The aftermath of an injury for you or a loved one is often a whirlwind of emotions and frustrations. How long will you be in recovery? Can you afford it? What will insurance cover? How long before you can have your car replaced, or go back to work, or be wholly independent again? As any experienced attorney will advise you, the answers to all of the questions above are ‘it depends’. However, the good news is that you can expect that your personal injury matter will follow along the course events outlined below:
To the extent that you have not completed treatment before you retain an attorney, the first part of any personal injury is to get better. Depending on the severity of your injuries, it may be that this takes a few weeks or months. In the event that your injuries are debilitating and permanent it is likely that you will have to, at least for the purpose of giving your claim a defined value, determine with your treating doctors, a date as to when you have attained maximum medical improvement.
2/ CLAIM PREPARATION
Once your treatment is underway, your attorney will ask you to sign an agreement to release your medical information which they will then forward to your medical providers. Note that depending on who your health care providers are, this process itself can take several weeks, with some government facilities taking as long as six months to return records.
For Plaintiff’s this can be by far the most frustrating part of the claim process. Once your attorney sends out a demand package, several weeks later you may obtain a response that you will probably feel is insulting. Your attorney sends out counter proposals and the cycle repeats until you have reached a number that is reflective of policy limits or one that you feel is a fair compensation. If you don’t, your attorney will speak with you about the merits of issuing suit.
If your negotiations with insurance adjusters have been fruitless, you have the option to sue the defendant personally. Sometimes, this is more of a necessity than an option. However, this does not mean that you cannot negotiate a settlement, so oftentimes filing suit will help negotiations to become more meaningful and urgent. But filing suit itself necessitates other actions as well – you will have to arrange service on the defendant, prepare additional pleadings or motions, exchange discovery and prepare for a final trial. This part of the process can be lengthy, however, because there is now a court approved scheduling order in place, you can expect a little more certainty in time frames of events.
Whether you reach here though negotiations or after a verdict is delivered in a jury trial, this is your end stage of the process. This is the part where your settlement checks are cut and delivered to your attorney, who will then pay it to you. However, the waiting is not over yet. As addressed in earlier articles, there are other silent partners in your claim that have a stake in your proceeds. Some of them like your ER hospital, or Medicare may have liens in which case the defendant or (usually the defendant’s insurer) will make a check payable to them from your proceeds directly before writing one out to your attorney and you. An experienced attorney may be able to negotiate down the lienholder claims, but they will still need to be satisfied before you get your payment. Depending on how many lienholders there are, and whether or not they are valid, your settlement proceeds may still be weeks away post trial/settlement.
This outlines in very broad and general terms the lifecycle of a personal injury matter.
Depending on when your injury occurred when you come to an attorney, suit may be more imminent given statutory deadlines for pursuing claims. Furthermore, you may find that that when litigation is over on an underlying claim, your attorney may advise you of other avenues of recovery, which may even require additional litigation. Help yourself by retaining counsel that knows what your options are, and does not settle for the first offer from an insurance adjuster.
Led by Ted Smith, our team of experienced attorneys proudly served the citizens of Central Texas for over 45 years. Contact us via the contact form below or call 254.690.5688 for a free consultation.