How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Personal Injury Case?

An accident whether it be a trucking, auto or fall case is not a pleasant thing to experience. It comes unexpectedly often with devastating consequences. Medical bills can pile up, income can be lost, and you can be put in a desperate financial situation. The insurance looks at your case through different lens. They want to settle your case as quick as possible so they can move onto the next case. They often pressure you to settle now with promises that they will pay your medical bills and throw a few hundred dollars at you to sweeten the pot. Their promises are usually hollow and have many strings attached to them and not in your best interests if you are genuinely hurt. The payment of medical bills often is conditioned on a period of time or a certain amount that the insurance company thinks is reasonable, and often you are left holding medical bills that still need to be paid. Insurance companies do not care. You are a statistic to them or an avenue for a bonus for an adjuster if the claim is closed quickly. Don’t fall for this trap.

It is usually never in your best interest to try to push for a quick settlement in your personal injury claim because this leads to taking far less for your injuries than you are entitled to. It is often difficult to hold out and be patient in your personal injury claim, but it is the best strategy to get fair compensation. It can be a burden financially and mentally to endure through the claims process, but you must if you want justice for your injuries. A good personal injury attorney will not delay in his representation of you, but understands certain things must happen before the claim can be submitted with a settlement demand.

  • You must finishing treating with all your medical providers. If you try to short-circuit the process by not showing up for appointments or discharging yourself from treatment, it will dramatically effect the value of your claim. You are not a doctor and you must trust your doctor’s advice. Do what your doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor tells you to do. Do not slack off if you want to get better. If you do not treat or discharge yourself, the insurance company will think you are not injured or your injuries are not severe. Treatment varies by the severity of the injury. Insurance companies try to pigeon hole treatment into a set amount of time or a set amount of bills. This is not true as it varies for each person. A sprain/strain injury could take 5 weeks for some of treatment or 6 months of treatment.
  • Make sure you receive treatment for all of your physical and mental complaints. This also entails getting to the right specialist for your injuries. A good personal injury attorney will be able to help you to make sure you get to the right specialist and medical providers for your injuries. All physical complaints need to be checked out and treated if necessary. Not getting to the right specialists can undermine the value of your case.
  • Document all loss of income or loss wages due to your injuries. This can include tax returns, W-2s and letters from your employer. Also letters from your medical providers taking you off work. You need proper documentation for the insurance company to consider this loss.
  • Be truthful about your injuries and do not exaggerate or have selective memory. It is not credible if after the accident every ailment you have experienced is suddenly caused by the accident. If you exaggerate, it hurts your claim and makes the insurance company question your motivations in the case. Be truthful with your treating medical providers and make sure you give them an accurate history. Often pre-existing injuries can be aggravated and this is still a compensable injury.
  • Keep copies of all bills, prescription expenses and out of pocket expenses and provide them immediately to your attorney.
  • Be patient with the process. If you try to push the claim thru quickly or become desperate for money, it can dramatically affect the amount the insurance company offers on the claim. Finish treatment and be patient. A good personal injury attorney will not cause delays, but keep the process moving.

Once you are done treating, your personal injury attorney needs to act quickly and not delay. All of the medical records and bills from the remaining providers must be requested immediately. The medical providers have 30 days to provide this information, but often provide it much quicker. Your attorney and his staff must keep up with each provider to get the records and bills as expeditiously as possible. Provide you attorney with all documentation concerning your wage loss claim including paycheck stubs and or letters from the company showing the time missed because of the accident. If the attorney needs to request this information, let them know immediately so there is no delay. Often it is quicker if you get this information directly from your employer.

If you have had a history of pre-existing conditions, it is important to let your attorney know as usually the insurance company will request past medical records going back 3-5 years to explore these issues and what injuries were caused by the accident. Do not be offended as when you make a personal injury claim, your medical condition becomes at issue and this is normal procedure if you have had problems before with the same body area that was injured. A good personal injury lawyer will request these past records before the insurance company wants to see them as this will expediate an offer on your claim. Also if you need future medical treatment, this should be documented by the medical provider which should include the future cost.

Once all of your medical records, bills and lost income information is received and you have reached maximum medical improvement, a pre-suit demand is submitted to the insurance company. The insurance company usually takes 30-60 days to evaluate this information and will then make a pre-suit offer. There initial offer is usually low and is negotiated up until they make their final pre-suit offer. This offer is evaluated in the context of what a jury may award on the case and if it is reasonably in that ballpark. Bills can be negotiated down and liens reduced and you will have a net amount you walk away with. At Rowe Law Offices, I will not recommend a settlement where I am getting more on my fee than the client is walking away with. This will entail at times reducing the fee if it is necessary to settle the case. If you decide to reject the offer, you must also look at the cost of litigating the claim in court that can become expensive with filing fees, expert witness fees, deposition costs and demonstrative evidence costs. Unfortunately filing a lawsuit is not free as there are litigation costs associated with it that are additional to the attorney fee. Although sometimes the offer is so low, that filing suit is your only alternative. Often the offer is at or below medical bills which leaves no alternative but to file suit. A good personal injury attorney will discuss your options with you and the risks and benefits of pre-suit settlement or filing suit.

If suit is filed, the insurance company hires a defense attorney to defend the claim, and the suit proceeds into the discovery phase where you will be required to answer written questions on your claim and have your deposition taken which is a statement under oath where you answer questions by the defense attorney. This process can take 6-9 months on average. The court will order mediation before the case goes to trial and many cases settle in the mediation process. A certified mediator conducts a mediation session with the parties, the insurance company and the mediator present and offers and demand are exchanged in an attempt of settlement. Mediation is usually conducted a year or more after the suit is filed. Sometimes the parties may agree to conduct a pre-suit mediation also. If mediation is unsuccessful, then you have the right to have your case tried in front of a jury and to let the jury decide its worth. Jury trials can go either way and carry a certain amount of risk expense that you must be aware of. Furthermore a jury trial further pushes your case out and may not be conducted until a year and a half to two years or more after suit is filed.

Sometimes when a lawsuit is filed, a new set of eyes with the insurance company gets assigned to the claim, and the new adjuster may call and offer more money before the case proceeds into litigation. This does not always happen, but it provides another good opportunity to settle before incurring further costs of litigation.

This is just a basic outline of the personal injury case, but there are more details that a good personal injury lawyer will discuss with you. It is important your personal injury attorney communicates with you each step of the way so you can make fully informed decisions on your case. If you have been injured in an accident and want to consult an attorney for free about your case, call Rowe Law Offices now to discuss your case.

 

5 Things You Must Do if You Are in An Auto Accident in Florida

  • Call police-It is important that the police come out and document the accident and do a report. Do not be fooled into just exchanging information as often the at-fault driver will change his story later to benefit him or her and the insurance company. The officer will document contributing factors to an accident, and the other driver is usually more truthful with the officer at the scene then he or she will be days later. The officer can also talk to important witnesses of the accident that may be hard to track down later. The insurance company has less wiggle room when the investigating officer concludes that their insured was at fault. If you are injured, tell the officer and if necessary ask for an ambulance.
  • Take photographs and document all physical evidence at the scene– This can become very important in the future if the insurance company tries to say you are at fault. Property damage photos of both vehicles and final resting places after impact are important to document. Also take photos of any other evidence at the scene such as tire marks, damaged signs, and debris. If you are in shock and not physically able to do this, it is always a good idea to call a friend or relative to come to the scene and assist you. If the case gets into litigation, this can be critical evidence in proving fault and even damages to a jury.
  • Seek Medical Attention Immediately- Do not delay. In Florida to qualify for PIP (Personal Injury Protection Coverage) you must seek medical care within 14 days of the accident. Often you may feel worse days after the accident, so it is important to have a complete diagnosis of your injuries. This can also help you heal from your injuries and give you a better prognosis on your future health. If there are gaps in medical treatment, the insurance company will not think you are hurt or in pain enough to seek medical treatment, and it could affect the ultimate outcome of your case. There is no reason to delay seeing a doctor or going to a hospital. Let the medical professional determine the nature and extent of your injuries and your need for further medical treatment.
  • Contact your Insurance Company- You need to contact your insurance company immediately and tell them you were in accident even it was not your fault. Also check the declarations page of your policy to determine all coverages you have including medical payments coverage, uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist and PIP coverage. So often people think they have “full coverage” when they do not. It is also important to get insurance information from the other driver. However be careful not to give a statement to the insurance adjuster until you have a chance to talk to an attorney. Adjusters are trained to get you say things that may diminish your injuries and raise issues of fault. Do not sign anything either until you have sought legal advice. You do not want to release your claim prematurely.
  • Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer-it is very important to talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Almost all personal injury lawyers will give you a free consultation so you know all of your legal rights. Insurance companies may offer you a few hundred dollars to try to get you to settle your case and sign a release. Do not fall for this tactic. When your injuries are in an acute phase, it is impossible to know the full extent of your injuries and your prognosis for the future. To settle quickly usually invites trouble as once you sign a release, the case is gone. A personal injury lawyer can advise you of the proper steps to take to make sure that you protect yourself and your right to compensation. At Rowe Law Offices, we represent the injured who are trying to put their lives together again. Call Rowe Law Offices for a free consultation to understand all your legal rights and what steps to take to navigate through your personal injury case.

Do Not Sign a Release Without Talking to an Attorney

When you have been in an accident, it is very important not to sign any release from an insurance company before you talk to an attorney. After an accident, you may be confused, and not understand what is going on and how to properly deal with an insurance adjuster. This is when the insurance companies pounce and try to take advantage of you in this vulnerable position. You often do not know the full extent of your injuries, whether you will have to miss time for work, and what the reasonable damages you are entitled to due to the other drive’s negligence. This does not stop many insurance companies whose goal is get out of the case as cheap as they can and try to get you to release the claim as soon as possible.

In Florida, there are restrictions on attorneys or medical professionals contacting you right after an accident, but there is no prohibition on an insurance adjuster contacting you on your claim. Many adjusters will seem very sincere and very concerned about you, but do not be fooled. Often they just want you to sign a release of all claims so they can move on to the next claim. You must understand that when you sign a release, all your claims against that driver have been released, and you cannot go back later against the person if you find out your damages or injuries are greater than originally thought. Many times they may offer you a nominal sum of money in exchange for a release, and the promise of some quick compensation is not always in your best interests. Often your claim for damages is worth far more than what they are offering. You need to talk to an attorney who is experienced in personal injury accidents who can properly advise you as to your rights before signing your claim away.

Many of the big name insurance companies, that their commercials say you can trust, are using these tactics to settle claims quickly and often pay less than what the claim is worth. Also a release does not necessarily have to be in writing. Some insurance companies are recording you and asking you on the phone if you orally agree to settle your claim for X amount of dollars, and then sending you a check. An oral agreement can be a binding contract and enforceable in certain circumstances. So be careful not to agree to settle your case over the phone without seeking the legal opinion of a personal injury attorney.

There is no hurry to settle your claim. The insurance company will try to put pressure on you to settle as quickly as possible, and if you are injured, this is rarely in your best interest. Often injuries from an accident can put financial pressures on you especially if you cannot work and bills are piling up. This is why it is important to seek legal counsel to discuss what your options are. Quickly signing a release without talking to an attorney can significantly reduce your right to fair compensation and cause you a lot of financial headaches in the future. Future medical bills and lost income and having to deal with debilitating injuries with no means of compensation can be a nightmare.

Be wise, and do not sign or agree to anything without talking to an experienced personal injury attorney first. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Rowe Law Offices for a free consultation so you fully understand your rights and do not compromise your claim.