How does the personal injury claim process work?
One of the most common questions our clients ask is, “What is the process of a personal injury claim?” Just like any other legal action, an injured person does not need an attorney to resolve their claim. However, most claims take months to resolve and countless hours of phone calls, emails, gathering evidence, negotiating, and frustration.
When most people are injured, they continue trying to live their normal lives. There are still jobs to attend, classes to pass, children to care for, and dinners to cook. Add in constant pain, doctors’ visits, and negotiating with an insurance company, then comes the frustration.
Settling a personal injury claim on your own can be difficult. There are many steps and the law is frequently changing. Insurance companies also try to pay as little as possible, so it is easy to see why a personal injury attorney is beneficial. That is why my favorite part of an initial meeting with a client is when I can say, “Now your only job is to get better.”
After calling our office our clients set up a meeting with an attorney either in our office, over the phone, or we come to them. During that meeting, we gather all the necessary information to open a claim with the insurance companies. We also ask about personal information such as our client’s hobbies, family life, and interests. This allows us to personalize our client’s claim with the insurance company. Our goal is to turn our clients from a claim number (which is all they are to an insurance company) and into an actual person.
When we take over the claim process, all our client has to do is follow their doctor’s recommendations and keep us updated on their treatment. We take care of the rest. After the first meeting, we set up the claims with the insurance companies. At that point, the insurance companies can no longer speak to our clients about their injuries or the accident. If an adjuster calls our client, we tell our client to say, “Call my attorney.”
After the claims are established, we ensure our clients receive the medical treatment they need to recover from their injuries. That often means sitting back and letting the medical professionals do their jobs. However, if there is ever an issue with a treating physician, we are there to advocate for our client. We have great relationships with many doctors and are happy to ask questions that our clients may find difficult to ask.
The goal is to have a treating physician eventually say, “You’re all better.” At that point, we request our client’s medical records and bills. If the physician determines the injuries are permanent, then we often help our clients find a doctor who can assess the permanence of their injuries.
Once we have all of the client’s medical records, bills, and reports, we write a demand letter. This letter begins the negotiation process. It lays out what happened in the accident, why the other person is at-fault, what medical treatment our client received, the injuries he or she sustained, and how it affected our client’s day-to-day life. Some claims also include verification of lost wages and the findings of medical experts.
We send the demand letter to the insurance adjuster along with all of the pertinent claim information. The adjuster then responds with an offer. This is when we heavily involve our clients. We explain the offer to our clients, tell them what we think the claim is worth, discuss the varying options, and give our recommendation on what the client should do. Typically, there are three options: accept the offer, counter, or file a lawsuit. We leave the decision up to our client after giving our expert recommendation. That way, our clients are in control of their own claims and do not have someone else making decisions for them.
Ideally, after a few back and forth counteroffers, the insurance adjuster offers a fair amount and we recommend our client accept the offer. If this does not happen and the insurance company refuses to offer a fair amount, then with our client’s consent, we file a lawsuit.
Lawsuits often sound scarier than they really are. In Arizona, we begin by filing a complaint with the court and serving the at-fault party. The insurance company then assigns an attorney who responds to our complaint. We then exchange information and evidence with the defense attorney and they schedule our client’s deposition. This is when the defense attorney asks our client questions under oath about the details surrounding the accident and medical treatment.
Often times, after a deposition, settlement negotiations open back up and the claim is resolved. If this does not occur then we move towards an arbitration hearing or trial. Again, trials in personal injury cases are very rare in Arizona.
Once the claim is settled or a jury, judge, or arbitrator make an award then oftentimes more negotiations ensue. This time, the negotiations are with hospitals and doctors. Many doctors will see personal injury client’s on a lien. This is when the doctors do not charge our clients upfront but agree to hold off collecting payment until the claim is resolved. There are statutes and rules that allow us to negotiate the amount of these liens on behalf of our clients.
After the insurance company writes a check, the medical providers agree to reduce their bills, and our client sings a settlement breakdown (which accounts for every penny of the settlement), then we cut a check for our client, pay the medical providers from the settlement funds, and the claim is resolved.
This process may seem tedious, but again, once you hire our team at Rep Law, all you have to focus on is getting better. We take care of the rest.