Many clients do not know what to expect once they retain an attorney to represent them in their personal injury claim. The following example is provided as a very brief summary of how an automobile injury claim can be handled by Wittenberg, Dougherty & Maglione, Ltd.
Notice of Representation
Once we have interviewed the client and obtained all of the relevant information, we mail a notice of our representation to the person responsible for our client's injury. A copy is sent to the person's insurance company as well. We receive an acknowledgment from the insurance company and we will periodically inform the insurance company of the status of our client's medical condition.
Medical Treatment and Damages
The most important part of this stage is making sure our client receives all of the necessary medical treatment needed for the injury. If the client is off work because of the injury, we obtain wage loss information as well. Any other damages, such as lost or damaged property, rental car bills, prescriptions, etc. are documented. Once the client has completed medical treatment and has returned to work, we order complete medical records and bills. At this point the client may wish to settle their claim.
Evaluation of the Claim
Once we receive all of the medical and damage information on the claim, we evaluate it for settlement purposes. Generally, a settlement demand is made to the insurance company and negotiations follow. If we find the settlement offer satisfactory and the client agrees, the case settles.
Settlement of a Claim
Settlement of a claim involves the exchanging and signing of releases. The signed release is sent to the insurance company for payment of the settlement. The client receives their money and the case is closed.
Claims That Do Not Settle
The above example was a simple one, involving an automobile accident where liability was not an issue. Sometimes a claim cannot be settled because of a dispute over liability, because the amount offered to settle is not fair, because of the complexity of the case, or because of other reasons. In cases like these we often file a lawsuit on behalf of our client.
Filing of the Lawsuit
Generally, the lawsuit is filed in the county where the personal injury or accident occurred. Once it is filed, the other side has a certain time period to respond.
After both sides have responded, the next step is usually the discovery stage. This is where both sides send interrogatories (written questions) to each other and then schedule depositions (oral testimony) to learn more about the case. Usually the parties to the case give deposition testimony. Often expert or opinion witness testimony from a Doctor, Economist, or others, is needed to prove up a case.
Once all discovery is complete, a Pre-Trial is used to resolve the case or narrow the issues for trial. A Pre-Trial Judge will attempt to get the parties to settle the case or will help narrow the issues for trial.
If the case is still not settled, it then proceeds to trial and verdict. Either side may have the right to appeal.
The above is a very brief outline of steps involved in a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Those with specific questions regarding this should contact Wittenberg, Dougherty & Maglione, Ltd.