For you to know how and when to file an injury claim, one needs to have a good idea of the timeline involved and step by step proceedings. Here is a break down on filing a car accident injury claim from start to finish.
1. CONSULTATION WITH YOUR CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEY
Because lawyers are aggressive in landing cases and you might be somewhere lying in a hospital bed, they are flexible enough to come and visit you at a hospital, home or office. This allows them to get the details of the accident and make a determination on where start the painstaking and meticulous work of investigating the facts and building your case.
Some of the questions they might ask include:
• What were the weather conditions
• How fast were you driving
• How did the accident happen
• How many other cars were involved
• Insurance policies and if you have had any communication with them
You can also expect your car accident attorney to informally touch on your initial hospital visit and doctor’s report. Lawyers are not as callous as they have often paint to be. They will genuinely want to know how your medical condition is and how your life may be affected as result of sustained injuries.
Your lawyers may ask you to sign a form that grants them access to your medical files, insurance, police records and any other relevant information. This puts them in a position to make some evaluations and determine whether there is enough evidence and damage to warrant a case before the courts. The first consultation is usually enough of an overview for the car accident lawyer to determine whether you have a case or not.
2. ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION
After the initial consultation, if you have a case or the makings of a case, the lawyer and his investigative team will then get to work and compile the relevant evidence including talking to any witnesses. This is after you have granted them permission.
Compiling evidence may include:
• Taking photos of the accident scene
• Photos of the damaged vehicles
• Current and past medical information
• Road conditions
• Insurance policies
This will help the lawyer find what makes the case which is negligence, fault, and causation. The more the supportive evidence they collect, the stronger your case will be.
3. SETTLEMENT OFFERS
In relation to policy obligations, the responsible insurance company may want to settle if they feel that they are considerably exposed. This usually happens before discovery or negotiations have been conducted. This tactic is prevalent with insurance companies as at this stage the full extent of your injuries have not been medically documented. Your lawyer may advise not to sign anything before a thorough consultation.
4. MEDICAL REPORT
The basis of your case lies in the supportive evidence which may be further corroborated by eyewitnesses or CCTV cameras in the area of the accident scene because this evidence speaks to negligence, fault, and causation.
The other equally important part is your medical reports. Documentation of injuries is an important part of litigation, and your lawyers know this. So you should not be surprised when they recommend a highly specialized medical, occupational therapist, forensics, other rehabilitation professionals. These doctors will be sure to not only diagnose and treat but also document your injuries.
The responsible insurance company may request for you to attend medical appointments by their doctors. This is to verify credibility, and validity of your injuries. Although a tedious affair, it is a necessary legal process. Your lawyer may choose to be present for these appointments and will have advised you on what to expect. Good communication with your lawyer regarding these appointments cannot be overstated.
A lawyer may conduct oral depositions in order to support your claim. These are done with the help of family members, employers, colleagues, accident witnesses.
A discovery meeting is usually a one-day event but can go as long as two to three days depending on circumstances. The purpose of discovery is to provide the parties involved an opportunity to gather and assess the strength of the opposition. Cross-examining each other and special requests can be made from the opposition, to be accepted or denied by your lawyer.
This process is presided over by a retired judge or a qualified neutral party. For a car accident injury claim, mediation can happen at any point during the court process. It is not uncommon for the mediation to take place one to two years after the accident, usually to ensure that the client’s injuries have reached a plateau. Most claims are settled at this point if not they proceed to pre-trial conference.
8. PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCE
This is usually in a boardroom with the judge, the lawyers, and in some cases the insurance parties. Typically only the judge and the lawyers have a say in this meeting.
Failure to reach an agreeable settlement in alternative dispute resolution or other negotiations, then your lawyer will present your case to the courts with thoroughly documented. Here your lawyer will seek establish credibility and prove negligence. An experienced lawyer will do well in these depths.
10. SETTLEMENT AWARDS
If the court rules in your favor, you are likely to receive a financial compensation award which is non- taxable and will be paid to you in about 30 days.