If you or a loved one received an injury at the fault of another party’s negligence, then you might be wondering how difficult it is to start a personal injury case to get compensation for the damages suffered as a result. If you’ve never filed a personal injury claim before, then the process can seem daunting. And if you’ve filed a claim in the past, you understand that the personal injury process is not something you want to trial and error your way through.
To give victims of personal injury a better understanding of how they can begin the claims process, we’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to go from injury to settlement.
Steps to Take After Receiving a Personal Injury
Step 1 – Seek Medical Treatment. The first thing you should always do after being involved in an accident or incident that may have caused an injury is to seek medical attention. This is typically the best option for your health and it’s an important part of making sure that there is proper documentation on the extent of the injuries received. Insurance adjusters will often think that the injuries are not very serious if the victim does not seek medical attention right away, so this is the most important first step one can take after receiving an injury in an accident.
Step 2 – Contact a Personal Injury Attorney. Minor personal injury claims may not require the help of a legal team, but for cases where a victim has suffered significant damages, seeking help from experienced personal injury lawyers can help you recover a much larger amount in financial compensation. Even if you choose to handle the case yourself, it’s always a good idea to discuss your claim with an attorney to get an idea of the real value of your claim.
Step 3 – Gather Information on the Claim. One of the most important aspects of building a winning personal injury case is gathering the right evidence. If you choose to hire a lawyer, they will interview you to get the details about the accident, nature & extent of your injuries, gather eye witness & police reports, and compile all of the medical records of the injury. Additionally, an accident reconstruction expert can be consulted to
Step 4 – Negotiate a Settlement or File a Lawsuit.
Tips for Filing a Personal Injury Claim
- Say as little as possible to the insurance companies. It’s a necessary part of the process to speak to a claims adjuster when you’re planning to file a personal injury claim, but try to give any information to the insurance companies that they could end up using against your case.
- Contact a personal injury attorney before anything is signed. When negotiating directly with insurance adjusters, they will try to settle for far less than what your case is really worth because they believe you may not know. It’s best to get advice from a professional with extensive experience dealing with these types of cases so you can get an exact idea of how much your case is truly worth.
- Most civil personal injury cases never end up going to trial. You may fret the idea of having to deal with a court proceeding to get compensation for a personal injury, but the truth is, most cases of this nature are settled before a lawsuit is even filed.
- Document everything about the injury. The more medical records & reports you have to describe the injuries that were received, the better the argument your legal team can make about how you were injured. It’s also important to keep track of all of the receipts & expenses being paid into medical treatments received as a result of receiving the injury.
- Most Case Evaluations are Free. At most law firms that deal with personal injury cases, you can get started for free. At Heidari Law Group, we offer free case evaluations and can be contacted 24/7.
- Personal Injury Cases are Time-Consuming. Patience can be a critical factor in getting the best settlement. Insurance companies will often try to drag cases out in hopes that you’ll accept a lower offer.
- The Lawsuit Must Be Filed Within the Statute of Limitations. For personal injury cases, there is a limited amount of time after the injury occurs where a lawsuit can be filed. These limitations are different from state to state and range from 1-6 years in length.
- Personal Injury Lawyers Help Victims Recover More. Hiring an experienced legal team can help protect you against costly mistakes that reduce the total amount recovered. Additionally, personal injury victims who hire a lawyer to handle their case recover close to 300% more in compensation on average.
Personal Injury Claims Process
Making the Demand & Negotiating a Settlement
A vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before they ever reach trial. If there is a good chance that the case can be settled based on the facts on hand, your lawyer may choose to make a demand to the insurance company and start negotiations. But before the demand letter can be sent, the victim should have reached the maximum medical improvement (MMI) or time where they are no longer receiving medical treatment and are healed from their injuries as best as possible. This way, the entire value of the medical costs is known and can be used to get proper compensation for your claim. If the demand is made before MMI is reached, the lawyer cannot know how much the damages truly cost and a jury or insurance adjuster may undervalue the case because of this.
Negotiating a settlement in a personal injury case is similar to haggling for goods at farmer’s market. Both parties have an idea of how much they’re willing to accept to come to an agreement; the victim understands how much they are willing to take for their injuries and damages, and the insurance company understands how much they’re willing to throw at the problem to keep it from going to trial, but both parties are unsure how much the other is willing to bend. These are some typical steps in the settlement negotiation process:
- The demand letter is sent to the responsible party asking for a reasonably high amount in compensation.
- The insurance adjuster tries to refute aspects of your claim such as the length of the physical therapy or questioning who was at fault in an effort to try to reduce the perceived value of your claim.
- You or your legal team responds to these arguments.
- The adjuster replies with a lowball settlement offer to gauge whether or not you can be hurried into accepting a low settlement amount.
- Some concessions are made to suit the insurance adjuster’s arguments and another demand is sent with an adjusted settlement offer. This is usually slightly lower than the original offer.
- At this point, the offer to settle is either accepted or the process repeats until a suitable settlement is found. If negotiations breakdown, you can file for a lawsuit with your local civil court to move the case into the “litigation” phase and the process begins moving toward a trial. It is important to keep in mind that most cases take between 1-2 years to get to trial from the point at which the lawsuit is filed, so the best case scenario for the victim is often to arrange a settlement deal before the process ever gets to trial.