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Real-World Answers: How a Personal Injury Lawsuit Works

Posted by Scot D. Goldberg | May 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

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Hopefully, you have never been in the position of having suffered a severe personal injury in a crash. The aftermath of a serious accident injury - an automobile or motorcycle crash, an injury suffered on your job site, or you slipped and fell down in a local store - can be a devastating and life-changing event. The confusion and misunderstanding about exactly what to do next can seem unbearable.

A personal injury case can be very different than most other types of legal cases, in that in most instances, people are going through it for the first time. You may have dealt with a family law practice about a divorce, or an estate attorney to help you draw up your will, but a serious accident is not something you plan for.

Many people do not fully understand all the facets involved in representing someone who has suffered an injury as the result of another person's carelessness, recklessness or negligence.

At The Goldberg Law Firm, our goal is to provide useful information about what you should do after a crash resulting in serious injury, and exactly what you can expect to happen if you hire us. By giving you facts and knowledge you can use, you'll be in a better position to make some serious decisions immediately following an accident.

In this report, we'll outline some of the steps and procedures you can anticipate if you decide to pursue a legal claim against the party that you feel is responsible for your injury.

First, let's look at the four main steps in the personal injury claim process:

Step 1: Gathering Information

Step 2: Preparing a Settlement Package

Step 3: Negotiation of Settlement, or Filing A Lawsuit

Step 4: Disbursement of Funds

Step 1: Gathering Information

In order to best present your case and provide you with the highest caliber of legal representation, we'll need as much information as possible. Here are the main types of details that will be needed:

The Facts of Your Case - No detail is too small when it comes to the specifics of your case. In most cases, you will be providing this information, but many times input from others will be required. The law enforcement officials who first investigated the accident itself, any witnesses to the accident, even your attorney visiting the scene of the accident - these are all part of the information-gathering process. We will obtain a copy of the official police report, but experience has proven that there are often many more details than those that may be in that report.

That's what we do - after so many years of successfully representing accident victims, we know what to look for, and where to find it.

Medical Treatments – We will monitor and track all of your ongoing medical treatments, and compile all of the necessary documentation. It is critical that you are seeing the specific type of doctor or other healthcare provider you need to recover from your injuries to the best of your ability. This process can take a considerable amount of time, but it is crucial so that we can fully prepare to document your case until you have reached what is called “maximum medical improvement”, or MMI. Your continued treatment during this stage is essential.

Medical Costs and Records - Any and all medical receipts, billing, and other records will need to be furnished to us. You may have difficulty obtaining these on your own, but we can handle getting all pertinent records on your behalf. You most likely will also be asked to supply medical records from before the injury, in order to determine if you had any pre-existing injuries or conditions that may affect the outcome of your case.

Collecting all of your medical documents will continue for as long as you are still receiving any form of treatment for your injuries. There may be additional medical procedures, rehabilitation or physical therapy sessions and other procedures that need to be documented. During this process, our attorneys, paralegals and staff will assist with gathering all of your medical paperwork to ensure everything is properly documented.

Insurance Information - In order to best determine exactly who is responsible for your injuries, we will perform an in-depth evaluation of all of your insurance information. Attorney Michael Noone is a former senior insurance claims adjusters, and has a complete understanding of automobile insurance coverage and the law.

The attorneys at The Goldberg Law Firm will examine your own coverage levels relating to liability, uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage, medical expense coverage and more. We'll also take on the task of communicating with your insurance carrier, as well as that of the other parties involved in your case, to uncover any and all potential sources of financial compensation for your injuries. Once you hire our firm, all interaction, communication and conversation about your case should be handled by us.

Instantly, your problems become our problems. You can rest assured we're on top of every single aspect of your case.

Loss of Work / Other Damages - Your injury may have caused you to miss time from your job, or in severe injury cases, to have been rendered unable to continue to earn a living at all. We will work with your employer to verify and accurately document those details.

In addition to the injuries that are apparent immediately after your accident, there are many situations in which a specific type of long-term injury may prevent you from returning to your former job. Our job is to uncover and explore all potential avenues of recovery in order to obtain the maximum financial compensation to which you are entitled under the law.

This first stage of building your case can sometimes last until you are finished being treated for your injuries, or until it has been determined that you have reached the maximum level of medical improvement.  Because once you agree to a financial settlement, you will not be able to file any further claims.

Step 2: Preparing the Settlement Package

Once all of the initial information needed to demand a settlement is gathered, we'll begin to prepare a settlement package. This package will be a comprehensive overview of your case, an explanation of our position on exactly why you are entitled to financial compensation, and all records of your injury, treatments and future medical prognosis.

The purpose of the package is to present your case to the attorneys and adjusters who work for the insurance companies of the person who is responsible for your accident. Keep in mind, their job is to prevent you from recovering any monies for your injuries, or at minimum present a low-ball offer. (Please click here for more on how insurance companies operate).

The preparation of the settlement package is critical to overcoming their reluctance. The work and time that go into your settlement package will show the insurance company that we are fully prepared and willing to go to court if an agreeable settlement cannot be reached. Even when a claim for damages appears to be completely meritorious, insurance companies are reluctant to pay. We love going to trial – and all the insurance companies know it.  

This step in the process can take a few weeks or even months, and sometimes more paperwork and evidence are required. After the settlement package is complete, we will review it thoroughly with you before formally presenting it to the insurance company.

Step 3: Negotiation of Settlement, or Filing A Lawsuit

You can expect the insurance company to not accept the initial terms of the settlement package, which is where the expert negotiation abilities of a skilled lawyer become critically important.

The speed at which the insurance company reviews the settlement package and provides a response can vary greatly, from weeks to months. Generally, we will allow a reasonable amount of time - generally 30 business days - to receive their response before they begin to follow up on your behalf.  If an offer of settlement is made, it will be reviewed thoroughly with you to best plan your next course of action. In most cases, there will be many back-and-forth offers and counteroffers proposed in the process of agreeing on an appropriate amount. Again, this process can take an extensive length of time, but is necessary to ensure you receive fair and just compensation for your injuries. Insurance companies and the industry as a whole are in business to make money, and paying out claims to those who have been injured in an accident is their last resort. Their attorneys will do everything in their power to refuse to pay, or to reduce the amount you are seeking.

This process can seem like an eternity to the injured person. But, you need to know we will be working diligently on your behalf, and aggressively representing your best interests at all times.

Should the parties involved be unable to reach a suitable settlement agreement, then the decision becomes whether or not to proceed to file a lawsuit, and go to trial. Recently, insurance companies have demonstrated by their conservative settlement offers that they are willing to go to trial, however most cases are settled before that actually happens.

Essentially, there are only two factors that determine whether it is in your best interest to proceed with a trial. The first is proving liability, meaning it must be clear that the other party was responsible, or at least partially responsible, for causing the accident that resulted in your injuries. Secondly, the damages you have incurred - both physical and financial - must be substantial enough to warrant a lawsuit.

Some Things To Consider About Filing A Lawsuit

A Serious Decision – We will represent you and your best interests from day one, and we always prepare the facts of your case as if we're going to file a lawsuit, every time. We will completely examine the entire circumstances of your case with you, and carefully evaluate the need to file a lawsuit or not. The fact is, through aggressive mediation efforts, most cases are settled prior to going to trial. This phase is called the discovery stage, and you will need to provide videotaped depositions, plus answer interrogatories from us, as well as from the other parties' representatives.

The discovery process is critical in successful trial preparation. The amount of work that goes into the discovery process will usually determine the outcome - well before a jury ever has a chance to hear a word of testimony.

Proving Your Case – Our job is to prove that the other party was responsible for causing your injuries.  This can become much more difficult than it appears, for many reasons, For example, generally something the investigating police officer recorded in his police report won't be admissible as evidence - the officer would need to personally testify in court.

Even your medical records are generally not admissible as evidence of your injuries unless a physician authenticates them - the courts require all treating physicians to provide testimony either in person at the trial, or by recorded deposition. We will solicit those medical opinions from your physicians.

You vs Them - Where's The Insurance Company? - Most people have the misconception that a jury will assume your case is between two insurance companies. In fact, jurors will be lead to think it is you against the other driver, because Florida law does not allow jurors to know that there are insurance companies involved, (except in uninsured motorist cases), even though the defense attorney across the courtroom works for the other driver's insurance carrier.

What Will The Jury Think? - There are many people who feel that all lawsuits are frivolous, and that the only reason they exist is to fatten the wallets of the lawyers involved. However, experience has shown that once a person goes through the process of a court trial personally, - whether as a juror, plaintiff or defendant - they quickly realize that going to trial is not undertaken in a frivolous way, and that no one benefits from going into a trial that has no merit.

Set 4: Disbursement of Funds

If your case is settled with an insurance company before going to trial, the insurance company will send a release, and your settlement check. In most cases, the check is made payable to you and to our law firm's Trust Account. Upon clearance of the funds, we will have a complete accounting of any costs payed out on your behalf, and whether there remain any outstanding demands for payment by health care providers or others involved in your case.   

Your approval is required to pay any remaining demands for payment, after which a final disbursement letter will be presented to you. Once that is executed, you will receive your payment.

No Settlement Means No Attorney Fees

If we are unable to secure a suitable settlement for you, you will not owe us a fee for our services. We earn our fees on a contingency basis, which is based on a percentage of the total recovery amount.  

Suffering a serious injury or being involved in any type of accident is a traumatic experience. The attorneys at Goldberg & Noone, LLC, are fully prepared to work tirelessly to ensure that all of your needs are met, and that you are 100% satisfied with the final outcome of your case.

Please don't make the mistake of doing nothing after a crash, or of waiting too long to take action. One simple phone call to our firm at 239-461-5508 will get you a free, no obligation consultation with us to review your circumstances and see how can help. Or, just fill out this simple form and an attorney will contact you right away.

About the Author

Scot D. Goldberg

Local People. Local Practice. Local Knowledge. Scot Goldberg is a founding partner of the Goldberg Law Firm. See his attorney profile for more information.

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