Unpacking The Personal Injury Lawsuit Process

Unpacking The Personal Injury Lawsuit Process

Most people understand that following a personal injury, whether it is an automobile accident, slip and fall, or another injury caused by another’s negligence, it is initially merely a claim. Some people are comfortable dealing with the insurance adjusters directly while others will seek the advice of counsel. As with most professional solicitations, people want to ensure that the attorney has the experience, resources, and the time to handle their case effectively. Our office wants to address the injuries as well as the effects on employment, relationships, and the day-to-day quality of life. We ask about the vehicle involved to assess whether we need to assist in making a claim for diminished value and/or loss of use, which many firms refuse to handle.

If the client hires an attorney, the initial actions taken by the attorney involve discovering who is responsible and how much insurance is available to cover the injuries sustained, all while securing initial evidence and claims paperwork. If necessary, the attorney will provide a list of physicians for the client that might be beneficial for the injuries noted. This is often the case following a client calling their primary care physician only to be told that their personal physicians will not see them due to injuries related to an accident. The client is generally focused at this time, as they should be, on simply trying to get medical answers to feel better, and often, they are learning the extent of their injuries. This phase could take months or even years, depending on the nature of the injuries.

The reason for the timing is simple. No one should settle their case until they are comfortable with their physicians’ diagnosis as well as the prognosis. One would not want to settle a case too early, then find out that the pain in one’s arm is stemming from the neck and now surgery is being recommended to correct it. The values are dramatically changed by both the diagnosis (what is causing the pain) and the prognosis (what does this mean in my future?). The values are determined, for the most part, on these medical findings because a minor sprained ankle is clearly less valuable than a multi-fractured ankle. One injury has effects for a few weeks, while the other can bring a lifetime of activity changes, employment issues, future medicals, and much more pain and suffering.

Settlement discussions can commence once the client is comfortable with their treatment and their diagnosis/prognosis. The client and the attorney should discuss the values of their claim pre-suit compared to values that could be awarded at trial. The client and attorney should also discuss the risks in filing suit, what will be expected during litigation, and any possible foreseeable ‘bad results’ stemming from defenses, pre-existing conditions and/or personal issues that may prejudice a jury. The client should be making the decisions with the advice of counsel and their counsel should provide the information necessary so that the client may make “informed decisions”.

At Harris Guidi Rosner, we have clients initially meet with the attorney that is going to be handling their case. Often, this meeting takes place the same day as the accident or injury. The client and the attorney should take time to discuss expectations and all questions should be answered by an attorney. Our initial “signing up” never happens with an investigator or case manager since the client was seeking legal advice and nothing less.

If the insurance company fails to make a good faith offer after receiving all the medical records, bills, and information, then the protocol enacted by Harris Guidi Rosner makes a huge difference. Our clients are asked to sit down with their attorney to discuss both filing a lawsuit as well as what is preventing the insurance company from making the appropriate offer. No client should be surprised to discover that the defense is seeking all their medical records for the last ten years, all their work records, and all their personal information for the last decade, after the fact. The client should be informed of what to expect once a lawsuit is filed, including what to expect during the discovery phase, and especially what to expect if the matter goes to trial. The client should understand that their deposition will be taken and they will be involved in answering written questions under oath, sometimes concerning very personal matters.

A personal injury case is not always a comfortable experience, but having an attorney that responds to your questions and takes the time to explain the nature of the process is crucial.

At Harris Guidi Rosner, our attorneys are comfortable answering questions and handling our client’s case, because we know the client, met with the client initially, and have been following along with the client throughout the medical treatment process.

Together, we will ensure that the right decisions are made about your case.

Peter Shutters
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