When John called me, I could hear the anxiety in his voice crackling over the phone line. John had been stopped waiting for the light to turn green when he was suddenly struck from behind by a large SUV. John’s car was hit with such force that the magnitude of the impact pushed his Honda civic into the car in front of him. John’s airbags deployed and his poor body was flung forward and backward like a rag doll.
After the collision, John sat in his car dazed. Despite feeling dazed and overwhelmed, he managed to speak to the other drivers, exchange information, and arrange for a tow truck. It was a short time later when the adrenaline began wearing off, that he began noticing the slight twinge of pain running from his neck down to his low back. John went to his primary care physician complaining of pain to the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions of his spine. His doctor referred him to chiropractor and massage therapy, which he complied with. As time wore on, this twinge of pain became more and more intrusive into his every day life, which made him impatient. How long would he have to treat for? Why couldn’t the at-fault person’s insurance company just pay for his medical bills and wage loss right now? Why was it necessary to wait? How long would it take for this case to settle?
These are questions most personal injury attorneys hear from their clients. Most of the time, people feel as if they are in limbo when things are unfinished or unsettled. This causes a predictable sense of urgency to settle a third party bodily injury claim with the insurance company. The question of how quickly a personal injury claim resolves is a complicated one and is dependent on the nature and extent of the injuries and what the client’s goals are.
In order to accurately assess the value of someone’s case, it is necessary to wait until that person has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is different for each person. Once at MMI, the attorney’s office orders all medical records and billings associated with the accident to see what the total amount of medical specials are, to see what treatment has been reasonable, necessary, and related to the accident, and to see whether any injuries are of a permanent or ongoing nature. If there is a claim for wage loss, that documentation must be gathered as well. This gathering process can take a while and it is important to be patient as this is a necessary step in the process.
Once all documentation is gathered, the attorney will put together a settlement demand to the at-fault party’s insurance company. This demand will explain the accident, the nature of the injuries, and medical bills and will kick start the negotiation process. If the insurance company extends an offer that is reasonable and the client wishes to accept, then the case will settle. In order to get the best settlement, you need to have a lawyer who is experienced, aggressive, and knowledgeable.
If the claim does not settle through negotiation, the decision may be made to file suit in superior or district court. Once a case is in litigation, the case could take several more months to resolve- either through negotiations or through arbitration or trial. The most important thing to remember is that the client is the boss and as the boss, the client tells the lawyer how to proceed. The lawyer’s job is to keep the client adequately informed so that he/she can make a knowing and intelligent decision. The client must be sure that he has a lawyer who will fight for him and will not take the easy way out with an easy settlement. How many personal injury trials has the lawyer done? How willing is the lawyer to fight for you?
I have been a lawyer since 2003 and have taken more than 50 cases to jury trial. I have worked for a large insurance company defending company insureds against tort and motor vehicle accident claims. I now passionately represent and fight for people injured due to the negligence of other people. I am still fighting for John’s case and I will not give up until John is happy.