Motor vehicle collisions and other types of injury accidents occur every day. While some accidents can be minor annoyances that involve minimal property damage, others result in serious injuries or fatalities. Motor vehicle accidents are the second-leading cause of preventable, accidental injuries and deaths in the U.S. behind only poisonings.
Crashes that result in injuries or deaths are also costly. According to the National Safety Council, the average economic losses caused by accidents involving disabling injuries were $101,000. However, this figure doesn’t include the comprehensive total, which includes the non-economic losses suffered by accident victims. The NSC reports the comprehensive losses suffered by car accident victims who suffered disabling injuries totaled an average of $1,202,000 per case. The economic losses suffered because of a car accident death averaged $1,750,000, and the comprehensive losses for death-related accidents totaled an average of $11,449,000. For cases involving evident injuries that were not disabling, the average economic losses were $29,200, and the comprehensive losses totaled $345,000.
These statistics demonstrate the staggering losses you might suffer when you are injured in a collision or lose your loved one in a crash. The losses caused by car accident injuries and fatalities can quickly overwhelm victims and families. However, if another person’s negligent or reckless actions caused your injuries, you might be entitled to pursue compensation for both your economic and non-economic losses.
The injury lawyers at Lamber Goodnow are experienced in handling complex motor vehicle accident claims. We take an innovative approach with how we investigate cases and present evidence to insurance companies and juries, which helps us to recover fair compensation on behalf of our clients. While every case is different, car accident injury claims typically follow a similar process. To pursue compensation, you will need to go through the claims process, which involves the eight steps discussed below.
1. Consult an Attorney
After you have sought medical treatment for your injuries, you should meet with a personal injury attorney. This meeting starts the personal injury claims process and is called a consultation. This initial meeting is free at most injury law firms, including Lamber Goodnow.
During your consultation, you will talk about the details of your case with the lawyer. The attorney will ask you several questions to try to understand and evaluate the details and facts of what happened. You can also ask questions to learn about the attorney, his or her experience handling similar cases, and others to help you make an informed decision about whether to retain the firm.
The attorney might provide you with an evaluation of the legal merits of your claim and the course of action you might want to take. He or she might explain the various types of compensation that might be available and explain the firm’s fee structure. For example, Lamber Goodnow works on a contingent-fee basis, which means our clients do not have to pay any attorney’s fees until and unless we recover compensation for them through settlements or verdicts.
The lawyer will talk to you about whether another party was negligent and if the party’s negligence likely caused your accident. He or she will also discuss whether there is a source of recovery for your losses. If your case has legal merits, and you agree to retain a lawyer at our firm, we will immediately start working to investigate and build your claim to help you recover the compensation to which you should be entitled.
2. Investigating Your Claim
If you retain a lawyer, your attorney will thoroughly investigate your case. The investigation will include reviewing police reports, investigating the accident scene, analyzing photographs, interviewing witnesses, reviewing your medical records and bills, your earning power, and more. Depending on the facts of your case, your attorney might work closely with several different types of experts to help locate and preserve evidence and gain a full understanding of the circumstances. These experts might include medical experts, accident reconstruction experts, and others. The investigatory process will also involve a close examination of the evidence to identify all potential defenses the opposing party might raise. All of these efforts help your attorney determine liability and properly value your claim.
Your lawyer will also look for other types of evidence. For example, your attorney might want to review the data from your car’s black box, which can provide information about your vehicle’s condition and the road just before the collision occurred. Depending on where your crash occurred, your attorney might also look for surveillance videos on nearby homes or businesses that might have taped your crash. Since many businesses and homes have surveillance systems that record over video data after short intervals, talking to an attorney quickly after your crash might help to preserve this type of evidence before it might be destroyed.
If any witnesses saw what happened in your accident, your attorney will try to contact them to obtain their statements about what they observed. Third-party witnesses can be important for your claim since they are considered to be non-biased, neutral witnesses. If your case goes to trial, witness testimony can lend powerful support to your claim by helping the jurors to understand exactly what happened during the moments leading to the accident and during it.
Throughout the investigation phase, your attorney will regularly update you about what is occurring in your case and the investigation. He or she will also be available to answer your questions and will return calls as soon as possible to be responsive to you.
At Lamber Goodnow, we also loan iPads or Google Glass to some of our clients to facilitate the ease of communication and document sharing between you and your attorney. We also use multiple apps to share information and allow video conferencing. All of the technology we use in the process of investigating claims and representing our clients is highly secure with advanced encryption to maintain and protect the privacy and confidentiality of our clients.
3. Sending the Demand Package
Following the initial investigation, the next step in the injury claims process is to draft and send a demand package to the involved insurance companies and defendants. Before drafting the demand letter, your attorney will calculate the value of your claim by considering the extent and severity of your injuries, your past and likely future medical bills, your wage losses, and your non-economic losses. Once your lawyer has calculated the potential value of your claim, he or she will give you a range of values within which you might expect a fair settlement offer to fall.
The settlement demand will include your causes of action, a description of your injuries, and an explanation of your damages. It will also include a determination of liability and provide a demand for monetary compensation. Once the demand package is drafted, it will be sent to the opposing party for its review. The opposing party might include the at-fault driver’s insurance company, an individual, or a business. Once the opposing party reviews your demand letter, it will respond. The response might be to accept your demand, make a counteroffer, or deny it.
Your demand letter is critical because it helps to make an impression of you and your case on the opposing party. This means that it is crucial that your demand letter is well-written and carefully thought out to impress on the other party the merits of your claim and the benefits to the other party of accepting your demand or being willing to negotiate.
Our attorneys frequently use iPads during the demand phase of our cases. While other attorneys might simply send photos and documents in the demand package, we send iPads full of photos, videos, and documentation. This helps us demonstrate to the opposing party the strength of our clients’ claims before we ever have to file a personal injury lawsuit. Because of our thorough preparation, our approach often helps us to secure favorable settlements for our clients. We prepare each of our clients’ claims as if they are going to trial from the start, which helps us to obtain maximal damages for our clients through settlements or verdicts.
4. Filing a Civil Complaint
In many cases, we can resolve claims for our clients short of filing civil complaints through careful negotiations with the insurance companies. However, some insurance companies refuse to offer fair settlements or attempt to dispute their insureds’ liability altogether. When that happens, your lawyer might choose to file a civil complaint in court. The civil complaint is the initial legal pleading that commences a personal injury lawsuit. Once the complaint is filed, your attorney will make sure that it is properly served on the opposing party. The defendant must respond to the complaint by filing an answer within a prescribed period. Once both the complaint and answer have been filed, the case will move into the discovery phase.
The discovery phase involves the exchange of evidence between the parties. Both you and the defendant will have to exchange evidence so that you can evaluate the case. The discovery phase can take several months and might include written interrogatories and depositions. Written interrogatories are a set of questions the other party must answer within a set time. Depositions are out-of-court hearings during which the various parties can be deposed and questioned under oath by the attorneys. The discovery phase allows each side to evaluate the strength of the claim and further assess its value. Negotiations will continue throughout the discovery phase to try to reach a settlement agreement.
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method through which the parties might attempt to reach an agreement. It might be scheduled before or after a lawsuit is filed. Mediators are neutral third parties that are trained to facilitate agreements and are frequently current or former judges. The mediation process is informal. The mediator will meet with each side individually and will try to help them reach an agreement. The steps that you might take in mediation can significantly impact your case, so you need to have an experienced attorney representing you during mediation.
Our attorneys have significant experience in handling negotiations and representing our clients during mediation. We have undergone training in some of the best negotiation programs in the world, including Harvard’s program on negotiation. We have handled numerous cases and have successfully mediated complex and high-value claims for our clients.
The vast majority of our claims are resolved short of trial through settlement agreements. In some cases, a settlement agreement will be reached in the few days leading up to a trial. However, if your case has not been resolved through a settlement or by the court through a motion, your case will head to trial. In a trial, a jury judge will evaluate the evidence, determine who was at fault, and potentially award damages. Most personal injury cases are heard by juries instead of going to bench trials.
We are experienced litigators and trial lawyers. We understand how to prepare cases for trial and how to present them to decision-makers in a way that tells our clients’ stories. Our litigation skills have helped us to amass a substantial track record of success at trials for our clients. Because of our successful record, insurance companies frequently decide to offer fair settlements to our clients short of trial to avoid risking a loss to us.
Following a trial, either side may file an appeal. The appellate process is very different than the trial process. Because of the differences, it is important to have an attorney during an appeal who is experienced in handling appellate matters.
Lamber Goodnow has a team of appellate lawyers who are well-known and experienced in handling matters before various appellate courts. Our philosophy is that it is not enough to win our clients’ cases at trial. Instead, we also try to ensure that you win in the end even if the opposing party appeals a verdict in your favor.
Frequently Asked Questions About Steps In A Personal Injury Case
Some of the most common questions the attorneys at Lamber Goodnow receive about the car accident claims process are discussed below.
Q: How Much Will I Receive in a Settlement?
A: Every case is different and involves individual circumstances and facts. The value of your claim will depend on the unique factors involved in what happened to you. This makes it impossible for an attorney to provide a specific figure of what you might expect to receive in a settlement offer without investigating your claim, determining liability, and calculating the value of your damages.
Q: How Long Will My Case Take?
A: Personal injury claims can vary in how long it might take to resolve them. Simple claims that are straightforward with minor injuries in which the opposing party is clearly at fault might be resolved in a matter of a few months. Complex cases involving serious injuries or multiple defendants might take numerous months up to a few years to resolve.
Q: Do I Have to Go to Trial?
A: The vast majority of motor vehicle accident claims are settled before trial. In many cases, an attorney might negotiate a full settlement agreement without ever having to file a formal lawsuit. However, we prepare every case for trial from the start, which helps us to negotiate maximal offers for our clients. If the insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement, we are prepared to go to trial and will fight for your rights.
Q: Who Will Pay for My Medical Bills?
A: Personal injury claims can take months to resolve. During that time, you might have mounting medical expenses. The at-fault party will ultimately be responsible for paying for your medical costs through a settlement or a verdict award. While your case is pending, however, you might have to pay for your expenses out-of-pocket or use your medical insurance to cover your costs. Your attorney might be able to provide you with a list of medical providers who might be willing to treat you while your case is pending to ensure you get the medical attention you require.
Speak With An Experienced Attorney Now For A Free Consult
If you have more questions about the litigation process, contact us online or call our firm at 1-800-ATEAM-LAW (283-2652) toll free. We are happy to speak with you about your specific injury claim and legal options.