You may feel lost with worry about what to do after a car accident. You are no doubt in pain. Your vehicle needs repairs or is totally destroyed. An insurance adjuster is calling you repeatedly trying to get you to make a statement and you are not sure that you should agree. The hospital just sent you a bill for several thousand dollars in the mail. You don’t know who to go to for help for your injuries. You are unsure if your health insurance is going to cover your medical bills, or, you might not have health insurance in the first place.
Who is going to help you get through all of this? One or more of these concerns has prompted you to look into hiring a lawyer to help you deal with all of these issues. The following chapter explains what you can expect when you hire a qualified personal injury lawyer, and how much they can help you.
1. A No Cost Initial Consultation with a Qualified Personal Injury Lawyer
The first step is the initial consultation with a caring personal injury lawyer who will want to know more about you and the accident. You should not have to meet with an assistant at the appointment. At the appointment, all aspects of the accident should be discussed with the lawyer. The topics will include the facts of the accident to determine exactly how and why the accident happened.
At the initial appointment, the lawyer will go over your injuries and the potential sources of recovery (including all sources of insurance that may be available to compensate you). The damages to your vehicle and property damages will be discussed. You should not be asked for money. If there is a good fit between you and lawyer, the lawyer will offer to represent you on a contingent fee basis. A good car accident lawyer will never ask you for money up-front and will not get any fees unless he or she is successful with your case.
After you have hired the lawyer, these are the steps that a good personal injury lawyer will take to help you with your car accident case:
2. Getting You the Right Medical Care
The most important consideration is to help you get medical attention and treatment for the injuries sustained in the accident. Our goal as injury lawyers is to make sure that you receive the best medical care possible, whether your injury is catastrophic or minor. If you do not have medical doctors and therapists, a good injury lawyer will work with affiliated physicians, facilities and therapists to get you all of the medical care that you may need after an accident.
A good injury lawyer will work with orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and sometimes chiropractors to get help for spinal injuries. There are other specialists like neurologists and neuropsychologists to help with traumatic brain injuries.
A qualified personal injury lawyer will work with psychologists and counselors to get their client help with mental suffering after an accident, if needed. If necessary and appropriate, your lawyer can ensure that you get needed surgery and other inpatient care following an accident. The inability to pay for costly medical care should not be an impediment on getting the best medical care after an accident.
It is important that you let your injury lawyer know of any issues that arise during the course of treatment. If the treatment chosen is not helping or not helping as fast as expected, the lawyer needs to hear from you so that he or she can address any and all medical needs you may have. A good lawyer will also check in with you regularly to make sure that your treatment is going smoothly and helping to address any issues.
The treatment course needs to be a joint effort of communication with the lawyer’s office, you and your medical providers. Please call your lawyer with any questions or concerns with your medical treatment. A good lawyer is there to help you.
3. Helping You with Your Damaged Vehicle
The lawyer will assist you in getting your vehicle repaired by the wrongdoer’s insurance company. If your vehicle is beyond repair, then the insurance company will declare your vehicle a “total loss.” If the vehicle is declared a total loss, then the insurance company must pay you the fair market value of the vehicle before the accident. If not a total loss, you are entitled to repairs and a rental during the reparation process.
The process of completing the property damage claim takes a joint collaboration with the law firm, the insurance company and you. You can help by working with the adjuster to provide the location of the vehicle, taking the vehicle to the repair shop that is chosen, and coordinating the repairs with the body shop. The lawyer and staff can help by making sure that the process of repairs runs smoothly and by seeing if there are any issues with the repairs. If the car is a total loss, the lawyer can help you determine if the amount offered is fair to you.
A good injury law firm will not charge any fee to assist personal injury clients with their property damage claim.
4. Establishing Liability of the At-fault Driver and Insurance Coverage
These are the steps that a good injury law firm will take to establish your claim. The lawyer and staff will obtain the accident report and review it to uncover any issues. The lawyer will undertake any investigation that is necessary to establish the other driver’s fault. That might mean talking to witnesses, speaking directly with the responding officer, reviewing or taking photos of the accident scene, inspecting the vehicles involved and going to the scene of the accident to take measurements.
The lawyer will then send a letter to the at-fault party and their insurance company to notify them of the claim. The lawyer will also send a letter to your automobile insurance company to determine if there is any coverage that may help with your medical bills and lost wages, like PIP or Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist protection. The lawyer will then work with the insurance adjuster by telephone and other communication with the goal of having the insurance company for the at-fault driver admit that their insured driver was at-fault (for settlement negotiation purposes) and verify that the insurance policy is in effect and covers your damages.
5. Pre-Lawsuit Settlement Negotiations
If liability is accepted by the insurance company, the next step a good injury attorney will undertake is to attempt a pre-lawsuit resolution of your claim. The lawyer will not attempt to settle your claim unless and until you have either fully recovered from your injuries or have met maximum medical improvement.
This is not a quick process. If the lawyer attempted to settle your case before you are done with your medical treatment, you might miss out on injuries that were uncovered during your treatment. The lawyer will not want to miss any item of damage that can be claimed for you in settlement negotiations. A quick settlement is almost always a bad settlement.
A question that we get asked many times during the process is, “What is the status of my case?” If the insurance company has accepted liability for the accident, then there is a period of time when you are getting medical treatment where communication with the insurance company is minimal.
There are sometimes when the lawyer might need to take immediate action to file a lawsuit on the behalf of our injured clients. For example, a lawsuit might have to be filed promptly when there are issues with the statute of limitations or there are immediate needs to preserve evidence or address catastrophic injuries. But the typical case doesn’t require the immediate need for a lawsuit.
In Texas, there are two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. It can be detrimental in some circumstances to file a lawsuit before you have reached maximum medical improvement because the court can make us deliver documents and evidence that has not fully been developed about your injuries or the accident.
Once your medical treatment is completed or the lawyer has a full picture of your medical damages and injuries, the lawyer will typically attempt to settle your case prior to the filing of a lawsuit. Sometimes a lawsuit is unavoidable, and a good lawyer is ready to file a lawsuit and take it to trial on your behalf if necessary. However, you might not need to go to court.
Our experience tells us that you are often times better off if you are able to settle your case before filing a lawsuit. A good accident lawyer will only settle your claim with your permission and if the lawyer believes the settlement offer is fair to you. A pre-lawsuit settlement will often times be beneficial by bringing prompt closure of the claim and eliminating the inherent risk of a lawsuit.
These are the types of damages that the lawyer will include in our comprehensive pre-lawsuit demand package to the insurance company:
- All Reasonable Medical Bills (past and future)
- Lost Wages and Lost Ability to Earn Wages in the Future
- Loss of Household Services
- Pain and Suffering
- Mental Anguish
- Permanent Impairment
6. Filing a Lawsuit and Taking the Case to Trial
If your claim cannot be settled with the insurance company for the at-fault driver or the need otherwise arises to file a lawsuit without pre-lawsuit negotiations, the lawyer will promptly file a lawsuit on your behalf. Filing a lawsuit is an intensive and time-consuming process. It can take more than a year, and often times longer, to finish the lawsuit process. These are the steps that will happen in your lawsuit:
- The lawsuit is filed and the defendant(s) have to respond.
- The parties in the lawsuit exchange written discovery like written questions called interrogatories and requests for production of relevant documents. During this phase, you will have to meet with your lawyer and staff to answer questions and supply documents to the other side.
- Depositions take place. This is where you will have to go to a court reporter’s office and give testimony under oath to the other lawyer. We will have the same opportunity to depose the at-fault driver, any witnesses and your medical providers.
- Mediation will take place after the above discovery takes place. Mediation is a court ordered settlement conference. A neutral person, called a mediator, will help both sides to attempt to settle the case before going to trial. The mediator chosen is an experienced lawyer or former judge that has extensive experience with personal injury lawsuits. This process is non-binding and confidential. Most but not all cases that are in the lawsuit phase settle at mediation.
- Trial takes place if the parties are not able to settle the case. The trial will be in front of a jury and both sides will try to win the case. A jury of 6 or 12 people will decide the issues of who is at-fault and how much money to award for damages and injuries.
- Appeal. If there are significant legal issues in the case, you might need to have the case appealed to a higher court. This is a rare occurrence, but it can happen if there was some error or irregularity in the trial that needs to be ruled on by a higher court.
Contact an El Paso personal injury lawyer today
If you have been the victim of a car accident in which you were not driving and sustained injuries due to this accident, get in touch with a personal injury lawyer today. At the Harmonson Law Firm, we’ve helped over 1,000 clients recover more than $25,000,000 in personal injury damages for various cases. Let us help you win the compensation you deserve so that you can move forward with your life.