Do I Have A Claim? If So, Whats Next? First, we need to look into whether or not you have a claim. This process is aside from your property damage. Most often, this would start with obviously being injured and having to be transported from the scene to a hospital. However, its not always that simple. I have had clients who have denied being transported to the hospital because they felt that they weren't injured, only to wake up the next day with intense pain and then going into treatment. Studies show that often times, injuries that aren't readily apparent will manifest themselves in days to come after an accident. So, having yourself examined as soon as possible is pivotal! Likely, if you have any type of medical bills stemming from your accident, you have a claim. Meeting With An Attorney After researching for a reputable injury attorney, you will need to schedule an appointment with that attorney to give you a free consultation. Prior to meeting with you, the attorney should have asked a number of questions so that he or she has a plan of action according to your circumstances. During this meeting, you will likely need to sign an engagement agreement, HIPPA release, and perhaps a conflict of interest letter (if he or she is representing more that one person in the accident). Your attorney should go over their payment structure during this meeting which will likely be a 1/3 payment to the firm from anything you recover in a settlement and if the case were to go to litigation it would be a 40% payment. Further, it is not unusual for a firm to deduct expenses for your case from your payout. Treatment & Collection Of Records Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may or may not still be in treatment when its time to meet with your attorney, but that is ok. The most important part of this section is that YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR. If the doctor say's "go see a specialist" then you need to do so. This can be the most frustrating part to clients because it can take the longest amount of time. However, its pivotal that you complete your treatment and we have records documenting your journey to recovery. We don't want to start requesting records right away, because if we do, and you're not done with treatment and we settle and then it comes about that you may need surgery, you won't be able to recover for the surgery and that cost will be on you. So its best to wait it out until you're all done with treatment, then start requesting medical records and billing statements. Patients is key. It is your attorney's job to request these records, which is why you would have singed a HIPPA release. So just focus on your recovery. What if you're not done with treatment prior to the statute of limitations? That is okay too, your attorney will likely suggest that you go ahead and file your case to preserve it. Demand Package To get the insurance company on the same page as us, attorney's will put together what is called a demand package. Generally in this package will be your medical bill's, medical treatment, as well as a letter from your attorney outlining your claim. Within this letter will be a demand for payment in the amount that you and your attorney feel is fair. This package will be sent to the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim. It can take a few weeks for them to review, so again, patients is key. Once they review the package, they will get in contact with your attorney and likely make a low counter offer. Settlement Negotiations When the adjuster counters, its going to be low. No doubt about it. They may even deny liability. BUT if your attorney is worth anything at all, that won't stop him or her from getting a proper settlement (or going to trial. See next section). When negotiations start, your attorney needs to be in constant contact with you. Communication is key in this regard because the faster he gets offers to you, the faster you can accept or deny. It's ultimately up to you whether or not you settle, your attorney is there to advise you the pro's and con's to whatever decision you make. Litigation (If Needed) You attorney should explain and map out a plan of action if there is a stall in negotiations. Due to insurance companies constant unwillingness to negotiate on certain claims, filing a lawsuit is often the only course of action to keep the claim alive and get clients justice they deserve. If it comes to this, the attorney will draft a complaint and file it where the case has jurisdiction. Throughout litigation, negotiations will proceed. Its not unusual to reach an agreement prior to trial, but it could take a significant amount of time and expense. Whats the motto? Patients is key. Closing The File After your claim has been closed (via settlement or verdict) your attorney will likely have a settlement or disbursement agreement (we always do this). The reason I have a disbursement agreement is because I want clients to know exactly where their settlement is going. Whether that be a certain amount to subrogate your insurance, pay your attorney their 30%-40% fee, or to the expenses of your case. After you are made aware of everything your payment is going to, your attorney will have a check made out to you! A COUPLE OF RED FLAGS TO AN INJURY CASE - Gaps in treatment: Generally speaking, if you have had 6 weeks between treatments, this can effect your claim. Make sure you are going to your follow up appointments as scheduled!
- Only chiropractic treatment: Chiropractic services help people everyday, I'm a fan. However, for an injury claim, if you go straight to a chiropractor and don't get check out by your primary care physician or another MD, that could present an issue in your claim. Note: We all have had cases where there was only chiropractic treatment and settlement offer was good and also had cases with only chiropractic treatment where the offer to settle was low. Like I said, its a red flag with a lot of hurdles. Not impossible to overcome.
- No police report: This is somewhat of a red flag because it doesn't make a clear assessment of liability. However, like stated above, not impossible to overcome.
These red flags won't deny you the right to recovery, but they could certainly give you issues when attempting to find an attorney to take your case. Just beware.