Every injured person’s claim is unique in many ways. Obviously, different people and personalities are involved, and different companies, with every accident. Facts and circumstances of the crash or event are different, and the injuries they produce.
Different insurers will appoint different attorneys, and each has a unique style and approach to working with accident victims. As if playing a game of chicken, some begin with a hard stance, forcing many cases to progress to a lawsuit. They wait until trial is approaching before opening to negotiations. Others aim to settle claims early on to avoid the time and expense the other approach requires.
In any case, there’s a usual path that most claims follow, whether in Bellingham or any other place in Washington. In this two-part post I’ll trace the steps to give you a general idea of what to expect for typical personal injury claims. The first phase is “Pre-Lawsuit Activity” and the next is “Post-Lawsuit Activity”.
- Injury Occurs: The most important thing to do after the injury happens is to make sure you get the appropriate medical treatment immediately. For many people, this means a trip to the emergency room, but others may have to initiate that first visit to their doctor. It is critical to receive medical attention right away.
- Who’s at Fault?: This will be an inevitable question that arises after an injury, and often it’s temping to discuss, or accuse, right at the scene. Avoid on scene decisions about fault and do not admit any. To best understand your rights, contact a personal injury lawyer who can answer questions about fault and liability.
- Contact a Lawyer: It’s in accident victims’ best interest to learn their rights – don’t leave it to others to volunteer this information. Explain your case to an attorney and he or she can tell you whether or not you have a case and next steps. It’s best to retain a lawyer early in the process so that evidence is still fresh.
- Does the Person Responsible for the Injuries have Insurance or Money?: The lawyer should immediately take the steps necessary to determine if the responsible party has any money or insurance to pay the injured party. This is where an experienced attorney’s skill and creativity comes into play. Bill Coats Law has found money where a different attorney had thought the funds were exhausted, and found more money strategically.
- Permanent vs. Non-Permanent injuries: The nature of the injuries have a significant bearing on how a case is handled. Life-long, permanent injuries have far-reaching consequences and calculations for the victim and caretakers. Injuries that eventually heal and lead to full recovery can typically be settled through negotiations with the insurer, which saves extra fees and costs compared to filing a lawsuit. But if a lawsuit is the only way that the insurance company will sit down at the table, it helps to have a lawyer who has a track record of wins to file it.
- The Demand Letter: Smaller Cases Involving Non-Permanent Injuries: Once the injured person(s) have finished medical treatment, the attorney writes a letter to the insurance adjuster with a settlement demand included. There’s a lot that goes into this letter, and normally it’s quite long. It summarizes the events that led to the injury, what medical treatment was completed, and the costs associated with treating the injury. This letter must also detail how the injured was affected, including pain, suffering, anxiety and physical limitations that arose out of the injuries. There are many other impacts and associated costs that may be relevant and would be included, such as lost wages. The attorney includes records to back up these statements, such as medical records. Next, settlement discussions take place. At each step during the negotiations, the client is kept in the loop.
If you or a loved one has been hurt because of someone else’s mistake, Bill Coats Law is here to help you. No one can help you fully recover the pain and suffering, lost time or maybe even lives. But financial compensation is available to you. An experienced, skilled lawyer can help you get that. Call Bill Coats at 360-303-0601, or through this form. You can learn more about personal injury law here.