Anatomy of a Civil Personal Injury Case
There is an old expression; no person is an island. It's true. That is even more true in today's modern society with larger cities, people in a hurry, and more interpersonal contact. There are rules that people have to follow to keep each other safe. Whether those rules are simple like; watch where you are going when you are driving, stopping at stop signs, or not drinking and driving, or whether those rules are more complex like; you can't put profits ahead of people. When people or companies don't follow the rules and they hurt someone, they should expect to be held responsible for the harms and losses they have caused.
When someone else's negligence or wrongful acts cause injury or death to you or a loved one, getting better and back on your feet should be your only concern. The Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C., can deal with everything else. The insurance claims process and the process for formal litigation can be confusing and full of pit-falls for the unwary and unskilled. I have the experience and training to help you through the system and ensure that you are fully compensated for the harms and losses caused by the negligence or wrongful conduct of someone else. From the initial investigation to any necessary appeal, I am focused on securing good results and keeping you informed along the way. Contact my office in Albuquerque, New Mexico or call (505) 242-6267, for a free personal injury consultation.Anatomy of a Personal Injury Claim
*WARNING - Although I have described the general anatomy of a personal injury claim below, your case may be different and may need to be handled differently. All too often, I have had clients who initially tried to go it alone on even what might appear to be a simple claim only to have evidence fade away, or an insurance company or defense attorney take advantage of them. Skilled and experienced representation at all phases of your case is critical to a fair resolution of your claim. Consultations are free and you can expect me to be honest with you and tell you what I think. Contact my office to schedule an appointment or call (505) 242-6267.Personal injury claims generally go through the following phases:
- Investigation - This occurs immediately following the incident that caused your injury. Facts are gathered, witnesses are located, photographs are taken and investigators or other experts may be hired to reconstruct the car crash or event that caused injury to be sure regarding who was at fault.
- Property Damage Claim - It is common with car crash cases that the property damage claims are addressed early because everyone can see the crushed car and can agree on what it will cost to repair a vehicle or what the value of the vehicle was. However, it is important to keep in mind that you might be owed, not only the cost of repair, but also the diminished value to your car even following repairs.
- Medical Treatment - Anyone who has been hurt should seek reasonable and appropriate medical treatment. Getting the proper treatment for your injuries is critical to returning you to your pre-accident condition. Identifying what is wrong and the best way to correct it, with the help of a medical provider, is something that is important to do. The goal with medical treatment is for someone to treat until they are medically stable; either to where they were physically before the accident, or to a point where the doctors can say what is wrong, why it can't be fixed, and what must be done into the future to treat the condition or symptoms.
- Presentation of Claim - Following the medical treatment phase, it is important to document your claim, gather the supporting records, bills, receipts, photos, etc. and submit those to the insurance company. Typically this submission with a detailed cover letter discussing liability and the harms and losses caused to you, is called a "settlement packet." I always like to remind people that insurance adjusters are people too and they have bosses. Before they can pay on a valid claim, they like to have documentation of the harms and losses suffered by you. That is not unreasonable. However, be wary, some insurance companies and adjusters will abuse this idea and use request after request for documents as a way to delay payment or deny a claim.
- Filing a Complaint - Sometimes we can't agree with the insurance company regarding what is fair in your case or we may not think they are fairly discussing and attempting to resolve your claim. Also, there are legal deadlines before which you must file a lawsuit or you will lose your right to recover damages from a negligent party. In those situations, we may have to file a lawsuit. Filing a complaint with the courts, is a way to preserve your claims against those that caused you harm. It also allows you the chance to have a judge or jury decide your case. If someone refuses to accept responsibility for their negligence or wrongful conduct, or if an insurance company is refusing to deal fairly with you, you can ask a judge or jury to hold them accountable for their poor conduct.
- Discovery - After a complaint if filed, the case will enter a discovery phase. During the discovery phase, the parties will often times exchange written questions (interrogatories) and requests for documents (requests for production). Subpoenas may also be issued to non-parties asking them to produce documents or appear to give testimony. Depositions may be taken, which are statements under oath. The aim of the discovery phase is to allow the parties to discover all of the information and documents which may be important to the case.
- Dispute Resolution - Most cases, before trial, are referred for some form of dispute resolution, which is typically mediation. At a mediation, the parties to a lawsuit sit down with a mediator to see if they can't resolve their differences before trial. A mediator is someone generally agreed to by the parties and tends to be someone with decades of experience in the legal field. The mediators goal is to see if he or she can't bring the parties to some mutually agreeable resolution of the case. Mediation usually begins with everyone in the same room discussing their perspectives on the case and highlighting the facts they think are important. The parties then divide up into respective room and the mediator goes back and forth between the rooms, discussing the case with the parties, and trying to iron out an agreement between the parties.
- Trial - Sometimes cases can not be resolved by informal settlement or mediation. Some cases simply need to be tried to a judge or a jury because of fundamental differences of opinion between the parties. I have tried a lot of cases because the parties simply can't agree on the essential facts or because the other side is not being fair.
- Appeal - If your case has gone to trial, you may have a right to appeal. There may be things that the other side did during trial that did not seem right or fair. There may be decisions the judge made that were disagreed with. In those situations, an appeal may be filed with a higher court to review the trial and decide if it was a fair trial or whether something happened that requires a fix or different outcome.
For assistance with any personal injury matter, Call (505) 242-6267 or contact my office to schedule a free initial consultation. I am available for evening and weekend appointments upon request.