Accidents happen. Sometimes accidents are no one’s fault; they just happen, and you must simply deal with the consequences and move forward. Unfortunately, many accidents never should have happened and only occurred because someone made a mistake, was careless or inattentive, exercised poor judgment, or failed to consider the possibility of accidents in their design, maintenance, or actions. In other scenarios, someone may have intentionally acted in an illegal or harmful matter, intending to inflict injury or damages. With either negligent or intentional misconduct, you may have legal rights and recourse for monetary damages arising from someone else’s negligence, and you need an attorney to investigate, evaluate and pursue your claims.
Once you hire an attorney, you may wonder how long it takes to pursue your claims and recovery damages, and when you can expect results. Many people incorrectly assume that cases are prosecuted and resolved with the same speed as television shows, movies, and the media portray: within hours or days. A claim for damages does not begin and end in a single episode or even a season’s worth of episodes. It takes time to prepare and prosecute a claim for damages, and there are many factors at work, obstacles, and time constraints. Here’s what you can expect when you hire an attorney to pursue your claim.
Let’s assume you had an automobile accident which was not your fault, and for which you sustained personal injuries, and property damage to your car. You have auto insurance with ABC Company, and the driver at fault has insurance with XYZ Company. After initial contact with the insurance companies, you hire the Law Offices of Philip Cohen within two weeks of the accident. Your attorney will promptly prepare the necessary letters and forms to take over management and handling of your claims for damages, and obtain the traffic collision report if necessary. Your attorney will deal directly with the insurance companies, and may recommend physicians, physical therapists, or a chiropractor for your treatment.
Depending upon the nature and extent of your injuries, the nature and extent of medical treatment, and the speed of your recovery, medical treatment may last for weeks or months. Once treatment and healing has resolved, or you have reached maximum medical improvement and been discharged from further care, your attorney will request all of your relevant medical records. Some records can be gathered early on, but most of your medical records should not be produced until you are done treating, so that all of the records can be produced at one time and at one cost. Your attorney will make the appropriate demand for records, and actual production by the doctors and health care providers may take 30 days or more.
Some injuries take longer to treat and resolve than others. Facial injuries can require extensive treatment or significant time to heal with maximum cosmetic improvement. Broken bones or ligament damages may require surgery, and post-operative treatment can be lengthy. As a general rule, your attorney will want to wait until your treatment is done or stable, before proceeding with the next phase of your claims.
Your attorney will also gather your medical bills from you, or from your health insurance company. If you have health insurance with Medi-Cal, Medicare, or Tricare (military), it may take 4 months or more to get the necessary itemization of medical bills and charges. These state and federal agencies are notoriously backlogged, and further work on your claims may be delayed while the attorney waits for the documentation. Initial liens for these medical bills must then be evaluated and updated if necessary to reflect further or ongoing treatment. Such delays are unfortunate, but often beyond the control of your attorney or the responsible insurance company.
Now that your attorney has gathered your medical records, medical bills, liens for medical bills, lost wages information if any, she will prepare a demand package for the responsible insurance company or entity, to begin negotiations for settlement of your claims. A claims adjuster may customarily take 30 days to evaluate the demand, and respond with an offer or denial, or request additional information and records. Frequently, adjusters take more than 30 days, and files are routinely transferred to different adjusters, which may cause a delay in response. Settlement talks may go back and forth, over a period of days or weeks.
Hopefully, settlement negotiations are fruitful, and your claims are resolved without the need to file a lawsuit or seek court intervention. If not, your attorney will advise you of the need to begin litigation of your claims. If suit is filed, it must be served on the responsible defendants(party at fault) within 60 days, and they take another 30 days to answer. Recent severe budget cuts and downsizing of court personnel have dramatically slowed the pace of litigation. Once a lawsuit is filed and defendants retain defense attorneys, it may be 6 to 9 months before the case gets to mediation and is ready to resume settlement negotiations. Defense attorneys are hired to take depositions, serve written discovery demands, gather documents, compel a medical exam by a doctor of their choice, etc. The case may be settled by you, your attorney and the insurance company for the defendant at any time during this process, but it may continue for some time or it may proceed to trial.
Given the court congestion, it may take 12 to 24 months from the day the lawsuit was filed, before your case proceeds to an actual trial.
Accident attorneys with the Law Offices of Philip Cohen in San Diego are experienced in handling claims for personal injuries, beginning with the claims process and continuing through litigation to trial, when necessary. Once you hire our firm, you can be assured that we will take the necessary steps at the proper time and in the proper order, to resolve your claims as quickly as possible with your best interests in mind. If you have any questions about the process, we are available to discuss your case and answer your concerns.