1. Notice of Representation
A person injured in a car wreck hires attorney, who will notify the Insurance Company that you have retained an attorney. This letter is called a Notice of Representation. The main purpose of the letter is to prevent the insurance company from sending you letters or calling you. All communication will go through your attorney or take place in the presence of your attorney. If you are contacted by the insurance company, don’t talk to them, just give them your attorney’s name and number.
2. Gathering of Accident Facts
While you are being treated by a doctor for your injuries, your attorney will be gathering all the facts on the accident. He will gather witnesses, police reports, information on other drivers, photographs and medical records of your treatment. When your medical treatment is done, the records will usually be provided within a few weeks.
3. Demand Package
When all of your records and bills have been obtained, your attorney is in a position to make a complete evaluation of your injuries and damages to send a demand package to the insurance company. Your attorney will demand a settlement amount greater than what he feels your claim is worth. Remember that the settlement demand does not always reflect the true value of your claim. It is simply a starting point for negotiations.
4. What is My Case Worth?
The short answer, probably not as much as you think. Television and other news media tend to exaggerate what people recover for car accident cases. It is not newsworthy when a person recovers a reasonable amount. Other sources of misinformation are the “Stop Lawsuit Abuse” organizations, whose mission is to lower the amounts juries award accident, victims. They are not grass-root organizations, but well-organized ad campaigns financed by big business and the insurance industry, to convince the public that accident victims receive too much money or are faking their injuries. It is also common for friends, family or co-workers to give their opinions about what your claim is worth. This information is usually misleading and can be very frustrating because it creates unrealistic expectations about what a claim is really worth.
5. Negotiating The Settlement with Insurance Company
After the insurance company receives the demand package, it will be evaluated by an insurance adjuster. Adjusters have a certain amount of authority to settle claims. If the amount of the claim is higher than their authority, they must go to a supervisor with more authority. This whole process could take several months to complete. Remember the insurance adjuster, is trying to settle as quick and as cheap as possible because the insurance company is in the business to make money and pay as little or nothing if possible.
6. Settle or go to Trial
It is your decision whether to accept or reject a settlement offer. You will decide whether to take the money offered or go forward with litigation. You must consider how much your time is worth. A lawsuit can take up to two years, and if you win the other side can appeal adding a couple more years to the process. How comfortable are you with taking risks. A jury might award less or no money at all. Further, the added cost of litigation may reduce the amount of money received.