So, you’ve been injured in a serious car accident, and you’re pretty sure you have a case and will need a lawyer. You’re probably wondering what the next steps in the process are going to be. We’ll walk you through it.
- Throughout: Seek and continue thorough medical treatment.
Of course, we assume that you’ll have started this process already. But it’s important that you continue to receive the full and complete treatment you require. Don’t hold off on seeing doctors because you’re hoping to receive funds. This will give the impression that your injuries are not serious.
- Get the accident report.
Although accident reports are not typically admitted as evidence in court, they can help you and your lawyer settle a case in your favor.
Request the full police accident report from your accident by contacting the police department who came out to investigate. You may need to pay a small fee to obtain it. We can help with this, if you like. Incidentally, if there is a factual error in the report, it may be possible to amend it, depending on what the error is.
- Schedule a consultation with a lawyer.
After choosing a lawyer to represent you, call and schedule a consultation. Make sure you bring all documents related to your case, including the accident report, photos of the car and accident scene if you have them, and copies of medical bills, photos of the injury, and evidence of treatment.
You’ll also need to be prepared with information regarding your car insurance and medical insurance policies. Be ready to take notes.
- Sign a contingency fee contract with your lawyer.
This is a legal agreement between you and your lawyer. In a personal injury case, it will typically state that your lawyer will not receive any funds until you recover money. At that time, the lawyer receives an agreed-upon percentage of the settlement called a contingency fee. This is typically about 1/3rd or 33.33% of the settlement.
You will also agree not to do anything to harm the case and not to talk about the case with others. You will need to sign some HIPAA forms (HIPAA protects your medical privacy) so we can order your medical records directly.
- Notify your insurance companies
You’ll want to notify your own auto insurance carrier immediately. Remember, we are a NO FAULT state, so your insurance will be involved even when you are not at fault. Also, the amount of NO FAULT or PIP coverage you receive can be limited if you don’t notify your carrier and seek medical treatment within the first 14 days. You’ll also want to provide copies of your complete policies for use by your lawyer.
- Prepare and submit a demand package
With your assistance, your lawyer will put together a demand package stating the facts of the case. This will include:
- All the details of your accident, including photos, the police report, etc.
- Copies of all medical records from your treatment
- Copies of all medical bills you have paid so far
- A demand for compensation
Your lawyer will also help you consider and value all possible losses in your case. Have you missed work? Is your spouse affected? Was there emotional suffering? You may not have considered all these factors.
This demand will then be sent to the involved insurance companies.
Note: not all demand packages are good demand packages! A skilled lawyer will put together a demand package that is neat and properly organized and contains all the appropriate detail.
- Negotiate a fair settlement
Once the package is submitted, the insurance company usually gets about 30 days to make their first response. At this point there will likely be some “back and forth” between your lawyer and the company as they negotiate the amount and terms of the settlement. This process can take days or many months. This is normal, but your patience is necessary, because if the insurance company suspects any financial desperation they will offer less money.
Remember: an insurance adjuster’s goal is to keep as much money in the pocket of their company as possible. This is where an experienced lawyer really works for you. He or she does this all the time and knows how to negotiate the best settlement possible. Your lawyer has handled many cases like yours and knows who to call, what paperwork to file, and how to handle insurance adjusters who may be aggressive, overworked, or unreasonable.
- If negotiation fails: File a lawsuit
Over 90% of personal injury claims resulting from car accidents are settled satisfactorily out of court, without filing a lawsuit. However, if negotiation does fail, your lawyer will file a lawsuit. This is called litigation. Litigation is the process where the case is prepared for trial.
This is a time-consuming process that requires patience on all sides, but it is sometimes necessary in order to gain satisfaction in a particularly complex case. Florida law requires cases to go to mediation prior to trial; over 90% of cases in litigation are settled at mediation. If mediation fails, then we finish preparing for trial.