Suppose you or a loved one have been injured by some else’s negligence in an accident like a motor vehicle crash, workplace accident, or slip and fall. You might decide to pursue a personal injury claim to obtain compensation for your losses. Filing a personal injury claim can be intimidating and confusing, especially if this is your first time and you do not understand personal injury claims process. Knowing the basics of what will happen during a personal injury claim will undoubtedly make the personal injury claims process less daunting.
In this article, we will take you through the typical life cycle of a personal injury claim using an easy-to-understand timeline. Please note that your specific claim might not be linear and may be resolved at any point in the timeline depending on the specifics of your claim and the insurance involved.
How the Personal Injury Claim Process Works
Personal injury claims are first brought as formal legal demands seeking a settlement without filing a lawsuit. If your attorney feels a settlement offer is inadequate, an attorney will file a lawsuit in Court of Law. The following is generally how the personal injury claims process works:
- Seeking medical attention
- Hiring a personal injury lawyer
- Opening a claim with the insurance company
- Investigating the claim and obtaining medical
- Filing an insurance claim and accepting a settlement (if it is reasonable), or
- Filing a lawsuit (if the settlement offer is inadequate)
- Discovery phase of lawsuit
- Accepting a mediation or arbitration with an independent third party
- Going to trial
Seeking Medical Attention
Seek medical attention after an accident or injury as soon as possible. Even if you feel you are not injured, you should have yourself checked out by a medical professional, as you cannot physically see some injuries like whiplash and concussions.
Document your injuries by taking photos, as these help prove damages for injuries that will resolve on their own. Visible injuries like cuts, bruises, swelling, and abrasions can heal fast, so it is best to document these as early as possible.
Seeing medical attention is vital to your health. Not seeing a doctor within 14 days may forfeit your entitlement to a $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) under your auto insurance policy. It can also work against you as the insurance adjuster. Plus, a jury might assume your injuries are not severe if you do not seek medical help as soon as possible.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
You may be able to manage a minor claim on your own if you are familiar with the personal injury claims process. But, you will need a lawyer for a personal claim when:
- You suffer a significant personal injury
- Your medical bills are high
- The other party or insurance company are putting up a fight
- You are temporarily unable to work because of your injuries
When you consult with a lawyer, they will assess if you have a case. They will then determine the best course of action you can take.
In talking with your potential lawyer, you may want to ask the following:
- What is your experience in handling personal injury cases?
- How much will you get when you win the case?
- What is their fee for handling the case?
- What other fees do they charge?
- Do you have trial lawyers and litigators in-house?
Opening a Claim with the Insurance Company
An attorney will let the negligent party and their insurance company know you are filing a personal injury claim by sending out a Letter of Representation (LOR). A LOR from an attorney is a letter sent by an injury victim’s attorney to the defendant and his or her insurance company stating the victim is represented by legal counsel. The main purpose of a LOR is to notify both parties of the representation by counsel, and to set some guidelines for communication as the personal injury claim progresses.
Investigating the Claim and Obtaining Medical Records
Once you have hired an injury lawyer, the law firm will conduct its investigation of the accident. They will ask people involved in the accident questions about the accident, and you will be one of the first people they interview.
Your lawyer will want to know everything that happened in the accident, your known injuries, and see copies of your medical records. They will also collect crash or incident reports (if available), review your medical records and interview witnesses who were at the accident. It is in your best interest to adopt a full disclosure attitude and tell your lawyer everything.
Filing an Insurance Claim and Accepting a Settlement
Insurance companies often try to settle injury claims directly with claimants before lawyers get involved to undercompensate injury victims. If you accept the settlement, your claim will end.
If your lawyer believes they can settle the case without filing a lawsuit, he or she will make a demand to the other party’s insurance company. Your lawyer will typically wait to send the demand until you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is reached when you have reached the point at which further improvement is not possible, and all medical treatment has ended. MMI is essential because:
- Your lawyer will not know how much the case is worth until you have reached the MMI period, and all your medical bills are collected.
- A jury might undervalue your claim if you are not at MMI when the case goes to trial, as they do not grasp the full extent of your injuries.
Filing a Lawsuit
If you and your lawyer cannot settle, your injury claim will enter the litigation phase of a personal injury claim. If you decide to go this route, you will have to file a personal injury lawsuit in court within your state’s statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations dictates the time limit you can file the lawsuit after an accident. Once you file the lawsuit, the clock starts on when the case might go to trial, which is typically within two years. However, each state’s pretrial procedures are different.
The Court usually serves the documents to the defendant between 30 to 60 days after you file the lawsuit. The defendant will respond, and interrogatories (i.e., questions) are exchanged between the parties.
The Discovery Phase of a Lawsuit
During the discovery phase, you and the other party will investigate each other’s legal claims and defenses. During this phase, your lawyers will send interrogatories and document requests back and forth with the other party.
Your lawyer will also take depositions of all parties and witnesses. A deposition is your testimony under oath in front of a court stenographer. The purpose of depositions is to ensure everybody is on the same page when they give their testimony in court. It is imperative to be transparent with your lawyer, as lying under oath can result in perjury charges.
Mediation or Arbitration in a Lawsuit
Once the information from the discovery phase has been collected, the lawyers on both sides will start working to reach a settlement. They call this process an alternative dispute resolution. There are usually two ways the personal injury claims process works at this stage:
- Mediation: Mediation is a process where you and your lawyers arrange a meeting with a third-party mediator approved by both sides. A mediator is a neutral third-party that is not a judge deciding the outcome, but is there to facilitate negotiations.
- Arbitration: Arbitration is also often referred to as a mini-court case. In arbitration, a neutral third-party judges and decides the case’s outcome. Unlike mediation, the arbitration decision is binding.
In most cases, mediation or arbitration usually resolves the issues between two parties. If it does not, the next stage in the personal injury claims process is that both parties will go to trial in a courtroom in front of a jury. During a trial, all the evidence gathered during the discovery phase will be presented to the court, and the jury will decide on a settlement amount.
Depending on the court, the state, and the circumstances, a trial can be over in hours, days, or months. Getting a trial date can sometimes be up to a three-year wait, and it can even be postponed to a later date. If the other party wants to appeal, you may need to wait for up to two years before the appeal proceedings are finished.
Disbursing of Recovered Funds
You will usually get the compensation for your case within 30-60 days of successful mediation or trial. The timing depending on a variety of factors in the personal injury claims process, such as whether you have liens associated with your claim.
Finding the Best Personal Injury Lawyer
Call to Discuss the Personal Injury Claims Process With Us Today
Deciding to file a personal injury claim is stressful already, but selecting the right personal injury lawyer should not be. Our lawyers at Thompson Law are here to help you during this challenging time. If you or your family member have been injured, our attorneys are ready to provide you with answers and fight for your rights.
Thompson Law offers a free case review of your unique case, and helps you decide what is the best legal option for your situation. We do not charge attorney fees, and you will pay no legal expenses unless you get compensation for your injury accident.
Do not wait to get justice for your accident, as the statue of limitations limits your time to file a lawsuit to 2 years from date of accident in most cases in Texas. Call us today to see if we can help you with your case. Our operators are standing by 24/7 to take your call.