If you or a loved one was injured in a personal injury accident, you may be entitled to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the party or parties who caused the accident.
Most injury victims, however, have no idea how the personal injury claims process works. Because of this, many injury victims struggle to deal with filing a claim, while recovering from their injuries and dealing with mounting medical bills, lost income, and physical pain and discomfort.
An experienced personal injury attorney, like those at eAccidents, can ease a great deal of this stress, by simply helping you understand the personal injury claims process. To that end, what follows below is a step-by-step guide to the personal injury claims process in California.
The Personal Injury Claims Process in California
Most personal injury claims have four stages:
Often these stages will overlap, and in many cases, your claim will be resolved without the need for litigation at all. In general, however, you can expect the following from your personal injury claim at each stage of the process:
Stage 1: Consultation
The first step in the personal injury claims process is setting up a consultation with an experienced California personal injury attorney. eAccidents offers a free, no obligation consultation for all of its clients.
Simply call our office at 844-400-0123 and set up a mutually convenient time. The typical duration of the consultation can be up to an hour, but can be longer depending on the complexity of the case.
It is important that you come to your consultation prepared. Write out and bring with you any questions that you want to ask, along with certain important documents, including:
- Any police or accident report from the incident;
- Copies of all of your medical records;
- Any witness statements;
- Any insurance policies that may provide coverage for your injuries and losses.
Don’t be discouraged if you do not have all of these documents. Your eAccidents attorney can certainly assist you with obtaining them, but it may require more time and delay the evaluation of your claim.
Finally, you should be prepared to offer truthful answers to some personal questions regarding your background, medical history, and previous injuries you may have suffered. This will not only help your attorney to accurately value your claim, but also prepare you to answer these questions when asked by an insurance adjuster or defense attorney later on.
At the conclusion of the consultation, your attorney will give you an honest assessment of your personal injury claim and let you know if you indeed have a case worth pursuing.
Stage 2: Investigation
During this stage, your attorney will:
- Visit the scene of the accident as soon as possible after the accident has occurred to take notes and pictures.
- Obtain and review your medical records and bills to date, including any reports made by first responders, your emergency room records, and reports from your treating physician.
- Obtain and review other relevant documents, including police reports, witness statements, and any statements you may have given to law enforcement or an insurance company.
- Interview eyewitnesses and procure expert witness testimony.
Stage 3: Negotiations
Once your attorney has enough information about the accident and the extent of your injuries and losses, he or she will:
- Contact the liable insurance company(s) and discuss the possibility of a settlement.
- Provide the insurer with documentation of your injuries and financial losses.
- Draft and send a settlement demand letter.
- Reject and counter lowball settlement offers and deal with common stonewalling tactics perpetrated by the insurance adjuster, including:
- Making repeated demands for information on a piecemeal basis.
- Threatening to withdraw all settlement offers.
- Setting an unreasonable valuation on your claim.
- Claiming that their investigation is ongoing, or that they have lost your file.
- Deliberately ignoring your claim.
Stage 4: Litigation
If negotiations with the liable insurance company(s) stall, your case may need to be litigated. Litigation is the process of resolving your claim through the court system.
If litigation is necessary, your eAccidents attorney will do the following:
- File a complaint to initiate a lawsuit, which names all potentially responsible parties and raises all viable legal claims.
- Send and respond to written discovery requests – during a lawsuit, the parties involved engage in a formal fact-finding process called Discovery. As part of this process, each side will send written interrogatories (questions), requests for documents, and requests for admission to each other.
- Take depositions – a deposition is a type of interview session during which your attorney will ask questions of the defendant (or a witness for the defense) who must answer while under oath. This testimony will be recorded by a court reporter and transcribed to be used later in court.
- Accompany you to your deposition – the defense will take your deposition. Your eAccidents personal injury attorney will attend the deposition with you to protect your rights.
- File motions (formal written requests) with the court to try and resolve certain issues before trial.
- Attempt to settle the case before trial – settlement negotiations often continue during the litigation process, and often take on greater urgency as the trial approaches. Therefore, your attorney may engage in either informal negotiations with the defendant, or more formal negotiations that, for example, involve a mediator.
- If a settlement still cannot be reached, the case will eventually go to trial and be resolved by a judge or jury.
How long it will take to resolve your California personal injury claim will largely depend on the length of time needed to fully understand the extent of your injuries and other losses, and whether the claim needs to be litigated. Most personal injury claims in California are settled before going to trial. Some are settled in just a few months, but others can take years to settle and of course some go to trial.
Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney
eAccidents personal injury attorneys work closely with our clients, to provide them with the attention and care that they need after being injured in an accident. We will help you navigate the personal injury process step-by-step, to ensure the highest possible injury award for your claim. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in call eAccidents at 844-400-0123 to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney.