Case Stages After a Personal Injury or Car Accident
Initial Consultation with a Personal Injury Attorney
Your free initial consultation with Hutzler Law will be one of the most critical meetings concerning your personal injury case. During this meeting, your attorney that will personally manage your case will begin gathering information about your accident. This will be an in-depth interview and will most likely be the longest meeting you will have as part of your case.
Personal injury attorney Jason Hutzler has worked on both sides of the legal process and understands the entire process. On average, 95 percent of our cases settle long before they need to go to trial. However, we prepare each case right from the start as if they were going to trial because we find this advantageous to our clients.
Each part of your case will be handled in stages. Having an understanding of each step will help you monitor the progress of your case. Each stage can take a different length of time to complete, and each stage must follow a specific order so that your claim has the best possible outcome.
Gathering Information After an Injury or Car Accident
Once your Phoenix car accident lawyer has completed your initial consultation, your case will move into the information gathering stage. During this stage, your attorney and the professional support staff at Hutzler Law will begin gathering information from different sources regarding your case. This information will include:
- Notifying the insurance company that you have retained an attorney to manage your case.
- Notifying medical providers that are managing your injuries that you have retained an attorney and request your medical records.
- Notifying any medical care providers that have outstanding bills that you have retained an attorney and request medical records.
- Requesting payroll information from your employer.
- Requesting the police report for your accident.
When we notify the hospitals and treating physicians that we are representing your personal injury case, we will ask them to refrain from discussing your injuries, treatments, and other relevant medical information with the insurance company. We will also inform them that you will sign a lien guaranteeing their payment for any treatments that you received as part of your accident that has an outstanding balance. The fees for these treatments will come from any settlement that you receive; you will not have to pay these bills at this time.
We will also interview the police officers who arrived at the scene of the accident and any documented witnesses about the event. If we believe that there is information missing or that the information is not correct, we will bring in an accident reconstructing service to get a more accurate perspective of what happened during the accident.
We will also contact your employer to verify work information, pay rates, benefits information, and the amount of time missed from work due to your accident. If any special experts are needed, we will contact them during this period as well. The costs for expert services can be paid upfront, or you can opt to have these costs deducted from your final settlement.
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Claim Analysis After a Car Accident or Injury
The insurance company is going to try to close your case as soon as possible after the accident. The adjustors can be very aggressive about this, and many start trying to settle the case within 24 hours of the accident happening. We encourage you to refrain from settling your case too soon and never settle before speaking with an attorney.
To find the entire value of your compensation claim, you will need to know important information. You and your attorney will need extensive information from your doctor. Some of this relevant information includes your maximum medical improvement (MMI) information, and if you will incur future medical costs to manage your injury.
You should never consider settling your case before a complete investigation and information gathering is complete. On average, it can take up to six (6) weeks for the law firm to get a majority of the relevant information from various sources. It will take longer if the party sending the information was delayed, or if interviews of accident witnesses cannot be scheduled quickly.
If your medical care exceeds this time, which it often does with serious injuries, you should not even consider settling the case until you have reached MMI, and your doctor has released you. This can take several months. It is vital that you know the medical outcome of your injury so that you can negotiate a full and fair settlement.
If the insurance policy covering your accident requires mandatory arbitration, this could increase the length of time that is necessary to settle your case. It is not unusual for the court docket to be scheduled out a full year in advance for arbitration hearings. If you desire to appeal the mandatory arbitration, your attorney will have to file an appeal with the County Superior Court, asking that the case be released for trial.
If a settlement cannot be reached prior to the set trial date, you can expect that the case will take several more months to close. Although Hutzler Law prepares each case from the start for trial, many law offices do not. You must also consider that there could be a delay in getting a trial date for your case due to court scheduling.
Throughout the claims process, your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company. They will try to get the insurer to settle for a fair amount without having to extend the process by going to trial or arbitration. All offers made will be presented to you. However, your attorney will make recommendations on whether you should take the offer or wait for a better one. Ultimately, the decision is yours when it is time to settle the case.
Other Areas That May Affect Your Car Accident Claim
There are different situations that may apply to your case that could change the length of time it takes to settle the claim or will have a direct impact on your compensation amount. These may or may not apply to your situation. Your attorney at Hutzel Law will inform you if any of these scenarios apply to your case.
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Property Damages from an Accident
Property damage that you incurred as part of your accident is handled separately from your personal injury claim. Your insurer will settle this portion of your claim reasonably quickly. In most cases, your attorney will have little to do with this portion of your insurance claim unless your insurer is trying to undercut your claim.
Personal property damages apply to all of the damages to your vehicle and will include some personal property damages that happened inside the vehicle. For example, if you have your laptop in the back seat and that area of your car is hit and damages the computer, you should receive compensation for that loss.
If your clothing, personal items such as glasses or dental work, or other personal belongings were damaged in the accident, you should be able to make a claim for the fair market value of these items.
Fair market value is the term used to determine compensation and worth of the vehicle and the personal belongings at the time of the accident – not the replacement value. If you owe more on your vehicle than what the fair market value is at the time of the accident, you will be held responsible for the remaining balance of the car loan.
On rare occasions, such as the vehicle being a specialty car, antique vehicle, or collector’s car, the insurance company will reimburse you a higher value on the vehicle than what would normally be given for that make or model.
What Happens to My Vehicle After an Accident?
If your car can be repaired, the insurance company will pay to have it fixed. It is very important that you have at least two mechanics look at the vehicle and give you an estimate for the repairs so that the vehicle can be repaired without any financial surprises. The insurer may require that you take the vehicle to one of their preapproved repair shops. Having the estimates from other repair businesses will help you make sure that all repairs are completed by comparing it to the invoice from the insurer’s shop.
If the vehicle cannot be repaired, the insurance company will total the vehicle. At this time, you will have two options. You can:
- Accept the check for the vehicle and sign the title over to the insurer. Your insurance company will take possession of the vehicle at that time, Or,
- Accept a smaller check and keep the vehicle and make the repairs yourself.
If you keep the vehicle after it has been totaled by the insurer, you will have to apply for a salvage title. This title states that this car has been totaled by the insurer in the past and has since been fixed by the owner.
Un-Insured or Under-Insured Motorist Claims
If you are involved in an accident with a person who does not have insurance or is under-insured, your attorney may have to file a claim against your personal insurance policy if you carry this type of coverage.
If you have this type of coverage, your insurer will take on the responsibility of covering your medical expenses and losses related to your injury. Uninsured motorist coverage does not cover property damages.
If you have to make this type of claim, the claim will automatically go into arbitration. Most insurance companies have this clause as part of their policy. Waiting for arbitration can cause the case to be extended as you wait for a hearing.
If the policy does not cover all of your losses and damages, your attorney may file a lawsuit against the personal assets of the responsible party; however, most people who are driving without car insurance generally do not have the type of assets necessary to cover these type of lawsuits.
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Don’t let Un-insured or Under-Insured Motorists give you a sense that you are not entitled to compensation. Speak with Hutzler Law today so we can help get the money you deserve!
When Personal Medical Insurance Is Used For Your Accident Injury
Personal health insurance should only be used for your accident if absolutely necessary. Almost every personal health insurance policy has a “Subrogation Clause.” A subrogation clause states that any medical care paid for by the health insurer that becomes part of a lawsuit is reimbursable t the health insurance company from any settlement received.
In plain language: If you use your personal health insurance for an accident, they have the right to be reimbursed from your settlement.
Most motorcycle insurance policies have a medical coverage policy that covers up to $5,000 of care per accident. Make sure that you claim against this coverage before using your personal health insurance.
Rental Car Reimbursement
Unless you have rental car coverage on your policy, the only way that you can make the other party pay for your rental vehicle is if they are 100% responsible for the accident, and your car is un-drivable. If you are even found 1 percent at fault for the accident, the other insurer may not cover all of your rental costs.
If there is a dispute regarding the fault of the accident, don’t worry. Hutzler Law can help you secure a rental vehicle with a lien until the dispute has been settled. If at that time the other party is found at fault for the accident, the other insurer will cover the cost. If you are found at any percentage of fault, the payment for your rental will be paid from your settlement.
Work Related Injury Claims
If you have been injured while at work, the claims are managed differently than other personal injuries. Injured workers have one year from the time of the injury to file a lawsuit for losses and damages from their injury when it is managed by the Industrial Commission. However, Hutzler Law can apply to have the case reassigned as a personal injury giving you two years to file a claim for compensation because this now gives you personal control over the case.
If you file a personal injury lawsuit under these circumstances, you will be responsible for repaying the Industrial Commission for any wages or medical expenses that they paid out on your behalf when they managed the case. These expenses would come from your compensation package.
Read more on our Workplace Injuries page.
When Your Claim Turns into a Lawsuit in Court
There are times when your attorney may not be able to reach a fair settlement with the insurance company. When this happens, your attorney at Hutzler Law will take your case to the next level and file a lawsuit in court against the insurance company.
Prior to filing the initial Complaint, your attorney will go over all aspects of the lawsuit with you. During your meeting, you will discuss the potential outcome of a trial and decide if this is the route you wish to take with your case. You will also discuss the additional costs and time associated with taking a case to trial.
Your attorney will create a Complaint that will be delivered to the responsible party of the accident. In this Compliant, you will be named the Plaintiff, and the opposing party will be the Defendant. The Complaint will provide an outline of the case that you are filing against the Defendant. This will include detailed information about your accident and injuries.
Once received, the Defendant will contact their own attorney and possibly their insurance company. They have a set number of days to respond to the Complaint. This Response will contain areas of the lawsuit in which the opposite party agrees and disagrees.
At this point, the lawsuit is active. However, it must be understood that both sides can continue to negotiate during this period, and a settlement can still be reached prior to the court date.
What is the Discovery Process?
Once a Complaint has been answered, both sides of the lawsuit will begin to gather information and evidence for their side of the lawsuit. This is known as Discovery. All information discovered by each side must be fully disclosed to the other party. The court system believes that full transparency keeps the lawsuit fair for both sides and allows each party the ability to continue to negotiate a settlement based on their findings.
During the Discovery process, you may receive a packet of questions from the opposing counsel. This is known as Interrogatories. You must complete these questions and return them within 30 days to the law firm that requested the information. If you have any questions about these, you are encouraged to speak to your attorney.
You may also be called in for a Deposition. This is a face-to-face questioning session with the lawyer from the other side. Sometimes your lawyer will attend. This session will be recorded as evidence. You must attend a deposition if requested. The Defense may also request that you submit t a medical exam. If so, you must comply with this request.
Court of Arbitration
If the value of your lawsuit is below $50,000, you will be required to have your hearing at arbitration instead of in the Court. Unlike the arbitration that happens with an uninsured or under-insured motorist claim, the findings of this type of arbitration are non-binding. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of this hearing, you can appeal the decision and request a trial in Court.
If the value of your case is valued at over $50,000, your case will automatically be scheduled for a jury by trial in Superior Court. This doesn’t automatically mean it will go to court, however. This is when it is crucial to have strong legal representation fighting on your behalf to go up against the insurance companies who, by default, will try their hardest to pay out as little as possible.
Reminder When Working with Your Attorney
It is very important that you are very open and honest with your attorney during the entire claims process. We encourage you to be forthcoming with information about previous claims, injuries, or medical conditions that you have suffered from in the past. Withholding information can have a significant impact on your case.
It is also critical to your case to make sure that you provide all the requested information and in a timely manner. The Rules of Civil Procedure have very specific timelines that must be followed. Even if you are not preparing to go to trial, these deadlines must be met, or your case can be dismissed.
Although 95 percent of all personal injury cases settle prior to going to trial or arbitration, it is important to treat each case as if they were going to trial. Part of the reason that Hutzler Law is very successful in representing their clients is that we meet all the deadlines required by law and prepare a transparent case for our clients.
Costs Related to a Personal Injury Claim
All legal costs associated with your case are in addition to our legal services fee. These out-of-pocket expenses include but are not limited to, court filing fees, service of process, investigators or expert witness fees, postage, copy fees, transcripts, jury fees, travel expenses, and similar costs. All costs will be stated in your contract for legal services.
Hutzler Law can advance the clients the costs of these services until their case settles. At the time that a settlement is reached, an accounting will be made, and all fees associated with the case will be paid. Once paid, Hutzler Law will release the balance of the settlement to the client.
Per Arizona Legal Ethical Rules, Hutzler Law cannot advance any money to its clients on unrealized settlements.
When You Need Quality Legal Representation
Hutzler Law would like to remind all visitors to its website that the information contained within this site is very generalized information and is used for the intent of providing a guideline to visitors about the legal process. For an in-depth understanding of your case, you are encouraged to speak with one of our attorneys.
Hutzler Law treats each case as if it is the only one that they are representing. We know that each accident and injury is as unique as the person who was hurt. We provide individualized service to our clients because we feel that is what you deserve.
If you or your loved one has been injured in an accident, you are encouraged to call our office at (602) 730-4530 or complete the Submit a Request form here. One of our knowledgeable staff members will answer your questions and schedule you for a free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys.