When you are injured in an accident, the first (non-medical) step towards recovery may involve a decision to contact an attorney to assist you with asserting a claim and advocating on your behalf. What happens then? The life of a claim goes through several phases between injury and resolution. The important thing to understand, is that every personal injury claim is unique, so the time from initiating a claim, filing suit and resolution, either through trial or settlement various from case to case.
When the accident first occurs, and you or a loved one are injured, there are two things that are extremely important before doing anything else. The first, if you are able, is to document the incident, photos of the impact or accident scene, any documents the police may give you, any information you may be able to get on the person or company that injured you, etc. This information can help tremendously down the road, and with you effectively asserting a claim. The second, and most important, if you are injured, GET MEDICAL HELP before you talk to an attorney, or do anything else. Getting medical help when injured is the key to identifying the extent of your injuries and minimizing the chance of making the injuries worse.
After your accident, you should call an attorney to set up a meeting to discuss your case, and see if your case is one that has merits to assert a claim. If an attorney takes your case, they will communicate with the insurance company and/or the defendant company, and let them know that you are represented. From this point onward, you should not be contacted by either the defendants or their insurance company directly. If they do, you need to refer them to your attorney.
Many times, cases are able to settle prior to filing suit. Initiating the litigation process (i.e., filing suit) can be expensive and those costs come out of any recovery you receive. By settling prior to filing suit, your attorney may be able to put more money in your pocket. Suits often times settle prior to litigation for a couple of reasons: (1) the liability (fault) is clear; and/or (2) the injuries are not severe (or in some cases, unfortunately when the injuries are significant, but there is only a small amount of insurance coverage, the defendants will just put up their policy limits).
By settling a case, you will be required to release the defendant (and its insured) from any and all claims stemming from the incident where you were injured. This means that you need to finish your medical treatment prior to settling, because you cannot go back later to recover for more of the same treatments or medical care on the same injury. (There are future damages and future medical costs and expenses that are considered in litigation, but are rarely part of a settlement prior to filing suit). An important thing to also keep in mind, is that prior to filing suit, you will often be dealing with a claims adjuster rather than an attorney on the other side, so their analysis and calculations may differ from what the outcome may be through the litigation process.
While some cases resolve prior to litigation, often, a lawsuit will need to be filed. Oftentimes, suit is filed to protect against your case being time limited (usually within one year of the injury in Louisiana). Sometimes, when liability is disputed, there is no benefit from waiting to file. Also, when there are significant or complicated injuries, then suit may be a better way to get a meaningful result.
If you or a loved one have been injured through no fault of your own, please contact Herman, Herman & Katz today to see if we can assist you. You can contact our firm by filling out our free, no obligation case review form located on this website.