I got a lot of calls from people who do not understand how a personal injury case works. They are unsure what happens. I have written about this before, but I thought I would lay out what I see are the 10 steps of a personal injury case. There is nothing complicated about it, but understanding the process will make it much easier for you to understand how and why adjusters do what they do. It will also help you understand why your attorney does what he/she does.
1.INVESTIGATE FACTS OF ACCIDENT
Before you can do anything, you have to know the facts ofthe accident. This usually involves getting the police report, talking to theparties and talking to any witnesses. Scene investigations and photographs ofthe car may also be helpful.
2. INVESTIGATE INSURANCE
Once you know the facts, you can determine if the party atfault has insurance. This is usually on the police report, if there is one. In California, the DMV canalso provide this information in certain circumstances.
3. OBTAIN VEHICLEESTIMATE
Your car needs to be fixed. You need to obtain at least oneestimate from a shop of your choice. Ask friends and co-workers forrecommendations of good shops.
4. GET MEDICAL TREATMENT
See your family doctor within a few days after the accident. If youneed specialized care, ask for a referral. If you do not have insurance, youmay need to apply for assistance or find a doctor willing to treat you on alien.
5. GET MEDICAL RECORDS
Once you are better, you need to obtain your medical records. Do not letthe insurance company obtain your records. Ask the doctor for all records andbills from the date of the accident to the present.
6. GET WAGE LOSSRECORDS
If you missed time from work, you need to get a letter fromyour employer or obtain documents showing your income and the time you missed.A note from your doctor confirming that he took you off work is also useful.
7. DETERMINE ECONOMIC DAMAGES
Generally, your economic damages are the amount of yourmedical bills plus your wage loss. However, if you lost money for otherreasons, such as unused tickets to an event, you need to include this as well.
8. DETERMINE NON-ECONOMIC DAMAGES
This is one of the reasons attorneys get paid. There is no formula. Thereis no easy way to calculate this amount. Every case is different and experienceis what will determine the value of this number. This is your pain andsuffering and should include money for activities you could not do after theaccident.
9. PREPARE DEMAND PACKAGE
Prepare a demand letter and include all of the documentationyou obtained. Your demand package should include an explanation of the facts ofthe case, why the other party was at fault, your injuries, how long you wereinjured, the amount of your economic damages and your demand to settle thecase. Finally, give the insurance company a reasonable time to respond, usually15 days.
10. SETTLE CASE OR FILE SUIT
At this point, a settlement will be negotiated or you willhave to file a lawsuit. Depending on the value of the case, you may be able tofile in small claims court without an attorney.
When you have been in an accident, knowing the process will make it easier for you. Take a deep breath and remember to come back and read these. Of course, talk to your attorney as not every attorney does it the same way.