The basis of personal injury claims includes car accidents, assault, medical malpractice, product defects, and wrongful death. They can also arise from defamation, false imprisonment, and invasion of privacy. The courts usually resolve these cases for several years, so most people choose out-of-court settlements.
For instance, a 57-year-old man entered a $91 million settlement with 7-Eleven. He became a double amputee after a car pinned his legs against the front of the convenience store. His attorney stated that 7-Eleven could have prevented the accident by installing thick posts between the storefront and the parking lot.
Pfizer also entered a $745 million agreement to settle 7,000 personal injury lawsuits regarding their pain relievers. According to the complaint, Celebrex and Bextra medicines cause heart attacks, strokes, and other health issues. One of the attorneys stated that the settlement allowed plaintiffs to receive their money sooner rather than later.
Contact a lawyer if you want to file a personal injury case and maximize your case’s settlement amount. They can also negotiate with insurance companies for a more speedy resolution of your claim.
Personal Injury Settlement Process
The settlement process may take up to six weeks, depending on different factors. For example, the accident may be complex when the symptoms of underlying injuries take several years to manifest.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania discovered that a head injury could cause dementia later in the patient’s life. Patients with brain injury may also experience concentration problems and depression weeks after the accident.
The insurer’s initial offer can also shorten or lengthen the time to resolve the claim. If the insurance company gives fair compensation, the injured party may accept the offer immediately. Moreover, the parties’ cooperation can also affect the settlement process. Suppose they show unwillingness to settle. In that case, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit in court, but it can take years to come to a final decision.
While the settlement process may vary slightly depending on the nature of a claim, below are the typical steps.
Notify the insurance company
You should immediately notify your insurance company after an auto accident. If you do not contact your insurer, it can reject your personal injury claim. Usually, the company only requires you to provide some details about the incident. It only needs to know that a crash occurred to investigate.
You can continue seeking medical care while waiting for the company’s response. Include the following details when filing your personal injury claim:
- Name and contact information
- Policy number
- Location, date, and time of the incident
- Brief description of injuries
- Details about property damage
You may also need to file an insurance claim in other situations, such as a dog bit claim. That scenario typically involves homeowner’s insurance. Consult a personal injury lawyer about the appropriate claim for your situation.
The evidence you need will depend on the cause of action. If you were involved in a road crash, your car accident attorney must take pictures of the scene from different angles.
Moreover, they should take photographs of property damage and skid marks. It also helps to have CCTV footage of the incident. The video can reveal what happened before, during, and after the car accident. Likewise, bystanders’ statements can help your auto accident insurance claim.
Aside from pictures and videos, you should compile your medical bills and records to show the extent of injuries. They show the medical treatments you have undergone. A personal injury lawyer can also request a police report to support your claim.
But your lawyer will focus on other evidence for a medical malpractice claim. They will request medical records, diagnostic test results, incorrect prescriptions, and healthcare policies or regulations. These documents can reveal a medical professional’s negligence in treating a patient.
Another valuable evidence in a medical malpractice case is testimony from medical experts. They can affirm your claim that another doctor, surgeon, or hospital failed to perform their duties resulting in your injuries.
On the other hand, personal injury claims based on product liability require the defective item itself. Your attorney must also collect medical records to show the injuries sustained due to the product. Evidence of product recalls can also strengthen your claim. It can give you a description of the item’s defects.
In case of a wrongful death claim, the documents needed include a death certificate, medical records, photos, videos, and police reports. It also helps to keep the funeral and burial service invoice for the insurance company to know the actual expenses of burying the deceased.
Submit a settlement demand letter
The demand letter contains the facts of the incident, your injuries, and the settlement amount you seek. In assessing your desired compensation, demand more money than you will accept. This way, your attorney can negotiate should the insurer offer a lower amount.
Your lawyer should attach the evidence they collected to strengthen your claim. They may include the following:
- Accident report
- Hospital records
- Statements from witnesses
- Photos and videos of the scene
- Proof of medical expenses and repair costs
- Evidence of property damage
The National Safety Council calculated the costs of motor vehicle injuries in 2020. In case of fatalities, the economic cost to the victim’s family averages $1,750,000. On the other hand, disabling injuries cost an average of $101,000. Non-injury accidents can still cost victims an average of $12,800. If the accident only caused property damage, the average bill is $4,700.
Investigation of the accident
An insurance company investigates claims to prevent insurance fraud. Moreover, it aims to reduce payouts because it is a business that needs to earn profits.
An insurer evaluates a personal injury claim by employing insurance adjusters. First, the adjusters investigate demands by talking to the claimant. As a result, they can discover details of the case, including the extent of injuries and available evidence to support the claim.
Instead of talking personally with the adjuster, you can assign your personal injury attorney to attend the meeting. But if you still want to speak to the adjuster, your lawyer can advise you on what to say. Avoid making incriminating statements during your call or meeting since it can lessen the reimbursement you can receive.
Sometimes, they may ask you to sign a release form regarding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It will allow them to access your medical records. Talk to your attorney before signing any document to protect your rights.
Adjusters may also inspect the accident scene, especially if you seek a large settlement amount. Moreover, they may interview witnesses to verify your statements. Another task of adjusters involves assessing the documents you submit. They will check whether the amount you are demanding is reasonable.
Accept or reject the settlement check
You must consider certain factors before accepting the settlement check. If you think the settlement amount is too low, ask your lawyer to negotiate with the adjuster or insurance company. If you reject the insurer’s offer, you can still demand compensation in another way, which will be discussed later.
You should consult a personal injury lawyer before agreeing to a settlement offer. Signing a settlement agreement releases the company from liability, preventing you from demanding more money by filing a lawsuit.
For example, suppose your injuries from a car accident are more severe than you thought. The settlement amount stays as it is. In that case, your only recourse to covering extended medical care is your health insurance.
File a personal injury case
Filing a personal injury case is not a natural progression of the settlement process. In most cases, there is no legal recourse to a lawsuit once you accept a settlement.
Generally, it is best to reject a settlement offer if you think you are not getting fair compensation. You can continue to negotiate a settlement even after filing a lawsuit.
When instituting a legal action, your lawyer must observe the statute of limitations. It provides the allowable time when a plaintiff may file a case. Section 12-542 of the Arizona Revised Statutes sets the time limit to two years. On the other hand, Section 752 of the Maine Statutes provides that injury victims should file a civil action within six years.
Your lawyer must include the following information in the complaint:
- Facts of the case
- Legal basis
- Amount of damages
- Company or person you are suing
Moreover, there are three grounds where you can base your personal injury case. First, you can invoke the doctrine of negligence. It involves the defendant’s breach of a duty owed to the plaintiff, resulting in the plaintiff’s injury. Moreover, the violation should have directly caused the injury.
For example, suppose a speeding truck lost control and crashed into a sedan, and the sedan’s driver sustained debilitating injuries. In this case, the injured party can demand compensation from the truck driver.
Second, your attorney can also file the case based on strict liability. It is when a defendant is liable for an action regardless of intention. Product liability cases are typical examples of strict liability, often involving design or manufacturing defects that cause harm. They may also deal with improper instructions or inadequate warnings.
Third, you can file a case due to intentional torts like battery and assault. One example is when an individual goes to someone’s house with a bat and beats them up. The defendant had the intention to harm the plaintiff physically. Hence, the complainant can seek damages for their injuries.
Participate in a mediation conference
In a mediation conference, the parties enter into a negotiation phase to determine an acceptable settlement offer. Your personal injury attorney can provide legal advice and representation throughout the process.
Judges or private mediators can facilitate the mediation proceedings. The mediator will instruct the involved individuals to submit details about the case. After that, they can meet with all parties or talk to them privately. The process may depend on the plaintiff and defendant’s behavior.
Regardless of the process, the mediation remains confidential. It allows the parties to utter statements without worrying about incrimination. Moreover, the mediator shall remain neutral. Their primarily role is to guide the parties toward a settlement agreement.
The settlement process may involve significant back and forth with offers and counteroffers. However, if the claimant accepts a settlement offer and the defendant agrees to pay, the parties reach a final settlement.
It should be noted that claimants may not receive the total amount. In an accident case, there may be a medical lien. It is an agreement between the patient and their medical provider where the latter provides healthcare on credit. In return, they can deduct the medical costs from the settlement money.
Usually, injured parties with health insurance, such as Medicare or Medicaid, do not need a lien agreement. Health insurance companies may also cover the accident victims’ medical expenses. But they can recover their losses through subrogation.
Legal fees can also reduce the compensation you can receive. Suppose you entered into a contingency fee agreement with your personal injury attorney. In that case, the lawyer might take up to 50 percent of the settlement amount as payment for their services.
But if the parties do not agree, the case will continue to trial before a judge or jury. You need legal representation to build the case, deliver arguments, and examine witnesses at this stage.
Possible Delay in Receiving the Settlement Check
You may experience delays in getting your settlement payment in case of liens. For example, a portion of the settlement must first be distributed to the hospital or health insurance company.
Weekends and holidays can also affect the processing of payment. Moreover, banks may hold your money to verify the deposit’s legitimacy. Sometimes, an insurance company may only write checks on certain days.
Did you know?
The National Safety Council documented 224,935 preventable injury-related deaths in 2021. The fatalities increased by more than 23,000 in 2020.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near You
Settling a personal injury claim comes with its own set of challenges for regular people with no legal expertise. While it might be tempting to accept a quick settlement, you may live to regret it. Personal injury lawyers can ensure you get the compensation you need to cover your losses, including legal fees.
The Personal Injury Center can match you with lawyers experienced in settling cases. Your attorney will negotiate with insurance companies and other parties to help you receive a fair settlement. Book a free case evaluation today!
Do you need help with your personal injury claim? The Personal Injury Center offers free legal information regarding the settlement process. Tell us about your case so we can help you.
FAQs on Personal Injury Settlement
A personal injury lawyer can keep you from making filing mistakes, which can delay the process. Moreover, their negotiation strategies can help ensure the most efficient procedure for claiming money.
You can receive compensation for your losses, including subjective ones, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Make sure to consider them in calculating your desired payment.
You may still receive reimbursement in a car accident in states that require uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Hence, the insurer can pay for your medical expenses or repair costs in an accident involving uninsured motorists. You may also sue the at-fault party directly in civil court.