You’ve Decided to Hire an Attorney for your Personal Injury… Now what?

You’ve been injured in an accident. You’ve met with an attorney, who has decided to represent you. Now what?

The process of recovery for a personal injury is necessarily drawn out in many cases. There is a great deal of fact-finding and information gathering required before a settlement can be discussed. Generally, an attorney will consider certain factors and information when determining the merit of a particular case and a ball park of what amount the injured party may be able to recover as some form of relief.

The injured person does not usually have access to all the information an attorney needs to analyze a potential personal injury claim but can, nonetheless, be extremely helpful in assisting the attorney in determining how to advocate for their cause.  Accordingly, an attorney in these sorts of matters will consider the information provided by the injured person and apply that information to the analysis of the case.  The attorney will consider, for example:

–          What type of injury claim exists (car or motorcycle accident, slip and fall, etc.);

–          How the accident happened;

–          The type of injuries sustained;

–          Whether the injuries permanent;

–          Medical bills already incurred or are ongoing as a result of the injury;

–          Any and all lost wages as a result of the injury;

–          The insurance company of the person who injured the person;

–          The background of the person who caused the injury;

–          Any doctors and experts that may need to be hired as a result; and

–          The cost of the investigative process.

Typically, unless the healing process is going to take over two years, it does not make sense to discuss settlement prior to finishing your recovery process. In Arizona there is a two year statute of limitations for personal injury, meaning you have two years after the incident to actually file your case in court. In that time, you should continue to receive treatment until your physician recommends that you have finished your recovery process. If you try to discuss a settlement too early, then you may not have all of the information regarding how much your medical bills will cost.

When your attorney takes your case, he or she will send a packet to the at-fault party and/or their insurance company to let the at-fault party and/or adjuster know that you are represented by an attorney, and that any communication should be handled through the attorney. This letter will keep insurance adjusters from bothering you and trying to force you into a pre-mature settlement before you have had a chance to consider the costs you’ve incurred due to the accident.

Once you’ve completed treatment, you will want to send your attorney a copy of all of your medical bills. Your attorney also will request a copy of a medical release authorization form signed by you. This document will be necessary for your attorney to receive copies of your medical records related to the injury. Your attorney may request a limited power of attorney, which would allow the attorney to receive any recovery checks on your behalf. You should also provide your attorney with any copies of paystubs showing your lost wages if you have been out of work due to the accident. Depending upon the individual case, there may be more information requested specific to the case at hand.

Once you and your attorney have all of this information compiled, a demand packet is sent to the insurance adjuster and/or the at-fault party explaining your damages from the accident and requesting a monetary fee as a settlement. From there on out, the attorney’s job is to negotiate a fair settlement for you. If the insurance company simply will not offer a fair settlement, at that time the attorney may advise you regarding the pros and cons of accepting a low settlement or filing a Complaint in court. If you choose to settle, you will have to sign a release for the insurance company, and, in exchange will receive a payment. If you choose to file a Complaint, the matter then proceeds through the court system until either a settlement is achieved or a trial or arbitration is held to render a decision on the matter.

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