What happens when you hire a personal injury attorney?
After you’ve contacted a personal injury attorney, you’re probably wondering what happens next. Legal cases don’t go straight to court like dramatic TV shows intimate. The legal process time, research and diligence, as your attorneys determine whether your case has what it takes to win. To make the process easier to understand, here’s a step-by-step outline of what you can expect:
1) Do you have a case? After contacting a personal injury attorney, the first step is determining if your case has the requisite qualifications to win. To have a case, you’ll need the following: 1) proof that a negligent party caused your injury; 2) proof the accident caused injuries; 3) proof the alleged has an insurance company that can compensate you.
2) Creating demand package: If our attorneys conclude that you do have a case, we’ll send a “demand package” to the insurance company. The package contains a variety of evidence supporting your case, including (but not limited to) photographs, police reports, medical bills, witness statements and more. If your injury is debilitating, the package may even contain an evaluation of future medical expenses and loss of future earning capacity.
In addition to evidence, the demand package will contain a letter, drafted by the attorney, requesting the insurance company pay a specific amount of money by a certain date (typically 30 days from when the package is received) to avoid a lawsuit. The hope is that the insurance company will accept your offer so you can get your money fast and avoid dealing with the court system.
3) Negotiate with insurance company: After the insurance company has received the demand package, it will likely counter with an offer below the amount your attorney requested. This is Negotiations 101. If the offer is truly the insurance company’s best (due to policy limitations), the attorney may have to accept. If the attorney feels it’s being lowballed, it will continue to negotiate until there’s an agreement or impasse. If it’s the latter, the attorney will proceed with a lawsuit.
4) Filing a Lawsuit: If the two parties are unable to reach an agreement outside the courtroom, your attorney will file a lawsuit and pay a filing fee. Upon the lawsuit being filed, the defendant will receive a subpoena and both parties will meet in court on a set date to exchange information about the case. This process, known as “discovery,” may include depositions, which are in-person meetings in which witnesses are asked questions under oath. If the case involves an injury, the defendant may request that you’re examined by its own doctor and/or mental health professional.
5) Mediation or Trial: After the discovery phase, the judge will likely dispatch a mediator to try and resolve the case through negotiation. If the mediator cannot negotiate a settlement, both parties will appear in court, and a decision regarding how much (if any) money is exchanged will be rendered by a jury. The trial can cost thousands of dollars, so it’s your best interest to avoid going to court. But when the insurance company is being unreasonable, sometimes that simply isn’t possible.