Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer Discusses the Steps in an Injury Case
Once you’re involved in your accident and you’re injured, you’re going to get medical treatment, and at some point in time, your physician will likely say you have reached what we call maximum medical improvement. In other words, from the time of the accident, you were improving, and all at once you plateaued. You’re not getting any worse, you’re not getting any better; you’ve reached what we call MMI, Maximum Medical Improvement.
It’s usually at that time that a claim package will be put together called a settlement demand letter. The attorney will put together a narrative that explains usually to the insurance company for the at fault party what happened in the accident, what damages you suffered both in terms of your injury, in terms of its effect on you – the medical bills, the wage loss, your non-economic damages – it’ll talk about the property damage of the vehicles that were involved. Generally, that settlement demand letter will go out to the at fault party’s insurance company with a deadline, usually 30 days. You’re asking them to amicably resolve the case within that 30-day period. If for whatever reason, you’re not able to amicably resolve it – let’s say that the insurance company says we just don’t see the liability here; we don’t think our guy’s at fault, or they say we don’t think your person’s injured as badly as his doctors say they are.
Insurance companies generally fight these cases in three ways. The first way is they say the accident wasn’t our fault. The second way they defend it is they say well, the accident may have been our fault to some extent or maybe totally, but the impact from the accident wasn’t great enough that anybody could’ve been injured. The third way they defend these cases is they say well, the accident might’ve been our fault, maybe totally our fault, the impact was great enough that someone could’ve been injured, but your client’s injuries are pre-existing; they’re from the other two accidents they had from another slip and fall case, or they’re what we call degenerative based on their age. In other words, it’s from wear and tear on their body, not from the trauma from this accident.
Generally, that’s how insurance companies defend these cases, so if you cannot amicably resolve your case for whatever reason, then suit has to be filed. Once suit is filed, generally a complaint is filed with the court, service is made on the at fault party, and their insurance company retains an attorney and comes in and defends them. They have to file what’s called an answer, in other words, either admit or deny your allegations in the complaint, and they file an affirmative defense, things like you weren’t wearing your seatbelt, you were at fault for the accident yourself, at least wholly or in part, that you had pre-existing conditions. Your attorney will answer those affirmative defenses, and the case at that point in time will be at issue.
At that point in time, the case moves into what we call discovery, where they can ask you questions called interrogatories. You have to answer them. They can ask for documents in what’s called a request to produce. They can ask for medical records, medical bills, photographs of the vehicles and things like that. They can also take your deposition and they can ask you to be examined by a doctor of their choosing in what’s called a compulsory medical examination.
After all this discovery is done, you then will go to a mediation to try and resolve your case amicably, and if your case cannot be resolved amicably, then your case is placed on a trial list, and it’s tried.
One of the things that’s important to remember in this whole process is generally the plaintiff’s attorney is paid based on results, while the defense attorney is paid by the amount of time that he puts into the case, so sometimes we hear that the mantra of the defense lawyer is delay, delay, delay. Depending on the complexity of your case, you’re probably looking at a minimum of a year before the case actually reaches trial. Keep in mind, if you go to trial and you get a good result, maybe a result that the at fault party’s insurance company thinks is too good, they can always take an appeal, and that can tie your case up for at least two years into the future. It’s a very difficult time question to ask how long will it take for my claim to reach fruition.
- The first step is to put together a settlement demand letter
- The next step will be the discovery phase
- After this we will move into mediation
- If you can’t resolve your case, you will then go to trial
Are you trying to figure out how long your personal injury case is going to take? If so, contact experienced Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer Dennis Morgenstern.