Crash! You are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and through no fault of your own find yourself on the side of the road, injured, with a damaged vehicle, because some other driver was negligent. The experience is frightening, and you may be in pain and confused. Luckily, you find out that the negligent driver has insurance, and you are properly insured, so you figure the process of getting your car fixed and your medical bills taken care of will be fairly simple. I mean, that is what you pay the insurance company for, right? Unfortunately, today may be just the beginning of months, even years, of inconvenience and frustration.
Dealing with the Insurance Company
The first thing you may discover is that the helpful insurance company of your imagination is far from the reality. Phone calls are not answered or returned, your questions are given “non-answers”, the other party’s insurance claims that you were at fault even though it was clearly the fault of their insured. You have questions about whether you should fill out the forms the insurance company has sent. You have questions about whether you should just take the money they are eagerly offering you. The confusion of dealing with insurance companies is one of the main reason people seek a personal injury lawyer.
Finding a Personal Injury Attorney
It may seem a daunting task to find the right personal injury lawyer. Two of the factors that may help you find a good attorney are: years of experience and client reviews. Once you choose an attorney to meet with, be sure to ask about their fees (most of the time the contract is contingency – meaning you do not owe a fee unless there is a monetary recovery), and whether you will be out of pocket any money for the costs of pursuing your case (you should not).
Once the Case is Out of Your Hands
Once you make the decision to hire an attorney, you are likely relieved that you no longer have to deal with the insurance companies. But it is still frustrating to hear from your personal injury lawyer that the insurance is offering half of what was expected to settle your claim. The insurance companies may make you feel like you have done something wrong – they question whether you started treating with a doctor soon enough, whether you treated too often, whether you really needed to take time off of work. Fortunately, if you have done your research, the experienced personal injury attorney will know all these games and be able to counter the unreasonable position of the insurance company. Still, very often the case requires that a lawsuit be filed because the insurance company will not offer a reasonable settlement amount.
Once a lawsuit is filed, it is almost as if the case starts over. The file moves from the insurance company to an attorney representing the insurance company. Some of the phases of litigation include discovery – where documents and questions are exchanged and depositions are taken, negotiation, then perhaps arbitration or mediation. If negotiation and alternative dispute measures fail, the case will move toward trial. The frustrating thing about the litigation phase of a lawsuit is how long it takes to bring a case to trial. It requires patience, but be assured that if you have chosen a well-reviewed, experienced personal injury attorney, the work is being done in order to bring your case to a successful conclusion – and this takes time!