business card, write down the name and address where you were seen.
- Keep a journal of your recovery. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but a daily entry about how you are feeling helps tremendously in preparing your case for settlement.
- Keep track of out-of-pocket expenses by keeping the receipts. This includes mileage to and from doctor’s appointments.
- If you were ordered to stay home from work, to recover from the accident, document the missed hours and lost wages so those can be calculated and you can receive compensation.
- Take care of yourself! It takes time to heal from an accident, and it is okay to give yourself permission to take time to recover.
4. Work With Your Attorney
After you’ve been released by your doctors, your attorney will request your medical records from all of your treating medical providers. During this time, they will also request you to provide your documentation for wage losses, the business cards, and any other out of pocket expenses you’ve compiled.
To achieve the most successful results, it’s important to remember to always:
- Promptly return any phone calls, emails or letters from your attorney or his staff.
- Provide the names and phone numbers of anyone who may have witnessed the accident.
- Take photographs of any injuries to you or your property.
- Update any changes to personal information such as address, phone numbers or name changes.
- Answer all questions truthfully, even if you fear there is a problem with the answer. We can do more with the truth than we can by finding out it was false after the fact.
5. Payment For Attorney Services
Rather than entering into a standard retainer agreement where attorney and staff services are provided at an hourly rate, with bills being due monthly, personal injury cases are taken on a percentage-based agreement with no legal fees being owed if no money is received by the client. This type of retainer agreement is called a contingency fee agreement. The bill is held to the end and is paid out of the settlement with no legal costs required upfront to the client.
The law firm will also cover upfront costs during the settlement negotiations with the insurance companies. Some types of costs may be medical records and bills, police reports, copies, postage, color photographs, and private investigator fees. These costs will be deducted from the final settlement and may be owing even if you do not receive any recovery from your settlement.
6. Out of Pocket Expenditures
Should your case not settle, you may be asked to provide a trial retainer in order to cover a portion of the litigation costs. At the Law Firm of Robert C. Hahn, P.S., we usually don’t ask for a trial retainer, we front the cost of the expenses. If you were asked to provide a retainer some of the costs which would be paid with a trial retainer may include:
Expert witness costs for reviewing records and rendering opinions.
Costs of trial, such as depositions, filing fees, and expert witness fees.
Any trial retainer not used would be refunded to you, and any costs which were not covered by the jury award would be due if not paid by the trial deposit. No attorney fees would be owed if there was a defense award at trial.
7. Responsible Party’s Insurance Company
After the accident, either you or your attorney will call the at-fault party’s insurance company to find out the claim number and adjuster’s name and contact information. The responsible parties should have notified their insurance company of the accident within four days of the collision. However, a claim may be opened with the company even if their insured hasn’t notified them yet. Should you call and open a claim, it’s important to realize that the opposing company will use anything you tell them against you at the time of settlement, so it is best to keep what you say to the facts of the accident only—the date, location, time and how the accident happened.
If you have property damage, such as damage to your vehicle, a second adjuster will be assigned to handle the repairs or to determine the value if the vehicle was totaled. This is separate from your claim for personal injury.
Once you claim has been opened, your attorney will notify the adjuster of your representation and all further correspondence will go through the law office. You should not give any recorded statements, and if you receive any calls, you should direct them to your attorney.
8. Valuing Your Personal Injury Claim
The impact of an auto accident has many facets, some of which are not immediately known. The value of a case is similar in that there are many factors that affect the settlement value, which may be different from the value you would receive at trial. Some of the factors that are considered by the insurance company in determining the settlement value are:
- Medical expenses
- Wage loss
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent disability
- Permanent impairment
- Loss of earning potential
- Future medical expenses
The most you can recover from the insurance company is the policy limits, which may be split between multiple claimants if there was more than one party injured in the accident. To compensate for any lack of insurance, you can file a claim with your own insurance company for Underinsured Motorist.
9. Do Not Contact the At-Fault Party or Their Insurance Company
Once you’ve hired an attorney, all contact with the opposing party and their insurance is done by your attorney. If you are contacted by the insurance company, you should immediately let them know you are represented by an attorney and then call your attorney to notify them of the contact. You should never initiate contact with the at-fault party or their insurance company.
10. Working With Your Own Insurance Company
If you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) your own insurance company may pay the bills for the auto accident. In such a case they may need to take your statement or have you sign a release in order to process those payments. You may also be entitled to wage loss and payments for household help if you’re unable to work due to the accident. These types of claims will require you to work with your own insurance. However, you should always contact your attorney to prior to speaking to your insurance adjuster or signing any documents.
11. Can My Claim be Disputed by the Other Insurance Company?
After an auto accident, the last thing you want to deal with is wondering whether the responsible party’s insurance company is going to deny your claim. There are some circumstances in which there is cause to deny your claim, such as you were cited by the police for causing the accident, but if there is a question as to liability, it is best to leave the matter to your personal injury attorney.
More often, insurance companies may dispute your injuries. It is not uncommon for insurance companies to minimize the impact and therefore try and minimize the amount of bodily injury a claimant may have sustained. Your personal injury attorney knows how to deal with these disputes and will maximize the settlement amount the insurance company will offer.
12. Settling My Case
When you’ve completed treatment and reached Maximum Medical Improvement (as decided by your treating physician), your attorney will begin the settlement process with the at-fault insurance company, or your insurance company, depending on whether the at-fault party had insurance. The initial settlement process includes:
- Preparing a demand package, which includes a complete narrative of the facts of the accident, your medical treatment, the impact the accident has had on your life, and monetary damages associated with the accident, including wage loss, medical bills, and future medical treatment.
- Determining any liens for subrogation, which is the legal requirement to repay a medical insurance company for any bills they have paid on your behalf.
- Determine any outstanding liens from medical providers.
The demand package is submitted to the insurance adjuster assigned to your case along with a time limit, typically thirty days, for a response. Depending on the dollar amount requested in the demand letter, additional time may be necessary beyond the thirty days. Once the adjuster has reviewed all of the information, an initial offer is made.
Settlement of a personal injury cases takes time as the initial offer is usually much lower than the actual value of the case. Your attorney will discuss the offer with the adjuster and then will discuss the offer with you as well as the proposed counter-offer. This process may repeat itself several times before settlement is achieved.
13. Will The Insurance Carrier Pay The Settlement Amount in My Attorney’s Demand Letter?
The amount requested in the demand letter is not the figure your attorney believes your case is going to settle for. This amount is an opening number from which the settlement negotiations begin. The figure is typically much higher than your case is expected to settle, however once a lower amount is offered, the other party has the option of agreeing, therefore it is a common negotiating tactic to begin high while expecting to settle somewhere lower than the initial demand.
14. Why Not Start Negotiations With a Lower Figure?
The initial demand letter will begin with a figure higher than at which your attorney anticipates settling, however this allows for counter-offers of lower amounts when the settlement negotiations begin. It is rare that a case settles on the first contact with the insurance adjuster. Most often many offers and counter-offers are required before an agreement is reached. During this time, your attorney will keep you informed of each offer and the proposed counter-offer, as well as what amount each offer would put in your pocket.
15. Will My Case Settle?
After you’ve finished your treatment and been released by your physicians, your attorney will begin the settlement process on your case. Most cases achieve settlement with only a small percentage going to trial. It is typically more cost-effective to agree on a settlement versus litigating the case as the cost of litigation is expensive. It’s your attorney’s goals to increase your settlement to the highest dollar amount possible while negotiating any lien or subrogation in order to put additional funds into your pocket.
Some cases, however, may require a lawsuit to be filed prior to achieving settlement. These cases may not actually go to trial, but in some instances insurance companies or adjusters do not see the value of the case in the same fashion as your attorney and a lawsuit is filed. The filing of the case brings a defense attorney for the responsible party into the picture, which can lead to other settlement offers, mediation or trial.
Cases which may be difficult to settle include:
- Where the claimant has pre-existing conditions
- Where the claimant has tried to settle the case directly prior to hiring an attorney
- Where treatment has went on for many months for soft tissue injuries, especially consisting of chiropractic and massage therapy
- Where there is a history of no-show appointments, or not following the instructions of the physicians within the claimants medical records
- Where there is a history of drug seeking behavior in the claimants records
- Where there is a question as to whether the accident caused the injuries.
16. How Much is My Case Worth?
The value of your case is a multidimensional question with many parts that determine the whole. Some of the aspects that are considered in the valuation are:
- The total amount of past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent disability
- Permanent impairment
- Loss of earning potential
- Loss of consortium
The settlement value may be different than the value of your case if it were to be litigated, however the cost of litigation is paid out of the jury award, so the difference between the two figures must be substantial enough to justify the costs of litigation.
17. What is the Settlement Value of My Case?
The settlement value of your case is the value of your case as agreed upon by you, your attorney, and the insurance company. Often times, this value may not be the amount you would receive if you were to try the case in court, but there is no risk in settlement, whereas litigation is expensive and there is risk that the jury may not see the facts in the same light.
18. How Long After the Demand Before My Case is Settled?
The demand process can take anywhere from several weeks to several months, depending on whether the insurance adjuster requests additional information or documentation. Accidents where there is clear liability and the damages are low can typically settle within a month or two, but each accident has its own facts and each insurance company deals with settlement differently.
If a settlement cannot be reached within a reasonable period of time, or if the adjuster is not willing to increase their offer to a reasonable settlement, your attorney may advise filing a lawsuit in order to facilitate settlement. This may seem like an odd choice, but it gives further options that are not available without a court case number, such as mediation. This is also necessary if your accident is approaching the statute of limitations, which is the statutory length of time allowed to settle your claim of file a suit. The filing of a lawsuit does not stop you from a settlement. It tolls the timeline on the statute of limitations and brings in a defense attorney who reviews the facts of the case with a new perspective, which may also assist in settlement.
19. How Long Will it Take to Get My Money After a Settlement is Agreed Upon?
After you’ve agreed to the offer of settlement, the insurance company will send out settlement releases, which may be required to be returned prior to them issuing payment. Other insurance companies send out the settlement checks and releases at the same time. If you’re married, the insurance company will often require your spouse to indemnify their insured by signing the release as well prior to negotiating the settlement check. You will also sign the settlement disbursement prepared by your attorney which will notify you of all fees, costs, liens and subrogation which will be paid out of the settlement.
The settlement check will be made payable to you, your spouse (if applicable), and your attorney. After signing, it will be deposited into your attorney’s trust account where the funds will need to clear the account prior to being disbursed. The amount of time this takes depends on the amount of the check as well as the financial institution.
Once the funds clear the account, your attorney will pay the items listed on the settlement disbursement and write a check from the trust account for your portion of the settlement.
For an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Contact Robert Hahn
Waiting for conclusion text from Robert.Whether you were in a minor auto accident or experienced a life-altering event, it’s important to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. The Law Office of Robert C. Hahn will act as a liaison between you and your insurance company, as well as the responsible party’s insurance company. We will protect your legal rights.
At a time in your life when the future may seem unknown, you deserve to have the best on your side, making sure you recover the maximum amount available. Call us today at (509)921-9500 to schedule an appointment or submit our no obligation free consultation form.
Real concern, real help, and the consultation is free.