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A Guide To The Personal Injury Process

A Guide To The Personal Injury Process

If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s wrongful conduct, you may be entitled to file a claim for compensation. Personal injury law, also known as tort law, allows a person to obtain compensation when someone else’s negligence or intentional act causes them harm.

If you have been involved in an accident but have suffered no bodily injuries, then you may not need an attorney to assist you with your personal injury claim. However, if you have sustained bodily injuries, it will be wise to hire a seasoned personal injury attorney to assist you. 

While you can certainly try to negotiate and settle a personal injury claim on your own and without the assistance of an attorney, we do not recommend it. Hiring an experienced attorney that knows how to deal with the insurance companies will give you the best chance to obtain maximum compensation for your injuries, from both the at-fault party’s insurance company and from your own insurance company. 

Types of Personal Injury Cases

In almost all cases, you will recover considerably more compensation after hiring an attorney to assist you, than if you handle the case on your own. Contact eAccidents today at 844-400-0123 for the assistance you need.

Personal injury cases are categorized into several different types, based on the circumstances involved in the accident or injuries. Here are the most common types of personal injury cases:

  • Auto accidents, including those caused by cars, trucks, motorcycles, and drunk drivers; 
  • Slip & Fall accidents;
  • Medical Malpractice; 
  • Product Liability;
  • Dog Bites; and 
  • Assault and Battery

Auto Accidents 

Auto accidents give rise to the most personal injury cases in the United States. When an accident happens, it is usually because someone wasn’t obeying the rules of the road or driving as carefully as they should. A careless driver can usually be held liable for personal injury and property damage in an auto accident case. 

Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accidents are another very common type of personal injury case in the United States. Those who own or occupy property have a legal duty to keep their property reasonably safe and free of hazards, so that people don’t get injured when they visit the property. If you were injured on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to compensation, depending on the circumstances involved and whether the owner/occupier knew about the hazardous condition that caused you to be injured. 

Medical Malpractice 

If you believe that you were injured because a doctor or other health care provider failed to provide you with competent and reasonable skilled medical care, you may be entitled to file a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice cases are some of the most complex types of personal injury cases to pursue. As such, a medical malpractice claim requires the assistance of an experienced attorney who specializes in these types of cases, and who can enlist medical specialists who can testify on your behalf. 

Product Liability

Those who manufacture and/or distribute products have a duty to ensure that their products are safe to be used. If you have been injured by a defective product, you may potentially bring a claim against anyone in the products chain of distribution.

Dog Bites

In most cases, dog owners can be held strictly liable for dog bite injuries and damages, regardless of any negligence. Others, such as the dog owner’s landlord or whoever was in charge of controlling the dog at the time of the bite, may also be held liable for a dog bite if their negligence allowed or contributed to the dog bite and its resulting injuries.

Assault and Battery 

Intentional torts, like assault and battery, are not based on someone’s negligence or carelessness. Rather, whenever one person intentionally injures or harms someone else, the offending party may be held financially accountable for the victim’s injuries. Personal injury cases involving assault and battery are almost always accompanied by a criminal case against the perpetrator as well.

What is Required for a Successful Personal Injury Case

To succeed, your personal injury case must contain the following three essential elements:

  1. Liability – this usually means that the person who caused your injuries is 100% at fault, and you are not at fault at all for the accident or your injuries. However, in some cases, you may succeed in recovering compensation even if you are partially at fault.
  • Damages – injuries and losses that you can prove were caused by the accident or incident. Damages are proven by seeking medical treatment so that a doctor can document the type of injuries you suffered, what kind of treatment you received, and your prognosis for recovery. 
  • The ability to recover – if the person or entity that caused you harm does not have enough funds (typically insurance coverage) to compensate you for your damages, you do not have a viable personal injury claim.This is why it is important to work with an experienced attorney who can evaluate the liable party’s ability to pay, and identify sources of recovery before you proceed with your case. 

If your case is missing any one of these essential elements, it will not succeed.

What to Do and Not to Do after a Personal Injury Accident

After being injured in a personal injury accident, it is important to do certain things to preserve evidence and protect your right to compensation, but it is equally important to refrain from doing anything that can harm your case. 

Here are some things that you SHOULD do after a personal injury accident:

  • Seek immediate medical attention

After a personal injury accident, you must seek immediate medical attention for any resulting injuries you have sustained. Visit a doctor even if you have only suffered minor injuries. Failing to seek medical attention after a personal injury accident is the biggest mistake you can make that can adversely affect your personal injury claim. 

  • Report the accident

For instance, if you were involved in a collision with another motor vehicle, report the accident to the local law enforcement agency. If you were involved in a slip and fall accident, report the incident to the business or property owner.

  • Take photos

If at all possible, take as many photographs as you can of the scene of the incident, your injuries, and other things that may have significant relevance to your accident and what caused it.

  • Collect information

Collect the names, addresses, and contact information from anyone involved in the accident, as well as, from anyone who witnessed the accident.

  • Contact an attorney 

Contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can investigate the cause of the accident, identify those responsible, and help you pursue maximum compensation for your injuries and losses.

Things that you SHOULD NOT do after a personal injury accident:

  • Do not admit fault 

Do not admit fault or say anything, like “I’m sorry,” that can make you look responsible for the accident in which you were injured. 

  • Do not discuss your case 

Do not discuss your case with anyone unless directed to do so by an experienced personal injury attorney. If you must provide law enforcement with details, only provide the facts. Never make any assumptions or conclusions. 

  • Do not give any recorded statement 

Do not give a recorded statement to any representative of any insurance company unless you have first consulted with your attorney. 

  • Do not sign anything

Do not sign any document pertaining to the accident or your injuries, unless it is a consent to receive medical treatment, or the police report taken by the officer at the scene of the accident.

Research and Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

Choosing the right attorney to assist you with your personal injury claim is vital after being injured in an accident. The right lawyer can greatly increase your ability to obtain justice and to be fully compensated for your injuries and losses.

Here are some things to look for when choosing a personal injury lawyer:

  • Experience 

Does the lawyer have experience handling personal injury cases like yours? eAccidents’ lawyers handle a wide range of personal injury cases. 

  • Resources 

Does the lawyer have the resources to handle your case? The attorneys at eAccidents have significant courtroom experience and a network of highly qualified experts to call upon. 

  • Results 

Can the lawyer demonstrate results? Our attorneys can show you past verdicts and settlements they have achieved in cases like yours. 

  • Attention 

You should feel like you are receiving individualized attention and that your questions and concerns are being heard. The team at eAccidents is laser focused on every detail of your case and ensuring all of your needs are addressed.

  • Testimonials and Client Reviews

Can the attorney show you good testimonials and client reviews? You can read the reviews on our website to see what it is like to work with a personal injury attorney from our law firm. 

Dealing with Property Damage

Many personal injury accidents result in property damage as well as bodily injuries. Others don’t result in any bodily injuries at all, only property damage.

Either way, if the accident was someone else’s fault, the at-fault party (or their insurance provider) will usually be liable for the cost of replacing or repairing your damaged or destroyed property. 

You should be able to settle any property damage claim you have separately from your injury claim, and on your own, soon after the accident. This may include settlements for the following losses:

  • Damage to personal property, such as the clothes you were wearing and the laptop or mobile phone you were carrying;
  • Repairs to your vehicle (or for the vehicle’s market value if it was totaled); 
  • Rental car fees; and 
  • Damage to items that were in your vehicle when the accident occurred.

The law regulates the amount of money that you must be paid for damaged property. So, the liable insurance company is less likely to treat you unfairly in a property damage claim, as opposed to a claim for bodily injuries, pain and suffering etc., where it is more difficult to calculate the value of your claim.

Nevertheless, if you have any doubts about your property damage claim, you should consult with an expert attorney at eAccidents to find out if you are being treated fairly. Moreover, you must make sure that the release you sign for your property damage settlement does not contain any mention of injuries, pain and suffering, and the like.

Proof of Injuries

After being injured in a personal injury accident, getting medical treatment for any injuries you have sustained should be your first priority. Without the right diagnosis, you won’t get the treatment you need, and your recovery might take longer. 

Moreover, a failure to seek proper medical care after an accident can jeopardize your ability to be compensated for your injuries. If you don’t seek medical treatment, you won’t have the documentation you need to prove that you actually sustained an injury, nor the nature and extent of that injury. 

Avoid breaks in your medical treatment 

A break in your medical treatment is one of the things that will most certainly be use against you in your personal injury claim. Although any break in your medical treatment can weaken your claim, those that occur soon after the accident will do the most damage. 

For instance, if you are seen by a doctor immediately after the accident, but don’t begin treatment until sometime much later, it will be difficult for your attorney to argue that the treatment was needed as a result of the accident. 

Similarly, if you begin to receive treatment right after the accident, then stop for an extended period of time, only to resume later, this will suggest to the defense that you fully recovered, and then re-started treatment only to increase your damages, or because you suffered another unrelated injury that resulted in the need for additional treatment. 

Breaks in your medical treatment may not only adversely affect your personal injury claim, but your ability to physically recover as well. So, it is in your best interest to do whatever your doctor says and to avoid any breaks in treatment.

Medical liens

Often an injury victim does not have medical insurance to cover the treatment they need, nor the ability to pay out-of-pocket. When this is the case, eAccidents’ attorneys can usually arrange for you to pay the medical provider after your personal injury case has concluded. 

The medical provider will then place a lien on your recovery to be reimbursed for any medical treatment they provide you while you pursue your case. You will then be responsible for reimbursing the medical provider, regardless of the outcome of your case.

Similarly, if you have health insurance, your provider will usually place a lien against your settlement to be reimbursed for any medical bills they have paid on your behalf. In either case, a medical lien can work in your favor as it allows you to receive the treatment you need, without having to pay for it until your case is resolved.

Determining Liability

If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or intent to do you harm, you may be entitled to be compensated for any resulting injuries and losses. However, you must first prove that the defendant is liable (responsible) for the incident in the first place.

Liability in a personal injury case is usually based on the defendant’s negligence. To establish that the defendant acted negligently and is therefore liable for your damages, you must show the following:

  1. Duty – the defendant owed you (the plaintiff) a legal duty of care;
  2. Breach – the defendant breached this duty of care;
  3. Causation – the defendant’s breach of duty caused you to suffer damages; and
  4. Damages – you have actual injuries and losses resulting from the defendant’s breach of duty. 

Furthermore, you may also establish the defendant’s liability for your injuries and losses by proving that they intentionally caused you to be harmed. Personal injury cases involving intentional harm are often accompanied by criminal charges.

Communicating with the Insurance Companies

After eAccidents has accepted your case, we will reach out to the various insurance companies involved and let them know that we are representing you. Once you are represented by one of our attorneys, they will be responsible for all communication between you and the liable insurance companies.

This will include, among other things, responding to settlement offers by the insurance companies and dealing with any stonewalling tactics the insurance companies engage in, such as: 

  • Making repeated demands for documentation on a piecemeal basis;
  • Threatening to withdraw their offers; 
  • Setting unreasonably low reserves on your claim; and 
  • Claiming that their investigations are ongoing, or that they have misplaced your case file.

With an experienced attorney handling all communication between you and the liable insurance companies, you will be able to focus on your treatment and recovering from your injuries. 

Calculating the Value of Your Injury Claim

It is very important to remember that when you settle a personal injury claim and sign a release, you cannot reopen the case and ask for more money. Even if you discover that you will require additional medical procedures to address complications with your accident-related injuries, you will simply be out of luck.

This is why you should never settle a personal injury claim until you, your doctor, and your attorney are absolutely sure (at least as much as you can be) about the extent of your injuries and what ongoing medical care, if any, you will require. 

The majority of personal injury cases are resolved by settlement. So, it is vitally important that you have an attorney who can properly calculate the value of your injury claim, so that you are not relying on what the insurance company says it is worth.

Insurance companies are for-profit corporations that want to make as much profit as possible for their shareholders. This means paying out as little as possible for claims.

Relying on the insurance company to tell you what your claim is worth, is like asking the fox to watch the hen house. Their interests are not aligned with yours, and they will offer you as little as they can for your claim.

Sending a Demand Letter/Package to the Insurance Company

While your injuries are being treated and evaluated, eAccidents will contact you frequently to assess your progress. Also, during this time, we will begin to gather documentation for the demand package that we will send to the liable insurance companies. This will include a detailed description of the damages you suffered and a demand to be compensated for those damages.

After you have completed your treatment and your prognosis for recovery is fully understood, we will complete the demand package and send a demand letter to the insurance company detailing everything that happened in your personal injury accident. Once we have sent the demand package, we will call the insurance company to ensure that they have received it and that it gets the attention it deserves.

Settlement Negotiations

When the insurance company has completed their review of the demand package, they will call us back and usually make an offer to settle the case. We will then call you to discuss the first settlement offer and will almost always advise you to reject. 

The insurance company will initially offer as little as they think they can get away with to settle your claim. It will therefore be necessary to reject their initial offer and submit a counteroffer. 

Afterwards, settlement negotiations will continue like this until we believe that the insurance company has offered a fair amount to settle your claim, and you agree.

But, before we enter into any settlement agreement with the insurance company to resolve the case, we will make sure that all the liabilities associated with the case are accounted for in the settlement, including but not limited to:

  • Your accident-related medical bills;
  • Lost wages and income;
  • Your pain and suffering, and other intangible losses; as well as
  • Any medical liens and other subrogation liens that entities, such as your own health insurance company, auto insurance company, or some other entity, have on the settlement proceeds. 

Then only when you are comfortable and ready will we enter into the settlement agreement to resolve the case.

Final Settlement Agreement and Release

Once you have accepted a settlement offer from the insurance company, you will be asked to sign a release agreement. A release agreement is a document that details the terms of the agreed upon settlement offer. 

The release agreement also specifies that, in exchange for the agreed upon compensation, you agree to take no further legal action against the defendant or their insurance company as it relates to the claim. If you agree to the terms of the release agreement, it will be signed and sent back to the insurance company. 

Once the insurance company receives the signed release agreement, they will process it and send a check to our office. We will then deposit the check into a trust account until the money has cleared. 

Once the settlement funds have cleared, we will first disburse payment for any medical and subrogation lien against your settlement. Then, we will deduct our fees and cost from the settlement funds, and send you a check with the balance of the funds.

Filing a Lawsuit if Settlement Negotiations are Unsuccessful

Most personal injury cases are ready to settle within six months. But, in the most serious injury cases, you will need to file a lawsuit and potentially take the case to trial in order to maximize the value of the case.

If you settle before filing a lawsuit in these cases, you may be leaving a considerable amount of money on the table. In serious injury cases, the settlement offer can increase by 10 or 20 times after a lawsuit has been filed.

Furthermore, the absolute deadline to bring a personal injury claim in California is two years from the date of the injury. If a settlement cannot be reached before that time expires, we will need to file a lawsuit and be prepared to take the case to trial.

A trial is simply an opportunity for us to present all the permissible evidence that would help a jury find in your favor. Remember, you and your attorney have the burden of convincing every juror that:

  1. The defendant’s conduct was negligent; 
  2. Their negligent conduct caused you injury; and 
  3. That you should be compensated justly for your injuries and losses. 

This is done by presenting medical bills, physician testimony, and witness testimony, as well as, your own testimony concerning what happened and how it has affected your life.

Then, assuming that the jurors are able to reach a verdict in your favor, the judge will enter the verdict as an official judgment and the defendant will be ordered to pay you compensation.

Conclusion 

Being injured in an accident can be a traumatic experience. Even a seemingly minor accident can result in the need for expensive medical treatment, significant time away from work, considerable pain and discomfort, property damage, and other unfortunate consequences. 

But, if the accident or incident was caused by someone else’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing, why should you suffer the consequences alone? When this is the case, you may be entitled to hold the responsible party liable to compensate you for your injuries and losses.   Call eAccidents today at 844-400-0123 to consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you step by step through the personal injury claims process. A skilled personal injury attorney from eAccidents will ensure that the liable parties are held accountable, and that you receive top-dollar for your claim.

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