Bagen Law Firm | February 15, 2023 | Personal Injury
If you have suffered an injury in an accident, your first thoughts (after your physical health) may focus on justice and money. In a personal injury claim, the two tie in together. Justice comes from financial compensation that the responsible party must pay you. Before a check gets deposited in your account, there is a lengthy process that you must go through first. Nothing about the personal injury claims process is easy.
However, when you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer, you take much of the burden off yourself during this difficult time.
The End Goal of a Settlement Takes Time to Reach
Theoretically, you can present your claim to the insurance company with evidence of liability and have a check in your account within a short period. There is nothing about the personal injury claims process that should require it to take months or years to get your money.
The only reason the personal injury claims process is so complicated and time-consuming is that the insurance company makes it that way. Still, getting what you deserve after an accidental injury is possible when you have a determined attorney standing up for your legal rights.
To work backward, if you win your personal injury case, you will receive compensation that pays for the harm you have suffered. The responsible party will need to pay for the total damages you sustained when they were the cause of your injuries. Their insurance company is responsible for covering their liability, which is why you will be interacting with insurers.
Insurance companies are in business to cover the liability of their policyholders for injuries. However, these companies also stay in business by making a profit, which requires paying out as little as possible. They can present many roadblocks and obstacles to obtaining the full value of your claim.
Although total compensation for your losses is the goal you aim to reach, there is a long and sometimes tricky process before you can get your money.
Remain Patient During the Claims Process
The most important thing to expect is that your personal injury claim will take time from start to finish. You must remain patient throughout, as this is how you can maximize your personal injury settlement. An attorney can only estimate how long the claims process may take depending on many factors. If your claim is too easy, there may be a reason for it – you might have given in to the insurance company and received far less than you deserve.
Your Claims Process Should Begin With Hiring an Attorney
Much of your personal injury claim process depends on you and your actions. To begin the personal injury claim process, you want to contact an experienced lawyer to represent you. Although you are not required to have an attorney to deal with the insurance company, you are better off, both logistically and financially, when you get legal help. Once you hire an attorney, they will do the heavy lifting to move your claim forward.
While beginning the legal process, you will also be tending to your physical health. You can only file a claim and move forward once you know the full scope and extent of your injuries.
Once you have a prognosis, your lawyer can calculate how much your claim is worth and value the other elements of your damages, including your:
- Cost of medical care for your injuries
- Lost wages for the time that you will miss from work
- Pain and suffering you are enduring on account of your injuries (many people make the mistake of underestimating their pain and suffering damages)
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Filing a Successful Claim Requires Preparation
There is much legwork to do before your attorney can file the right insurance claims on your behalf. The insurance company expects to see a detailed and well-presented claim, which is what it takes to be persuasive.
Not only do you need to know how much your claim is worth, but you will also need proof to show that the insurance company has a legal obligation to pay you for your injuries. They only are required to pay you when you can demonstrate that their policyholder was negligent in the circumstances that caused your accident.
To prove negligence, you must show each of the following elements:
- The other party owed you a duty to exercise reasonable care
- They breached that duty by doing something unreasonable under the circumstances
- You suffered an injury
- You would not have suffered an injury had it not been for the other party’s actions.
Insurance Companies Will Take Their Time Responding to Your Claim
Once your attorney has investigated what happened and compiled the necessary evidence, they will file the claim with the insurance company on your behalf. Unfortunately, there is only so much more you can do at that point other than wait – and that is precisely what the insurance company will make you do.
Insurance companies are not in a hurry to resolve your claim. They know the longer they wait, the more their economic circumstances will worsen. They know that you have bills coming in but possibly no money, and they try to leverage that for their own benefit. In their view, the more time passes, the more likely you will accept the little they offer (if they even offer it).
Even though the laws forbidding bad faith should prevent an insurance company from taking too long to respond to your claim, they do everything they can to delay. It will likely take them weeks and even months to inform you how they are handling your claim. In the meantime, you cannot push because you risk looking desperate.
How the Insurance Company Will Respond to Your Claim
The insurance company will respond to your claim in one of two ways:
- They will deny it entirely because they believe that you lack the proof that someone else’s negligence caused your injuries
- They can accept liability and make you a settlement offer
A settlement offer can seem like a win since the insurance company is conceding to at least some liability. However, this does not mean they are willing to pay the full amount you demand. The first settlement offer is usually just a jumping-off point for negotiations.
The Settlement Process Requires Extensive Negotiation
Even when the insurance company makes you an offer, it is far from the end of your case. Like any for-profit business, the insurance company views the claims process as one extensive negotiation. They come into the process with a value number in mind for your claim and want to pay you less than that.
You can expect to go through numerous rounds of offers and counteroffers with the insurance company. Progress in your claim may be glacially slow. In most cases, progress will actually happen. You will almost always move closer to a settlement with the insurance company because very few personal injury cases will go to trial. You will likely be frustrated because the insurance company will not quickly raise its offer.
Your Attorney Will Communicate With You Throughout the Process
All the while, your attorney will work alongside you, communicating with the insurance company and putting legal pressure on them. When you have hired a personal injury lawyer, the insurance company knows exactly what it means. They know that you intend to fight, and they cannot push you around.
Your attorney will keep you informed throughout the claims process. They will let you know when they have received a settlement offer and will review it with you. If the settlement offer is low, they will likely advise you to reject it and work with you on coming up with a counteroffer. In the end, you are the one who makes the decisions with the advice of your attorney.
Although you will come closer to a settlement agreement over time, you may face a choice of whether to continue negotiating with the insurance company. The alternative is that you can file a lawsuit against the responsible driver in court, which can add considerable time to your case. Filing a lawsuit is always an option that is available to you. In many cases, it is the best leverage to pressure the insurance company.
What Happens After You Reach a Settlement Agreement
Once you agree on a settlement with the insurance company, it will not take long for you to get your check. First, there is the matter of the actual settlement agreement. The insurance company will always insist on a release of claims to keep you from coming back for more money in the future. The release is why you need to fight hard to get all the money you deserve because you do not get a second chance.
Deciding the Form of Your Settlement
You will also need to decide how you want your settlement check.
You have several choices:
- You can take all your money at once in a lump sum payment
- You can agree to a structured settlement that gives you money at specific points in time (this is an effective option that can keep you from spending too much of your settlement at one time)
Then, you may need to decide how to manage your own money. You need to prepare for a potentially large influx of money because you will need those funds in the future. Consider establishing a trust to provide for future care.
Once you have signed the settlement agreement, the insurance company will go through its administrative processes to draw the check. This stage should take, at most, a couple of weeks. The money then gets deposited into your attorney’s escrow account, where your lawyer can receive their share of your settlement. In addition, there may be liens against your settlement from health insurance companies and medical providers that your lawyer must pay before you can receive your money. Then, you will receive your portion of the settlement.
Your Experience in the Legal Process Is Different With an Attorney
Your expectations from the personal injury claims process will differ if you try to handle the claim yourself. Then, you can expect the daily hassle of dealing with the insurance company. You will need to handle all the administrative details of your claim, regardless of your condition. If you ended up with the money, you might not even know that the amount was far less than you deserved.
In addition, you may be hounded by the insurance company when it wants to settle your case quickly. If they see that you do not have an attorney, they may try pressure tactics to get you to settle the claim for pennies on the dollar to get off the hook cheaply.
They may trick or coerce you into making a statement about the accident that undercuts your legal case. You can never trust what the insurance company may do when speaking directly to you. Their primary interest is themselves, and they will do what they can to compromise your legal position.
When you hire an attorney, the personal injury process takes a different form. Although it takes work, your attorney will handle the day-to-day details of your claim. They will be the ones to speak with the insurance company and other attorneys if necessary. You will still make the critical decisions in your case, but they will come after your lawyer has explained where you stand and given you their advice.
While your lawyer cannot take all the difficulty out of the personal injury claims process, they can make it a much more manageable situation for you. Your attorney’s help will allow you to focus on your medical situation and adjust to life after your personal injury.
The best part is that you do not need to come up with the money upfront to hire a personal injury attorney. You will only have an obligation to pay your lawyer if you win your case, and that money comes from the proceeds of the case.