Most people looking for a personal injury lawyer after a car accident or other serious incident don’t know what to expect when contacting a law firm.
Pop culture often portrays lawyers as intense, well-dressed, and more concerned with legal technicalities than the people they represent. While this may be true of a few lawyers, many are down-to-earth and genuinely sympathize with their clients and the issues they are suffering.
Empathy and compassion are particularly important traits to look for when hiring a personal injury attorney. Injured victims need someone willing to actively listen to their problems and have a plan to support them during the legal process.
A good personal injury lawyer has experience with the following:
- Thoroughly investigating accidents for liability, causation, and damages
- Verifying insurance coverages of both the client and defendant
- Communicating with the client during the medical treatment phase to record all appointments, tests, and referrals
- Collecting all medical records to create a solid demand package to send to the insurance company once treatment has ended
- Negotiating the highest possible settlement with the insurance company
- If negotiations fail, taking the insurance company and defendant to court and arguing before a jury for a fair settlement
You should expect the best when it comes to legal representation after a serious accident. Find someone who specializes in personal injury and offers free consultations.
They Are Your Representative
Once you sign the paperwork to hire an attorney, they will want to set up a meeting to discuss your personal injury case in greater detail. This gives them a chance to explain the process step by step, how communication is conducted, and what to expect when it comes to dealing with the insurance company.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is the time for you to get to know your lawyer. It’s their job to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision about your personal injury case.
At the same time, don’t hold information back. If you filed for bankruptcy, were arrested, or suffered a previous accident some years ago, your attorney needs to know these things. A personal injury lawyer can’t effectively represent a client if they don’t have all the necessary information they need. You wouldn't want the insurance company to know more about you than your lawyer when it’s time to negotiate a settlement.
Investigating the Accident
During the initial stages of a personal injury case, a lawyer investigates every aspect of the incident for evidence. This evidence helps them prove the three elements necessary for a personal injury claim to be successful: liability, causation, and damages.
A personal injury lawyer must prove that the defendant was negligent and that this negligence was the cause of the wreck and your injuries. They must also gather information regarding the damages sustained to the vehicle and property in the incident. Police reports, witness statements, video, and other evidence must be collected quickly during this stage.
Verifying Insurance Coverage
Insurance is what covers the costs involved in a personal injury case. A personal injury lawyer will need to know the defendant's auto insurance information so they can get in touch with the insurance adjuster overseeing the personal injury claim. The lawyer will also need their client’s health insurance information and review their auto insurance policy to see if med-pay coverage and uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage is available.
It is important for clients to seek the medical treatment they need to recover from all their injuries. A personal injury attorney will need to be kept informed of any updates regarding appointments, tests, referrals, etc., so they have an accurate list of all medical professionals and procedures involved. This includes but is not limited to:
- Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) at the scene of the accident and ambulance
- Emergency room nurses and physicians
- Medical doctors and specialists (physiatrists, orthopedists, neurologists, etc.)
- Medical testing (X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, EMGs, etc.)
- Physical and mental therapists
Keeping your appointments and maintaining communication with your attorney during the treatment phase will help things go much smoother when it's time to collect medical records for the demand.
Crafting the Demand
Once a client has completed treatment for their injuries — and the doctor has released them from their care — the personal injury attorney will promptly order all medical records. This process can take several weeks and may require follow-up calls.
The attorney will also need to review all lost wage information and tax returns. This will help them show the insurance company the financial losses suffered while a client was unable to work.
Once completed, a personal injury attorney compiles all of this information into a demand package. The demand package illustrates a person’s injuries, medical care, future medical needs, disability, and wage loss. The attorney will need the approval of the client before issuing the demand package to the insurance company.
The insurance company reviews the demand to determine if the treatment undergone was reasonable and necessary. After several weeks, they will issue a response.
Negotiating a Settlement
Once the insurance company responds to a personal injury demand, it is time to negotiate the settlement. This phase may take some time as the attorney and insurer argue back and forth about how much the case is worth.
A personal injury attorney’s job during this phase is to push the insurance company for as high an amount as possible. Most personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis; the more they win for their clients, the more they earn in attorney fees.
A lawyer cannot make a demand, offer a negotiation, or settle a personal injury case without their client’s approval each step of the way. They will advise a person on the best course of action, but the ultimate decision to accept a settlement amount is up to the client.
Filing a Lawsuit
In rare cases, it may be necessary to file a suit against the insurance company and the defendant. The insurer may not want to pay out a large sum and hopes that by delaying as much as possible the client will fold rather than go to court. In other cases, the insurance adjuster is skeptical of a client’s injuries and doesn’t believe they deserve a large settlement.
An experienced personal injury attorney will advise their client on the wisest course of action. Bringing a personal injury case before a jury is risky, but it often has the potential to pay out far more than offered during the negotiation phase.
Not all personal injury lawsuits make it to trial though. Sometimes the insurance company finally agrees to settle if their team of lawyers doesn’t feel confident that a trial will have a favorable outcome.
Don’t Wait to Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer After an Accident
Time is of the essence. The insurance adjuster may try to pressure you into signing documents you don’t understand or offer a small check for your damages. Don’t fall for these tricks; doing so often means forfeiting the right to file a personal injury claim.
Talk to a personal injury lawyer who will take your case seriously from the start. Gary Martin Hays & Associates’ Atlanta personal injury lawyers serve clients throughout Georgia and the Southeast. We understand what it takes to get results and come highly recommended.
If you ever have a question about a severe accident or personal injury claim, help is just a phone call away. Call (770) 934-8000 for a free, no-obligation consultation.