If you have unfortunately been injured in a Fort Worth car accident or anywhere in North Texas, you may be wondering if you should hire a personal injury lawyer and how the claims process works. Perhaps you think you can just do it yourself. We strongly recommend against that. Here’s why.
1. Seek Legal Advice ASAP
It is important to seek advice from a personal injury attorney immediately after your crash. He will assess your claim, explain how the claims and lawsuit processes work, and immediately start working to get you a good injury settlement.
There are important time-sensitive details that must be taken care of. Don’t think you can ignore your claim for weeks and it will improve. And since injury lawyers provide a free no-obligation first meeting, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
2. Understand What Damages You Are Entitled To
In order to get a good settlement or verdict, it is important to understand what damages you can be compensated for. They include the following:
- Medical expenses;
- Lost wages and benefits as well as career damage;
- Pain and suffering;
- Disfigurement (i.e. scarring);
- Disability (e.g. if you were confined to a wheelchair); and
- Miscellaneous costs (e.g. if you require assistance with domestic chores and you had to hire a housekeeper)
3. Gather Evidence To Prove Liability
The more evidence you have about how the wreck happened, the easier it is to prove that an accident was not your fault. The other driver and his company often claim that to get out of paying you money. Or he can say that another driver or cause was to blame. Or allege that he had an excuse, like the sun was setting in his eyes, or in one case I was finally able to resolve in court, a large box blew across the interstate. Useful evidence includes these items:
- Police report;
- Witness statements;
- Photographs and measurements of the accident scene;
- Photographs of damage to vehicles;
- Police reports;
- Criminal court report (e.g. the other driver was driving while intoxicated); and
- Driver’s history (e.g. the other driver had past DWI’s)
The insurance company attorney and adjuster will be working diligently to gather their own evidence to rebut the above, so the more documentation you have to support your claim and the quicker you do this, the better.
4. Get Medical Records and Bills To Prove Injuries
Because the amount of compensation for your injuries depends on how seriously you were hurt, medical evidence is essential. Reports from the EMT technicians, emergency room doctors, diagnostic facilities (e.g. CTs and MRIs), surgeons, counselors, and therapists can make or break your claim.
Your attorney will order these records and bills and obtain the necessary authentication. He will analyze them and use the records and bills to your advantage.
5. Understand the Extent of Your Injuries
Depending on the severity of your injuries, it will take months (and even years, in worst case scenarios) for you to physically recover. The most important steps you can take are to
- Attend your doctor appointments on a consistent basis;
- Follow your doctor’s advice;
- Understand your medical costs and how they will paid; and
- Avoid settling until you understand the extent of your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and other damages
Negotiating your personal injury claim too quickly means that you are presumably being underpaid, especially if your injuries worsen and your medical costs and lost wages increase. The other driver’s insurance company knows this — and doesn’t care. They will “swoop and settle” – make a small offer in exchange for you releasing your claim to further payment. They did this with clients in a major wrong-way crash whom I was just hired to represent. They were smart not to fall for it and you shouldn’t either.
6. Keep Accurate Records
If your personal injury case should have to go to trial, detailed records are useful. Keep track of when you went to a doctor, how your injuries are healing, what medicine you are taking, and how you feel. This information helps to ensure you secure the compensation you’re entitled to.
7. Protect Your Medical Records
Insurance companies will use your medical records against you, even when they support your case. This is why your attorney will deal with any problems and release your medical records to the adjuster at the appropriate time.
8. Communicate With the Insurance Adjuster
Your attorney will know how to communicate with the insurance adjuster. He will guarantee that the company reserves sufficient proceeds to pay the projected value of your claim. Many factors affect your payout amount which is why experienced legal advice is crucial.
9. Calculate What Your Case Is Worth
After you have been in a car or truck collision, how much money should you receive? I consider a host of variables to calculate a range of what I believe the claim or verdict could yield and share that with his clients. I ask them to determine amounts that are best case, good, and minimal to keep the offers in perspective while I am negotiating their case. On Monday, I represented a man crashed into by an 18-wheeler in a mediation and these numbers helped get my client the compensation he wanted.
10. File Suit
How do you know whether you should accept the offer made by Allstate or Fred Loya or whether you should just file a lawsuit? Your injury lawyer will explain, but sometimes it is better to sue from the outset.
Yes, there are disadvantages, including waiting one to two years to get to trial, paying additional expenses and attorney’s fees, and going through what is often a nerve-racking process. But if certain companies or adjusters are on the other side, sometimes it is better to get into line at the courthouse, develop your case and let a jury determine your damages. But often, when the other driver’s insurance company sees that you are serious, it will make a serious offer.
For more information on making a personal injury claim and getting the personal injury settlement you deserve, contact us today.
Fort Worth Car Accident Claims Process
After your injury attorney investigates the wreck and makes the other driver’s insurance company (and possibly your own) accept liability, you will need to be treated by doctors and physical therapists. Your lawyer and their team will help you in many ways, including
- guaranteeing payment for medical bills or making sure they are filed on your own health insurance, auto insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or other benefits available.
- They will conduct research, pay for your medical records, bills, and affidavits,
- secure proof of your lost wages,
- contact you to answer your questions, and
- perform other necessary work to process your case.
On your own, you will probably not have any idea where to start. And you can be sure that when it comes time to making a substantial settlement offer, the insurance company is not going to treat you seriously if you are not represented by an experienced attorney who knows how to file a lawsuit and take a case to court.
When you have healed from your injuries, your Fort Worth car accident attorney and his staff will prepare a demand letter highlighting the important facts. It will assemble a package containing all relevant documentation of your damages. It will sent that to the insurance carrier with a specific demand for a monetary amount.
This letter of demand from your lawyer outlines the important highlights of your case. It is a formal request to start settlement with the insurance company. After the claims adjustor at the insurance company receives the letter of demand, there will be meeting at the insurance company with the adjustor and the right supervisor with authority to make decisions about your settlement. After the insurance company has come to the figure that they have agreed to as the “authority figure,” for the settlement range, the adjustor will respond to your St. George attorney. This contact will begin negotiations between the adjustor and your lawyer to reach an agreeable settlement for both parties.
Your case may be able to be resolve over phone conferences and digital correspondence between your lawyer and the insurance company. The time it takes to negotiate and complete the settlement depends on several factors. These factors could include the type of insurance company, and how many claims the adjustor is managing, among other factors.
Does the At-Fault Insurance Just Pay Whatever Amount My Attorney Asks For?
No. Boy would that make life easy. The more the attorney can use Utah law to strengthen your case, the more the insurance adjuster will be willing to pay to get you to go away. Most of the time, the demand figure that your lawyer sends to the insurance company in the initial settlement request letter is higher than the settlement range agreed to by the insurance company. This leaves room for negotiation for both parties, and it very common for personal injury law.
Your lawyer’s expertise in this area of negotiating these cases will allow for a great deal of room to negotiate. Do not expect your actual settlement amount to exactly match the demand figure. It will end up lower than the initial demand figure.
Once the Demand is Made, How Long should it Take?
In general, it takes a few weeks to a few months or sometimes more to settle a case after the initial letter of demand is sent. In simple cases where the damages are not major, the case settlement process can happen in a month or two after the demand letter. But every case is different, and your attorney will help you know what to expect. The time it takes to settle could be affected by:
The number of files the claim’s adjustor is handling.
Whether or not the claim has been well-documented and prepared
How clear-cut is liablity?
Whether or not there is any culpability on your part
Was anyone else hurt?
The internal claims process of the insurance company involved. This includes the number of supervisors required for approval of the offer.
How agreeable your attorney’s demand figure is.
The time of year, if your adjuster is swamped, it may take awhile.
The state of the economy in relation to your claim.
Could anyone else be responsible for your injuries?
So if they will low-ball me, why not lead with an enormous demand amount?
If you don’t have interest in settling, go ahead and do just that. Think about it this way, if someone came to you and wanted to buy your car. You thought it was worth about $30,000 but the buyer led with an offer of only $1,000, would you even bother to counter offer, or would you look elsewhere?
People commonly believe that the lawyer for the injured party should request a very high figure initially, since the carrier will respond with a lower figure in negotiations. This tactic doesn’t work. If the demand figure is ridiculously high in comparison to the evidence, the insurance companies will not even respond.
Asking for a high demand figure will just delay the process, and sometimes make the insurance carrier refuse to negotiate at all with your attorney. Your St. George attorney will use his expertise to make a reasonable demand for you. Because he is familiar with settlement negotiations for personal injury claims, he will have the best strategy for the amount of the demand figure.
After the insurance company and my attorney agree upon settlement, how long will it take to get my money?
After an agreement has been reached between your attorney and the insurance carrier, the settlement process will take about two to six weeks. This is the average amount of time to sign all the documents, get the check, and make dispersements to all appropriate parties involved. There are sometimes exceptions, but the process usually takes about a month.
Doe Anything Else Need to be Done Before I see the Money in my Hand?
There are a few steps here:
The insurance company is paying you this sum of money in exchange for your giving up your right to sue for the accident. Before any money changes hands, they will require you and your spouse to sign a release of liability and return it. They want to make sure all their I’s are dotted and their T’s are crossed before they pay you anything at all. Read the release carefully. You cannot accept their money, and then sue them for the same accident down the road.
Your attorney will need to make payment for any medical bills that have not yet been paid in full, and also reimburse any health insurance company that has covered medical expenses for your injury.
After all the bills are paid, all that remains is your attorneys costs and fees. At McMullin Injury Law, we keep costs as minimal as possible. We don’t charge you for office supplies, time, etc. To us, costs are things that require us to write a check to someone else specifically in the pursuit of your case. Once costs are reimbursed, attorney fees are taken out, and the rest is turned over to the client.
After all of the other fees (attorneys’ fees, medical bills, liens, other costs) will there be anything left for me?
At McMullin Injury Law, our ultimate goal is to maximize your recovery. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the client comes away as the winner. We won’t take a case unless we add value. If you don’t need an attorney, we will tell you that up front. We are able to achieve results for our clients that they would not be able to achieve on their own.
It is important to keep in mind that law allows compensation for your injury—which is compensation for lost income, medical expenses, and an amount for pain and suffering. The law does not allow for any injured parties to “get wealthy” from personal injury claims, especially small claims. Your St. George attorney will do the very best for you to make sure you are fairly compensated and get what you deserve.