There are two phases to a personal injury case: pre-litigation and the litigation phase. While some people try to handle the pre-litigation phase themselves, this is never advised.
The pre-litigation process starts with a demand letter. Your personal injury attorney sends a demand letter to the appropriate insurance agency outlining your damages and demanding that they pay them.
The insurance company generally responds with a Reservation of Rights letter. This letter states that a claim may not be covered under a policy. This isn’t a denial; it’s more a formal reminder that the insurance company might deny the claim after completing its own investigation.
This generally brings us into the negotiation phase. This is where 92% of personal injury cases get solved.
The lawyer makes your case for why the accident was the other party’s fault, for what your damages are, and why the insurance company should pay exactly what you asked for.
The insurance company tries to blame you for the accident, or at least increase your percentage of negligence. They try to state that their insured wasn’t responsible for whatever reason, or that the claim is someone else’s problem. They do this to try to lower the value of the claim, or to get out of paying entirely.
Eventually, both sides generally wind up at a figure that is somewhere between the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario. If you agree to accept the settlement, that’s it, the case is over.
Incidentally, this is why you shouldn’t accept the first offer that comes down from an insurance company. Sometimes they offer a lowball offer. They hope you’ll sign it and take it, knowing you can never press the claim again.
If both sides can’t come to an agreement, then the case enters the litigation phase. Your lawyer files a lawsuit and begins pretrial discovery. This allows the lawyer to receive any evidence that’s in the possession of the defendant. The lawyer then tries again to convince the other side to settle.
If they absolutely will not settle, or settle fairly, then the matter ends up at trial. A jury decides whether you are entitled to a settlement and how much the other party should have to pay.
Trials are risky and unpredictable. You might get a lot more than your lawyer requested during the settlement phase, but you might get a lot less, too…or nothing at all. Nevertheless, if you’re working with a skilled litigator there’s nothing to fear.
Assuming you win the trial, you would then receive your award. In some cases, the defendant tries to appeal the decision, at which point there will be a few more trips to the courthouse before the matter is dealt with.
There’s nothing easy about dealing with a personal injury case, but our team works hard to make sure you’re getting the best representation possible at every step of the process.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, don’t wait. Reach out to our law office today.