Demystifying the Personal Injury Process
One moment you’re crossing an intersection. The next moment – boom – you’ve been sideswiped by a vehicle racing to beat the light. You sit there in shock, injured and shaken. It’s the same hot Texas morning. The radio continues playing the same song. But your reality has changed dramatically.
Unfortunately, that single moment has set into motion a series of events that could take months to unfold. You’re an accident victim. It’s possible that you will have to fight to get compensation for your hospital bills, pain and suffering, and lost income.
The process of compiling evidence and filing a claim is intimidating, and it certainly can be stressful. It doesn’t have to be though. Personal injury attorneys exist to help crash victims with the process – taking on the confusing aspects of a claim to make their clients’ lives easier.
Whether or not you’ve decided to hire a personal injury attorney, you might still wonder what the process looks like. Let’s look at how cases might go from crash to claim to resolution. Obviously, every case is different, but this will give you a basic idea of how the personal injury process works.
At the Scene of the Accident
- First of all, stay put.
If you leave the scene, you can be charged under Texas law for a variety of code violations. It does not matter whether you caused the car accident or not. You are legally required to remain at the scene of any accident where there is evidence of personal injury, property damage, or death until the authorities arrive and can begin their investigation.
- Call the authorities.
Check to see if anyone is seriously injured and requires an ambulance. If a person has back or neck pain, don’t move them until professionals arrive. If everyone seems okay but there is property damage, you should still call the police.
When the police arrive, try to remain calm and speak only about things you actually saw. Avoid speculation, as you could inadvertently incriminate yourself or reduce the other person’s liability.
- Document evidence.
If you or a passenger is able to do so, photograph everything you can with your phone, especially personal injuries and any vehicular damage. Note the presence of surveillance cameras, unmarked signs, obstructions to the view. Take pictures from several different angles. If you aren’t able to take pictures at the scene, it’s worth returning as soon as you are able.
- Identify witnesses.
Another crucial step is to get the names and telephone numbers of any witnesses at the scene. Have them enter their full name and phone number in your phone or use a pad of paper to jot it down. Make notes about their personal appearance. You think you will remember details like this later, but chances are you won’t.
- Exchange information with the other drivers involved in the accident.
You will need their names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license and license plate numbers, and basic insurance information. Try to avoid getting angry or upset with them. Again, resist the urge to speculate about the probable cause of the car accident. Be cordial, and avoid talking about the accident, as you collect the necessary information.
Once You Get Home
- Contact a qualified personal injury lawyer.
If you are injured, you will need legal representation to ensure that you receive a settlement sufficient to your needs. Your lawyer can help guide you through each of the steps below, acting in your self-interest and helping you to feel confident in the process.
- Notify your insurance company.
As soon as you can, notify your insurance company about accident. If there is a police report, make sure that you or your attorney has a chance to review that document before speaking with them. Insurance companies can withhold a settlement if they find out that you were misrepresenting material evidence in the case.
- Document the history of your medical treatment.
Buy a journal or planner in which you note doctor’s and physical therapy appointments, cost of treatment, and your level of pain and suffering. Careful record-keeping will make it easy for you to establish the amount of damages you should claim.
- Get a property damage valuation
The insurance company will provide its own damage evaluation. You can protest this amount by getting at least two independent repair estimates or replacement quotes. Your attorney may be able to resolve a dispute over the value of your property damage.
- Review the initial settlement offer from the insurance company or at-fault individual.
Sometimes the settlement offer will adequately compensate you for the cost of your medical bills, lost work, property damage, and pain and suffering. In other cases, the settlement may fall short of what you ideally want, but your lawyer determines that the cost of going forward is higher than the amount you would receive by taking the settlement.
Should either of these things happen, the process is over.
When All Else Fails: Filing a Lawsuit
If the insurance company falls short of making a viable settlement, your next course of action is to file a lawsuit. In the state of Texas, the typical statute of limitations for both personal injury and property damage claims is two years; however, special deadlines may apply to your claim. It is essential that you speak to a lawyer about this to understand the exact statute of limitations that applies to your claim and any applicable deadlines.
Both you and the defendant (at-fault party) prepare for trial by collecting written evidence and getting sworn testimonies or depositions from key witnesses in the case.
Once the discovery phase is over, the civil court will set a trial date. The trial phase allows both you and the defendant’s attorneys to present evidence before a judge, who will hear both sides and render a judgment.
Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident?
You don’t need to go through the process of filing a claim by yourself. Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law has decades of experience in representing people injured through no fault of their own, and they are ready to provide you with the assistance you need. Board certified, and a former judge, Terry Bryant and his hand-picked team of associates can skillfully navigate the Texas legal system in order to help clients get the compensation they deserve. For your free consultation, call Terry Bryant today at 1 (800) 444-5000.