Every personal injury case is unique and at the same time many are very similar. Some personal injury cases take much longer than others and some of the factors that determine the length are the specific type of personal injury case, the number of parties and the extent of the injuries.
This article is written to give you an idea of the process a personal injury case may take from start to finish.
The Medical Treatment- Day 1 to Release of Treatment.
Clearly the earlier an accident victim seeks medical attention the better for their recovery and also their personal injury claim. While it is not always possible to obtain quick appointments with doctors, the longer you delay the more likely it is that the insurance company will want to contest all or part of your treatment. Getting necessary treatment for the injuries that you sustained in an accident is an important first step. Also, following your physician’s directives regarding your recovery is critically important to not only the case but more importantly your recovery.
Insurance companies are usually always critical about some part of a person’s medical treatment particularly when there is adequate insurance coverage. Click here for an article about what to do if you are hurt in an accident but don’t have health insurance.
Gaps in treatment, long delays in seeing a doctor or injuries first diagnosed much later after the accident all raise red flags with the adjuster. The argument on delay in treatment being, if it was so bad why was treatment not immediate. Of course, each victim has their own justification for delays in treatment. However, the insurance companies have found the foregoing argument fairly successful in convincing jurors regardless of the explanation offered by the victim.
Documenting your injury or recovery with video or photographs is always a good idea. For instance, if you required a cast, a photograph or video of the cast itself and that problems it caused you in day-to-day life can be very compelling evidence in a personal injury trial.
Except in the most extreme cases where medical will be ongoing for life, most settlement discussions take place after the accident victim has reached maximum medical improvement. There are exceptions and certainly the statue limitations must be considered regarding when a lawsuit should be filed. In some instances, litigation is filed fairly early on for strategic reasons. An example would be when an auto accident attorney believes the adjuster is not trying to settle the case pre-litigation.
As Soon as Possible- Hire the Best Attorney.
There is no doubt that who you choose to represent you can have a big impact on not only reducing your frustrations in the claims handling process but also the results achieved. Not to say that families need to run out on day one and hire an attorney, but the sooner you retain competent counsel generally do better for your case. Having said that, we recommend that accident victims spend some due diligence time in researching the accident attorneys near me that they are considering for the case. The more serious the injury the more you should research the attorney you are considering.
Some factors that have proven important over the years and selecting an attorney are:
- Who will actually work on your file? Will a partner actually farm out work to a less experienced associate or handle it personally? This is a huge factor in many very serious cases. Hire the lawyer that will actually work on your case and not just “supervise” it.
- Has the lawyer ever been sued for malpractice? If so this may not be the right choice for you. The results of this search can also tell you where the priority is for the attorney – is it his client’s interests or his own?
- What do former clients have to say”?
- What are their results with this type of case?
Talking with Adjusters- 1 Week to the End of Treatment.
Most personal injury victims will be contacted by an insurance adjuster within the few days after an accident. The more serious the accident the more likely that it is then an adjuster would contact you. With minor accidents the adjuster still may contact you wanting information from you relative to the claim.
One of the first things that an adjuster would seek would be a recorded statement from you regarding your injuries and the accident. It is important to note that the statement is not so much to learn about the case as it is to be able to defend the case. Many of the best personal injury attorneys advise against giving a recorded statement. Never forget that an adjuster particularly for a third party who was negligent is not on your side. Their job is to pay as little as possible on any specific case. The more serious the injury the more likely that the adjuster would be friendly to you with the hope you don’t hire a lawyer! Here are the top 10 adjuster tricks for car accident victims.
Some companies contact accident victims right away in an attempt to secure an early settlement. They use techniques such as “estimating” future medical but require a full release which would bar you to come back for additional payments if the medical exceeds the estimate. Settling the case while you’re still being treated or worse don’t know the full diagnosis is a mistake. For those who hire an attorney, the attorney will handle all settlement negotiations and communications with the insurance company.
Settlement Discussions – After Maximum Medical Improvement
Settlement discussions generally take place after the accident victim has been released for medical treatment or obtain maximum medical improvement. Thereafter, the attorney will gather the medical records that can take from 2 to 3 months depending on the extent of injury and the number of medical providers. Releasing medical records to your attorney takes way more time than one would think. Medical record processing is not a revenue generator for the medical provider and therefore is often ignored by the physician’s office. Often it takes numerous contacts from the attorney’s office to obtain action on the medical records.
Once the insurance company has all of the relevant medical records their review can take approximately two weeks to one month and some companies take longer. Settlement discussions generally occur after that period. Many insurance companies have developed “lowball” strategies which can drag out settlement discussions and often lead to the filing of a lawsuit.
Once a Lawsuit is Filed-
Except in cases of strategic interest, most personal injury attorneys wait until victim has substantially treated their injuries with physicians. Filing a lawsuit too early can lead to the victim getting jammed on medical testimony when they are still being actively treated. Nevertheless, there are instances where strategically filing a suit early is the right thing to do.
A lawsuit can take a month or two for the defendant to be served and thereafter the defendant has a certain number of days in order to file an answer or respond to the lawsuit. Then written discover generally is exchanged between the plaintiff and the defendant’s. The next step will be depositions of the parties to the lawsuit, any witnesses, experts and treating physicians.
In Harris County the time between the filing of the lawsuit and the actual trial of the case can vary greatly depending on the court. Generally, obtaining an actual jury trial before two years is hard to get (except in small expedited cases), Harris County courts have pretty significant dockets and obtaining a trial setting does not necessarily being you will get to go during that time.
Trial of the case can take from a day or two to several weeks or even months depending on the complexity of the case, the number of parties and the evidence required to be presented.
Getting the right attorneys for your case – call the Baumgartner Law Firm for a no obligation consultation about your specific case. We have been helping accident victims in the Houston area for over 30 years and have an incredible track record of success. Our law firm is also preeminent rated and has been for many years. Contact us today for a free case consultation regarding your rights and options-(281) 587-1111.