The following will provide you with a sample timeline for a typical personal injury case. The events are listed in the order they usually occur. Every case is unique, but we created this timeline to help our clients visualize their case and understand the steps involved, leading up to resolution of the case. “How long” it will take depends on many factors too difficult to predict.
1. Accident occurs.
2. Client receives treatment of some kind (ambulance, hospital, doctors, etc)
3. Client may have spoken with insurance companies regarding accident (we generally advise against talking with the opposing insurance company).
4. Client provides lawyer with items from the “Personal Injury Checklist”.
5. Client meets with and hires attorney.
6. Attorney communicates with insurance company and adjusters, advising them of representation of injured client. Attorney keeps adjusters informed.
7. Attorney evaluates all available resources for payment and recovery.
8. Attorney makes sure all important documents are gathered.
9. Attorney hires investigators if needed.
10. Client works with insurance company to fix property damage, rent car etc. Attorney assists client with this process if necessary.
11. Client documents any lost earnings (if any) and seeks verification from his/her employer regarding lost earnings. Attorney can assist if client gives attorney contact person who is willing to communicate with lawyer’s office. Lost earnings claims should only be made if it's a "slam dunk" - speculation regarding lost earnings often leads down an endless rabbit hole!
12. Client continues treating with medical providers until discharged by the doctor(s). During this time, further specialists may be required, physical therapy, MRI tests, etc. Client continues treating until client reaches pre-accident status or otherwise reaches a plateau where no further treatment will benefit client. In some cases, surgical intervention is necessary.
13. Once client completes health care regimen, attorney collects any and all outstanding bills, reports, etc. Attorney may discuss matter with client’s doctors.
14. Attorney ascertains if there are any liens by any insurance company (health insurance, auto insurance, Medi-Cal, MediCare, etc). Attorney opens claims with any lien-holders and work with assigned adjuster from each company.
15. Attorney prepares “Demand Package” to present to responsible party’s insurance company. This package typically contains a demand letter, photos, medical records, billing, lost earnings documentation, etc.
16. Insurance company usually takes about 30 to 45 days to respond to demand.
17. Attorney communicates offer from insurance company to client.
18. Client accepts or rejects offer.
19. If rejected, attorney continues negotiating settlement on behalf of client.
20. Attorney negotiates with all parties asserting a lien on the case (doctors, insurance companies, etc.) in an effort to increase client’s net recovery.
21. Client either accepts or rejects insurance company’s final offer.
22. If accepted, insurance company sends release for lawyer to review and client to sign. Insurance company then sends check for lawyer and client to sign. This check is deposited into attorney’s Client Trust Account. Checks written, (doctors, lien holders, client), from this account.
23. If unable to settle the claim, attorney will discuss options with client, including filing a lawsuit and all the ramifications of doing so.
Hopefully this blog entry will give you some idea of the "usual" and "customary" steps of a personal injury matter. Some cases can differ for one reason or another, but hopefully this will give you a good understanding. Call my office at (661) 414-7100 if I can help you with your personal injury case.
Sometimes my clients ask, "I don't know....I'm not sure if bringing a claim is even worth all my time. I've heard that this can drag on a long time, and I may not get much money out of it. Should I even bother?"
Since I cannot guarantee the result of a personal injury claim, and since the value of a claim depends on many factors, the answer to this question comes down to expectations. If you are expecting a certain monetary figure from your case, you will probably be disappointed. If all you want is to make sure you get some medical care and some compensation for your trouble, then perhaps it's worth it. Generally speaking, if you have "high expectations" and monetary figures in mind at the outset of your case, you are generally going to be disappointed with this journey.
Here is a quick example of someone who decided NOT to bring a claim. A client came to the initial consultation and explained that he had been in a moderate rear end impact. There was sufficient damage to his car to cause injury and he was indeed injured. However, the injuries were primarily "soft tissue" (sprains/strains - nothing terribly serious) in nature and he was already feeling better after a week post accident.
I explained to him that the case might not be worth very much since it was primarily soft tissue in nature and he was already feeling much better. The client explained that he would not want to proceed with the case unless I could guarantee him $15,000 in his pocket when all is said and done. I told him that there was no way I could guarantee that kind of net settlement, and that kind of number was unlikely given the facts he was giving me. Therefore, I told the client that the personal injury case will probably not worth this time. I could not guarantee such a recovery, and he would've been dissatisfied with anything less. Therefore, we simply were not a good match for one another.
Also, the client probably saved himself a lot of time by choosing not to bring a claim since he was going to be disappointed. Therefore, you have to ask yourself if a case is worth proceeding. If you're expecting at least a certain amount of money in your pocket, then you're setting yourself up for disappointment. If you have realistic expectations of these kinds of cases, and you are not primarily after money, then maybe you will decide to proceed with your case. Discuss with the lawyer and decide if it's right for you. You may indeed have the kind of case where there is a strong chance of decent economic recovery. Then again, you may be dealing with a small case. Either way, talk to an experienced lawyer to see if it is worth your time and effort. A good lawyer shouldn't steer you into making a claim.
If you want to discuss your Santa Clarita personal injury case with Rob Mansour, call (661) 414-7100 and set up your initial appointment.
Even if you choose to handle your own personal injury case, you can still benefit from meeting with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Here are some ways that a good lawyer can help you:
1) A lawyer can help explain how car accident and personal injury claims are valued by the insurance companies.
2) A lawyer can help you understand the steps in the personal injury claims process. If you understand the process, you will probably handle your case better.
3) A good lawyer can show you how to settle your claim on your own if you choose to do so. However, an honest lawyer should tell you if hiring a lawyer would bring value to their case or not. I turn away about 50% of the cases that come through my door. I will tell my clients honestly if hiring a lawyer would be helpful.
4) A lawyer can help you understand how to interact with your doctors after an accident. There are so many ways to make mistakes in this process, and the insurance companies will use these missteps against you any day of the week.
5) A lawyer can help you understand how to interact with insurance adjustors. When you understand the universe the adjuster "lives in," you will likely handle your case better.
Again, even if you're not sure if you want to hire a personal injury lawyer, you really should take the time to talk to an experienced lawyer who can guide you without pressuring you.
It's very simple. Would you go river rafting without a guide? Trying to handle your own auto accident claim can be like trying to go river rafting without a guide. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows where all the "twists" and "turns" are and they can give you important guidance when it comes to your case. I think that even if you have a minor accident, it would be a good idea to talk to an experienced accident lawyer to get some pointers about how to handle your case. It can't hurt.
Your personal injury lawyer isn’t going to magically know about your case. They don’t have dreams about which doctors you went to, which doctors you are going to see, what hurts you, who witnessed the accident, if there was a police report, what the property damage looks like, etc. In other words, your attorney is not psychic. You actually need to provide all this information to your attorney. Don’t assume all your health care providers are simply communicating with your attorney. Even if you make your health care providers know about your lawyer, many of them may not cooperate. You need to let your lawyer know about all the important information. During the first meeting with the attorney, you need to bring everything that could help. To learn more, check out this video regarding what to bring to your first consultation with your personal injury lawyer.
In most cases, you should get a consultation ASAP. When it comes to injury cases, there are several things you should know from the beginning. You don’t want to learn as you go along.
Most personal injury attorneys are paid on a contingency basis. That means their fee is “contingent” upon recovering a settlement for you. The standard fee is 33.3% of the recovery in most cases. This fee can increase if a lawsuit is filed or the matter is settled during trial. In some cases, the fee climbs even more if the matter goes all the way through to a verdict.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,