If you have a potential claim and schedule an appointment with our firm, you should be prepared for the initial meeting with your attorney and the staff so we can best serve you. This is an important step in trusting our office with your claim.
First, we will ask you to tell us about the specific incident that is the basis of your claim. It is important that you have the crucial details of who was involved, what happened, where it happened, when it happened, and how it happened.
Second, we will ask you to provide us with documentation of your claim. It is helpful for you to show us pictures of the incident and your injuries. You should bring any medical records, bills, and receipts that you may have as a result of the incident. Our office also needs copies of your auto insurance card, health insurance card, and driver’s license.
Third, we will ask you to sign several forms. Some forms will be medical records authorizations to allow us to request your treatment and billing records. Other forms will be legal authorizations to allow us to handle your claim.
Fourth, we will educate you on the general process of handling your claim. This includes what you can expect from our office and what you can do to help us with your claim. Each claim is different. We do our best to offer you an individualized approach to the particular facts of your case.
After you have met with your attorney, our office starts to investigate your claim. During this phase of your case, we may need to contact you for more information. Other times, it may seem like you have not heard from us in a week or two. This does not mean that we are not working for you. It takes time to conduct a thorough investigation. In doing so, we take the following steps.
First, if you were involved in an car accident, we will request a copy of the crash report. This may take 7-10 business days or longer. However, the crash report helps to identify the other drivers, their insurance companies, who were at fault. We might also request other governmental reports, depending on the facts of your case.
Second, we will obtain the names of witnesses, which we often get from the crash report. Then, our office contacts these witnesses to find out what they saw.
Third, we will gather photographs of the scene of the accident, property damage to your vehicle, and personal injuries. All three of these are very important in documenting your claim because, over time, the scene of the accident may change, property damage to your vehicle will be fixed, and your injuries will heal.
Fourth, we will begin to obtain medical records & bills from your initial treatment. Depending on how much medical care you require, we will update these requests as needed.
The next step in handling your claim is to contact the insurance companies. Oftentimes, multiple insurance companies are a part of your case. Our office determines which of those companies need to be notified of your claim and what information should be exchanged with them.
First, if you were involved in an auto accident, our office notifies any auto insurance company that may have a policy in effect to let them know that we represent you. It is important to find out what coverage is available and start building a relationship with the adjuster. At this time, we also provide the adjuster a copy of the crash report.
Second, once you start receiving medical bills for your injury-related care, our office contacts your health insurance company. We also contact Medicare and Medicaid if necessary.
Third, if you were hurt on the job, we contact your workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
The fourth step in handling your claim is to prepare for settlement negotiations. This is an extensive process of gathering medical and billing records, obtaining lost wage documentation, and working with insurance companies before presenting your claim to the insurance adjuster.
First, once you have completed treatment for your accident-related injuries or have a clear prognosis on your road to recovery, our office requests all of your medical and billing records. This often takes more than a month, especially if you have treated at several facilities. Once our office receives all of your records, we review them to make sure you have undergone all necessary treatment and that we have enough information to make a determination on your need for future medical treatment, if necessary.
Second, we gather documentation of any lost wages incurred as a result of time missed from work because of the accident. This step generally requires you to provide us with proof of your average income, dates missed from work, and verification from you supervisor.
Third, we work with insurance companies to determine whether they have covered any of your accident-related expenses. This includes health insurance, auto insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance. The purpose of this is to identify any liens or deductions that may reduce your potential settlement.
Finally, once we have gathered all of the appropriate information, we submit this documentation to the insurance adjuster and await a response.
The fifth step in handling your claim is to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company to ensure that you are fairly compensated for the injuries you suffered. This involves discussing the value of your claim with the insurance adjuster through a series of offers and counteroffers.
First, we receive an initial offer from the insurance adjuster, based on his or her evaluation of the documentation of your claim submitted to them by our office. Our office then contacts you to discuss the initial offer and your expectations.
Second, we respond to the adjuster and negotiate the settlement offer. This step often involves making a counteroffer based on our evaluation of your claim and your expectations. Often, the adjuster will request additional information to support our evaluation of your claim, which our office then prepares and provides.
Third, we work with the adjuster until we are able to agree upon a fair amount to compensate you for your injuries. Once we are able to agree upon a dollar amount, we obtain final settlement authority from you.
Finally, once we receive authority from you, we finalize the settlement with the insurance adjuster. If we are unable to reach an agreement, we then proceed to litigation and prepare to file a lawsuit on your behalf.
The sixth step in handling your claim is processing your settlement. This step consists of receiving payment from the insurance company and handling your accident-related bills.
First, the insurance company sends our firm a check to compensate you for your injuries. There is also a release for the client to sign along with the check.
Second, the firm goes through all of your medical bills that you have reported to our office. We determine which ones need to be paid from your settlement proceeds. We also pay all lien holders and subrogation parties.
Third, after all outstanding balances are paid, we inform you of the amount you will receive from the settlement. Upon obtaining your approval, we return the release to the insurance company.
Finally, you are able to obtain your settlement funds paid to compensate you for the injuries you suffered. You can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the at-fault party has been held responsible.
The seventh step in handling your claim is filing a lawsuit, if necessary. Very few cases actually proceed to trial. Most cases settle out of court. Filing a lawsuit involves the court in the process of obtaining fair compensation for your claim.
First, our office prepares a petition, explaining what happened to you, whom you are suing, and why you are suing them. We then file the petition with the court. We also serve a copy on the defendant.
Second, the discovery process begins to facilitate the exchange of information between the parties. This involves interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admissions served on the defendant. We also decide who needs to be deposed and send the appropriate notices.
Third, we determine whether experts are necessary to prove your case. Then, we notify any potential experts that a lawsuit has been filed and exchange information on experts with the opposing party.
Fourth, once discovery from the defendant is completed, our office answers interrogatories and responds to requests for production of documents and requests for admissions on your behalf. We also prepare you and any other witnesses for depositions.
Fifth, depositions of the various parties are conducted. This normally involves the plaintiff, the defendant, and some of the plaintiff’s medical providers. At each deposition, the deponent is sworn in under oath to answer questions about your lawsuit.
Sixth, the parties file all pretrial documents with the court and prepare to proceed to trial.
The eighth step in handling your claim is proceeding to trial. This is your opportunity to present your case to a judge, if it is a bench trial, or a jury, if it is a jury trial. Extensive preparation is necessary before the trial begins.
First, the plaintiff and all other witnesses are prepared for trial. This includes reviewing what to expect in the courtroom and what might be asked of you if you are called to testify at trial. We draft questions to ask the other party’s witnesses, as well.
Second, our office prepares and marks all exhibits. During this process, we review all of your medical records and medical bills. We will also create visual aids, if necessary, to present your case to the judge or the jury.
Third, we review all discovery exchanged between the parties and deposition testimony. We may file motions in limine if we would like to exclude any documents or testimony during the trial.
Fourth, we review the facts of your case to help us prepare questions to ask potential jurors during voir dire. Voir dire is the juror selection process that takes place before the trial begins if your case will be tried to a jury.
Fifth, we write an opening statement. An opening statement is very important because it is our first presentation of your case to the judge or the jury.
After all of this preparation is complete, we are ready to go to trial and submit your case to a judge or a jury. Even after all of this extensive preparation, your case may settle on the courthouse steps prior to trial.
We hope that the Help Us Help You series has been informative for all current and potential clients of the firm. Continue to follow our blog posts for other educational material.
Disclaimer: This description of the steps in the process of an injury case is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Nor does the information above create an attorney-client relationship. However, we look forward to the opportunity to try to help you. Please contact us today to discuss your potential case.