After you’ve completed the all-important first step of retaining a qualified personal injury attorney from Van Law Firm for your auto accident claim, the next most important actions to take are essentially whatever your doctor says. By continuing treatments, taking prescribed medications, and otherwise following instructions, you will gradually heal and the strength of your case will stay steady or even increase. Those who are responsible for deciding your case will see that you were actually injured and that you actively worked to correct it.
Investigation and Documentation
Legally speaking, after you’ve retained our services, the first phase of your claim is what’s known as the investigation. This will depend heavily on the parameters of the incident, but for the most part, investigations involve obtaining any police reports, taking pictures of the accident site and identifying potential witnesses, analyzing insurance policies, conducting asset searches, checking employment records, and much more. Over the course of this process, our attorneys and staff will most likely need additional information as the investigation wears on, and so there is usually constant communication. And, of course, if you should ever have any questions, we encourage you to reach out to your assigned case manager or attorney.
Over the course of your treatments, your case manager and attorney will begin the second phase, known as documentation. For the most part, this is exactly as it sounds, in that we will work to tally your medical costs, prescriptions, travel receipts, pay stubs that highlight your lost income, and more. This is a critical step as it helps formulate your end settlement.
Evaluation and Demand
After you’ve regained full health or as close to full health as possible, your lawyer will then take all of the material from the documentation phase and do what’s known as an evaluation, which is presented as a range of figures. After that, the next step is to compile what’s known as a demand against the insurer in question. A demand is essentially your attorney’s best offer that he or she believes to be a fair agreement for the incident.
Once the insurer receives the demand, that’s when the negotiation phase starts. Most cases (about 90 percent) will settle during these negotiations. Before then, however, there is likely to be some back-and-forth in terms of final figures. When an agreement is reached, the settlement phase is officially complete. Once the settlement is received it will be divided up between your attorney, any outstanding liens such as medical costs, and yourself.
Other Possibilities: Litigation and Trial
This is all well and good– however, not all cases end so easily. If your attorney believes that your injuries warrant a higher settlement than what is offered, or if there is pushback from opposing parties, your case may turn into a lawsuit, and go before a court.
The litigation process is essentially just a more thorough continuation of what’s already been done, except everyone is under a little more pressure. An outside settlement is still possible before and during a trial. The pre-trial process will vary by case, but generally follows the same structure: at the discovery stage of the suit, your attorney will consult opposing counsel and the two will begin what’s known as coordination, which involves arranging deadlines for producing court documents, as well as answers to questions that are written under oath, also known as interrogatories.
Additionally, depositions may be necessary to fully construct the context of a case. These are recorded question-and-answer discussions that are done under oath. These may be done by any accident witnesses, police officers and first responders, healthcare providers, and others. You will almost always be asked to testify in your own words about how the accident and the resulting injuries have affected your financial state and your overall quality of life. Certain parties may also request a medical examination from a third-party provider in order to verify injuries and treatments.
During the pretrial phase, there may be additional attempts to settle, through either arbitration or mediation proceedings. These are simply alternative ways for the two parties to come to an agreement either organically or with the help of an arbitrator.
The absolute last resort is when a case finally proceeds to a good ol’ fashioned jury trial. Consistent with what most people think of in terms of court proceedings, trials will involve the examination of witnesses and presentation of evidence for both sides. In the end, the jury will come together to debate both the settlement and the liability of the parties involved. Their decision is ultimately final; if you are awarded your settlement, chances are it is large enough that the hassles of trial will have been worth it. If not, the case is considered closed.
Van Law Firm Can Help You Every Step of the Way
If you have further questions about a potential personal injury claim, don’t hesitate to contact Van Law Firm right away for a free consultation and case evaluation. We can help guide you through every step of the aforementioned process, including a jury trial if need be. With a 5-star rating across Avvo, Google, and Yelp, it’s easy to see that our skills are both exceptional and diverse. Call our location nearest you today for more information about the VLF family.